Watching Pacific Rim on DVD led me to re-watch that breathtaking first trailer of Man of Steel. The blend of visuals and that moving score from The Lord of the Rings made it one of the best film trailers ever and a tease of what was to be DC Comics’ grand entrance into the cinematic universe genre. Too bad the three films that were made have been absolutely dreadful. Okay, Suicide Squad was fun and Man of Steel at least had a couple of redeeming qualities. But, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice just sucked. A 151-minute long pile of sludge made up of confusion, angst, misery, the infamous dark and grittiness seen in 1990s comics, and has so many dumb moments, I was surprised no one in the screening I saw walked out ranting and raving. So, here are ten of the major problems that plagued what should’ve been one of the landmarks of the superhero film genre.
10. It Doesn’t Know What It Wants To Be
At the end of Iron Man, Nick Fury’s surprise arrival announcing the formation of the Avengers Initiative made it very clear what the MCU’s intentions were. For Man of Steel, there didn’t even appear to be plans to make it the first instalment of a cinematic universe. First it was announced that it was a direct sequel, than a crossover with Batman, then with Wonder Woman, and then a straight up introduction for the Justice League and the whole universe.
Too bad they tried to shove about sixth films’ worth of world building into one film. Poor Superman loses what characterization he had in the first film, and the rest of the established cast are underplayed, so Batman, Wonder Woman, and Lex Luthor-in-name-only take up most of the screen time, plus they pause the film twice to tease us about potential things to come. In Marvel, these sorts of things are reserved for the post-credit scenes or little teasers that don’t literally halt the story to let people know they are coming. Whatever ideas from the initial Man of Steel sequel that made it to the screen are buried under a million or so subplots, most of which do not make sense or get focused on.
Not only do you have Batman versus Superman, but you also have the following: Superman’s rather fickle character arc about whether or not he is doing good or not, Batman’s search for KGBeast, Wonder Woman’s mysteries, Luthor’s big, stupid, convoluted plan, Lois Lane trying to remain important to the story by investigating the most pointless subplot of the whole thing, and the intrusive hints at both of the Justice League and Darkseid. And all the while, the film is crawling through its own labyrinth of craziness to try and form some sort of cohesive narrative and failing miserable.
9. Forced Consequences
Another victim of this attempted world building is there are too many characters that get introduced and thrown out without little consequence. Do you remember that journalist who gets shot in Africa? That was Jimmy Olsen. I know the extended version spends a little time with him, but I am shocked they axed off Jimmy so early in the franchise. What is with this strange need to kill off characters pointlessly? This isn’t Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. They try doing this again in Suicide Squad by faking the Joker’s death, and doing it off-screen no less. What cheapskates. As said before, the Superman cast are all but underplayed. Lois has a pointless subplot trying to connect the events in Africa and a single bullet to Luthor, and she continues this dumb need to express her feminism by insulting anyone who is the tiniest bit polite, flirtatious, or rude with her.
There is also the very obviously enforced subplot involving the US Senate wanting to condemn Superman for trashing Metropolis – a creative decision likely brought on by complaints about Man of Steel’s third act. But what might have been an interesting discussion about the consequences of a superhero’s actions (briefly explored in Captain America: Civil War) is literally blown up in our faces as just another checkbox to be ticked off in Luthor’s extremely vague master plan to do who knows what – and what makes it even worse is that the bomb is triggered inside a disabled man’s wheelchair, and pointlessly killed off Luthor’s right-hand lady Mercy Graves. What a waste.
8. Been There, Won’t See That
More of a minor complaint, but it appears we won’t be seeing that many of Batman’s greatest storylines on the big screen. It looks like he has been through most of them already, explaining why he is dropping his morals and becoming a bit more like he was in The Dark Knight Returns with a little bit of Knightfall thrown in. We briefly glimpse the costume of Robin, graffitied with taunting words from the Joker. From that, we can assume that at least one version of Robin, presumably Jason Todd, is dead. So, what does that mean for other potential Batman regulars? Has Barbara Gordon been shot? I guess we will find that out when J.K. Simmons shows up as Commissioner Gordon. Considering this series is hellbent on making everything as dark and gritty as possible, it would come as no surprise if she was now in a wheelchair. That Dick Grayson is Nightwing. That something terrible has happened to Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown. You get the picture.
