Batman V Superman Review, With Spoilers
We saw it. I’d seen a number of reviews floating around the internet, so I walked into the theater with pretty low expectations. That helped a lot.
Ultimately, it felt like a movie that needed at least one more rewrite, or maybe one fewer. It was better than I expected it to be…but that doesn’t make it a good movie.
There was a lot on this movie’s To Do List.
- Deal with the consequences of all that destruction at the end of Man of Steel.
- Introduce Batman and give him a reason to hate Superman.
- Introduce Lex Luthor and his machinations to destroy Superman.
- Bring in kryptonite.
- Lay the groundwork for the Justice League movie, including showing Wonder Woman and the other heroes, and dropping hints about Darkseid.
- Show Batman and Superman beating the crap out of each other.
- Throw Doomsday into the mix.
To be fair, the movie checked off every one of those boxes.
Unfortunately, it didn’t do so very well.
Probably the strongest item on the list was acknowledging and dealing with the awfulness at the end of the last movie. A lot of fans were upset at the massive death and destruction during the closing act of Man of Steel, and this movie builds pretty well on that. We see the collapse of one of Bruce Wayne’s towers, which kills one of Bruce’s friends/colleagues. We see one of the survivors of that disaster. There are congressional hearings. And you get hints that Superman himself continues to struggle with what happened, though I think there could have been more on that front.
Batman…okay, I was surprised at how much I appreciated Ben Affleck’s Batman as a character. I loved the chemistry and interactions between him and Jeremy Iron’s Alfred. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any real character development. The movie tells us this Batman is older and bitter and burnt out and mentally unstable, but it doesn’t give us enough to earn that. Instead of weird nightmares and yet another retelling of the Batman origin story, show us more of the toll this job has taken on him. Show us his guilt and his fear. Show us how he started to cross those ethical lines, and how he reached the point where he was determined to kill Superman. This storyline could have been wonderful and powerful. Instead, it was just…there.
Wonder Woman was a good character, and I loved seeing her. That said, did she need to be in this movie at all? Did she add anything to the story? If you’re going to bring in Wonder Woman, give her more to do. (So, when does the Wonder Woman movie come out???)
Lex Luthor. I’m torn about Jesse Eisenberg’s performance. I appreciate that he was trying something new, but the awkward manipulative supergenius thing never really gelled, nor did his motivations.
Doomsday. Why? That’s another example of taking a long, complex storyline and cramming it into about 15 minutes, and it just doesn’t work.
- Let’s introduce Jimmy Olsen and kill him, just for fun? No.
- Mercy too, for that matter.
- Perry White is…pretty much a jerk.
- Both Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne just happen to know Superman’s identity? I could buy into this if the movie gave us any hint as to how they figured it out.
- Also, did I interpret correctly that Lex was behind those letters to Bruce Wayne? So he knows Batman’s identity too? What, was there a public Facebook page or something?
- Random time-traveling nightmare dude. WTF?
- Lois Lane was pretty much just Damsel In Distress for this movie, except that she did investigate that one bullet…an investigation which had zero impact on the plot.
- Holy crap, Doomsday is an Uruk Hai!
- Weird skull-faced Superman in space, post nuke. (Fixed by 7 seconds of sunlight.)
- Lex Luthor wanders into the Kryptonian ship with Zod’s fingerprints, and the ship invites him to take command of everything? My thumb drive has better security.
The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that it could have been a good movie. If they’d worked on developing the characters instead of overstuffing every frame with fights and explosions and Justice League hints and so on.
Make us care about Bruce and Clark. Help us sympathize with both of them. Help us like these characters. A few more moments of humor would have done so much to make us care. Show us more of Alfred worrying about Bruce and actually trying to do something about it. Show us Bruce’s fears — a few random nightmares don’t cut it. You don’t try to kill someone because you had bad dreams. Show us more of these people’s grief over their mistakes, and how their determination to avoid further mistakes leads them down the wrong paths.
Give Lex Luthor a coherent scheme, and show him being brilliant and oily and manipulative and clever beyond a bomb in a wheelchair and some letters to Bruce Wayne.
