I don’t know what I fucking expected.
I’ve been dining out on my unadulterated hatred for Man of Steel for almost three years now. And I really thought a superhero movie couldn’t dip any lower than that- an uninspiring leading man, a fatally poor script, and generally joyless execution. After all, they were following it up with a Batman versus Superman movie- no matter how awful Henry Cavill was in Man of Steel, and no matter how much I detest Zack Snyder as a director, it would be next to impossible to suck all the fun and entertainment value from a battle that’s been pitched by every comic book lover at some time in their lives. Batman. Versus. Superman. You stick to this premise, and there is no room to fuck up. There is no room at all.
But Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, which came out yesterday, failed to construct something even passably entertaining out of it’s iron-clad premise. Perhaps “fails” is too kind a word; that suggests that there was something to succeed at in the first place. Let me be clear: as soon as Snyder picked up that finished script, nothing good was possibly going to come out of it. From the opening moments, as a young Batman dreams himself floating amongst a bunch of bats (one of five-count ‘em, five- dream sequences the movie generously bestowed on us) while “DIRECTED BY ZACK SNYDER” appears on screen, I knew we were in trouble. This wasn’t any fun. This wasn’t any fun at all. This was pious, po-faced, pretentious pish, and I already hated it.
And it continued in that vein for the rest of the movie. Batman vs Superman was cursed, in some respects, with the fact that it had to set up basically the entire DC cinematic universe in one movie, as well as trying to tell a coherent plot of it’s own. The movie would leap into some dark, fascistic terrorist element, and then have to jump straight back out again so Wonder Woman could be mysterious in a slinky dress. The action would finally pick up, and the film would grind to a painful halt as Wonder Woman watches three teaser trailers for upcoming DC superheroes on her computer. It leaves this two-and-a-half hour movie feeling, somehow, overstuffed. Every time the movie looked like it might be going somewhere, it suddenly remembered it had to work Doomsday into the script, somehow, and Lex Luthor had to get his head shaved, and Wonder Woman had to fight, and-
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that any of the rest of what we’re shown is much better. The scriptwriters, Chris Terrio and David S Goyer, seem to have mistaken “dark and edgy” for “turning both your leading men into complete fucking sociopaths”, as Batman kills people willy-nilly and Superman strops around like a whiny prick most of the time while the movie depicts him as an unsettling God figure the rest of it (one of the few aspects of the trailer the film really delivered on).
Henry Cavill is just as embarrassingly awful as he was in Man of Steel, maybe more so, as this film asks more of him while he delivers less. Ben Affleck- and I’m sure, by now, we’ve all seen the “Sadfleck” meme, which is both tragic and slightly funny in equal measure- is clearly trying very hard, but, between the ridiculous Batman suit that squishes all his jowls up till he looks like a frog, his poorly-articulated backstory, and the cartoonish rubbish fight scenes, there’s only so much he can do. He’s also quite catastrophically miscast as Bruce Wayne, dashingly sexy playboy, and every time hecomes near Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, I want to drape a napkin over her shoulder to stop him dribbing all over it. Jesse Eisenberg escapes relatively unscathed as Lex Luthor-despite the dire script, he brings an energy and sense of fun that the rest of the film is sorely lacking. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is perhaps the only actor who staggers free of this mess with some genuine accolades to her name, but with only a handful of minutes on-screen, she simply can’t do much to help by the time she turns up.
And it seems as if the writers and director assumed that the inclusion of Wonder Woman gave them free rein to treat the rest of their women with eye-rolling laziness- Amy Adams had to get saved by Superman no less than three times, while an early scene had her coyly playing the nipple dance in the bath for no apparent reason. Diane Lane didn’t fare much better. To be fair, though, this movie didn’t exactly do much to make it’s straight, white, male protagonists look any good, with both Supes and Batman making some staggeringly, mind-bogglingly stupid decisions that defied belief- both within the movie, and with the idea that someone thought this was a cogent plot point.
I found myself reaching for the controller during the fight scenes, as so many of them felt like video game cuts that would any second fade back into gameplay. The final hour of the movie is a poorly-defined collection of fights, all of which seem to take place against the backdrop of…. Is grey-screen a thing? If it is, then that’s what they shot most of the movie on. Every shot was dark and drab and visually uninteresting, despite Snyder’s usual flair for ripping off better director’s ideas.
And then, of course, there were the endless endings- I heard a handful of audience members laughing aloud at what was meant to be the film’s climactic emotional moment, and the rest of them sighing as we realized that this shit wasn’t over yet.
Honestly, I could write ten thousand words on everything wrong with this movie- every line that didn’t make sense, every poorly-defined motivation, every terrible piece of acting, every boring fight. But all you need to know is this: don’t see it. Don’t waste your fucking time. Take your money, and go see a better movie (Might I suggest the excellent 10 Cloverfield Place?). Because if we keep giving money to the superhero movie industry to see appalling tripe like this, this is what they will keep giving us. And by God, we deserve better. We surely don’t deserve this.