And yet it is obvious this series will be exploring some comic book storylines, beginning with The Death of Superman and The Dark Knight Returns – two stories, while good, both nearly destroyed the comic book industry during the 1990s by creating that nasty gimmick of making every comic book dark and gritty. So why skip out on presumably most of Batman’s most well known storylines? Of course, we have to revisit the murders of Bruce’s parents once again, because no one remembers why Batman is Batman.
7. Batman Kills People
Batman kills people. That is really all that needs to be said. One of Batman’s key morals is to never take a life, even if there is the temptation. Occasionally, there have been versions where he compromises such as in the 1989 movie. But, since watching Batman: The Animated Series, played the Arkham games, and watched The Dark Knight Trilogy, I feel it is a necessity for Batman to not take a life, since it proves there is still some humanity inside the Dark Knight. Too bad this film is like “Screw that! Batman needs to kill people to be edgy and sh*t!” At least several people are killed by Batman during that epic car chase to get the Kryptonite, and again when he rescues Martha Kent. He then guns down more people in his weird dream/vision of the future, but that may not count since that appears to be a darker world we have yet to visit.
6. Batman’s Vision/Dream
There are two points where the film’s plot is halted to give us teases for what is to come in future movies in the DC Extended Universe. One of which is Batman’s oh-so-important apocalyptic vision/dream of the future. However, it is lower on the list because it at least a little relevant to the story, namely Batman’s fear of Superman turning evil being fuelled by this weird sequence. The scene also serves as a little tease for a potential future of this universe. You have a hint that Darkseid is on Earth, Superman is his servant, the Parademons, Batman is a hardcore rebel leader, and the Flash then turns up to warn Bruce Wayne that Lois Lane is the key to Superman remaining good. Everyone knows the DC Comics have had multiple continuities and timelines before the “New 52” universe was introduced. Let’s assume they may do the same thing with the movies by exploring different timelines, something which the Flash could play with a lot by the time we get to his movie.
5. The Justice League Teasers
As said before, Marvel movies usually leave their teases for post-credit scenes, but Zack Snyder decided to do things a little differently. Halfway through the film, Batman comes into the possession of a USB stick containing files which Wonder Woman wants to gain, namely because they feature photos of her from 1918. However, further exploration reveals Lex Luthor has footage of a number of superheroes. The Wonder Woman reveal works well since it is from Batman’s point of view (since he remains the only non-superpowered hero in the bunch).
But, just before the big fight between Batman and Superman occurs, Diana receives the files from Bruce and discovers surveillance footage of the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Now, admittedly, these teasers were exciting – but the fact is that they stop the film once again to literally give us teaser trailers for the next four movies. Each trailer even is labelled, presumably by Luthor, with the symbols of the four superheroes. How did he get them, or does he have close ties to the marketing department at Warner Bros.?
4. The Whole Damn Plot
Because this film is used as an anchoring point to establish the whole DC Extended Universe, the film is crushed under its own weight. Too many characters, too many plots going on, the necessity to toss in the most forced Easter eggs ever, etc. Because of this, the entire story of Batman v Superman makes no sense from beginning. I’ve already listed out every subplot I can think of, but I expect I missed some. Lex Luthor is at the centre of the whole plot, but I do not understand what his motivations are to destroy Superman and Batman, when he later implies that he has somehow learnt that Darkseid is coming – so unless he wants to see Earth get wiped out by the alien menace, why would he wish to kill those who could stop him?
