The Movie Scab: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Ack! Ack!
“Frailty, thy name is Doomsday.”
--Hamlet, William Shakespeare.
OK, let’s just get this out of the way: Out of all the comic book superheroes out there, Batman is my favorite. Why? Because he’s just a guy—OK, he’s a guy with serious mental problems, not to mention anger issues, but at the end of the superhero day, he’s just a guy trying to do some good by stamping out injustice and evil dressed up as a big bat. To get the job done, he relies on his humanity, heart, mind and fists. He doesn’t have magic powers. Sure, he’s got buttloads of money, and some of you might argue that’s like having magical powers because he’s part of the 1%, but the money-is-magic argument is nothing less than victimized thinking and if you don’t like that, get a tissue and go cry to mommy before Batman kicks your ass.
Batman is interesting because he’s imperfect.
Superman, on the other hand, is the antithesis of Batman. He’s very nearly indestructible. He can fly. He can shoot lasers from his eyes. Atomic bombs can blow him up and he survives. He never needs Viagra (just ask Lois Lane). He’s Mr. Magic. He’s perfect. Most of the time, Monkey Boy and I find perfection boring. (Girl power-go Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens anyone? Doesn’t get more boring than that.) If Superman has ever been interesting, it’s when actors like Christopher Reeve give him a sense of humor and a deep empathy for humanity, but it’s always hard to make the good guy interesting, especially if he or she is really, really good and Superman is as good as it gets.
Well. That’s how it used to be. Superman/Clark Kent as played by Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman is the most conflicted Superman yet, and it’s a commendable performance, sure enough. So you would think, well, the added internal character conflict should make Superman more interesting. And it kind of does. And it kind of doesn’t because, as good as Superman is, that is what Superman is—good—and when that goodness is gone, or lessened, or diminished, or tarnished, you realize just how much you miss it.
Which is pretty funny, really, since Batman is my favorite superhero character.
Accordingly, Batman v Superman is more like a Batman movie and less like a Superman movie. It’s dark. It’s brooding. It’s angry. It’s conflicted. It’s serious. As the critics have pointed out ad nauseam, some moviegoers are going to have a problem with that. If you’re expecting a sunny, funny Superman movie, this is not the sunny, funny Superman movie for you. Of course, if you’re looking for a coherent movie, this may not be the movie for you either.
Do I need to explain the plot? I mean, it's called Batman v Superman, so I think you get the gist, right?
Movie critics are celebrating the failures of Batman v Superman with a kind of hateful glee, dancing in the blood they’ve spilled. Monkey Boy and I are going to try not to do that. When we reviewed the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending last year, a movie that’s so inept we thought the directors were playing a joke on the audience, we didn’t celebrate the fact that they screwed the pooch again. In fact, we wanted them to succeed and it saddened us that they screwed the pooch again. But it didn’t change the fact that they screwed the pooch again. Same thing with director Zack Snyder and the Batman v Superman team. We want them to succeed and we’re saddened when they don’t.
Go Zack Snyder! Go Batman v Superman team! Yay!
That being said, Monkey Boy and I can sum up Batman v Superman pretty easily:
If you love movies like this, odds are you’re not going hate it. In the very least, you’ll find something entertaining somewhere in the two-and-half hour running time, from very big explosions to very good special effects to very long lasting fist fights to very long lasting battle scenes to very long lasting fist fights and battle scenes and you get the very long lasting idea—but let’s be honest. This movie was made for one purpose and that’s to entertain people who love movies like this. And to make tons and tons of cash. Nothing wrong with any of that and to his credit Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, 300, The Watchmen) pulls off what he was hired to do. It may not be a five Ack! movie like The Homesman, but it’s not a zero Ack! Golden Calf of Mediocrity either—it is close enough to give both Batman and Superman night sweats, however. I knew it as soon as the movie opened with the Batman origin story flashback, and so did a little kid sitting in front of me. He complained to his father, “We’ve seen all this before, dad. We know all this stuff.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Ben Affleck as Batman does a fine job, convincing us that he’s a bitter, cynical superhero, but the problem is, I wanted more of that Batman. In fact, I wanted more Batman. The movie is so overstuffed with, well, other stuff, that it takes a long time to deliver the Batman action goods—but like I said, it’s in there somewhere and if you can sit it out, well, you’ll find some satisfaction. The supporting cast does what they can with what they’re given, all solid performances, even though they’re buried under all that other stuff and that’s, well, whatever it is and whoever’s fault that is--screenwriters Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer (Dark City, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel)--it is what it is. The whole messy thing is exactly what you expect it to be. It’s neither hot nor cold. It’s lukewarm, and you know what Jesus said about the state of lukewarmness. To put it nicely, he doesn’t like it much.
But sometimes Batman v Superman is pretty. Those Zack Snyder comic book shots are glorious.
