Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
2016 blockbuster Marvel movie
Plot: Superman and Batman are neighbors who don't like each other very much. Am I the only person on Earth who didn't realize that Metropolis and Gotham were in close proximity? I always thought both were supposed to be New York, but apparently they're based on Minneapolis and St. Paul instead. Bruce Wayne is ticked at the Man of Steel because his last movie wasn't very good. Superman's unhappy with Batman because his pets are too loud. The brother of that annoying little curly-headed girl in those 1990's Pepsi advertisements also hates Superman because he's an alien and Luthor--rich and white and male--is obviously a Trump supporter. He tries to get his hands on some Kryptonite because he saw the Christopher Reeve movie with Gene Hackman and knows that's the way to take the superhero down. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman makes a few appearances because Warner Brothers wants to set up future movies. More and more plot is piled on until the two superheros in the title of this movie that also inexplicably has a "v" with no punctuation meet to engage in the ultimate pissing contest. Then, a CGI crescendo!
For the first time in a very long time, I found myself in a mall. I wandered into a shoe store, looked at some hats at a store that sells nothing but hats, browsed in another shoe store, noticed that Spencer's sells ball gags now, and looked for Frisbees in a sporting goods store. It's what happens when you can't read a movie schedule and show up for a big spring blockbuster movie an hour before you're supposed to be there.
I began to despair and decided I have a fear of being asked if I found everything I was looking for. Is there a deeper meaning to that question? I'm a grown man about to see a superhero movie by myself. I'm wearing a smelly t-shirt, orange pants, and a sweat-stained hat. I'm a middle-aged man completely out of place in a loud shopping mall, completely out of my element. The ennui was oppressive, and when I checked the time on my phone, I realized that I was only through half of the longest hour of my life. "Are you finding everything you're looking for?" Everything? Have I found anything? Do I even know what I'm looking for? Do you mean "everything" in a concrete, materialistic sort of way or are is it a metaphysical everything?
A miniature train passed by. The driver appeared to be on the verge of suicide. The three children and one adult looked as if they just found out that they were tricked into riding a miniature train to hell.
Just as I had made the decision to circle back and purchase a ball gag, a tiny woman asked me if I wanted to take part in a survey. I enthusiastically answered, "Yes!" and then she told me that there was money involved. I answered questions about lunch meats and hot dogs, two things I know absolutely nothing about, and then was lured into a little room to answer more specific questions about lunch meats and hot dogs on a computer. I was told that I would be given four dollars. As the survey wound down, I asked how much it costs to ride that train.
"How much does it cost to ride that train?"
"I think it's five dollars." The other woman in the room nodded in agreement.
"Shoot. I'll be a dollar short."
"Well, you can do another survey if you want."
Of course, I told them I was interested. I would have been a fool not to! And after a more high-tech survey that involved some guy, special glasses, a purse slung over my shoulder, and shelves of toothpaste (something else I'm a bit of an expert in), I was given eleven dollars and left with just enough time to get to the theater to see the big blockbuster movie.
At one point, I told the guy who gave me the purse and made me look at shelves of toothpaste that we had to speed things up because I had a movie to catch. When I told him it was the Batman/Superman movie, he said, "Oh, I heard that. . .was pretty good from. . .people who saw it." The whole thing sounded suspicious. I wondered if the man had even seen other human beings who hadn't been in that toothpaste room in months. I didn't question him or say, "Oh yeah? Prove it! Who are these people?" which was what my instincts told me to do.
I did not think the movie was going to be pretty good, but for reasons I can't even explain, I was interested. The movie is neither great nor as bad as I expected. Those mysterious "people who saw it" that the guy in the toothpaste room may or may not actually have contact with were maybe throwing around "pretty good" too generously, but they weren't far off.
Here's what I noticed about the thing. I'll let you know when there are spoilers if you haven't seen this movie yet.
1. The music. I think I liked the score by Hans Zimmer, a guy who is apparently retiring from superhero movies, and Junkie XL. The music is definitely hard to ignore. As you know, I don't go to theaters often anyway, and I hadn't been in one of these theaters. The previews were loud, and the music in this movie was oppressive. It throbbed and vibrated the air around me. One of my shoes might have fallen off. I think I urinated at one point. But the music is never really in the way and generally enhances the action sequences and the music they give Wonder Woman, which I believe might be played by the flamethrower-guitar guy from the Mad Max movie, raised the hairs on my arms.
2. Why am I making a list here? Is it only to annoy my wife who has told me countless times that she doesn't like when I do numbered lists like this?