Give us more of Lois Lane and Clark Kent being in love and being happy, so there’s a cost to losing one another.
Give us a real redemption arc for Bruce Wayne/Batman. Show us realizing what he’s done and how he ended up here, and make him work to do what’s right.
From all the reviews I’d seen, I expected this movie to be bad. What I didn’t expect was to see the potential, the movie that might have been. I wish I’d had the chance to see that movie.
March 26, 2016 @ 11:07 pm
I don’t plan to see this movie, but now you have me wishing I could see the movie it could have been.
March 26, 2016 @ 11:34 pm
Thank you. I was strongly considering seeing this one in the theater despite my disability/mobility issues, but now I’ll wait till it comes out on Amazon.
March 26, 2016 @ 11:53 pm
Thank you for explaining why Batman hated Superman. Figuring that out was the only reason we even considered going to see it. Now we don’t have to. Time and money saved, frustration and disappointment avoided. Thank you!
March 27, 2016 @ 12:25 am
Now, an Apollo vs Midnighter movie I would watch in a heartbeat!
March 27, 2016 @ 9:55 am
Thanks for this, Jim. I haven’t seen any of the newest versions of the superhero movies, and wondered why in Hell the two were fighting each other. It still makes no sense to me, except to appeal to younger audiences who are inured to all the violence and are bored unless a bunch of shit is being blown up. Maybe I’m getting old, but why do newer filmmakers feel the need to completely upend the backstories and the heroic nature of the heroes we grew up with? I’m not just talking about our comic book heroes either. I thoroughly despise the Star Trek “reboot.” They are so far from Gene Roddenberry’s original vision as to be unrecognizable.
March 27, 2016 @ 10:10 am
So, basically, no one saved the cat? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blake_Snyder#Origin_of_the_title)
Jim C. Hines
March 27, 2016 @ 11:29 am
No argument here on Star Trek’s reboot, either. They’re competent SF action flicks, but to me, they miss the heart of what makes something Star Trek.
March 27, 2016 @ 12:12 pm
Apparently the weird nightmare time traveling dude was the Flash, and it’s more build up for Darkseid. I had to look it up, I had no idea what was happening an I watched it. Prevailing theory is that sunbathing happens to Lois, turning Superman against humanity so he joins forces with Darkseid, leading to the future Bruce Wayne dreamed about. The Flash goes back to warn Wayne to prevent it. Quite frankly, I think it was a terrible way to foreshadow all that. I walked out of the theatre going “Whaaaaa?”
March 27, 2016 @ 1:12 pm
Jim, I saw the movie last night and I agree with pretty much everything you’ve posted (and I, too, wish I could see what this might have been). The biggest problem I have with the film is how flimsy/stupid so many of the plot developments are to get the plot going where it wanted to go. I get that sometime, OK often, misunderstandings ARE simple miscommunications or misinterpretations, but this film seems to take that to a whole other level. And, to me, that was more than a bit insulting (to both the characters, which are supposed to be SMART and the audience that we would buy the characters acting this way). Same thing with the alien technology (which you already pointed out). I also took huge issue with Batman’s use of guns and his flagrantly killing people as he rampaged through the film. It’s a basic tenant of the character that he doesn’t use guns and he doesn’t kill (he may beat you senseless, but he won’t kill you) because his parents were killed and set him on this path. That’s pretty basic and the director/screenwriters seemed to just ignore that.
March 27, 2016 @ 1:21 pm
What is a little frightening is that they have announced a Director’s Cut for the DVD/BluRay release that adds another 1 HOUR of footage back in! I am really scared of what that will do to the movie. I have a feeling that it will help me get to sleep easily through true boredom!
Jim C. Hines
March 27, 2016 @ 2:25 pm
I think it depends on *what* they add in. There are some plot holes they could try to fill, or maybe just do some character development work.