The plot is both overly unnecessarily complex and yet simple at the same time, and no wonder it took three people to make sense of this madness. You could write a college thesis on how not to write a story or a screenplay from this turd of a movie. What is supposed to be the kickoff point of DC Comics’ new film franchise and the first ever onscreen appearance of the holy trinity of superheroes feels like watching a mass pile up involving fifty clown cars driven by all of the worst screenwriters in Hollywood, before Zack Snyder lights a fuse and the pile-up turns into a fireball. With Avengers Assemble, the plot can be described pretty easily – Loki obtains the magical Tesseract to bring an alien invasion to Earth, and it is up to the six Avengers to stop him.
Batman v Superman – well, let’s just say I thought trying to understand the plot of Kingdom Hearts was difficult. Luthor hates superheroes for some reasons and makes a complicated plan for Batman to kill Superman, and also to prove that Superman is not as benevolent as the world views him has. But because humans are stupid, Luthor somehow makes everyone think Superman murdered an entire village in Benghazi and then orchestrated the bombing at the US Senate, which, of course, makes no sense since Superman does not shoot people, nor would he hide a bomb inside a person who was arrested after publicly desecrating the big statue honouring the Man of Steel. Oh, and Superman would not need to use a bomb to destroy the US Senate, because, duh!
But, it turns out Batman already wants Superman dead after his scary vision of the future, and because several Wayne Industries personnel we do not care about died during the fight in Metropolis. Luthor then kidnaps Lois and Martha to goad Superman into killing Batman. Batman steals a chunk of Kryptonite from Luthor to turn into a weapon, but Luthor apparently wanted this all along to prove that man can kill god. Seriously, his motives seem to change with every new line of dialogue. And for some reason, Luthor obtain General Zod’s body and the Kryptonian ship to transform Zod into Doomsday, presumably so he can destroy Superman and Batman himself.
Wonder Woman shows up, our golden trio finally kick some ass, only for Superman to have to leave halfway through to rescue Lois again after she nearly drowns trying to retrieve the Kryptonite spear she chucked away five seconds ago. And then, Superman decides he must die to defeat Doomsday, kicks the bucket, but is implied to be coming back to life at the end of the movie. So why kill him to begin with? Oh, yeah, Superman is killed off two movies in. And I suspect the only the reason they did do that was to come up with a legitimate reason why the Justice League is formed. But we all know they will make a big song and dance out of Superman’s Christ-esque resurrection, despite the fact the audience knows it will be coming since Snyder spends the last five minutes of the film hinting at it.
And as for Luthor, he shaves his head and gets locked up, ranting about how Darkseid has “found” Earth and is coming? How does he even know that Darkseid is coming? Because he was told about him while exploring the Kryptonian archive? The movie fails to explain this, just as it fails to explain anything related to Lex Luthor’s character.
3. Superman the Idiot
Poor, poor, stupid Superman. With everything swallowed up by the huge plot, Superman barely is given anything to do. Henry Cavill is even more wooden than he was in Man of Steel, and his one expression in the film is “mopey”. He is given a stupid existential crisis about whether or not he is doing good, claiming his motive is because his father told him to. Bullshit! Jonathan Kent the entirety of Man of Steel telling his son it would be best if he stayed hidden and kept his powers under wraps or humanity would reject him. Well, guess what you hypocritical asshole: nothing happens. No one freaks out, the economy doesn’t collapse, there is no rioting in the streets. The first person Clark talked to was a calm vicar who encouraged him to be himself. And even when Metropolis got trashed, no one battered an eyelid until forced to be the film’s screenwriters. And when Superman dies, he gets one hell of a send-off. Where is your fear and terror, Jonathan? Where is it?
Superman’s reasons for hating Batman are vapourware. He dislikes someone other than him saving the day. Sure, he can trash whole cities and break necks, but some guy in a bat costume brands a child molester and a human trafficker and that crosses the line in his book. How hypocritical can you get? Batman’s reasons, as extreme as they are, at least make sense. Superman turning evil is hypothetically the very reason the Suicide Squad is formed in their film. And Superman seems to have forgotten he is a superhero most of the time.