3. Gal Gadot is a beautiful woman and has the right legs for Wonder Woman. I have no attachment to any superhero character and don't really get excited about movies featuring any of them. I definitely had no real interest in a Wonder Woman movie despite liking the t.v. show with Lynda Carter when I was a kid. And like a lot of warm-blooded males, I've had my share of Amazonian-with-a-rope fantasies. After seeing her in action here, I have more of an interest. Of course, it could wind up being the next Catwoman. I assume it'll be a sort-of origin story where she works her way through the 20th Century and fights antagonists from other planets like she boasted she had in this movie. I wonder if she'll run into Captain America.
4. Speaking of origin movies, it was nice that this didn't have to mess around with all that. Superman already had his third or fourth origin movie in Man of Steel, and Batman's story just starts in medias res. He's middle-aged, graying a bit and surly, and although we get to see his parents murdered for the umpteenth time, there's no explanation for why Affleck's Batman is the way he is in this movie.
5. We do get far too many dream sequences. Bat levitation where Batchild strikes a crucifixion pose even though that should be Superman's move, a weird nightmare where Superman's got a legion of wasp people or something, something really odd involving a character I later discovered was The Flash (Flash? The Flash? Which is it?) even though I thought it was Robin while watching it. I think every one of those dream sequences could have been cut. They befuddled and muddied up a movie that already suffers from being way too muddy and befuddling.
6. There's a lot going on here. This gets from point A to point Z just fine. I liked the story even though it's got the same structure as every single other superhero movie ever made. You know, the whole starts quiet, hits a big moment, settles down to develop, hits another big moment, kablam with a crescendo involving an assload of CGI, settles down, end with some sort of cliffhanger thing? What's unfortunate is that it makes stops along B, C, D, E, F, G, and so on along the way, and a lot of those tangents didn't seem to fit. This was a really long movie, and it didn't need to be. I'm not sure I've seen a movie containing so many scenes that could have been deleted scenes. This movie is bloated.
7. [Possibly, there are spoilers here.] The way the other Justice League heroes are teased was really silly. Aquaman, The Flash (Flash?), some guy without legs. Watching Wonder Woman watching clips of those guys like she was checking out Youtube videos was just goofy. I'm also not sure why Batman decides at the end of the movie that he and Wonder Woman need to find these other characters. Aquaman looks capricious, Flash (The Flash?) seemed incoherent in that dream sequence, and the other guy doesn't even have legs. I don't even know who that legless guy is supposed to be. Ok, I just looked him up. Cyborg? There's a robotic superhero? I had no idea, but I am not happy about it.
8. [There are probably spoilers here, too.] There are all sorts of silly coincidences in this movie, things that just don't make sense. With this much money involved and the hordes of people who had to have come together to tell this story, you'd think that sort of thing wouldn't happen. Nobody looked at the screenplay and had the guts to tell somebody that the whole "Martha" plot point was stupid? It seems like a whole lot of rainy punching could have been prevented if somebody had mentioned "Martha" earlier. Later, Lois Lane somehow knows exactly what she needs to do even though she had just done the exact opposite and had nobody tell her anything different. Apparently, nobody at all lives or roams the streets at night in Gotham or Metropolis or wherever the big fight with the CGI antagonist took place. Superman starts hallucinating on a mountain and has a conversation with a dead Kevin Costner. Why's Lex Luthor, or Lex Luthor's son or whoever the hell he's supposed to be, need to have his head shaved before being Hannibal Lectered?
9) Just so many tangents! I think Zack Snyder, Academy Award winning screenwriter Chris Terrio, and David S. Goyer who wrote those Nolan Batman movies were overly ambitious. This movie would have benefited from being simplification. These guys wanted to show Batman and Superman fighting each other because it's sort of promised by the title, sprinkle the seeds of the Justice League because it's also promised in the title, give us a complex super-villain who in no way could be fleshed out enough with all this other stuff going on, say something about the roles of heroes in contemporary society, allude to things (like the Joker and Robin maybe?) that will likely pop up in other movies, have a giant goopy CGI shit-Kong for the characters to fight (Is that a spoiler? Should I not mention this thing?), and continue the in-your-face Christ metaphor. They wanted to launch, foreshadow, entertain, pontificate, and dazzle, and it's all just too ambitious.
