The reception to Batman v Superman is, to put it lightly, controversial. Some accuse it of being a derelict smashup on par with the Great Train Wreck of 1918, while others rushed to the defense of the film with the retort that most critics are cynical assholes. I mentioned in my retrospectives of motivational lessons from Batman and Superman that I would exclude the film (plus Man of Steel) from discussion to avoid spoilers and because of my issues with how Superman is portrayed in the DC Extended Universe. With the spoiler window passed and a busy week/weekend having prevented me from writing a more substantial post, allow me to share my thoughts on glaring issues with Batman v Superman.
If it wasn’t already clear, Batman v Superman spoilers are ahead.
Batman v Superman can be best described as a cake cooked with the finest quality ingredients, except the recipe is botched and it is burned in the oven, but the disaster is hidden by Cake Boss caliber decoration. The deliciousness is still there, but it’s muddled with ash and imbalance. There are many good ‘ingredients’ to this confectionary catastrophe, but the pretty decorations can’t save the poor execution.
First, let’s take a look at some of the good bits, because there are a lot of them. Batfleck delivers possibly the best live action Batman performance of the ‘modern era’ (Michel Keaton onwards). If not that, he’s without a doubt the best live action Bruce Wayne. The man behind the mask is often an afterthought in Batman films once he dons the cowl, but the heir to the House of Wayne is an actual character this time and he, gasp, enjoys being a billionaire playboy. Jeremy Irons proves himself to be the most useful live action Alfred, and I love the fact that the entire time he seems to be hiding resentment that he was hired to serve drinks and manage a household but has been conscripted to mission control for a never-ending vigilante black ops mission. The sultry yet savage Wonder Woman is great for the ten minutes or so of screentime she has. Par for the course of a Zach Snyder production, the film is beautifully shot and the action scenes are spectacular.
Unfortunately, that’s where my praise ends.
Myself and plenty of other concerned fans predicted some of the issues the final product would have: Juggling too many plotlines, diversion from the main plot to set up Justice League (AKA playing catch-up to Marvel), and idiotic reasons for the titular heroes to clash. What we didn’t anticipate was an coming disaster obtaining critical mass and becoming the Hurricane Andrew of shitstorms. So many little elements clash with each other. Shifts in tone create weird pacing. Subplots are haphazardly thrown around like a drunk trying to juggle. Symbolism and metaphors are more hamfisted than an Emboar. Story hinges on ludicrous occurrences and plot points, like a mason jar of urine. And of course, the less said about Jesse Eisenberg (whom I normally like), the better.
When you describe the film, you realize how ludicrous the execution was: Batman wants to kill Superman because of a fanatical decision that a one percent chance he may go rogue is an extinction-level threat to humanity, so he sets up a massive heist to steal kryptonite from hyperactive savant Lex Luthor Jr., who is offended by the existence of metahumans for some unexplained reason, then when he gets the Kryptonite he decides to make a spear out of it because his ancestors who immigrated to American were fur trappers. Plus he has dreams-within-dreams about fighting flying aliens in Iraq.
The city-shaking clash in the Abandoned Buildings District is resolved when Batman finds out he and Clark’s mothers are both named Martha. Then we get a big ol’ battle royale when Lex reanimates General Zod’s corpse into a laser-breathing cave troll because Kryptonian warships have on-board genetic engineering puddles and let just anyone who climbs on board assume control. And Wonder Woman shows up. They can’t kill the cave troll because Lois Lane dumped the Kryptonite spear in a half flooded building so she has to nearly drown to fish it out again.
After they kill Not-Doomsday and Superman oh-so-certainly dies, Batman decides for some reason he and Wonder Woman need to go find the other metahumans but that’s probably just a ploy to get into her armored skirt.
I could spend all day and night nitpicking, and there are fans who have probably identified more flaws that I conceivably could with even a week of preparation. You can accuse me of an inherent Marvel bias and you’d probably be right. I returned to Civil War hype mode about an hour after watching this movie. Go read The Dark Knight Returns if you want a fight between the two titans of DC that makes sense and has exponentially more focus as a story.
Do I regret seeing it? No. It does its job. Hopefully Justice League has less extended setup to accomplish thanks to this train wreck, and I’m genuinely excited for the Wonder Woman solo film and the eventual Batfleck film. Suicide Squad is probably going to be shit though.