When it comes to learning his mother has been kidnapped by Luthor, Superman just obeys the psycho, instead of using his abilities to, oh, I don’t know, hear where his mother is being hidden. He can sense where Lois is at all times and rescue her, but he can’t tell where his mother is. He then spends the whole fight with Batman being stupidly mute about how Luthor is playing them off against each other until Batman is about to run him through, leading to the most infamous moment in this film.
Martha. Martha, Martha, Martha, Martha. Seriously, who, out of the three idiots who wrote the script, thought this would be a good revelation to end the forced feud between our heroes. What was supposed to be a minor bit of comic book trivia that Superman and Batman’s mothers have the same name, has been transformed into one of the dumbest moments in the genre. I don’t know what is more baffling – the fact they used this as a plot device, or it is used to justify why Batman and Superman become friends and form an understanding. On a more in-depth level which only Zack Snyder was likely privy too, it may make sense, but it doesn’t to the audience. The reasons and hatred these two characters have for each other are so minimal that this payoff is equally just as inconsequential. They just needed the two to move on and team up with fight Doomsday.
1. Lex Luthor
Ah, you though the Martha thing was going to be number one. Guess again. I’ve spent this whole list ranting and raving but now it is finally time to tackle the elephant in the room. I have seen Doctor Doom be butchered twice in a row, Galactus turned into a cloud, and an unfortunate routine of boring villains in the Marvel films. But I think this movie’s version of Lex Luthor tops them all. Jesse Eisenberg is just horrendous as Luthor. One of the most obnoxious, irritating, insulting portrayals of a character that has ever been portrayed onscreen. Luthor seems to change personalities in every scene. He is an eccentric, manipulative, totally insane genius, but also an erratic psycho, who is unfortunately the smartest character in the film – somehow figuring out who Superman and Batman were and staged most of the plot off-screen.
We never really get to know Luthor as a character since he is so irritating, weird, and erratic all the time. Eisenberg just seems to be playing himself with everything turned up to eleven, with a little bit of the Joker thrown in. Strangely, Luthor is more closer to the Joker than Jared Leto was in Suicide Squad. Luthor is a philanthropist, a billionaire, an industrialist, a super genius, a friend of US Senators, a megalomaniac, and also an infuriating little pipsqueak whose presence on screen makes me want to ram my head down a toilet. This guy isn’t Lex Luthor. This wanker is more like the lead character from Drop Dead Fred on crack.
Luthor’s motivations make no sense at all and change every few minutes. First he just seems to hate Superman because he is dangerous, than he is all hung up about the concept of god which he may view Superman as, wanting him to be shown as a monster to prove a point. But, then he appears to also be evil because he was abused by his late father, but also hates a weird painting in his dad’s office depicting angels and devils, turning it upside down to once again vaguely hint at his motives and the coming of Darkseid. But by the end of the movie, he has created Doomsday for some reason. Why? I thought he hated Kryptonians and the power they possessed, so why would he make an unstoppable killing machine in the first place that won’t even obey him?
And then when he gets locked up, Luthor has jumped right off the slippery slope and rants hysterically about how Darkseid is coming to devour Earth now that Superman is dead. Again, I have to ask, how does he know that Darkseid is coming? I can accept that he learnt about Darkseid from the Kryptonian archive but how in blue blazes does he actually know that the big bad of the DC Universe will be coming to Earth? Is it purely based on his own knowledge and scepticism? Will it turn out he is the Loki to Thanos, somehow working for him all along? Someone explain all of this to me!
But, you know, there are some minor positives in this mess of a movie. Ben Affleck is great as Batman, Jeremy Irons is great as Alfred, Gal Gadot is enjoyable as Wonder Woman, whose film I am looking forward too. Snyder’s talent for cinematography is still good, with a lot of beautifully-shot scenes, and even that unnecessary revisit to death of Batman’s parents may be the best version portrayed on film. And the teasers for the Justice League made me excited for what is to come, and I would like to remain positive about what is to come in the future. But, Batman v Superman is a big disappointment, a movie pulled in five-hundred different directions and the final result will be scraped over the coals for years to come.
What do you think are the worst moments of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Should it have been handled differently? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.