Monday, March 28, 2016

Second Thoughts On Batman V Superman [SPOILERS]

I saw Batman V. Superman for a second time as part of the bachelor party for my friend Roy Buckingham, who, incidentally, does a podcast you might enjoy if you like my work. I scribbled down these random thoughts as the movie progressed. Naturally, they are full of snark and SPOILERS, so don't read this if you haven't seen the movie or can't bare to have me pick apart some of the problems.

1. While I regret the necessity of needing to yet again show the death of Batman's parents, I must say the opening credits sequence does accomplish that task in an efficient manner. Like it or not, a filmmaker cannot assume that EVERYONE knows how Bruce Wayne became Batman. But the bats lifting Bruce up to the light is a major "what the hell?" moment that had me laughing the first time I saw it before I realized it was a dream sequence.

2. In many ways, the dream sequences/hallucinations are the biggest problem with the movie structurally. None of these scenes serve any purpose other than setting up things for the sequels that make no sense now or being artsy for the sake of being artsy. And Zack Snyder is at his most insufferable as a director when he's being artsy for the sake of being artsy.

3. Didn't the US Military establish a no-fly zone around Metropolis when they were sending in the plane with the pod to destroy the Kryptonian mothership back in Man of Steel?  If so, then how is Bruce Wayne able to get a civilian helicopter to fly into the middle of a war zone? Apart from being rich and the rules not applying to him?

4. I had thought it was a little weird that Metropolis and Gotham City are on opposite sides of a body of water. But according to the latest DC Comics Atlas, that's the case. They're twin cities on opposite sides of Delaware Bay, with Gotham City in the location of Cape May Point, New Jersey and Metropolis in the location of Lewes, Delaware.

5. I do love the moment of Bruce saving and then hugging the lost girl. That is everything you need to know about Bruce Wayne in a nutshell in one scene. He'll risk his life to save another and he's got a soft spot for kids and orphans, despite his personal darkness. And Ben Affleck NAILS that.

6. As powerful as this moment is, however, I have to wonder how the heck that girl got to the ground floor and out of the building, unattended, in the first place.

7. This is another major problem with the movie - there are some great sequences, but the steps taken to set up those sequences don't make a lot of logical sense.

8. Let's give some praise to the costume designers. Bruce Wayne is clad in dark blues, grays and black throughout. Clark is dressed in lighter shades of blue. It's a nice, subtle touch.

9. Even though some parts of Africa have a Christian population as high as 75%, it still seems weird for the woman being interviewed by Congress about her village being destroyed to say that Superman doesn't answer to God.

10. The scene of the bathtub overflowing as Lois and Clark "get friendly" is probably the most subtle metaphor in the whole movie. I thought it was the female equivalent of a rocket going off. Which means it was probably an accident.

11. RE: The Bat-Symbol Brand (TM) on the criminals. This is another nonsensical element that exists only to give Superman a reason to distrust the more extreme Batman. It's also a blatant rip-off of The Phantom's Skull Ring.

12. So, we're told that the public is split on whether or not Superman is a hero or a menace. Yet Metropolis saw fit to make a statue of him the centerpiece of a memorial for those killed in the Kryptonian invasion. I'm willing to bet more than a few city councilors got voted out of office over that, since many people would equate that with building a statue of Adolph Hitler in the middle of a Holocaust memorial.

13. For all the complaints about things this movie got wrong in adapting the comics, I haven't heard anyone complain about Perry White. Laurence Fishburne does a good job with the character as written but there's no hint of the idealistic old-school newsman from the comics in his portrayal. His seeming annoyed about Lois and Clark wanting to go after big news stories is confusing on every level.

14. That being said, his later anger at Clark neglecting two assignments so he can write about a vigilante in another city is justified. Which makes it all the weirder later when he gives Lois a helicopter, no questions asked.

15. The dream sequence with Bruce visiting his parents grave is Snyder's direction at his most self-indulgent.

16. Did everyone see that stained-glass angel in a blue tunic with a red toga in the Wayne crypt?

17. Lex Luthor's speech to the Friends of the Metropolis Library comes off as the worst TED Talk ever.

18. Is it just me or is Jesse Eisenberg channeling Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka for his portrayal of Lex Luthor?  When he invites Bruce Wayne to his lab to see what he's cooking up, I half expected for him to say he's finally perfected the Everlasting Gobstopper.

19. Ironically, in the sequence in which the reporters and experts discuss Superman, the scriptwriters nail the biggest problem with Man of Steel and this movie. It happens with the line regarding how everyone wants to see Superman as Jesus or The Devil but nobody wants to see him as just some guy who wants to help people. He needs to be Clark first and Superman second, but the script frequently switches that metric around

20. On that note, I think Henry Cavill does great work with what he is given but he isn't given much to work with. His best moments come early on where we see him and Lois interacting as a couple. Where Clark is the guy who tries to surprise his girlfriend with flowers and a home-cooked dinner. Where he's the guy who doesn't much care what the world says about him because he's content with his life and the love of a woman who makes him feel like the greatest man in the world. THAT is the character we want to root for and one we should have seen more of.

21. Another great visual that makes no sense if you think about it - the people trapped by rising floodwaters on the roof of their home who paint a giant Superman symbol on the roof of their home.  So they didn't have time to flee their homes but DID have time go grab the paint before climbing on the roof?

22. One of the reporters asks "Must There Be A Superman?" Nice shout out to a classic Elliot S! Maggin storyline though I wonder why he wasn't listed among the writers and artists who were given a shout-out in the closing credits?

