This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I chose “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
The Movie: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams
Director: Zack Snyder
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 29 percent.
Froemming: Alright, this week for the JOE-DOWN, I went with a no-brainer: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” This is DC’s big splash into its own cinematic universe. It is also the first post-Christopher Nolan Batman film. Batman has long been my favorite superhero, so I was pretty excited to see this (until the initial reviews began pouring out). But before I go further, what was your first impression of this two-and-a-half hour slugfest between the Last Son of Krypton and the Dark Knight?
Brown: All I had heard prior to walking into the movie theater Saturday night (with my friend Bryan, who was once a huge Superman fan) was how much critics hated “Batman v Superman” and how awful it was. And then I remember walking out and thinking, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.”
But, the more time I’ve sat on it and digested the movie, I’m anxious to talk about this two-and-a-half hour commercial for a Justice League movie that has so many plotholes I’ll probably break an ankle running through them all.
So, start us down the path of this movie that is hopefully a lead up to a better movie.
Froemming: That was my same reaction: I left the theater thinking “that wasn’t bad.” Because of how harsh the reviews were, I was expecting “Batman & Robin” bad.
We start the this movie with yet another flashback of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Then we jump to Metropolis at the end of “Man of Steel,” but from Bruce Wayne’s perspective (which I thought was actually pretty cool, and it was shot pretty damn well). Then we jump into the third intro, which has Lois Lane in Africa for a story on terrorists. She actually asks the leader of some guerrilla army: “Are you a terrorist?” The journalist in me groaned so loudly I think it escaped my body and people around me heard it.
Brown: Alright, I’ll go right down the line with our trio of intros (which yes, is overkill):
- Can we all agree that we don’t need to see another Bruce Wayne/Batman origin scene? Yes, his parents were shot. This is a comic book character that has been around for ages. If you don’t know how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, that’s on you. NO MORE BATMAN ORIGINS!
- I really loved the panic you could see on Bruce Wayne’s face while Superman and General Zod were battling 18 months ago in Metropolis. And I appreciate this because the amount of casualties that must have happened in that “Dragonball Z”-style fight in a major city should bite Superman in the ass. Also, this didn’t upset me, but they were going with a lot of 9/11 imagery. Watching Bruce walk into the dust plume was a little uncomfortable.
- There is not a good journalist in this entire movie. We’ll delve into this later, but this is just dumb. Although, I do like to think this is roughly what happened when Sean Penn got to meet with El Chapo.
Froemming: The result of the third intro is that Superman comes to save Lois from this army. The result is a lot of innocent people were killed after he and Lois flew away. Which would have been a great idea if it would have been executed better. I mean, we are seeing people reacting to Superman’s actions, and that would cause a lot of anger and paranoia. But, this subplot just didn’t work for me. It could’ve been cut out of the film and I doubt it would have changed much of anything.
Brown: I didn’t have much issue on it. With Superman and Zod, it was stupid of Superman to have that fight in the city, but his goal was to ultimately take down a God amongst men. In this instance, the setup makes it seem as though Superman went in with the goal of harming innocent people. That sets up Bruce Wayne’s weariness of Superman, and it helps set Lex Luthor’s plans in motion to take down Superman.
While I’m touching on it, what was your impressions of Lex Luthor in this movie, played by Jesse Eisenberg?
Froemming: I am not a fan of Eisenberg; he is the poor man’s Michael Cera, and nobody really wants him around either. But for this role, when he wasn’t trying to go even more over the top than Jim Carrey’s Riddler in “Batman Forever,” he was OK. It is nice to have a different type of Lex Luthor.
Brown: I’m much the same way. I don’t have a problem with a different take on Lex Luthor. In Eisenberg’s case, it’s a Lex Luthor that must have had some concoction of Five-Hour Energy, coffee and cocaine because that character bounced around all over the place.
What I struggled with in this iteration of Lex is his motivation. He’s the broke man’s version of Heath Ledger’s Joker from “The Dark Knight.” He wants Superman to be brought to his level, to prove that Superman is not a God (right down to a shoehorned God v Satan painting in his house). Ledger’s Joker was mesmerizing. Eisenberg’s Luthor has its moments, but you’re not as sucked into the role.
Froemming: I was baffled by a lot of Lex’s motivations. Why does he hate Superman so much? Why does he want to pit Batman against Superman like a child playing with action figures? It just seems like he hates Superman for no real reason. I get why Batman doesn’t like the Man of Steel, he sees him as a potential threat to mankind — which he kind of is, because there is no real way of stopping him. He saw Metropolis burn from Superman’s actions, and that drove him into an even more paranoid, angry Batman.