If you don’t love movies like this, you’ll agree with the critics, most of which hate it. Boy oh boy, have the critical elite been piling on Batman v Superman, shouting their disdain from the top of the movie critic crapheap. Here, let me prove it to you.
Alex Abad-Santos at vox.com (whatever vox.com is) says, “A stink bucket of disappointment…” Robbie Collin from the Telegraph, “No major blockbuster in years has been this incoherently structured…” David Edelstein, New York magazine, “A storytelling disgrace.” AO Scott, New York Times, “It is about as diverting as having a porcelain sink broken over your head…” Peter Howell, Toronto Star, “It should really be called Batman and Superman v the Audience.”
It’s like they think what they have to say matters.
Movie critics are as bad as the people who make movies—none of them are curing cancer, although, they tend to think, and spend an awful amount of time trying to convince us, they’re curing… something. “Yes,” they tell us, “this means something.” Well, I’ll tell you what it means: The movie people are making movies and the movie critics are criticizing movies. That’s all. What it amounts to is, you’ve got a small group of talented, not to mention lucky, people who make movies and then you’ve got this massive pool of people who haven’t done anything with their lives except criticize people who, if nothing else, have done something with their lives.
I can tell you this: Shakespeare matters and he has proven it because he’s still around 400 years later. None of these people matter, not the movie people, not the movie critics, and that includes me and Monkey Boy, and I can assure you that none of us will be remembered 400 years from now.
Hamlet will, though.
Which leads Monkey Boy and me to “Frailty, thy name is Doomsday.”
All the halfway decent things in Batman v Superman, all the things which might have made this movie tolerable--the performances of Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck, the basic premise of a Batman/Superman showdown, the special effects and even the very big explosions--are all but erased by one of the dumbest, most unimaginative CGI monsters to hit the screen in recent memory.
Oh. My. Ack!
Like the little kid in front of me said, we’ve seen all this stuff before, and I’ve said it before and I’m saying it now and, God help me, I’m certain I’ll say it again: Special effects in the movies today all look the same! I mean, the monster looks like it stepped right out of Lord of the Rings. It could be a LOTR troll. All it does is roar and jump and spit just like a LOTR troll! Now, I have great respect for effects artists, but for the love of Gandalf, man, at least Superman had to fight an intelligent evil in Man of Steel. In Batman v Superman, we get dumbed-down evil that looks like a brain-dead LOTR troll! And that’s about as scary, and interesting, as watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic over and over and over until I turn into the brain-dead LOTR troll in Batman v Superman.
And don’t yell at me because you think Doomsday in the movie looks similar to Doomsday in the comics. That’s just fanboy and girl nerditity--and the truth is, the movie version of Doomsday hardly looks like the comic book character anyway, which has a more interesting (dare I say imaginative?) appearance. Above and beyond that, Batman v Superman is a movie and movies can change whatever they want, whenever they want, especially when it makes the movie better. That means they could have made Doomsday look like anything they wanted to--and they pick a LOTR brain-dead troll? But even if they didn't have the courage to fundamentally transform Doomsday into something more interesting, in the very least, why didn't some effects artist speak up and say, “Um. Zack? Wait a sec. Doomsday looks exactly like a brain-dead LOTR troll. Maybe we should make it look more like it does in the comic or give it tentacles or something, you know, so it doesn’t look like every other monster effect Hollywood has produced since LOTR came out back in 200-freakin’-1.”
My rating: Drink one Bruce Wayne (4 ½ oz black iced coffee, 2 oz of bourbon, ½ oz of maple syrup), one Joker (2 oz grape Jolly Rancher-infused vodka, ½ oz lime juice, seltzer), one Poison Ivy (2 oz gin, 1 oz St. Germain, ¾ oz fresh-squeezed limejuice, sprigs of fresh basil and mint), one Mr. Freeze (6 oz pineapple juice, 1 ½ oz white rum, 1 ½ Blue Curacao, 3-4 blue raspberry Jolly Rancher candies), one Catwoman (2 oz bourbon whiskey, 1 oz sweet vermouth, ½ oz crème de cassis, ½ oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice, dash of bitters), one Alfred (2 cups Pimm’s No. 1, 3 cups chilled black tea, 2 12 oz bottled of ginger beer, 1lemon, 1 orange, sprigs of fresh mint), a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, one Doomsday (Sobe Energy Drink, Bacardi 151 rum), and one Wonder Woman (2 oz Midori melon liqueur, 2 oz peach schnapps, 3 oz orange juice, 1 oz pineapple juice, 2 oz cranberry juice). Drink them back to back with bar snacks (peanuts, trail mix, etc.). Once you’ve finished your Wonder Woman, you’ll be in the right state of mind to enjoy Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Take a taxi to the theatre, buy a ticket, get some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the movie or pass out. Either way, it’ll be a great way to spend an evening.