Progressive/Nerd/Parent Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Dear Warner Brothers, Step 1 is admitting that you have a problem. (And you do.)

Image: me leaving the theater.
Image: me leaving the theater.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Spoiler Alert: Normally I avoid spoilers in opening day movie reviews. However, something already rotten cannot be spoiled and so a lot of details about the movie are in this review. Because fuck it, it was really bad, and I need to talk about it. I know I shouldn’t write when I’m angry, but…

Bechdel-Wallace Score: 1.5/3 – There are multiple named characters in the movie that are women, but they barely ever speak to each other, and when they do it is about a man. Technically that is a 2 out of 3, but I am docking a half a point because in a two-and-a-half hour movie that has Ma Kent, Lois Lane, and Wonder Woman in it you can fucking do better. Or at least have the courtesy to officially rename the studio “Warner Bros”

Shukla Score: 0.5/3 – There are two named non-white characters in the movie. Barely. Again I docked a half point because this is 2016. Do better.

Russo Score: 0/3 – There is no LGBTQ representation in the movie. Indeed, the washed out palette of every shot in the movie, the dour mood of everyone shown, and the lack of fun in any of the proceedings all make me wonder if Snyder actually imagined an entire DC universe with no gay or queer people at all. Not even just that they’re not represented on screen, but that they aren’t even abstract beings in this new cinematic canon. On the one hand this is offensive and Warner Bros should do better, but on the other hand I don’t think I would ever wish upon LGBTQ folks that they spend any time in the grim, humorless world of Batman v Superman. It is a bitterly serious and completely square realm; a straightverse, if you will. Run away!

Kittehs: 😿🙀😾/5 – The kitteh rating is somewhat indifferent to questions of quality as it is more about engagement, but damn if I didn’t repeatedly find myself thinking about checking Facebook or sending texts or maybe live-tweeting the movie as a cry for help. The movie wasn’t just not good, it was off-putting. The first kitteh is sad because (begin so-called spoilers), the first fucking thing we see is the Batman origin, aka the murder of Mommy and Daddy Wayne. The shocked kitteh is because apparently Wayne Jr., in the Snyder version of things, didn’t develop an aversion to killing or guns when he saw his parents killed by a gun. The third kitteh is angry because fuck you, Zack Snyder. What the fuck were you thinking?

Low points: This has to be organized into a list. The usual paragraph won’t do.

  • Batman uses guns and kills people. Not just in dream sequences, although those are the worst of it. This is the worst part of The Dark Knight Returns. This is the part you do not adapt. I could go on about this for a while, but suffice to say this is 90% of what I am pissed about. Batman does not use guns and does not kill people. These are his laws. If you are going to dabble in modern mythology, get the basics of the mythology right. This kind of storytelling and characterization decisions isn’t just in poor taste, it is incompetent.
  • Man of Steel was great (and really underrated) precisely because it recognized and depicted Superman’s origin as a tragic science fiction story. Snyder managed to tell that story like a graphic novel, going back and forth between vignettes of Kal-El’s journey to become Clark Kent and his journey to become Superman. In Batman V Superman, no character development scenes last long enough to be a vignette. Instead there is a manic, intermittent kind of characterization that never gets emotionally anchored and ends up resting on platitudinous one-liners. It’s like superheroes by strobe light.
  • The scenes that do (sometimes) last for a whole two minutes, the action sequences, aren’t good. They’re just not. Too much cgi, too little story, too much scene changing. They’re just not good. It is a blockbuster superhero smashup movie without any good smashing up. You had one job, Batman v Superman, one job! It’s in your title!
  • With one exception, the meta-human cameos are all crap.
  • !!!Major Spoiler!!!Skip this point to avoid!!!Major Spoiler!!! Dude seriously tried to cram the start of a new Justice League, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Death of Superman all into one fucking movie? Again: WTF was Snyder thinking?!?!
  • Seriously was that a hipster Barry Allen I saw? Because, I mean. Yeah. /facepalm

Highlights: Wonder Woman’s entrance, the actual fight sequence between Batman and Superman, and a batmobile chase are all good action moments. There is a cool cameo from the Flash, who seems to be time traveling, that is another example of how the sci-fi notes are the only ones Snyder seems to be able to hit. The actors’ performances were really good, especially considering what they were working with. Last but not least, one big highlight that should be mentioned is that Lois Lane knows that Clark Kent is Superman. This was actually established in Man of Steel and it is still great to see in Batman v Superman. There is nothing more stupid than the “lady can’t recognize the dude she knows if he is in tights” subplot that keeps so many women in these stories not only without super powers, but looking foolish. Props to Zack Snyder for getting this one very important thing very right. (Look! I said something nice!) I will also say that I noticed that Snyder was trying to put the movie together like a comic, which I suppose he did do well, even if it actually took away from all the other good things about the movie (especially the cast).

Dad edits: Perhaps the worst thing of all – there is no way I can see this movie with my kid. For one thing, ugh, fucking Batman uses guns and/or kills people. That is just such an unbelievably shitty development and it puts this movie years away from having any use as a father/son event. Really, Warner Brothers and Snyder have created an entire DC cinematic universe that my kid – who loves the Flash and Batman above all others – won’t be able to enjoy for a long time. This is the one thing I’m not angry about, I’m sad. Not like Donald Trump “Sad!” I mean visceral, this is a genuine bummer, feel-it-in-my-belly sad.

Final Thoughts: Hey no kidding, the Justice League movie doesn’t start production until April. That is a whole week to find a new director! Get to it, WB. The first step to getting better is admitting that you have a problem. (And you do.)

Got a question or comment? Send an email, comment on Facebook, or tweet on Twitter. There is also Tumblr and the comment field below, if you’re into that kind of thing. 

4 thoughts on “Progressive/Nerd/Parent Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

  1. […] I want to end on a positive note, because Zack Snyder is a human being. We all make mistakes, even if we don’t all get hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on making those mistakes in a way that frustrates and disappoints millions of people. So here is the upshot: Snyder has never gotten enough credit for Man of Steel. The movie has flaws – the Battle of Metropolis goes on too long and many of the shots are too hectic. Nonetheless, Snyder managed to adapt Superman not as some Reaganized do-gooder like previous movies, but as a tragic myth with a deeply science fiction origin. Maybe he tapped into the cultural well of that myth on purpose, or maybe he just managed not to get in the way of viewers doing that themselves (and Hans Zimmer’s fantastic score surely did a lot of the emotional lifting). As I wrote in my BvS review: […]

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  2. […] My thoughts and feelings on Batman V Superman are on the record, as well as my views about how Batman should be portrayed on screen V how Batman has been portrayed on screen. And while I do not hold out much hope that Warner Bros DC Cinematic Murderverse will be getting better anytime soon, I did at least find great joy this morning in watching the Honest Trailers take on Dawn of Justice. It’s over seven minutes long, but wow, what a cathartic seven minutes: […]

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