With Luthor, I just didn’t see much reason beyond some of his many, many speeches about God and man.
Brown: We won’t be beaten over the head with religious symbolism… Oh wait, yes we will! But let’s talk about that later. For now, let’s advance the plot. Lex is trying to get approval from Kentucky Senator June Finch (is Metropolis in Kentucky?) to recover kryptonite from some remnants of Zod’s invasion of Earth as part of his quest to end Superman. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is trying to figure out info on something/someone called the “White Portuguese.” So during a Luthor fundraiser, he tries hacking a mainframe. And we have our first interaction between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, who is a terrible, terrible journalist.
Froemming: Damnit, his editor put him on that sports story and this one, and his copy box is empty. Clark, when you are assigned stories, you have to actually write something. Journalism 101! This is a puff piece, and because Clark overhears Alfred speaking to Bruce via a secret earbud, he suddenly barrages Bruce Wayne on the Batman. Look, Bruce Wayne is a billionaire playboy, he doesn’t have time for entertaining some schmuck on Batman stories.
Brown: Well, it sets up the idea that while Bruce Wayne doesn’t approve of Superman’s methods, it turns out that Superman doesn’t approve of Batman, either. But, it’s time for a tangent.
Clark Kent got assigned a sports story… why doesn’t the sports staff do that? The Daily Planet surely is in a big enough city to warrant its own sports staff with beat writers, columnists, etc. But Clark has to do the game? And what is the Daily Planet’s print schedule? I can’t remember if he had to cover a football game or a basketball game, but the editor, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), shouldn’t be surprised that there’s no gamer. Football games end at 3 p.m., so there should be a gamer well before 7 p.m. or so. Basketball games start at 7 p.m., so there should be a gamer before midnight. Yet this is seemingly late morning/midday. Not to mention Clark just doesn’t show up to work on some days. He has Tim Riggins Syndrome, where he can go across the country on a whim and doesn’t get punished for it. And… deep breaths.
Froemming: Print journalism takes a real Bane-breaking-Batman-like beating in this movie. Perry White, again the editor, tells his staff print is dead. No wonder nothing gets done there. Everyone is probably looking for a new job.
Brown: How can he say that print journalism is dead, but in a 90-second conversation, he tells Lois to fly out to Washington for a story? There’s Washington correspondents for that. Or, the idea they have a news chopper? For a dead medium, the Daily Planet seems to be doing awfully well for itself.
Froemming: I want to move this along, because this is pissing me off thinking about the journalism in this movie.
I want to say this: Ben Affleck is a great Batman/Bruce Wayne in this film. This is a jaded, angry Batman — loosely out of Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns.” He is pretty damn savage with the bad guys: He even brands them with a bat logo, which means certain death in prison for the poor bastard sporting one of those. He has lost a lot (even a Robin by the hands of the Joker), and I wish this was a little more cleared up, because he is on a more-or-less suicide mission this whole movie. He also makes a great Bruce Wayne; pretending he is drunk at Luthor’s party was a nice scene. He is probably my favorite on-screen Batman.
Brown: I have no issue with Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman. And I really appreciated that they gave him a voice modulator to use the doofy Batman voice that Bale made into a joke.
What I have a problem with is what they decided to leave out. They say that Bruce has been doing this for 20 years now, which yeah, you have to assume he’s seen some stuff. But you don’t know what stuff, so it’s hard to see him actually kill people (he straight-up stabs a henchman in the chest) when a big part of the Batman ethos was him not killing anyone. The whole idea with “The Dark Knight” was Batman’s refusal to go all the way and kill Joker.
Zack Snyder doesn’t cut a whole lot out of this move when he should of. Hell, he didn’t cut another Batman origin scene. But he cuts out the part that you need to understand why Batman has become so ruthless? It makes no sense to me.
Affleck is great in this role. He just didn’t get a whole lot to work with because this is moreso a Superman movie than a Batman movie.
Froemming: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Batman’s no-killing policy hasn’t been the case in most of the films and even the comics. Seeing him kill really didn’t bother me.
What did kind of bother me was a moody, dark Superman. I think Henry Cavill is a pretty good Superman, but they really need to knock it off with him going through existential crises.
Brown: Like we talked about before the review, it’s because Nolan’s Batman movies were so well-received that they wanted to do that with all superhero movies for a period. Spider-Man tried to go that route and they are already rebooting that (though I did enjoy “The Amazing Spider-Man” franchise).
Like you told me: Superman is about optimism and Batman is pessimism. And I agree. And it’s hard for me to take a man’s brooding seriously when he’s wearing bright red and blue tights as his attire.