10. [Spoilers] Having said all that, I did enjoy the story. I just didn't like the way it was told. And even though the Jesus figure motif was just as obvious here as it was in Man of Steel, I kind of liked the depth it added. Superman strikes Jesus poses, floats down from clouds, is called a God by Eisenberg several times, dies and resurrects, dies again and In a way, you could read this as a conflict between an optimistic belief in an omnipotent and completely benevolent deity and a dark, pessimistic atheism, the continued efforts to challenge religious beliefs and kill God that have taken place over and over again. Of course, Jesus never had sex with Amy Adams in a bathtub unless that's in a fifth Gospel that I haven't read. But as annoyingly conspicuous and clumsy as it is--Crosses? Really?--I did enjoy the subtext. It gave me something to think about during the big CGI fights.
11. The special effects and fight sequences are really well done. There's a chunk of movie where they work in some Batmobile action, and that doesn't look very realistic or obey the laws of physics. It does remind me of a comic book though, so I guess it works well enough. I'd have to see that goopy shit-Kong again away from the allure of the big screen to see if that CGI holds up. But the big fight between the title characters, the explosions, and the sprinkled action scenes during the build-up all looked great.
12. I thought Ben Affleck made a great Batman. Now, keep in mind that I have no attachment to the character, haven't read the comics, and couldn't tell you if it was an accurate interpretation of the hero. Affleck spends a lot of the movie moping, and he doesn't always have the best lines to say ("I'm a friend of your son" was especially bad), but there's some subtlety to his performance that makes this character in the middle stages of his life more than intriguing.
13. Jesse Eisenberg. I still have no idea what to think about Jesse Eisenberg. There are times when I really like him, and there are times where I think he's just about the worst actor working today. Here, I like what Eisenberg does with the character. Or I at least know what he's trying to do. He's got mannerisms and ticks that almost make you miss him when he's not on the screen, one of the true characteristics of a great movie villain. He's smart and he's mean and he's a little wacky, and Eisenberg gets a lot of the best lines in the movie. Unfortunately, the character is horribly written. There's a descent into madness that doesn't make a lot of sense, and you never really feel like you have a grasp on what he's trying to do or why he's trying to do it. I do like that the character is so prominent, and without him, there would be no indication that this is anything deeper than a movie where people with super powers beat on each other and then try to save the world. He brings some intelligence to the proceedings. But it's a shame the character wasn't fleshed out a little better.
14. I've heard other names tossed around for who should have played Lex Luthor. You know who should have played him though? Nicolas Cage. Don't argue with me because you're going to be wrong.
15. I don't know what to think of Henry Cavill. He still looks like Superman to me, but it's also pretty difficult for a person my age to imagine anybody but Christopher Reeve in that role. And there's just something dickish about Cavill. His Superman sure scowls a lot. But man, he looks good without a shirt.
16. Gosh, I hope Soledad O'Brien is OK.
17. Yes, I'm definitely convinced that I write blog entries that are lists sometimes just because I know it annoys my wife.
18. Do I like the dark tone of this movie, a superhero movie devoid of humor, brooding, and philosophically complex? Or do I prefer the piss-taking tomfoolery of a Deadpool? Or do I like something in between? I don't even know. I'm really asking. I mean, I guess comic book movies are supposed to be fun, but when the fun, humorous ones get dark, I have trouble buying them. And I don't watch movies just to be entertained. I like to think. This is a superhero movie that made me think a little bit and work hard to put all the pieces to the God puzzle together.
19. There's a scene near the end with Lois Lane and Superman that made me roll my eyes. Lane is played by Amy Adams again, but this time, they decided to give her a scene in a bathtub so that they could almost show her breasts. What the hell was that? I have nothing against the upper half of Amy Adams' breasts, but that whole scene was really awkward and unnecessary.
20. I might go back to the mall to do more surveys.
21. Wait a second! Where was Morgan Freeman? Isn't he supposed to be in every movie like this? Did he play one of the bats or one of Superman's wasp friends in Batman's dream? Maybe he voiced Goopy Shit-Kong?
22. I know that Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck's Batman, that robot with no legs, and Flash (The Flash?) are going to get their own movies. Call me weird, but I would like to see dead Kevin Costner get his own movie where he just wanders around playing with rocks and sticks on mountains. Two-and-a-half hours of Jonathan Kent ghost action!
23. Hold on a second! Don't Wonder Woman and Superman become an item in the comic books? Is there going to be a Lane/Kent/Wonder Woman love triangle? Will there be a menage a trois, one that will likely end up in Lois Lane being obliterated? Is Batman going to hit that instead?
24. [Spoiler] Does Jimmy Olsen get shot in the head in this movie or was that some other anonymous guy? I don't remember Man of Steel well enough to remember if Jimmy Olsen was even in the movie.
25. I need an excuse to see another movie at this theater so that I can A) purchase that ball gag and B) ride the train, probably twice.