Jim C. Hines
March 27, 2016 @ 2:27 pm
If we had seen *how* Batman reached this point, where he’s essentially burnt out and ethically broken, I think it could have worked. It reminds me a bit of the Star Wars prequels, actually. You can’t just tell us, “And then this character went to the dark side,” or “And then Batman started torturing people.” You’ve got to show and help us understand that fall.
Jim C. Hines
March 27, 2016 @ 2:28 pm
I wondered if it was a reference to Injustice: Gods Among Us. Because what this movie needed is more references to other storylines that are never fully developed.
March 27, 2016 @ 2:31 pm
Also, wow auto correct. Sunbathing?
March 27, 2016 @ 2:33 pm
Oops. Put this on the wrong post. I really need to stop commenting using my phone.
Jim C. Hines
March 27, 2016 @ 2:35 pm
Oh, I like the idea that the DC universe falls into doom and despair because of a sunbathing incident. Like Lois and Darkseid show up at the beach in the same outfit or something.
March 27, 2016 @ 2:36 pm
March 27, 2016 @ 8:31 pm
I saw a couple interviews where the director and Mr Affleck were talking about how much they loved “Dark Knight Returns” and how much it influenced their vision. That is a big warning sign for me as that is a nihilistic dead end storyline that just doesn’t fit an engaged Superman and JLA story arc.
Maybe if we get lucky we could get a fan made recut that removes Doomsday and includes a few panels to enhance for missing plot. Some of your frustration list could have been valid if they gave missing emotional weight. (Jimmy SHOULD have been a blow, as he’s been a major support character longer than just about anyone here has been alive…)
March 27, 2016 @ 8:36 pm
Announcing it now means they’re admitting they cut out to much important material. It might be better to wait for that than see in theater. (Recovering from late breaking pink eye through the family says NO theater while its fresh)
March 28, 2016 @ 12:22 pm
Jim, clearly you are wrong. Doomsday was a Cave Troll.
Otherwise yeah, I agree with your assessment. It was better than I expected after the reviews, too much was crammed in, and it did have potential.
March 28, 2016 @ 6:13 pm
Batman hasn’t always had a Code vs. Killing, though (to use the Champions game’s term for it.) That was something that happened after the Comics Code became a thing.
That said, I had zero interest in seeing this movie and continue to have zero interest in seeing it.
March 28, 2016 @ 9:11 pm
So about that new Batman v. Superman movie… – angelahighland.com
March 29, 2016 @ 1:13 pm
[…] Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice at Smart Bitches Trashy Books Batman V Superman Review, With Spoilers, on Jim Hines’ […]
March 29, 2016 @ 9:30 pm
Speaking of Superman and Facebook: http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/1452.html
March 30, 2016 @ 7:11 am
My partner went to see this one, and his description of it was seven potentially good movies attempting to occupy the same two-and-a-half-hours.
Jim C. Hines
March 30, 2016 @ 8:02 am
March 30, 2016 @ 11:06 pm
The “good” reviews of this movie basically say “eh”. The others are either disappointed (most), disappointed and analyze why (you), think it sucks (Leonard Maltin!), or think it sucks and come up with much snark to ease their pain (Mother Jones).
However, the Flash meeting Supergirl Monday night was just delightful! There was more quality character action in those 43 minutes than all 2.5 hours of BvS. And you could see what was happening. I recommend that to everyone, even if you don’t watch either show.
Jim C. Hines
March 31, 2016 @ 8:40 am
We’ve got the Flash/Supergirl episode waiting to be watched, but we’ve got to catch up on our backlog of Supergirl first.
April 1, 2016 @ 10:52 am
I agree. That was a fantastic episode and I enjoyed it so much I went back and watched it a second time. This is how an actual superhero teamup of good people trying to do the right thing should go down:
“Wanna team up and fight evil together?”
“OK, let’s go!”
April 7, 2016 @ 8:20 am
Thanks for the review! I am not going to see this in theaters, might watch it once it is out for rent, but was interesting to read your perspective on it. I had a feeling it was going to be a miss, but sounds like it was close but ugh for the wasted potential. I really hope they don’t mess up the Wonder Woman movie, but I’m thinking it is quite likely they will 🙁