March 24 was quite a pleasant Thursday, for the most part. A friend and I discovered how fun a game by the name of Grim Dawn was, and I got to take in some actual sun – which has been too rare this year.
As the evening approached, I had this film to look forward to, even if only for schadenfreude at the films expense. Two and a half hours later from show time, I left for the parking lot with a good handful of notes, barely legible because of the dark theater. I didn’t laugh at the film like I thought I would. Rather, I only laughed in disbelief.
This whole film will be critiqued from this point on, including plot details. Read at your own peril.
It has been quite a long time since I saw a film with such a clear lack of focus from its own plot line. Batman loathes Superman because of the calamity that resulted from the final fight of Man of Steel.
Then we cut to Africa, where Superman saves Lois from continuing her tradition of being held hostage. Then we cut to a senatorial hearing with a forgettable senator character, because of this interdiction from Superman resulted in some casualties.
The film then cuts to Lex requesting Kryptonian artifacts for testing purposes. This film suffers from so many jump cuts going forward and back in time, as well as cuts to dream sequences. I actually had to stop and figure out what was actually happening, as there were so many completely befuddling parts to certain scenes.
For example: the film brought us to a desert scene, similar to the African scene from before. I thought we cut back there for some actual plot development. Unfortunately not, as we found ourselves in another film, “Mad Max: Bat Outta Hell.”
Now I am bloody confused, as we were in the present time before this scene took place. Are we in the future now? Is this wasteland the result of a war between the heroes? I have asked too many questions at this point, more confused than entertained. Bat Max is then taken down by the military forces of Superman in a sting operation and is then taken to be interrogated.
Superman then says something cryptic, not revealing any context for what has happened. Then Bruce wakes up, making me audibly groan in the theater because of the whiplash I got from the sudden scene change. Shortly after waking up, Bruce is visited by someone presumably traveling through time. He tells him Lois is the Key, and disappears. Then Bruce wakes up again, finally in normal space. During this whole sequence of scenes, I felt like I was a literal interpretation of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I couldn’t tell what was their real life from what was a fantasy.
That sequence also contained a confirmation to my theory that this film would happily display sacrilege of the Batman lore and character. Batman willingly killed people in this movie. The whole point of his character was that he was the antithesis of the murderer of his parents. That is why a lot of the best stories of batman have him fighting the urge to bring finality to the causes of chaos and pain. Instead we have Bat Rambo, only non-lethal when it suits him.
This is because Bats now has vehicle-mounted machine guns and uses firearms. Not just the grenade launcher from what we saw in the trailer. He gunned down the military forces of Superman in the Bat Max dream sequence; and in the rescue of Martha Kent, Bats also used the guns of incapacitated criminals to gun down further numbers of criminals. He also shot the fuel tanks of a guy holding a flame thrower. Not only is that inadvisable in any sense of movie logic, the firebug was standing right next to Martha. She had better be grateful that the film allowed for a miraculous few seconds for Batman to save her from the ensuing blast.
This film is full of stupid moments like this; Scenes and moments where logic just did not seem to have any part in the drafting of scripts and screenplay. One example is Bruce waltzing into the server room of Lex Luthor’s private estate during a dinner party. There was no security in or outside the room and the door wasn’t even secured. It was like a door you would see at a small storefront. Another example is Superman’s ability to move at sounds that break the sound barrier, yet his inability to evade a grenade from the Bat Grenade Launcher.
The film is also host to a few subplots throughout its runtime, which have a similar lack of focus to their main counterpart. But the problem the film had with these was lack of development put into these subplots. It honestly feels like scenes were cut from the theatrical release, because none of these subplots go anywhere, often just fizzling out when the movie continued on.
There is one exception, where a subplot was literally detonated for the plot to progress. This was the senatorial hearing, and this is probably the only time I have been thankful for a subplot being forcefully removed. All of the forgettable characters involved were either an annoyance or did not have enough screen time to justify a whole role being given to them in the plot.
It is about time that I talk about the biggest elephant in the room, the titular fight between the two heroes of the film.
Superman is forced to fight Batman because Lex kidnapped his mother, having somehow learned of Superman’s secret identity. Ignoring the fact that this is an alien with literal ‘super hearing’ that cannot hear his mother’s screams in the city, Superman flies to Batman to try and get him to help with his situation, or fight him to the death if he failed.
His tactic to secure the aid of the Dark Knight is to use clichéd and empty sentences such as “Let me talk to you,” and the top tier “You don’t understand.” How bloody hard is it to say: “My mother has been kidnapped by Lex to force me to fight you. I need your help?”
This fight literally started because no one knew how to speak a full, coherent sentence.
Batman’s new use of guns seems to include turret-mounted machine guns to kick off the fight. Seeing as how we all know how this song and dance goes, Superman attacks him and they are now in an abandoned complex.
There is back and forth between the characters, with the necessary and easily deduced handicap of Superman being exposed to Kryptonite – via gas grenades. Batman wins the fight and is about to murder Superman with a kryptonite spear, when Superman shouts “He took Martha!”
Batman is befuddled. That’s his mother’s name! And then Lois shows up to explain to him and the audience that Superman’s mother also has the name Martha. Batman is bewildered, stunned, and every emotion that does not fit this moment at all. One second he is in a blood rage, ready to kill. The next, he has completely forgotten all of his animosity for Superman, and they set off to foil Lex. All because their mothers share the same first name.
I am so thankful the theater served drinks.
Lex’s plot to defeat Superman is to unleash the Kryptonian/Human hybrid, Doomsday, into Metropolis. The fight with Doomsday is a complete spectacle and by the numbers.
Superman rockets him into space, and the United States makes the completely rational decision to screw International Politics and launch a nuke at the pair in space. Here the audience learns he has the ability to absorb “energy,” including that of a nuke and Superman’s heat vision. So naturally, there is only one weapon that can kill it, the kryptonite spear. Superman gives a sappy and clichéd sacrificial goodbye to Lois and then rockets towards Doomsday. The villain is currently incapacitated by Wonder Woman’s lasso and Batman’s bat kryptonite gas. Defying his weakness to kryptonite, he plunges the spear into the villain, killing him. But he sustains a seemingly fatal wound and dies in the battle.
Superman has perished, but certain things must be taken into account. They’ve established subplots in this film for the beginning of the Justice League films, and we all know who’s going to be in it. Sure enough, the camera has hovered over Superman’s casket, with the music changing. If I made a dollar for every instance of clichéd or predictable writing, I’d have made more money than this film cost to make.
There is one upside. Ben Affleck fit surprisingly well in the role of Bruce Wayne, despite my initial thoughts on his casting. But his performance is overshadowed by everything I have written prior and many other things not worth their own paragraph.
Like the many non-subtle homages to the history of DC comics or the overuse of slow motion footage to pad out an already bloated runtime. Don’t forget an opening scene reminiscent of the movie 2012, or the casting and writing for Lex Luthor. There are quite a lot of things I wish I could forget about this movie, but there is one glaring thing I must come to accept. Two and half hours of my life are gone because of this movie, and I will never get them back. If they want to do the Justice League movies with the same people involved in development, count me out.
★☆☆☆☆ “Trash – A painful experience. Only masochists need apply.”