I was ready to love Batman v. Superman.
I was ready to be “that guy” that defends it against the towering waves of vitriol and hatred. I wanted to be soapbox geek who explained the film’s inherent worth the way I do as an impassioned anime fan or someone who thinks that Ghostbusters 2 is a good movie. I wanted to be the bleeding heart fanboy pumping his fist against the masses.
Batman v. Superman wouldn’t let me.
The opening sequence is a pulse-quickening retelling of Man of Steel’s ending (another movie I defended despite it’s flaws) through the eyes of Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne. The scene works, we see Bruce Wayne as a man in fear of dissolution and death as he runs through the smoke of crumbling buildings, desperately searching for any survivors trapped in the building that bears his namesake. Holding a newly orphaned crying child in his arms his looks up to see the source of desolation to see a blurry red-caped figure flung through sky scrapers like a finger running through faucet water. It’s a powerful opening and gives us enough reason to believe that Bruce, or Batman, might begin to distrust and even fear Superman.
Unfortunately the momentum is immediately lost.
We’re whisked away from the panic into a muddled, pseudo-political conspiracy thread in a desert war-zone. Lois goes from interviewing a terrorist to being attacked, then attacked again, then quickly saved by Superman. The scene ends almost immediately after Superman pummels a terrorist into paste. Nothing beyond his brief rescue mission is depicted and yet, for some puzzling reason, this is the moment that the Synder has decided to obsess upon for the rest of the movie and the very issue that Batman uses to push his anti-Supes agenda. By the time you discover that other players were involved in the attack you barely have enough energy left to shrug your shoulders.
The other threads are tangled into a series of barely connected sequences meant to introduce Jesse Eisenberg’s very Jesse Eisenberg take on the calm, stoic Lex Luthor, who babbles on like a Comic Con attendee on Red Bull and Ritalin. Much time is spent with between this charmless character and Bruce Wayne, who is busy having multiple dream sequences, flashbacks, flash-forwards (maybe?) and hallucinations. All of these moments seem to want to replace Marvel’s infamous end-credit tags, hoping desperately to salivate a DC fan for future movie installments. Instead, these moments leave the audience to audibly ask what they just saw and disrupt an already poorly constructed, convoluted plot.
-and what of Superman? The movie spends less time with Clark’s alter-ago, who desperately needs some good writing and strong screen time, than any of the other main characters. Any time comic books or DC is discussed, some genius always wants to announce their unique and special proclamation that “Superman sucks”, “Superman is boring”, “I hate Superman”. This movie doesn’t even bother to help change any minds. While Grant Morrison and Frank Miller have produced powerful and intriguing depictions of the Kryptonion kid on paper, Goyer and Terrio fail to make him any more than a high school kid who would rather pout in his locker and listen to Linkin Park than someone who we’d want to cheer and root for. By the time his climactic ending occurs, you will struggle to care.
It’s not without it’s moments. The performers are giving everything they can to make the movie work. Amy Adams brings humanity, Jeremy Irons is a quick wit as Alfred, Affleck is a shockingly functional Bruce Wayne and Gal Gadot is a kick-ass, battle-hungry Wonder Woman. The fight scenes, though few and far between, are delicious candy. Choreography is tight, you feel every super-powered punch and the “shaky cam” found in most movies like this is absent. You’ll chomp through these action tidbits all too quickly and wish you had more. The Batman warehouse scene alone proves that we need a Ben Affleck Batman movie…but maybe he needs to be the one in the director chair this time around.
Maybe it’s unfair to blame Synder. With the very forced Justice League cameos and easter eggs, there is a very corporate sense that Warner is desperately trying to catch up with 8 years of Marvel movies within 2+ hours. Though it took Marvel several films to give us that glorious shot of the fully assembled team, it was earned and we can at least look back on 2008’s Iron Man as a legitimately great comic book movie. Batman v. Superman’s money shot was not earned. It was manufactured and vacuum-sealed overnight.
Sorry DC fans. Maybe next time they’ll get it right.