If you don't want to watch the video (I don't know why you wouldn't? it's great!) I've written my thoughts below. I've also left in a few points that I cut out of video to help further explain my thoughts on why this film is receiving so much criticism. Be warned, this is a very long post.
FULL WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD!
So it’s been a couple weeks now since “[Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice](tag:711870)” hit the big screen, and overall I would say the reaction is… Mixed at best? Now reviews aren’t everything, after all the box office for BvS has been killing it… even though projections are showing they aren’t making as much as predicted. However, it’s not all about money! What matters is weather or not people enjoy it! If you enjoyed this movie then, hey, good for you! Did I enjoy it? … Actually, yes, in a way I think I did. Did I like it? Eh, more than I thought I would. Do I think it’s a good movie? … God NO!! This is not a good movie, this movie is just full of problems, ones that can’t really be ignored, and if you try to I think you’re just kidding yourself. But, honestly though, should we really be surprised by this? Really, if we look at what’s on offer here, as well as everything leading up to this film, is it really any wonder that what we got is this big of a mess? Really it’s a miracle that they managed to pull anything together that was actually enjoyable to watch. Again, if you liked the movie, you’re more than allowed to, I’m not here to tell you your opinion is wrong, I’m just here to offer mine and while I don’t think this movie deserves some of the severe hate it’s been getting, I’m not all that surprised by the critic’s responses, most of which are pretty spot on. So, in typical internet fashion, here is a list of reasons why I think Batman V Superman’s failure really shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise. I picked 5 because, well, it seems like everyone does so why break the trend?
1. Zack Snyder
Okay, so first off, I wanna address the Zack Snyder in the room just to get this one of of the way. Let me open here by saying that I am definitely not his biggest fan. In fact, I don’t even like the two “good” Zack Snyder movies. Now, I can understand why people do like those movies and I would never call them bad, they just really don’t do it for me. The main reason why is that, in majority of his films, Snyder tends to sacrifice character and story for cool visuals. Now, the man is probably the best in the business at action and visuals, but that doesn’t automatically make him a visionary director, especially when most of his visuals are just there for the sake of being there. He constantly seems to just push his characters towards one extreme, to the point where that becomes their sole personality trait, and as a result, to me, his characters end up coming across as one dimensional or cartoonish. Sometimes this works in his favour, especially when he has a good actor heading up the role, but other times it’s just horribly melodramatic.
Now you don’t necessarily need subtlety when handling comic book superheroes, who have a long history of melodramatics, but one thing I definitely think is necessary for this genre is the ability to focus on the characters dynamics and internal conflicts. What has always made the superhero genre particularly interesting (I’m mostly talking comics here) is that they are character driven stories. The driving force behind this genre has always been how interesting the characters are, be it the heroes or the villains. This is something, I think anyway, that Zack Snyder is not good at. This makes him a poor choice for a director since these types of films need some one who is good at character driven story telling, as well as visuals.
I can appreciate Snyder’s attempts at this within the film, like Batman’s motivations to kill Superman who he perceives as a threat or Superman’s inner conflict about weather or not he’s doing the right thing by being Superman. This all has the potential to be interesting character stuff, but with the way Snyder presents it within the film, it ultimately ends up falling flat because he miss characterises them or just glosses over important character development in other scenes. Batman’s decision to kill Superman is undermined by the fact that Batman is already straight murdering people with guns in the movie, which again would be interesting to explore with this new darker, more brutal Batman, but no one ever talks about it or brings it up. Superman’s inner conflict about weather or not he should be superman, comes across in the movie more like he’s just bitching and moaning about how no one appreciates what he does and that maybe he should just stop being Superman out of spite. There are times where Superman comes across as a complete sociopath, and his reason for not liking Batman is he doesn’t like the people are afraid of Batman ‘cause he kills people and causes property damage and acts outside of the law and the government… exactly like what he does! Essentially, Batman and Superman are both just giant hypocrites, who come across as school yard bullies arguing over who’s king of the playground. There are so many moment’s like this in the film that feel like they’re going somewhere, but amount to nothing because Snyder is actively pushing aside story and character just so he can get to his next cool shot… which brings me to a half assed segue towards my next point…
2. More Interested in Set Up Than Story
It’s not just the visuals that Snyder and WB seem to have pushed aside the story for, as they consistently crammed in as much fan service and foreshadowing as possible that is all suppose to hint at future stories. Now, I understand that this is all gonna pay off in their next few movies (I hope), but the problem with all of this is that it has no pay off in this film, and the reason why that’s a problem is because they purposefully interrupt the plot of BvS to tease other films. It’s fine when films like this have little easter eggs in the background, because they aren’t part of the main story or overly distracting, but when you insert huge scenes into the middle of your film and make a big deal about them, there needs to be some kind of impact or payoff to the plot later, which this film doesn’t have. Batman has, what I think is a dream (it’s not exactly clear or ever actually explained), about a future where Superman has conquered the Earth, which I guess accomplishes making him madder at Superman? Which isn’t at all necessary since we already know he’s mad and wants to kill him. Then there’s the flash sequence, which might also be a dream or just time collapsing on itself (one of the two), which I don’t think accomplishes anything since Bruce Wayne has no idea what is happening or what it means… Just like most of the audience! They also include a scene that is basically just Wonder Woman opening up a bunch of conveniently labelled video files and then watches what amounts to trailers for the DC’s next 4 films (including her own). This, again, doesn’t actually impact the plot of this film, which is suppose to be the idealistic conflict between Batman and Superman, since none of this pays off or is mentioned again in the film.
