I decided to revisit Batman v Superman after watching the marvelous Wonder Woman, curious if my original outlook on the 2016 superhero flick would have changed now that I know Diana’s backstory. I also HATED Batman v Superman when it was released and thought it signaled the end of the DC Universe, so it’d be interesting to view it again now knowing that DC is in fact capable of making good movies with their current crop of heroes. Who knows, maybe Batman v Superman was just some horribly misunderstood, semi-masterpiece that flew over our heads, like one of the mutant-bat things that terrorize Ben Affleck in his nightmares.
Well, it isn’t a masterpiece. Far from it. Watching Batman v Superman is like being on a 3-hour flight without a magazine or headphones, and the only thing you have to keep yourself busy is watching the clock tick down on the little map in front of you where the plane moves blip-by-blip over the U.S. to your final destination. It feels simultaneously too long and too short, that there could have been a shorter version of this film without 45 minutes of what we already have, or there could be a four hour cut that explains what we already have more clearly. What we get instead is this jumbled mess of a morality tale that barely manages to keep all its simultaneous plot threads and side-stories corralled together. The film feels like we’re riding a Carousel but instead of just sitting on one pony for the duration of the ride, we’re jumping between five different horses, tripping over our feet as we try to get back to our original seat. By the time we do, the ride’s already finished, and we’ve had no fun at all.
If there is a saving grace of the film, it’s Batman, or rather when Batman is doing his Batman thing, lurking in corners and pouncing on criminals with brute force. These fight sequences are messier but more fun than those we saw in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Where Christian Bale might have been hesitant about severely injuring a criminal, Ben Affleck isn’t afraid to break jaws and snap necks, it seems like he almost enjoys it. We get a more rugged Batman here that could be a big thrill in future films if they execute it correctly.
But man, the Superman stuff in this movie is just depressing. Yeah, Superman’s been around for a bunch of decades now and there is really no right or wrong way to portray him. As long as you nail that he can fly, is super strong and is allergic to kryptonite, you can tinker around with his morals and personality just as long as he’s interesting. But this Superman, it’s not like his beliefs are wrong or he’s misguided, it’s almost like he’s a nihilist, like saving people is a 9-5 gig he doesn’t love or hate but just feels he needs to do to pay the bills. The only thing that drives him is his kind-of grudge with Batman and how he brands criminals, but that just seems like such small potatoes when he should be really focusing on the fact that Lex Luthor has access to the dead body of General Zod! Who the fuck cares about whatever Batman is doing?!?! He’s just a bored, rich guy, leave him alone! There’s a fucking alien that nearly destroyed the planet and his body is just there, being experimented on my government scientists, ready for the taking and you’re worrying about fucking Batman? Laurence Fishburne was totally right, Clark Kent needs to drop this shit.
There’s also a side plot about a U.S. Senator who brings in Superman for a congressional hearing, one who’s concerned about his power and influence and how there’s really no one who can stop him. This stuff could be interesting, but we’re just kind of left thinking what did the senator want from all of this? Like, do they honestly think that the U.S. government has the authority to dictate Superman’s actions instead of the U.N., and even if they did, would Superman listen? I imagine it’d be something like this:
“So Superman, how do you explain all the deaths you’ve brought in that big fight?”
“Collateral damage, senator”
“Hmm, ok, that makes sense. Well, how can we trust you?”
“Well, I guess you really can’t 100%, but I’ve only done good, so you really have no reason to mistrust me yet”
“Yeah, you’re right…well, don’t do anything wrong like turning bad and killing good guys!”
It’s dumb and executed poorly and really just is an extra piece of dribble in this long movie. And if that weren’t enough, we also get the introduction to Wonder Woman and the other meta-humans! Seeing Gadot on-screen again is a delight, but it’s funny, it’s almost like Gadot/Diana is breaking the fourth wall, seemingly annoyed that she has to take part in the silly events of this movie before fighting in the final battle scene against Doomsday. And now it’s more exciting when we see that WWI photo, like “hey we know those guys! They defeated Ares!” It’s sad that she isn’t given more stuff to work with here, she just kind of shows up for a few seconds at a time, looks at things pensively and mysteriously and then shows up for a big fight later.
It’s like there were 10 different visions for how this movie and instead of just picking one, lumped all of his ideas into a big ball of Play Doh, no longer with any of the vibrant colors of its original pieces, now just brown, murky and uninteresting. Wonder Woman showed that the future DC films will probably be much better and that this was just an unfortunate stumble on the way there. Somewhere in the DC bizarro universe exists the Batman v Superman film that we should have gotten. It’s just sad we’ll never get to see that version.