When Batman is the optimist character in a movie featuring Superman, you know something’s gone wrong. That’s not to say that this is a bad film, but it’s much too inconsistent to be a really good movie.
The plot is…well, it’s all over the place, but I’ll do my best. After the battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) that leveled Metropolis, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is concerned that such a powerful being as Superman can only ever be a danger to the world, no matter how much he styles himself a “hero.” Throw in affluent (and socially awkward nerd) Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), and you’ve got the makings for a grudge match of epic proportions.
There are two main things that weigh the film down. First, this new Angry Bro Superman just doesn’t work. Superman is entitled to angst, but this iteration of the character seems cold to the point of being sociopathic. He never feels guilty for causing mass destruction in Man of Steel, he seems governed by anger more than anything else, and he seems to enjoy being worshiped as a messianic figure. In fact, he seems to be Doctor Manhattan Reborn, rather than Superman. I realize that we’ll never be able to return to the almost naive optimism of Christopher Reeve’s era, but he still needs to be a hero. What’s worse is that Henry Cavill is 100% capable of playing Superman exactly as he appears in the comics, but the writers feel like Superman should be an unstable, unlikable character. This Superman wields amazing power, and never tries to establish a dialogue with the extant military forces until public terror forces him to.
I totally understand why Batman is worried.
The second thing that weighs the film down is the plot, which is overly inflated, nonsensical, and wildly inconsistent. The first half is a disjointed mess that seems like it was cobbled together from several Batman films and an unfinished Superman film. The second half is more consistent and the audience is able to become invested in the action, but by then, they’re checking their watches repeatedly because their bums are going to sleep.
If the filler (which includes a host of beautiful-but-gratuitous dream and montage sequences) was taken out, this could have been a much better movie. I was impressed at the chemistry between Bruce and Alfred (Jeremy Irons), and Bruce and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). Clark Kent and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) even have one brief happy moment in which they explore their new relationship. The characters aren’t even really sidelined for pointless action sequences (I actually thought the action was well-handled); they’re just sidelined in favor of a convoluted chain of scenes that don’t really feel like they’re contributing to a plot. The villain’s overall “scheme” is weakly structured and drama is created by characters making idiotic choices. In reality, this whole thing would have been resolved in about ten minutes if Superman was actually Superman instead of Angry Moody Not-Jesus Man.
The movie, as a whole, doesn’t feel very satisfying, but there are moments of greatness, such as Ben Affleck’s fantastic portrayal of Bruce Wayne, that tease the good movie this could have been had the filmmakers thought more about making a movie as opposed to selling action figures and hinting at future Justice League films.
Wonder Woman is great, but of course it’s clear the filmmakers didn’t care one bit who she actually is. Her alter-ego’s last name is only mentioned once, and she’s basically just there to look pretty and fight in impractical armor in one scene. I wish she and Bruce had had more time to work together because they make a great pair.
Batman v Superman just feels like a series of iconic visual moments that made for an impressive trailer, but which are strung together with wild abandon with no thought of clarity or coherence. And what’s gross is that this movie is making boatloads of money because we keep going to see them, regardless of quality. Right now, it’s raking in tons of money thanks to an expensive and expertly-handled advertising campaign, but if this franchise is going to approach the success of the MCU in the long term, it’s going to need to start listening to fans more. I’m tentatively interested in Suicide Squad, but that’s only because it looks like it actually has a sense of humor.
Next week, we’ll continue with Trek 50 and look at Deep Space Nine! See you then!