Last night I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice at the film’s European Premiere in London. Despite taking against Man of Steel, I was cautiously optimistic, harbouring a healthy balance of excitement and tempered expectations. I genuinely wanted to enjoy Batman v Superman.
But I really didn’t. The film is crushingly disappointing. So, in the spirit of director Zack Snyder’s scattergun approach – never focusing on any part long enough for it to develop – here are a collection of thoughts I angrily jotted down after the screening…
This article contains no plot spoilers, but does describe the overall sense of the film and a few vague scenes.
Batman should not be stabbing people or using guns. Grapple hooks, fine. Bullets which explode into gas, also good. But he should actively avoid the weapon responsible for his parents death and, arguably, at the root of his psychosis.
In Batman v Superman, not only does he frequently use guns, he brands criminals, searing their flesh with a Bat symbol. This is a mean, unlikeable interpretation of the character, but one that would work if the moral compass of the story eventually shows him the right path – where he realises he’s been going too far, externalising his anger from his own sense of loss. There isn’t.
After Man of Steel’s off-putting disregard for civilian casualties in its final battle sequence between Superman and General Zod, Batman v Superman almost comically overly addresses the issue. Not with intentional comedy, mind you. There is very little of that in Batman v Superman.
The larger fight scenes each awkwardly feature a token line about how that area is deserted. “It’s landed on Styker’s Island (clumsy pause for emphasis), which is completely uninhabited,” is just one example. Turkish Airlines. The answer to Man of Steel’s civilian casualty issues isn’t to totally remove all ground-level, human victims; it’s to make the superheroes look like they actually care about them.
The film is so utterly devoid of humour, that when any characters try to make a joke, the laughs immediately collapse in on themselves as though in a comedic black hole. Only Laurence Fishburne and Jeremy Irons just about break through.
People are saying that Wonder Woman steals the movie. Those people would’ve enjoyed the Titanic’s string quartet.
Speaking of music, I love Hans Zimmer, but he’s gone mad. His score is incessantly overbearing, muffling any attempt at understatement.
You’d think all that music would artificially compensate for the film’s lack of emotion, but it doesn’t. Snyder makes it almost impossible to empathetically connect with his characters. I’ve got a theory that people don’t cough in the cinema when they’re engrossed. During Batman v Superman’s most intentionally affecting moment, a cacophony of clearing throats roared out across the auditorium; a non-verbal language between strangers in the dark saying, ‘yeah, I don’t care either.’
Characters are either lost in the shuffle, or limited by horribly trite dialogue. “This is my world. You are my world.” Is actually spoken seriously at one point. If there were only just one scene where characters would sit together and chat like humans – like office banter at the Daily Planet, playful flirting between Lois and Clark at home; but there is very, very little, and when it is there, Zimmer catapults the entire New York Philharmonic at whoever’s talking.
The action scenes are so visually aggressive, it’s like watching the most anti-social of 14 year old boys playing a gratuitously senseless first person shooter. So it’s like watching Zack Snyder playing a gratuitously senseless first person shooter.
After a while, the violence means nothing. It’s just pixels hitting pixels. And not even pixels you have an emotional investment in. Just colours, explosions and bangs. A lot of critics are praising the visuals as one of the film’s better points. In five years, this is going to look as hokey as George Reeves flying on a matte backdrop.
I doubt people who are made intensely angry by this post have read this far, and I should have probably opened with the below disclaimer, but I wanted a twist…
I’m a DC guy.
I grew up on the Batman Animated Series. The first graphic novel I read was Arkham Asylum (which I didn’t understand on any level first time through). The first monthly series I bought was Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern. I have every single first issue of The New 52 in a long box at the bottom of my wardrobe because I’m an absolute chump.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m not a Marvel fanboy. It’s an accusation thrown at this website a lot. But most of us aren’t. Our Editor-in-Chief literally wrote the book on Batman, and the writers room is pretty much evenly split between DC and Marvel.
What we like are movies that treat our favourite characters respect onscreen. We’ve been spoiled over the last decade with the first two Spider-Man films, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and now almost the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. We love the comic book characters on which those films are based, but we don’t let that loyalty blind us when they’re adapted to the screen. A deep, enduring love for these characters should not excuse shoddy and mean-spirited storytelling.
I thought Batman v Superman wasn’t just going to be the Dawn of Justice, I thought it was going to be the birth of a cinematic universe to rival Marvel’s. I was rooting for DC. Competition is healthy. It breeds innovation and increases quality all round. A critically and commercially successful DCEU could be the perfect Superman eye-beam to MCU’s heels.
But, alas, now Marvel has nothing to worry about.
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