a review by the Crow.
I recently — at long last — watched the Ultimate Edition of this movie… and I have a lot to talk about. Prior to jumping in, I must warn you: this is going to be more a roast than a review.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS for short) is directed by Zack Snyder, and stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Jesse Eisenberg, among others.
It follows Man of Steel as the second installment in the DC Extended Universe, and was by far the most anticipated movie of 2016. After all, this is the Batman versus Superman. How could this not be a blockbuster? I expect a grizzled Batman to pull Superman up by his boyish collars and make sure that the lastcough son of Krypton remembers the “one man who beat” him.
Heralded since as far back as 2007, on a billboard from that year’s I Am Legend (a complete and utter disaster by the sound of it), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a tall order ahead of it.
Now, I usually deal with recent movies (movies released within the past four years) in terms of how they were first presented in theatres. With BvS, I’m making an exception, because I was told that the Ultimate Edition would cure cancer.
So, how’d it do, you ask?
Let this crow take you under his wing and show you the bare naked truth.
ULTIMATE EDITION v THEATRICAL RELEASE
Let’s get this out of the way: the Ultimate Edition is the version which should have been shown in theatres. Or for the best results: a mix of the two.
But wouldn’t have that made it too long? — I hear you ask. Considering the content (see the following sections) and the execution involved: no. The added material could’ve easily been shuffled into the runtime of the theatrical release.
The real question is: does the extended cut make the film any better? The answer to this is: marginally. My personal question is: does it actually manage to do the opposite by making it worse? We’ll get to that in due time.
The UE makes some of the plot points make a bit more sense, but considering all the other decisions which it reveals were never taken into consideration. For instance: why was Jena Malone’s character left out? It wouldn’t have really extended the film by all that much, and on top of that, said character explains something actually significant to the plot. It simply makes this crow turn a keener eye on the movie.
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
Following yet another retelling of the Batman’s origin (only this time with 300% more slow-motion than ever before), Bruce Wayne lands in Metropolis, which is about as far from Gotham as my local is from mine. It’s almost like I keep trying to walk home every night like a good baby crow, but someone puts a pub in the way, every.single.time. That is the relationship between Metropolis and Gotham, here.
This is around the time that Superman’s battling Zod at the end of Man of Steel. Wayne runs into the dust kicked up by their conflict to save an orphaned child. And he does, before striking a dramatic pose next to his company’s logo, set to ominous music.
He stares up into the sky and the camera zooms in on the battling Kryptonians, setting the stage for his hatred of Superman.
We cut to somewhere in the Indian Ocean, where Kryptonite is uncovered, and from there, we cut to Nairomi, somewhere in Africa, where Lois Lane is to interview a local warlord.
We’re introduced to Jimmy Olsen, who is promptly outed as a CIA agent and killed by the local war lords (?). Here, I have a question: why is this person named Jimmy Olsen? Oh, of course. Let’s name someone named after a moderately well-known character, and we have low-effort, corner-cut fanservice!
Superman shows up and saves Lois from peril. All of a sudden: everyone thinks he’s the one who’s shot all the people dead. Why Superman would have to shoot anyone, I don’t know. You don’t know. The movie doesn’t know. The public in the movie just think he’s done so.
So, we get around to our new shiny-shiny in the Batman. Make no mistake: while every single action scene regarding the Dark Knight of Gotham is quite cool, each of them carries with it a glaring billboard that says: this is not the Batman.
What is the Batman’s biggest character angle? His parents were gunned down in the street, and he will never stand for that level of violence. He won’t let violent criminals leave any child orphaned (the rare exceptions here and there and his first few appearances notwithstanding, since the character we all know and love is barely related to that guy these days) again, and that’s from where his motivations come. What does the Batman in this movie do? He murders people.
This “new rules” nonsense is a weak answer. According to the DCEU’s timeline so far, the Batman began this murderous rampage sometime following the death of Robin (at the hands of Harley Quinn, no less, although she might have just been accused of it via involvement with the Joker). So, the Batman starts outright murdering people because he’s disillusioned?
The Batman is disillusioned. It’s his tenacity in the face of said disillusionment that makes him such an epic character. He doesn’t give in to the easy answer. And on top of it all: Alfred’s going along with this?! None of it makes any sense, especially in light of the numerous flashbacks to his dead parents that we see over the course of the movie.
Elsewhere, Clark Kent starts tracking down the Batman as a journalist (as if he couldn’t just take some time out to just hover over the city and keep an eye out), while the Batman starts working on tracking down an import of Kryptonite – both to keep it from others’ hands, and to weaponise it himself. In due time, we are introduced to Lex Luthor, who seems to be involved in the kryptonite market, and just what in Satan’s name is this?!
Eisenberg seems like he’s aping parts of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker and parts of a cocaine-addict doubled up on happy pills. Just like the Batman, this is not Lex Luthor. Did the people who wrote this forget everything about the characters they were putting on the screen?
I know they’ve most likely read the comics, since they’ve worked in adaptations of comics before, but did they all slip and hit their heads on a pavement prior to putting pen to paper?