All the example scene’s I just listed could all very easily be cut from the movie, which would reduce the run time by 20 minutes, and it wouldn’t have any negative affects on the plot at all. In fact, it’d probably improve the film since it would be focusing on just one main through line instead of just being scattered all over the place trying to cram in all these different elements. When I watched this film with my girlfriend, she had to get up and go to the bathroom during the “Knight-mare” and Flash sequence, and when she came back she was still able to follow the rest of the movie. I didn’t need to explain anything about what was happening because it didn’t effect what was happening. Everything you need to know about these characters and to get invested in the film is there without these scenes, making them entirely pointless, and therefore should not be in the movie. Alas though, they were left in while it seems important scenes were left on the cutting room floor, which has become evident since every time someone brings up a plot hole to Zack Snyder he starts talking about some deleted scene that they got rid of because the movie was too long. Deleted scenes don’t matter, what matters is the final product you have presented. If you have deliberately left out important scenes that explain character motivation or plot holes, for the sake of leaving in things that are pure set up and have no impact, then I’m afraid you have failed as story teller and therefore as a filmmaker.
I’m probably coming off as a little harsh here, which is unfair since the people involved should be commemorated for trying to fit in so much in just two hours. Unfortunately, this has also been their major downfall, which brings me too…
3. Tried To Do Too Much At Once
This film is probably a prime example of filmmakers over-extending themselves, since this is quite clearly two movies that have been Frankensteined together in an attempt to make one coherent film. Those two films in question being “Batman V Superman” and “Dawn of Justice”. This attempt, though seemingly honourable, reeks of a studio with very little faith in it’s material desperately playing catch up by throwing everything it can at us and hoping something will stick that will get people interested in their products.
But it’s not just the fact this clearly should of been two movies that holds BvS back from reaching it’s true potential, but also that it is trying to do the job of at least 4 movies. First they have to set up a conflict between Batman and Superman, which is the real reason we all bought tickets to see this thing, but that takes a back seat to the other stuff and just ends up feeling crammed in. They also have to do all the Dawn of Justice stuff, which feels horribly out of place (even though it all looks really cool) because it doesn’t affect the Batman and Superman stuff. Then, whilst also setting up that Batman and Superman hate each other, they are also trying to give each of them a solo movie. They have to re-establish Batman so that they can differentiate him from other versions, and also have to be a sequel to Man of Steel and address all the problems with that movie, which not only do they not do but they never actually resolve any of Superman’s issues or problems since he pretty much has less than nothing to do in the film. There are so many great things going on in this film, but the film treats all of them like they are the main plot. Everything is presented like it’s super important, and it’s hard to tell the difference between the main plot and sub plot, to the point where the film starts to feel unfocussed making all of these elements (that would be great separately) become muddled, convoluted, and at times confusing and incoherent. When you attempt to fuse all this stuff together, they end up detracting from one another and ultimately end up having a huge negative affect on the story you’re trying to tell, because you haven’t actually figured out which story you’re trying to tell yet. If you haven’t figured that out, then how could you possibly have anything interesting to say?
4. Nothing to Say, But Thinks it Does
(It is very likely that I wrote that last line as another attempt at a segue but anyway…) I think Kevin Smith said it best when he talk about how this film doesn’t really have any moral to it. Sure, there’s lots of political talk, and Snyder does his best at trying to give his characters some form of internal conflict, but these are either not resolved or don’t actually amount to much. There is no big lesson or thematic idea behind the film, yet clearly Snyder seems to think that there is. He soaks this film in religious imagery to the point where he paint’s both Batman and Superman as Jesus, and Lex Luthor’s sole motivation seems to be some weird God complex, since that is all he is ever talking about. But this has no bearing on the story, it’s religious imagery for the sake of religious imagery. The film doesn’t actually have anything to say about religion or belief other than maybe that you should be wary of other people’s beliefs because they make people do crazy things! That’s a pretty shit message, especially since it kinda contradicts the only other possible lesson of “don’t judge people before you know them or base on where they come from” which only exists in the movie if you solely focus on all the Batman stuff and then over analyse it. It looks like at one point they’re gonna have serious discussion about weather or not the world needs a Superman and if he should be regulated in some way. This would an interesting plot point that would both directly address the problems with Man of Steel and give Superman some much needed character development, but instead they literally blow up this plot point and then forget about it, so all those things they were trying to say were just set a light!