I’ll put it generally: Most of the issues I have in this film is because Superman is an uninteresting character. Heck, they got me to not care about Lois Lane. I’ve had a crush on Amy Adams since “American Hustle,” so I’m angry that she’s on screen and I just don’t care at all.
Froemming: Yeah, it would have helped it Superman had more than three lines in this movie, and a lot less scowling. And Lois’ story really feels shoehorned in a places. Like I said at the start of this, it was a subplot that could’ve been cut. Lex already has the kryptonite and Zod’s ship. I don’t care that he is also selling weapons to radicals in third-world countries.
I did like Diane Lane as his mom though. I also liked her telling him he owes the world nothing. That kinda struck a chord with me, because it is something I never really thought about Superman: He is doing good in a world full of terrible people when he doesn’t have to.
Brown: Before we move on, let’s mention a couple things we didn’t touch on before we (finally) talk about the Batman v Superman fight:
- Hey, Wonder Woman is in this movie! She steals Bruce’s device that hacked Lex’s network to find evidence that she’s an immortal. She doesn’t find it because she doesn’t understand how computers work. It’s a metahuman folder. You didn’t think to look in there?
- Bruce (because I think he was drunk) got a visitor during a dream sequence saying he needs to unite heroes for a bigger threat that’s coming their way. And in the computer file, we see other members of what will become the Justice League: Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman. And I couldn’t stop laughing at this scene because Wonder Woman’s logo looks exactly like WWE’s new logo. I was hoping Bruce would look at a file and then get the John Cena meme instead.
- Bruce finds out the White Portuguese is a ship that contains kryptonite, which he eventually steals from Lex Luthor so he can build an arsenal of weapons strong enough to finally take down Superman. This is where we were first exposed to Batman’s new-found brutality.
With those out of the way, let’s get down to the main event.
Froemming: Hold on. I want to say I really enjoyed Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I wish we would have gotten more of her in this movie. OK, let’s get to the fight!
Brown: I agree, Wonder Woman was great when she had time on screen. It’s too bad she got shorted. But I am very interested in that character in future movies.
So, some henchmen track down Martha Kent (Superman’s adoptive mom) and say if Superman doesn’t bring Batman’s head to Lex in 30 minutes, they’ll kill her. So, Superman flies to Gotham to face the Dark Knight. And my first question is this: How does geography work in the DC universe? Has Metropolis and Gotham been separated by a river this entire time? Why didn’t Christian Bale fly the nuke in “Dark Knight Rises” over Metropolis and let Superman handle the last seconds of that plot?
Froemming: OK, pal, look here! The Nolan-verse is over. There was no Superman and Metropolis in that trilogy: Only gritty realism and Bane’s silly voice.
I was kind of surprised they made Metropolis and Gotham like Minneapolis and St. Paul. Because, these are really huge cities. It would be like placing LA and New York next to one another.
Brown: You can tell me the Nolan-verse is over when Zack Snyder doesn’t make a mini-Tumbler the Batmobile. That vehicle looked right out of “Batman Begins.”
That nitpick aside, the fight was pretty intense. Affleck has a suit built like a tank and has weaponry that could trump North Korea, including a kryptonite spear.
And had it not been for lazy comic book writers, Batman would have won this one-on-one battle pretty easily.
Froemming: This scene fans have been waiting for since Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns.” It is pretty spot-on with the armored suit and the use of kryptonite weaponry to slow down Supes from the graphic novel (I wished we had a drunk, one-armed Green Arrow here like in the book, but hey, I’ll take it). I was entertained by this fight scene: These two were tossing one another around like ragdolls, and it made for a fun theater experience for me. And as a huge Batman fan, I have to say it: There is no way in hell Batman could ever kill Superman. Come on people, let it go.
Brown: Did… did you just call him Supes? You tool.
Froemming: At least I never played Pokémon….tread lightly, Brown.
Brown: Before I get angry here… Batman is about to deal the killing blow, Superman tells Batman to “save Martha.” And it affects him because their moms have the same first name. Then we get ANOTHER BRUCE WAYNE ORIGIN FLASHBACK. We know the story. STOP. STOP IT.
And because a mother’s love is the most powerful thing in the world, a coincidence convinces them to team up and take down the true evil: Lex Luthor.
Froemming: Yeah, going from mortal enemies to friends was rushed, but at this point, it is already two hours into the movie. And Batman heads out to save Superman’s mom, because he never got the chance to save his own. Because Bruce Wayne was a coward as a child (I’m kidding).
And this is where Batman really loses his crap on some bad guys. The fight scene of him saving Martha were straight out of the “Arkham” video games, and I had no complaints about that. It was pretty brutal, I can see how this almost got an R-rating. The violence is intense.