23. While I personally don't have a problem with Diana sneaking around and acting as a spy (she worked with Military Intelligence in the classic comics as Diana Prince and was a DEO spy in the modern era), I'm amazed there wasn't more outrage from Wonder Woman fans about the avatar of Truth behaving in a deceitful manner.

24. Did anyone else see the start of the post-apocalyptic (or should that be post-Apokolyptic?) dream sequence and wonder for a minute what George Miller's JLA movie might have looked like? Or wonder what mods you have to install on Fallout 4 to get this to happen?


25. The whole sequence with Batman chasing after the Kryptonite shipment reminds me of the driving sequences in Arkham Knight. For all the wrong reasons.

26. Superman's cape looks HUGE as he's flying over Washington DC.

27. Granting that he can hear and see if anyone might be injured instead of vaporized by the bomb, Superman standing in the middle of a burning building looks strange.

28. So we have this Kryptonian archival computer, totally unlocked, accessible by a hand-touch, containing information on over 100,000 worlds... and there isn't a team of scientists pouring over this 24-7?!

29. On that note, Lex Luthor is the dumbest genius ever. Faced with this treasure trove of knowledge, the likes of which man has ever known, what is the first thing he does? Start playing around with a device that modifies DNA with the same skill and finesse as The Cat from Red Dwarf.

30. Also, did anyone else notice that Zod's corpse is smooth as a Ken doll "down there"?

31. RE: The Pa Kent dream sequence. It's totally random, but I can forgive it since we get to hear the speech Pa Kent SHOULD have given Clark in Man of Steel about how unintended consequences shouldn't stop you from trying to do good.

32. The Pa Kent scene is also a nice, subtle segue into the next scene, where Bruce is pondering his own father's teachings in the ruins of Wayne Manor. Another subtle reminder of how Clark and Bruce aren't that different.

33. I take it back. Jesse Eisenberg isn't channeling Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka - he's becoming Heath Ledger's Joker. Just look at the hair and the purple trenchcoat!

33. This may possibly be the most obscure reference in the whole movie. In the video of Cyborg's creation, his father mentions a number - 61982. Cyborg's first appearance in the comics was in Tales Of The Teen Titans #1, which was released on June 19th, 1982. Or 6/19/82.

34. The fight between Superman and Batman DOES look awesome. But Superman shoving Batman when he shouts "I UNDERSTAND!" serves no purpose other than to provoke a fight that doesn't need to happen.. except for the sake of giving us the titular fight of this movie. Clark should have just tried talking to him then, calmly and rationally and explained that his mom was in danger. Of course then we wouldn't have gotten the fight scene, so forget it.

35. Batman swinging Superman around on that bat-rope just looks goofy as hell.

36. Why on Krypton does Clark use his mother's first name when he's begging Batman to help him instead of "Mom"?  Yes, both of their mothers are named Martha. It's a fascinating bit of trivia and it makes the characters bond but it makes no freaking sense for Clark to not say "Mom".

37. With Martha Kent a hostage and Lex doing God only knows in the Kryptonian ship, time is of the essence and the situation is urgent. But not so urgent that Bruce can't change out of his power armor and into a second Bat-Suit he just happened to have with him.

38. Bruce forgetting about his Kryptonite spear and leaving it behind is just dumb.

39. Leaving Lois behind? Slightly less dumb, but still pretty dumb given that Clark knows Luthor was watching the fight remotely.

40. So Lex decides to taunt Superman while standing between him AND the nightmarish abomination he created to kill Superman? I say it again - Dumbest Genius EVER.  I fully expect to see Doomsday doing to Lex what Hulk did to Loki in the inevitable How It Should Have Ended parody.

41. Who else expected Aquaman to show up after Lois dropped the Kryptonite spear in the flooded pit in the basement of the port building and start lecturing her about surface-dwellers dropping their junk the ocean?

42. Yes, it would have been coincidental as hell, but Aquaman totally should have shown up to save Lois when she got trapped underwater and joined the fight then.  Of course HE could have used the spear on Doomsday and then Superman wouldn't have to die. So forget it.

43. I full expect to see THAT happen on How It Should Have Ended as well.

44. Another little thing I liked - Clark mailing his engagement ring for Lois to his mother's house. Because he knew there was no way he could hide anything from Lois at work or at home.

45. Amy Adams is a marvel as Lois Lane. The bits of Lois being an investigator are great and I'd love to see her star in a solo movie. We'll never get it, but I'd like to see that.

46. Gal Godot nails the part of Wonder Woman and I can't wait for her solo film.

47. The fight between the Trinity and Doomsday... okay, let's be honest.... the fight between Wonder Woman and Doomsday with Batman lining up his shot and Clark providing air support does look amazing... except for the cheap CGI for Doomsday.

48. The series of false endings as the movie closes are almost as ridiculous as the end of The Return of The King.

49. It should have ended with Bruce's line - "Man is still good. We break things, tear them down, but we can rebuild. We can be better, we have to be."

50. Take that last line as a mission statement for Justice League, Zack Snyder!


Final thoughts on a second viewing?  I like the movie a little more. I still don't love it but I can appreciate the craft of it all.

Yes, it is flawed. Yes, a lot of stupid things happen to justify the action sequences. There's way too much going on. And we could have cut the dream sequences without losing anything. But the performances are great across the board, with one glaring exception and I can't even blame Jesse Eisneberg for that because so much of it is down to the direction and script.

The production values are great, with some wonderful designs in regards to the sets and costumes. The musical score is amazing and well-mixed. And the movie makes some good points regarding the nature of heroism and how we view it in modern society.

In the end, that's just one critics opinion. I encourage you all to go see the movie and decide for yourself.

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