Originally published online at BLUNT Magazine.
When I came up with the idea of this collaborative review for Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, I was pretty sure of how it would play out. I’d recruit a guest journalist, namely Mania’s staff writer Chris Neill, set up a conversation about the film, pitch it as Movieman V Comicbookman and we’d go toe-to-toe and hopefully provide a few laughs.
We’re not exactly those caricatures in real life, but I’m only a casual comic book fan and an often-blockbuster apologist (hey, Man Of Steel was okay guys) whereas Chris is a dedicated comic book reader and not as easily impressed with the Hollywood adaptations of the work (Chris: “A grim/gritty reboot and Superman goes together like kryptonite and… uh, Superman”). We’d surely clash on our appraisals of the film.
I figured I’d kinda like it, Chris’d kinda hate it, and thus an entertaining discussion would ensue. And we’d be covering the bases for the criticism of the film that comes with superhero films. It usually falls into two categories: “Well, that reviewer obviously knows nothing about the original comics” and “That reviewer was just too much of a die-hard fan to ever enjoy it”.
Boy, was I wrong.
Lachlan Marks: Chris, what the fuck did we just watch?
Chris Neill: I honestly have no idea. I hated Man Of Steel and went in with some pretty low expectations – the-bar-is-on-the-ground low! But somehow it managed to easily pass under. It’s an incoherent mess that spends way too much time trying to show how mature and serious it is and completely under-delivers on everything!
LM: I had considered playing the “Well, I’m not the demographic for this film, it’s not for me” card here, but then I couldn’t exactly work out who it would be for. It’s a painfully serious film about two men throwing laser bolts at each other. Also, with this whole beat-up leading into the film, I was sure that at least we’d get a good Batman in a perhaps average film, but Ben Affleck for me was just Ben Affleck in a Batman suit. It’s not that there was bad acting, it didn’t really feel like there was any acting at all – just people shouting things on a set, dressed up as their favourite superheroes. Did you care for this Batfleck business?
CN: Yeah, I definitely feel like maybe I’ve outgrown superhero movies. And while I found Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man to be pretty average, at least they were fun. Honestly, I didn’t mind Batfleck. He’s by no means the best Batman, but he isn’t the worst either. I have the biggest soft spot for Affleck and I thought he did an alright job as Bruce and Batman, although he spends most of the film clenching his jaw and making grump faces. He was probably the best actor in the entire film, which says a lot. At the very least we got a somewhat decent Batman film from this. I think Affleck is much stronger as a director, so hopefully we get to see a solo Bat film helmed by him.
LM: I thought he had a cool suit… in a dream sequence that had absolutely no bearing on the plot of the film, of which there are at least three. I’m skipping the rest of these DC films, bar Wonder Woman, cos I’m hoping they do a cool retro thing there like Marvel did with the first Captain America, so no more Batfleck for me.
Now, I’m a guy who rarely notices plot holes in films. People will point things out at the very end of a screening that were preposterous and I’ll just say, “Ah, well, worked for me at the time”, but in BvS I was constantly perplexed by how visible the plot holes were that I even turned to the guy next to me at one point and said, “Is the turd monster just on pause now?” when Superman just ran off to save one of the many women who are only in this film for the purposes of being kidnapped. And the turd-monster was in a bunch of trailers so I’m not spoiling anything yet, I promise.
CN: I liked that dream sequence. That was one of the few actually interesting parts of the movie. But yeah, there’s really nothing here that makes me want to see what happens next. It jumps around a whole heap and kinda just expects you to accept it, like it’s not a problem. It makes the plot holes in The Dark Knight Rises look good! I’m with you on Wonder Woman, the preview footage they released a few months back looks alright and I’m down for it being set during the first World War.
I think Wonder Woman lends to one of the film’s biggest problems though. There was a huge emphasis on her being in this movie, and how important it is that we’re finally getting the definitive super-woman on film for the first time ever, but then they handle it so poorly. It completely fails the Bechdel Test; literally none of the women in the film talk to one another. Wonder Woman and Lois Lane, two of the most iconic feminist characters in comics ever and they’re nothing more than plot devices.
LM: It’s not a particularly progressive film, that’s for sure, kinda just one big disjointed all-male tantrum. Before we have some fun with spoilers, let’s get our final takes on this as a filmgoing experience. For a guy like me who was ready to just be dazzled, scoff popcorn (I knew this wasn’t gonna be The Dark Knight) and look at the pretty lights, my expectations were at sock height and this film still failed. It’s a film with no characters, no real tone, no sense of geography, a hard to decipher style of cinematography and sadly zero cool one-liners. So that’s the Movieman angle. How’s it work as a comic-to-film adaptation, Comicbookman?
CN: Zack Snyder is weird. He carries himself like a really jaded nerd, the kind of guy who will angrily sneer, “It’s a graphic novel, not a comic book!” Which is something I’ve always hated. Just call it a comic; it’s fine, guys! This entire movie felt like Snyder was trying to validate superhero comics, that they aren’t just for kids – they’re for mature adults like himself. This movie takes a lot of cues from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which is a great comic, but it’s the one comic fans always circle back to when trying to argue how cool, adult and serious Batman is. I had the same problem with Watchmen – the dude is too busy trying to validate why superhero comics should be taken seriously that he misses the point of why people like those comics. In a bunch of recent interviews he talks about how his version of Superman is true to the comicbook canon, and that Real Comic Fans understand his take; it comes off as a serious case of the Snyder doth protest too much. Oh, and if you hated it when Superman killed Zod at the end of Man Of Steel, you’re going to love it when Batman kills people! Dream sequence aside, I think he has a higher body count than the first Tim Burton movie.
SPOILERS START HERE, GUYS
We fuckin’ warned ya.
LM: Well, seeing as we’ve already created a review that’s as long and rambling as the film itself, let’s keep our spoilers discussion pretty tight. For me, I just wanna mention the way technology is used in the dumbest way to showcase plot and new characters. When introducing all the whacky new Justice League characters, people just watch crazymutantfoundoffthecoastofsomewhereexotic.mov off a USB stick and Batman sends Wonder Woman the funniest email ever. He would have had to have spent a lot of time adjusting font sizes for his punchline to really work in that one. I think we joked afterwards that his email address is probably firstname.lastname@example.org. That was the killer for me. Chris, what was your stupidest moment in BvS?
CN: That’s a tough one. Jesse Eisenberg’s acting, maybe? Snyder doubling-down on his ham-handed religious allegory? Superman’s copious grumpy I-wanted-McDonalds-for-dinner faces? The last 20-30 minutes? Maaaaartha? The film is pretty much one stupid moment after another, stumbling through scenes like that clumsy waiter from The Simpsons. I think the retroactive validation of Man Of Steel’s ending made me feel like Snyder thought I was stupid. The movie opens with Bruce Wayne’s POV as Zod and Superman smash through Metropolis as a means to show why Bruce hates Superman. It felt like unnecessary masturbation, that we were the dumb ones for ever doubting the genius of Snyder.
LM: Okay, I know how we end this, as men torn between two evils: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice OR Batman & Robin, if you had to rewatch, what’s your pick?
CN: Batman & Robin in a heartbeat. At least that movie is fun to watch, warts and all!
LM: Amen. Clooney’s buns > Cavill’s buns.
CN: I’d take a YouTube supercut of Schwarzenegger’s ice puns over Batman V Superman any day.