Take a Drink: for every reference to the extended DC universe.
Do a Shot: every time the movie cheekily foreshadows the upcoming fight.
Take a Drink: whenever Batman or Superman do something that definitely results in someone dying.
Do a Shot: every time someone smiles (you will not get drunk).
By: Hawk Ripjaw (Four Beers) –
If you listen closely, you can almost hear Hawk Ripjaw’s heart breaking.
18 months after Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) caused the deaths of almost 400,000 people and $2 trillion in damage, the world wonders whether Superman is really someone that they need. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) thinks not. Also in favor of getting Superman off Earth is Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who is in the process of accessing and weaponizing the mineral Kryptonite, which is known to be toxic to Kryptonians such as Superman. As Batman, Bruce spends his nights terrorizing the criminals of Gotham City, with Superman finding fault with his brutal methods. The mutual disrespect these men have for each other has to end some way. Which, you know, the title.
God, this was a hard synopsis to write. This movie’s plot is a fucking mess.
We all know it by now: Ben Affleck’s Batman is the best part of this movie, and possibly the best cinematic Batman we’ve yet gotten. Everything about him is awesome. By far one of the most entertaining elements of the film is that this version of Batman has finally gotten tired of everyone’s shit and just straight-up murders bad guys throughout the movie. It’s long been a running joke that Batman doesn’t really kill people, he just hurts them so badly they’re crippled or in a coma for the rest of their lives (even though he totally has killed, in comics and in film). Here it goes a step further: Batman shoots a flamethrower fuel tank. There just happens to be a guy strapped to it.
In addition, Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman are great. Jesse Eisenberg is a completely different flavor of Lex Luthor, opting out of “calculating evil” to “absolutely clinically insane.” Eisenberg is clearly having a blast with weird tics, grandiose monologues, and even a scene in which he hand-feeds someone else a Jolly Rancher. He can also be creepy, as he is when he interacts with the Senator that refuses him access to Kryptonite. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is confident, powerful, and awesome. She’s not given a whole lot to do, but as powerful females go, the movie really nailed it.
It’s not as good-looking as Man of Steel, but Zack Snyder still really knows how to frame a shot. This is, with some exceptions, a very attractive film. The action scenes are awesome. Snyder’s focus on the philosophy of Superman as a God figure is well-executed.
Almost every single review of this movie has mentioned how dark it is. They mostly did so in a negative way, to which I said: “Uhh…duh?” This is the cinematic universe that has been crafted. Superman is trying to find his place in the world. It’s hard to fit in. There’s nothing wrong with that. But holy shit, this movie is dour. Everyone is sad, all the time. Almost no one ever says anything positive. A major character from the comics gets murdered less than ten minutes into the movie. There isn’t even a sunny day in the movie! It’s either partly cloudy or raining. You can count the number of times someone smiles and be done before you’ve run out of fingers. Even a montage of Superman saving people is set to some seriously grim music. There’s “dark and brooding” and then there’s “most depressing movie of 2016.”
David S. Goyer returns to scripting duties, unfortunately. Late in the game Chris Terrio came on for rewrites, and it’s hard to say who we’re supposed to fault for the script’s problems. The director’s cut of the film is almost 30 minutes longer than this one, which means it’s possible that eventually we’ll get answers to questions, but for now, we don’t really know what Lex’s plan is, we don’t know why he knows everything about Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, and we don’t know why Lex wants both of them dead. The script also doesn’t even really seem to care about Superman. The question of whether the world needs Superman is great, but Superman feels like a compulsory character while the real passion in the film is for Batman. The script and the movie explode with energy whenever Batman is on screen, while everything else feels like it’s only there because it has to be. One thing that will definitely not be explained in the Director’s Cut is how quickly Batman goes from “Superman must die” to “Superman is my friend.” It’s a very rushed, poorly-executed turn of events.
There is so much going on in this movie, and it tries its hardest to avoid feeling overstuffed. It mostly succeeds, but at the cost of a breakneck pace that careens through the myriad of plotlines far too quickly. There’s just too much going on, and in trying to get through all of it leaves almost none of those storylines with satisfying resolutions.
Another byproduct of 30 minutes of excised footage is a noticeably odd arrangement of scenes. The editing is incredibly odd and it is clearly evident that there are gaps in the story. For example, you have a throwaway joke from Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) saying that Clark “probably clicked his heels and ended up back in Kansas,” which is great because that’s where the Kent farm is… but you get another three scenes involving the other subplots before we cut to Clark back at the farm. The scenes, some of which don’t really even need to exist, are lined up so oddly. There’s little flow to the movie.
There is a ton of cool shit in this movie. Batman is amazing, and his fight with Superman is probably everything you’ve wanted to see. While it’s not as stylish as some of Zack Snyder’s past work, the movie still has a generally good look. DC Comics fans might find a lot to like here, and the way it sets up the rest of the DC Cinematic Universe is really intriguing.
And then you step out of the theater and start thinking about it, and the weird pacing and script issues start to become more evident, and a great DC story starts to morph into a movie that really isn’t.
I really, really wanted it to be great. But the simple fact is that it’s not. It’s messy, unfocused, and depressing, and entertaining only in fits and bursts. You can see a good movie hiding in here somewhere, but is in dire need of cleanup in terms of scripting and editing. It’s an okay movie, but with all of that buildup and potential, it should have been so much more.
It’s still better than Age of Ultron, though.