Brown: I liked that battle sequence up until Batman killed a couple guys. I’ll mention again the bit about not killing because that’s been basic Batman ethos. If he turns another direction later on, fine. But this movie doesn’t remove that part of the Batman lore. But I’ll move on, at risk of beating a dead horse (that Batman probably killed).
We need to mention that Lex has some trouble coming for him after killing everyone but Superman in a senate hearing about if Superman should pay for his crimes. In another subplot, there was a man who lost his legs during the Superman/Zod fight in Metropolis and Lex uses this man to try and get his kryptonite deal through. This worker is at the hearing and is armed with an explosives-filled wheelchair. We now know the writers of this movie watched “Breaking Bad” because this is pretty much like Hector Salamanca killing Gus Fring. All we needed was a bell.
BUT, because of movie villainy, Lex Luthor has an ace in the hole to defeat Superman AND Batman.
Froemming: Yup, he tosses General Zod’s corpse into a watery pit, adds some of his blood for whatever reason, and forces Zod’s ship to make a mutant. That mutant is Doomsday, who actually killed Superman in the comics. Except this Doomsday looks like melted Lincoln Logs mushed together to form a being.
Brown: If you’ve ever wondered what a baby between Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Shannon would look like, that’s Doomsday. He looks like the Titan Joker from the “Arkham Asylum” video game, or General Raam from the video game “Gears of War.” Doomsday is just very video-gamey, and that is not a compliment. Maybe it was because I had been in my chair for two hours or because the creature they were fighting was lame, I just wasn’t feeling this. At least until Wonder Woman FINALLY showed up.
Froemming: Yes! She saved Batman from Doomsday’s heat vision or whatever, all the while Lois and Superman are off finding that kryptonite spear Batman made. Because Doomsday feeds and grows off energy, normal weapon attacks only make him stronger. So they need Batman’s weapons to stop it. Again, Wonder Woman is pretty great when she is onscreen.
Brown: Lois nearly drowns getting the kryptonite spear back. Superman saves her. I didn’t care at this point.
And with spear in hand, Wonder Woman and Batman subdue Doomsday and Superman flies in and stabs Doomsday through the chest. But in the process, Superman gets stabbed through the chest and dies. Umm… if you got this far, spoiler alert?
And because I have to mention it, when Superman dies, you see telephone poles look like crosses because Superman is a God. And thanks to the Nostalgia Critic, this is all I could think of any time Superman was laid out, carried around by Batman like on a crucifix and as he laid dying on the ground.
Froemming: Eh, it is the one thing that the trailers for this movie didn’t spoil.
But yeah, Superman sacrifices his life to save the world. And this puts everything in motion to build the Justice League.
I think this ending would have had more of an impact if it didn’t drag on and on with the funerals for both Superman and Clark Kent. It just hops around from one to the other, and didn’t need to be as long. Just end it when Bruce tells Wonder Woman they will need to unite the other metahumans. BOOM! There is an ending!
But no, even after more of this banter, we get Lex getting his head shaved in prison, and is nearly attacked by Batman, who wants to brand him (yeah, Batman may need some medication, that is kind of psychotic). But it pretty much sets up the villain for the “Justice League” movie, which is Darkseid (we already got hints of this in Bruce’s crazed fever dreams of an apocalyptic world coming, but they added this anyway).
Brown: But we end on a downer because Superman’s dead. Wait, the dirt is rising off of Clark Kent’s casket! Superman seems to be resurrected (fitting for an Easter Day review) and hopefully, we’ll finally get the “Superman Returns” movie we were supposed to get in the 90s with Nic Cage as Superman and Tim Burton as director.
Wait, we’re not getting that? Booo.
Froemming: OK, I think we have covered enough of this film’s many, many points, let’s move on to recommendations.
Would You Recommend?:
Froemming: You know what? Absolutely I would. I enjoyed it quite a bit (even with its flaws). I was entertained for two and a half hours. This isn’t the Nolan films, and I am fine with that — we already have three of those. It needed more time in the editing room, no doubt. But this is a Batman and Superman movie: If you go in expecting “The Godfather,” that’s on you. It is not as terrible as most reviewers are saying. If you want a good popcorn flick, this is a good one.
Brown: This isn’t an objectively bad movie, but I was so frustrated by it that I wouldn’t recommend it. I think Superman is a character that never seems to be done right and is dull in Snyder’s brooding realism vision. A Ben Affleck Batman movie, I’d watch. A Wonder Woman movie in this portrayal, I’d go to opening night. But this is another lame Superman movie that was way too irritating and too long to suggest to anyone. Wait until it shows up on Netflix or some other streaming service.