A Batman V Superman review by Josh Hains

I haven’t received a single payment from Disney for my criticisms of Batman V Superman over the last four months. Cough up a buck already Disney, I’m waiting! But wait a minute, Warner Bros hasn’t paid me for my criticisms of Avengers: Age Of Ultron either! Where’s my damn money? I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

Before I go any further, I am a HUGE lifelong fan of comic books, both DC and Marvel alike, and I don’t prefer one over the other. Marvel has more movies, comics, and characters in their respective universes, so I’ve been exposed to more of their content and therefore have a tendency to lean toward Marvel. That being said, Batman and Superman are my first two favourite comic book characters in a top ten roster, and the first comic book I ever read was Batman (I still have the comic), so it’s not like Marvel completely dominates my love for comics, even if my favourite comic book movie is Guardians Of The Galaxy. No preferential treatment here, and besides, I like this movie.

Somewhere in my mind is a long, long review of this movie that eclipses four or even five thousand words and feels as long as the Director’s Cut of BVS (for my own sake I’ll refer to it as BVS from this point forward). I could go on for far too long about all the various plot issues I have found in this movie, but I don’t want to do that. That would bore me writing it as much as it would bore you reading it. Over the last few months, I’ve been able to watch and read all kinds of arguments for and against this movie, and had plenty of conversations myself with like minded individuals who share similar and opposing opinions. The more I watch, read, or talk BVS, the more flaws come to light, most of which are script level. This Director’s Cut seemed to rectify a lot of editing issues, so I won’t traverse that territory. I do however want to want paint a clear picture of my two main issues with the movie.

Nothing that has been said in the last four months can sway me to believe that Jesse Eisenberg was the right choice for Lex Luthor, and I do mean nothing. When you take into consideration that Bryan Cranston wanted to play Luthor, and even BVS’s director Zack Snyder admits that Cranston would have been an awesome choice, it’s nearly impossible to not watch this movie and picture the better actor delivering those lines. The Lex Luthor I grew up with in the pages of my Superman comics collection, or in cartoons or the classic Superman movie, was always a formidable opponent for Superman. He was built like Superman or Bruce Wayne, and had that entrepreneurial sensibility and the luxuries of a billionaire. He was what one could imagine an evil Bruce Wayne to be. That is not the Lex Luthor we see in BVS. The Lex Luthor in BVS lacks the immediate intimidating presence of the Luthor I grew up with. Instead we’re treated to a a socially neutered, twitchy geek who likes stuffing Jolly Ranchers into the mouths of government officials. Weird. Not once did I ever think he could fight Superman, or that he could outwit or outsmart Bruce Wayne. Not once did I find his behaviour unpredictable and ferocious, intimidating, powerful, and fearsome. He was just a whiny, thinly constructed way to bring the real heavy, Doomsday, to life. Yes, he does look like a steroid enhanced troll from Lord Of The Rings, but that dude was more than a match for three heroes. This Luthor never could be.

My other major critique is that the movie as a whole is bloated, and unnecessarily long in order to intentionally overstuff the narrative of the movie to allow for various subplots, most of which are also unnecessary. In the theatrical cut of the movie, many plot threads were left hanging because of continuous smash cuts that abruptly ended, and some footage that actually enhances the movie was brought back in for this Director’s Cut.

The new footage surrounding Bruce Wayne/Batman, actually contributes to the emotional impact of his storyline, as well as enhances the action sequences. The warehouse fight is even more brutal and cool to watch than ever before. Actually, nearly everything that has Batman or Bruce Wayne in this movie is pretty awesome stuff. I know some people were turned off by his murderous side, but clearly they’ve never read The Dark Knight Returns from which entire scenes were lifted and implanted into this movie. This is unmistakably the best live action representation of Bruce Wayne and Batman to date.

That being said, while the new footage ties up some of the loose ends, it not only leaves plenty left, but also creates more at the same time, and all of it is still incredibly unnecessary, and actually does very little to propel the story forward. You can argue against that and tell me I’m wrong all you like, but let me provide a strong example of what I’m alluding to first. Diana Prince casually pops up a few times over the course of two and half hours or longer, shoved in the background because Warner Bros needed to shoehorn this character into this movie to set-up Justice League. However, the extended game of cat and mouse she and Bruce play does absolutely nothing to propel the story of this movie forward. Their interactions easily could have been removed in favour of something that would actually contribute to the movie, like five extra minutes of the titular fight, rather than serving the Warner Bros agenda of Justice League setup. You can keep the actual Wonder Woman fight scene footage which was pretty badass stuff. Given that Warner Bros is setting up Justice League in this movie, it makes sense that they work in reference to other metahumans who we all know will later become League members. The addition of a scene where Bruce sends vital information showing off captured footage of these metahumans to Diana via email is embarrassingly stupid. I still can’t believe someone was paid millions to write that, but for a better writer it’s easily fixable.

Don’t even get me started on the Martha connection.

Aside from these issues that I can’t overlook, I still love this movie. It looks and sounds amazing, the cast is all fantastic with the exception of Eisenberg, the action is as slick and involving as ever, especially in 3D, and we’ve been given the best film Batman and Bruce Wayne to date,  which is something to be proud of.

Somewhere in this bloated runtime and narrative indulgence is a two hour long movie that contains all of the incredible Bruce Wayne/Batman footage we saw in BVS, and smarter, refined, and involving material featuring Superman. A movie that has the same thought provoking idealism of controlling the uncontrollable as in Captain America Civil War, because the fear and worry of the destructive power of Superman keeps men like Bruce Wayne awake at night. A movie that chooses to build on the relationship between Superman and the public, and Clark and Lois. A movie that doesn’t need Lex Luthor’s boring evil plan to pit our heroes against each other. A movie that makes us believe that Batman and Superman are at odds, that bring them together for reasons that feel authentic to their dislike for each other. A movie with a titanic fight scene between Batman and Superman that lasts longer than eight minutes, that isn’t apocalypse porn and all CGI, and is so cool, so stylish, so powerful and resonant, it would make the battle that ends The Avengers weak in the knees. A movie that is about the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness. The movie we all paid for and still haven’t gotten. It’s no masterpiece what we were given, but it’s not granny’s peach tea either.

It’ll do until Justice League gets here, and hopefully exceeds expectations.

 

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