Clark and Bruce are introduced at an event held in honour of Luthor Jr, and not only does Wayne do something incomprehensibly stupid when trying to copy files off’f Luthor’s servers (which are strangely situated across from the kitchen), which results in him getting caught; but, Kent, after overhearing Wayne’s plans with Alfred and following him a bit, exits the kitchen after tugging his tie loose upon noticing an emergency on the TV, and flies off to save people. I know Superman might as well be magic, but I don’t think invisibility is one of his powers. Or did he realise that he’d prematurely tugged his tie and thereafter walk around looking for an exit before flying away?
Around this time, we get our first glimpse of Diana Prince. And while she is certainly that woman in the room, and our only actual female character in the movie, she is executed excellently. Of all the things this movie has done wrong, its portrayal of Diana Prince makes me be more generous because they got her right.
Soon after, the Batman intercepts the kryptonite convoy, only to be stopped by… Superman! Once Superman’s let the guys escorting the one thing that could harm him get away (to be fair, he wasn’t to know. How could he?), he warns Batman to stop doing what he does and flies off. Quite amicable, all things considered, but who’s paying for damages to the Batmobile? Or for the property their little meeting damaged? Or for the towing fees?
The scene with “Granny’s Peach Tea” which comes up soon after makes no sense in the theatrical release. In the UE, Jena Malone’s character explains why Superman couldn’t see the explosive that was sitting just metres from him (RIP Mercy). And it begs the question again: why was this character left out?!
One thing leads to another: Luthor kidnaps Martha Kent and Lois, manages to have Martha stowed away – gagged and all – all the way from Kansas, by the time it takes his people to transport Lois between points in Metropolis.
The idea is: Luthor wants Superman and the Bat to battle to the death. Why? — you ask? It’s because he wants to. To do so, he threatens Superman with threats upon his mother, after bringing him close via Lois Lane. Fair play. But how does he manipulate the Batman? The answer is that he doesn’t. Sure: he sends those letters Wayne flips through at the last minute to get him angry, but Luthor shouldn’t have any idea that the Batman has been intending to off the Man of Steel. The movie never points to us that Luthor knows what the Bat’s other name is. I think, however, that he simply makes an assumption, since the Batman seems to hate everything in this movie.
We finally get to the big fight — the high point everyone has been waiting for. And… it’s a disaster.
The Batman punishes the guilty. Superman protects the innocent. That’s one of the fundamental differences between the two of them. Why do we want to see them fight? A difference in ideology, is the answer. We want to see these two titans fight because they hold opposing viewpoints. And what do we get?: the Batman considers Superman a threat because of the fallout from his fight at the beginning of the movie (which is all fair and good), and Superman – while he certainly has a bone to pick with this incarnation of what’s meant to be Batman, as do I – is made to fight him because his mother’ll die if he doesn’t.
The fight is more than a bit bizarre. It’s almost as if Snyder and the rest of the creative team forgot that the Batman is ultimately human. There are multiple points where the simpler interactions between these two characters should leave yhe Batman a wobbling piece of jelly in his tin-can armour. They’re obviously trying to put the final battle from The Dark Knight Returns on screen, but also trying to show off Superman’s strength. Those two things don’t really add up. Armour or no armour, being tossed around like that would not only kill the Batman, but purée him.
Anyway, after a long and drawn out battle, we get to the line which defines the movie. “MARTHA!…”
No. Exactly what about “Bat-ffleck” would make anyone think that he would stop himself from stabbing Superman because the Kyptonian cries for his mother, which just happens to match the Batman’s mother’s name? Also: which devoted son cries out for their mother by her first name?!
Cue numerous flashbacks to remind everyone that Martha is, indeed, also the Batman’s mother’s name, as if we didn’t quite get it the first three hundred times. And it’s Lois Lane who magically appears in the exact room in which the Batman has Superman cornered, under his foot, and at spearpoint, to clear up who Martha is. Does she have super-hearing as well?! Does she have some form of Superman-tracking powers?!
Once both our mummy’s boys have made up, Superman goes off to face Luthor while the Batman goes off to save Martha! The Batman gets his job done (the scene involved is rather amazing, but also does not star the Batman), and only after he is finished, does Superman finally show up in Metropolis. Luthor is disappointed neither have killed the other, and we get to another problem with the movie’s plot. While it’s fair enough that he wants Superman dead because of the threat he represents, why does he want the Batman dead?
He reveals he’s got a backup plan. Just before the events of Batman v Superman, he’d started creating a hybrid (somehow) based on Zod’s and his own DNA, something far more capable of battering Superman than the Batman.
And now, I must ask why Luthor involved the Batman to begin with. If anyone’s answer is: to weaken Superman, it doesn’t work. Superman is certainly not any weaker in this final battle. If anything, he’s stronger.
Superman fights the monster, which is absolutely not based off Doomsday from the comics. The Batman becomes involved, as does Wonder Woman. And then Superman dies.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
We’re only two movies in. Superman is such a mannequin, we don’t know enough about him, or care that he’s dead at this point. After some soulless mourning, some dirt rises from Kent’s coffin right at the end, and the movie cuts to the credits.
