I finally saw the Batman v Superman movie yesterday, and well… I’ve seen better. A lot better. I honestly had no idea what to expect going in, because not only did I adamantly avoid spoilers, reviews online have been mixed. The movie has received both scathing reviews from critics as well as unending praise. As such, I tried to keep an open mind. I didn’t like Man of Steel all that much and have consistently hated just about every DC live-action movie in the past five years. I thought Man of Steel was too dark and muted, and it lost itself in the storytelling process. It had little to no characterization to speak of, and the climax ended up being an hour-long fistfight of two assholes punching each other through buildings while thousands of innocent bystanders died.
Even then, I wanted to like Batman v Superman as the next big superhero movie, because it’s paving the way for the Justice League’s entrance to the big screen. I didn’t. Almost none of the problems from Man of Steel were fixed, the characters are all still unlikable and unrelatable, the plot made no damn sense, the message was still over the top, and I came out of that theater feeling as though I had just wasted five dollars and a good fifteen hours of my life. Thankfully, I only wasted five dollars and two and a half hours of my life. But even that was still too much.
Our story begins with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents in slow-motion flashback and a recap on the destruction in Metropolis. A much older Bruce rushes into the city, but doesn’t make it to his destination before one of his buildings is destroyed, killing a bunch of his employees and friends. This hardens him against Superman and makes him see Superman as a monster. Given the events of the previous movie, this is a sentiment that I readily agree with. The events of this movie don’t do much to change that either. At one point when Lois travels to Namibia for some really unexplained reasons, she’s held hostage by an evil Black guy with a gun, and then Superman punches him through a wall. The very next scene, he and Lois talk about how he doesn’t kill people, before having bathtub sex.
Also on board the “Superman is a monster” bandwagon is Lex Luthor, who wants to import some kryptonite he found into the county, so that they can build a weapon capable of killing Superman should he go rogue. Or you know, in case a bunch of other Kryptonians show up to destroy humanity. The government disapproves of this plan, just like governments are wont to do when a dangerous threat murders thousands and thousands of people, ruins a city, and destroys the economy.
Lex won’t be stopped, though. He imports it anyway and murders a bunch of people, including his aide Mercy. Then he builds a mutant hybrid monster from Zod’s remains, because he’s totally super evil like that.
Superman and Batman battle against each other, because Batman hates Superman, and because Lex kidnapped Superman’s mom to blackmail him into joining the fight. Batman somehow gains the upper hand and nearly kills Superman, but he stops when he finds out Superman’s mom is named Martha, just like his own mom. This revelation makes Batman realize that Superman is a good guy after all, and that they should be best buddies. No, really.
The two of them team up to fight Lex’s monster thing and Wonder Woman shows up to help, because, oh yeah, Wonder Woman is in this movie. They save the day, Superman dies in the process, Lex goes to jail, and Superman’s funeral goes on for fucking forever. I had no shits to give about him, because no one in this movie ever becomes anything more than a caricature.
The biggest problem with Batman v Superman is the damn message it wants to send and the moral quandary it presents: is Superman a savior or a demon, and can he be trusted to never become corrupt? The first twenty or so minutes of the movie do a really good job setting this up, but then the setup never ends. Seeing Bruce in the aftermath of the Metropolis destruction told us all we needed to know about what he thinks about Superman—but the movie doesn’t stop there. He spends the next hour or so having vivid hallucinogenic flashes of a world taken over by Superman and bug monsters (no, really). Then because he’s hallucinating shit, Superman starts doing it too. He sees his dad, who says something completely unmemorable, and neither character questions these random bouts of severe mental issues and are instead either comforted by them or motivated by them. Movie writers should be informed that hallucinations don’t actually work like this and using hallucinations to explain internal character conflicts is not a good replacement for character development. We already knew their conflicts: Bruce is scared of Superman, and Clark is questioning his place in the world.
Unfortunately, because there’s nothing but telling, the movie just kind of bumbles around for the first hour and a half and never actually answers the questions it raises before heading right into the climatic final showdown. Instead, the story simply assumes that the audience already knows the answer—that Superman’s an awesome upstanding guy (he’s not)—and that Batman and the rest of the world just has to figure it out. To be honest, I’m still not quite sure how Martha’s name could solve that problem for Batman, because even hours after leaving the theater, that scene is still laughably stupid.
Batman v Superman has more message than story and I could have gotten the same emotional satisfaction from watching a documentary on morality and the corruption of power. This is unforgivable, but forgetting to answer its own question or even do anything with it is even worse. Some people hate Superman. Some people love him. What about that conflict? How do the events in the movie change people’s perceptions? Why should the audience care? Also, Jason Todd exists in this movie? Why does Wonder Woman spend the majority of the movie standing around and doing nothing until the very end?
Then of course, there’s the racism. Not only are all the main characters white, Superman is such a white savior that after saving a young girl in Mexico from a burning building, he’s surrounded by a bunch of Latin@ people reaching out to touch him in admiration and worship. It was eerily similar to the Game of Thrones scene where Daenerys saves all the non-white slaves and they lift her up like some kind of goddess. On top of all that, there’s the scene in Namibia which featured the stereotypical Black warlord. This is a minor point, but when Lois goes to Africa, the movie flashes the words “Namibia, Africa” at the bottom of the screen, which I found rather humorous. Movies would never inform an audience of a location by saying something like “China, Asia” or “Germany, Europe”.
Female representation isn’t all that great either. Lois gets damseled and/or kidnapped no less than three times, Clark’s mom also finds herself kidnapped and nearly burned alive, the similarity between her name and the other Martha made Bruce’s mom’s death feel more like a fridging than anything else, and Wonder Woman is hardly in the movie. And what we do see of Wonder Woman doesn’t let us get to know her character.
I’m still not quite sure I actually understood this movie’s plot all that well. What it essentially boiled down to was two personality-bankrupt emo white guys moping around for a good hour and a half before spending the rest of the movie fighting out their oh-so-deep manpain in a grim setting. It astounds me that a movie trying this hard to be meaningful achieved the exact opposite. You might as well just listen to Lego Batman’s song from The Lego Movie, “Darkness, No Parents”, on repeat for two hours instead of paying to see this movie. Batman v Superman is a joyless, convoluted mess, and I wish I had gone to see Zootopia instead.