“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” needed Cesar Romero. It needed a deceased Latin lover-type to put clown make-up on over his mustache and commit crimes by tricking people into opening a jack-in-the-box containing a spring-loaded boxing glove. It needed a silly clown man to clap his hands and laugh maniacally as he performed most of his scenes goofing around on a trampoline.
In essence, “Batman v. Superman” needed to lighten up. A film about a pair of orphans in capes punching each other shouldn’t be this joyless. Dour and self-important to an insufferable degree, the movie doesn’t feel like an adaptation of a DC Comics property, it feels like a dramatic interpretation of every time some pseudo-intellectual cornered me at a party and, without prompting, told me all about the “heavy” Nietzschean themes found in the first seven issues of “Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld.”
Adolescent nihilism and a sense of insecurity all had roles in making this movie. If “Batman v. Superman” has a message it’s, “comics aren’t for kids anymore, mother” and it’s being yelled down a stairway because somebody’s comic book collection was dismissed as a “bunch of funny books.”
From Zack Snyder – the director who gave us sprinting zombies, a version of Krypton that resembled a Yes album cover as designed by Henry Darger and “Sucker Punch” the faux ‘girl power’ disaster that was seemingly made for people who were disappointed they couldn’t masturbate to “Inception” – comes “Batman v. Superman”. And oof to the infinite ugh, “Batman v. Superman” is unbelievably terrible and suggests that God isn’t just alive, he’s finally getting around to answering Joel Schumacher’s prayers. In the film, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) disagree with the way in which each other murders criminals. So, they kind of just brood about their hatred for each other –sometimes while fully clothed in a bath tub, other times as they’re hitting a tire with a sledgehammer – until they decide to murder each other instead of criminals.
As that vague wisp of a storyline unfurls, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) plots and schemes to murder Superman (why, you may ask? Because Lex’s dad was mean to him as a child, ah-doyee!) by lovingly shoving a Jolly Rancher into a stranger’s mouth and terrorizing Holly Hunter with a mason jar filled with piss.
“Batman v. Superman” follows the Marvel Studios franchise building model by awkwardly planting seeds for the upcoming “Justice League” and other possibly stillborn concepts. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is in this movie much in the same way that Taylor Swift will sometimes make a jokey appearance in a sketch on The Tonight Show – to promote an upcoming product (“Wonder Woman” in theatres June 23, 2017!) Even more strained are the cameos from Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg who all appear in secret files on Lex’s computer. What’s weird about this is Lex went ahead and gave his perceived enemies catchy new names, and designed logos for them. Yeesh, crikey and shit this movie is dumb with a capital duh.
The prevailing criticism about “Batman v. Superman” is that it isn’t true to its characters. Comic fans note that Superman shouldn’t be as cynical or as haunted as Batman, Batman shouldn’t murder anyone or use a gun and Jimmy Olsen shouldn’t be shot in the head. However, I don’t care what inspiration, if any, a filmmaker derives from their source material. They’re welcome to do whatever they want to whichever character they want. The only thing I ask is that they make those changes interesting and Snyder and company refuse to even do that. Characters are undeveloped and exist only to mope and say grim-dark things like, “do you bleed?” There’s a gray monotony to everything, a strange self-importance that manages to take things like 9/11 and Daniel Pearl’s execution and reduce it into dimwitted, slo-mo set-pieces where Batman wears a duster and fights mothmen.
Jarringly edited and incoherently written, “Batman v. Superman” boasts several out of place dream sequences that play like deleted scenes from “Sucker Punch,” an overlong Neil DeGrasse Tyson delivered soliloquy about the wonder and beauty of Superman that grinds the film to a halt and stupid coincidences (Superman and Batman’s mother share the same name! Gotham City and Metropolis are just across the river from each other!) Seemingly based on a script that must have consisted of the last 20 pages of “The Death of Superman” stapled together with random selections from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns,” “Batman v. Superman” is an incompetently made but still strangely pompous act of corporate synergy.
A film so bad the sight of an Austrian muscle man making ice puns would actually make it a little more bearable.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
“Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice”
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg
Director: Zack Snyder
Weekender Rating: 0 Ws
Length: 153 minutes