The nost troubling issue with Batman v Superman is director Zack Snyder’s obsession with being “cool”. His insistence on framing every other shot as if it’s the defining moment of the segment it belongs to is one of the biggest drawbacks to his movies. After Man of Steel, it should’ve been apparent that his obsession with these “moments” were detrimental to making this sort of superhero movie. Snyder simply doesn’t have the restraint to pull this combination off (like, for instance, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive).
I get that Snyder’s reverence to the original panels is spot on, but that could’ve been handled without so much slow-motion and pandering to CGI-junkies.
The movie is also incredibly CGI heavy. I get it, Zack, sometimes it’s easier to cover up the lack of a soul with CGI, but unlike the Avengers, which had only one scene where the 3-D model stand-in for Captain America stood out like a sore thumb, this movie is completely riddled with instances of CGI so heavy that you can barely understand what’s going on on-screen. The whole “Doomsday-thing versus heroes” segment is the epitome of how overdoing CGI can be annoying as fuck.
Can people please stop making these messy movies? They really need to know their limits.
THE BATMAN/BRUCE WAYNE 2/10
Look, I quite like Ben Affleck as both an actor and a director, but whatever creature he’s playing here, it’s not the Batman. This thing is an abberation. This is the Punisher in Halloween gear.
SUPERMAN/CLARK KENT 3/10
What an idiot.
The only reason I’m scoring this character so high is that at least he’s truer to his source material than most of the other characters in this movie. I wish his powers and reaction to Kryptonite were more consistent, though. And I also wish he actually emoted at some point.
LEX LUTHOR -2/10
This wimp is Lex Luthor. Lex Luthor. I don’t understand DC and this whole “younger villains” thing. First Luthor, then the Joker. Why the hell is this a trend in their movies?
LOIS LANE 2/10
All Lois Lane is good for is screaming and falling off buildings and otherwise getting into situations from which Superman will have to save her. So much for that little jab in the beginning about her being a journalist and not a lady. She’s utterly useless.
WONDER WOMAN/DIANA PRINCE 7/10
Wonder Woman is by far the best character on screen in this movie. Shame she’s barely in it, but it’s wonderful to get what little of her we do.
A decent character, overall. Shame, how she was used.
Did the people making this movie have any idea who or what Doomsday is?
Also: how can it be an “ancient Kryptonian deformity”, if it’s blood of your blood, Mr Lex Luthor?
Jeremy Irons is a great actor, and is the worthiest successor to Michael Caine there could ever be. This was the only casting choice I was genuinely excited about, and he does the best he can with what he’s given.
SENATOR JUNE FINCH 7/10
A surprisingly good character in an otherwise abysmal movie.
Not much to say about him.
This is not the movie I expected. I think it’s more than a little clear that this review is a little lower than par, but that’s more to do with the fact that my problems with the movie number far too many for one post.
I’ve obviously not touched upon the dream sequences, the creature revealed to be Steppenwolf, Luthor’s stupid warnings at the very end of the movie, and other things. There’s quite a lot I have to say about the future of the franchise and what’s been implied to come, but I’m going to leave it all for a separate blog post once I’ve recovered from this review (if I feel like it). That post will also serve as a place for me to further talk about this movie.
It doesn’t look all that promising, however.
Does this mean that all DCEU movies will be equally as bad? I hope not, but things don’t bode well. Honestly, this movie is so bad, there’s not much further down to go. Unlike Costner Kent’s line, let’s hope it’s not all “downhill from here”.
18 thoughts on “ Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [Ultimate Edition; 2016] ”
I was also pretty appaled by the way they used Batman and your line about him being Punisher in Halloween gear is spot on. I wasn’t as down on the movie overally, I thought it was enjoyable on its own, harder to watch with prior in depth knowledge of the characters. I appreciate the review and look forward to reading more of your stuff!
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First off, thank you for the kind words.
This would certainly be a fun movie to watch after Man of Steel if no one had any prior knowledge, for sure. But with characters of such stature, it’s impossible no one would know what their rules and backgrounds are.
All that said, what do you reckon about the upcoming JL movie? Do you think they could get it right?
Again: thank you for the kind words.
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I agree, it’s hard to dissassociate from characters with this much history and baggage, arguably the two most famous super heroes of all time.
I love DC and I hope that they get it right, but I’m not sure they will. I feel like they have constantly been reacting to everything Marvel, emulating a DC version of the Marvel Universe and producing a pale immitation rather than simply forging their own path.
I’m a big fan though and I’ll keep watching, I just wonder how long the massive numbers they NEED to keep watching if they continue on their current trajectory.
What do you think?
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Oh, it’s a tough one, for sure.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Batman, and that’s about it.
DC’s really got a massive amount of work ahead of them. I want to do a whole separate post on it, and will get around to it in the next few days for sure (since there’s a TON to talk about); but you’re right: DC’s trying to match what Marvel’s done over eight years in less than a third of the time.
They really should do something different, to be honest.
I’m going to nod off right now, but I’ll certainly expand on these points in a new post (and thanks for your input!). In the meantime, if you’re interested, we have two Suicide Squad reviews up.
Thanks for dropping by!