The actual fight between Batman and Superman is probably the best example of this film having nothing interesting to say, but thinking it does. I know that Zack Snyder definitely thinks he’s saying something with this fight, because in the build up to the movie he was always talking about how the only way the fight can play out is as a battle of political ideals. These sentiments are reinforced by the fact that he directly references “The Dark Knight Returns” Graphic Novel as inspiration for this movie. In this Graphic Novel, when Batman and Superman finally fight it is absolutely two completely different political ideologies facing off against each other. Superman operates solely under to Governments supervision, helping the world, but also acting as poster child for government propaganda. A Government he fully supports and believes in. Batman, who has seen his city over run with crime and violence, believes that the system is broken and that the only real path to justice and helping humanity is to act outside of the government and the law, as these things are corruptible and at times the source of the problem. Batman has no faith in the system, while Superman has nothing but. This gives that fight some much need emotional charge as both men fight for their own political agenda that gives it a message of just an average man standing up to a repressive super powered government, telling us that no matter what, we have the power to do something so long as we can still fight for it. The fight in Batman V Superman has none of this. Superman only turns up to fight because he’s blackmailed into it, so he actually doesn’t want to be there and actually just wants to talk to Batman so that he can convince Batman to help him. He only ends up fighting him because Batman hit him, so he might as well hit him back. Batman is only fighting because he just straight up wants to kill Superman because he hates him. This isn’t a battle of political ideals, it’s a juvenile punch up that turns into Batman just beating up Superman for about 10 minutes. Was is awesome to see and enjoyable to watch? Fuck yeah! Did it amount to anything or actually matter in the grand scheme of things? Not really, no. This fight doesn’t end because one political ideal triumphs over the other or because Batman made some kind of point about Superman being dangerous and should therefore be regulated. No, it ends because Batman realises that Superman has a Mother like him, and is just a regular guy after all. How touching… and completely ridiculous and totally overshadowed by the over abundance of other potential messages about humanity that don’t go anywhere.
Not to mention the way Zack Snyder kept name dropping the Dark Knight Returns (almost as much as he name drops Christopher Nolan) as if to appease fans that he’s totally got this and everything is gonna be fine, when really he’s not actually taking any story elements from that book at all. Sure, he does steal (and yes I mean steal) scenes and character traits from the comic but then he completely misuses them, and none of them are filled with the same dramatic weight that they have in the book. Then we found out that Doomsday is in it, and it becomes quite clear that he’s decide to throw in Superman’s most famous story too , that being “The Death Of Superman”. That comic work because Superman had been around for years, and killing him was such a huge shock to the system, especially since no one knew if he would actually be coming back. Whereas here, this is a new Superman who I am yet to care about, so killing him doesn’t have any impact since this is only his second film, and now everyone knows that he will be coming back so there’s nothing shocking or dramatic about it because there’s not tension. This was just thrown in there to be there, and to to set up for Justice League.
Once again, Snyder proves that he’s more interested in visuals and talking bout ideas than actually presenting interesting characters or stories that in anyway address those ideas. How can a film such as this hope to reach its full potential and live up to fan hype when the man responsible for putting it on the big screen so clearly doesn’t understand why those fans even exist. Those books have maintained such longevity, despite being incredibly dated by today’s standards, because they were such huge, redefining moments in Pop culture. He’s now taking that reputation and using it to convince people that this film will be the same, but it isn’t. Is it a critical moment in Pop Culture history? Of cause it is, but it was going to be no matter what, stealing from these books doesn’t affect that. Is the film redefining or ground breaking? Not in any way, shape, or form that is actually good. He’s just shoving in as much as he possibly can to appease fans, whilst also childishly reprimanding anyone who doesn’t like what he’s doing by either painting there opinion as wrong within the film or just ignoring it. Snyder so clearly doesn’t understand these characters or what makes them great, I mean why else would he shoot CIA agent Jimmy Olsen in the head and then call it an easter egg! Why else would he have Batman straight kill people with guns, and then say that Batman only does it in a technical way or vi-proxy (BULLSHIT!). Why else would he refer to the tragic death of a Robin, which is akin to a father losing a son, as a fun little journey? Why else would have Lex Luthor blow up Mercy Graves, one of his most trusted and badass bodyguards? Snyder gives us his interpretation of the characters, and while I’m all for new interpretations, they still have to be true to the essence of those Characters, of which Snyder’s are not. What he’s given us is not a Batman or Superman film, he’s given us a film with people that just happen to share the same names and backstories as comic book characters, but in no other way resemble them or what they stand for. How can a movie possibly live up to all the hype and expectations surrounding it, when the people in charge just don’t get it nor seem to want to. Of cause this film was going to fail, how can it not, with all of this stacked against it? Actually that’s a good place to end it. Sorry, I kinda went on a bit of rant there at the end about Zack Snyder, which I already did at the start, probably should actually talked more about the hype thing, and then used this as a conclusion… Anyway, this is just my opinion.