By Brad Faye
You never get a second chance to make a first impression… except maybe in cinema. After failing to rake in big-time numbers at the box office, movies including Fight Club and The Big Lebowski each went on to become cult classics. Meanwhile, films like Citizen Kane and It’s A Wonderful Life are considered masterpieces years after critics tore them apart. Batman V Superman may not go on to become a cult classic, and it certainly will never be placed in any discussions alongside Citizen Kane, but like the aforementioned films above, it at least deserves a second look.
While receiving the chance to view Batman V Superman at a screening during opening week, I took many of the same issues with it as several other fans. First, there were the little things. The Daily Planet being the worst run newspaper in the history of newspapers for starters. Why was Perry White equally as irresponsible yet a thousand times more annoying than J. Jonah Jameson? “Headline: No Respected Editor Pitches Stories to Staff By Saying ‘Headline.’” And what exactly was Clark Kent’s job there anyway? Because no matter what it appeared he was supposed to be doing, he never actually was. As dangerous as kryptonite was to the Kryptonian, it appeared equally as dangerous for him to either be at his desk when Perry needed him or to write the stories he’s actually been assigned. And bear in mind, this behavior takes place just in the timeframe of the film alone. Zod only knows what kind of shenanigans Clark was involved in during the two years prior to when Batman V Superman takes place. Then there were the more glaring annoyances. Not necessarily things that ruined the movie individually per se, but more so appeared to take their toll on the film as a collective group. For example, it is constantly established throughout Batman V Superman that kryptonite is bad news for Superman. And not bad news in the sense that it’s slightly aggravating like working an eight-hour shift after a sleepless night or when you accidentally click a pop-up ad while trying to read an article on your phone. Superman cannot function when this stuff is around. He can’t even remain conscious. Case closed!… Well, kind of. When the chips are down, Superman suddenly manages to remain coherent while carrying the spear, flying with it, stabbing the villain with it, and then hanging around a little bit fighting him with it. And although this can be chalked up to a great adrenaline spike or stepping up when need be, what is unexplainable is why Superman chose to do all this himself rather the most logical thing in asking Wonder Woman to do a solid for him since she was right there anyway.
There were also several instances in which the filmmakers forced us to make unnecessary rest stops while in route from point A to point B. For example, there is a point where Lois Lane takes the aforementioned spear of Kryptonite and chucks it into a body of water just to go back and retrieve it a few minutes later (although it’s unclear how she knew she should do that). What made this so aggravating is that Batman had just chucked the very same spear himself moments earlier. Couldn’t we have eliminated the middle man by having Batman chuck the spear into the water himself? But again, it’s not the little things – despite how many of them there are – that cause Batman V Superman to suffer the most. It’s the constant need the filmmakers feel to remind us of how smart they are and that the big wigs over at Marvel aren’t the only ones capable of planning ahead.
Plenty of movies at every level of quality suffer from their fair share of plot holes. Where Zack Snyder’s work appears to suffer the most is in its failed attempt to ramp up audiences for Justice League films set to come. Whether it’s the Flash visiting Batman via a dream or Wonder Woman watching video files of other metahumans, these moments don’t verify that the producers of Batman V Superman are smart and know where this is all going as much as they confuse general audiences and take away from what could have been a memorable movie on its own. Easter eggs are meant to be hidden, not juggled by the director and then thrown directly into an audience’s face. For a film that is getting bombarded with the critique that it isn’t any fun, there could have been a pretty easy fix to this problem. Instead of close-ups of Robin’s defaced costume or a brief introduction to Cyborg, how about dedicating that time to improving this Batman V Superman? It appears that producer Christopher Nolan’s disdain for post-credit scenes came back to bite to him. Had filmmakers simply created a mid and/or post-credits scene about Bruce Wayne’s nightmares or Wonder Woman’s curiosity, several things could have been accomplished all at once:
1 – The time allotted to those scenes could have been given to people/places/things that pertained to the movie. Perhaps a scene showcasing the relationship between a young Bruce and his mother (something that would have been unique to any Batman film and clearly would have made the most sense being included in this one) or a better look at why a ship so technologically advanced has such spotty security and names Lex Luthor captain once he puts some base in his voice.
2 – The pacing of the movie would have been much better without these Justice League teases and non-comic book fans wouldn’t have wasted energy wondering how those scenes might pay off later on. The amount of things that take place in Batman V Superman that make no impact on Batman V Superman is astounding. One could even argue that had you removed Wonder Woman herself it would have absolutely no bearing on the events that unfold in this film.
3 – Lastly, a mid or post-credits scene would have been a much more successful means to achieving everything those Justice League sneak peeks were hoping to. The former method still would have generated some excitement for what’s to come, but, like a football player celebrating a touchdown before crossing the goal line, Batman V Superman gets ahead of itself and the results are embarrassing. When Thanos is introduced into The Avengers universe, it isn’t via a scene right smack in the middle of the The Avengers. It is after we have enjoyed the movie itself and want a reason to be excited for the next one. The same goes for the post-credits scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier that introduced Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch as well as the mid-credits scene in The Wolverine. that helped set up X-Men: Days of Future Past. There is a time and a place for everything, and rarely is that answer “wherever most distracting.”
I understand that for an article in which my objective is to sell you on giving Batman V Superman another look, I’m doing a fairly decent job of raining on this, albeit somewhat crappy, parade. But here’s where the tide starts to turn… I hope. To start, I really think this movie will seem like much less of a travesty when we see the director’s cut as well as once the films that succeed it are released. In the meanwhile, I’m trying my best to give Snyder the benefit of the doubt as tough as that might be. Perhaps in time we’ll get a little more backstory on Lex on what it was he was actually trying to accomplish from the outset of this movie. Maybe Wonder Woman’s solo flick will explain the reasoning behind her very odd and out-of-place soundtrack when she appeared in Batman V Superman. And perhaps a little Darkseid brain manipulation provides a semi-decent justification for the odd behavior often demonstrated by Lex Luthor (i.e. removing each one of General Zod’s fingerprints to access his ship despite having Zod’s entire body right there with him anyway).
But the reasoning for why I enjoyed Batman V Superman more the second time around came on account of a discussion that took place earlier that day with my girlfriend. When speaking about our frustrations with the lack of communication different religions and cultures have with one another, she and I respectively ranted about how many problems could be solved if people simply talked things out. It certainly wouldn’t hurt in the case of today’s most glaring issues like global terrorism and the discharge of Islamophobia that often follows attacks by groups like ISIS. To take a page out of Alfred’s book, as he explains to Bruce Wayne in regards to Superman, “That’s how it starts. The fever… the rage… the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel.” Hours following the discussion between my girlfriend and I, I could sense her frustration during Batman V Superman, and being the crusader of pop culture that I am was quickly ready to defend and make sense of whatever it was that was bothering her. When she asked me why Batman and Superman disliked each other so much, I tried to explain it was because neither trusted the other to use their powers responsibly. When she cited the obvious by suggesting a brief talk could help each man see they were both on the same side, I referred her to our earlier conversation and reminded her of how great an idea that is on paper, but that it unfortunately isn’t how things generally play out in the “real world.” It was then that I realized that some of the subtext contained within Batman V Superman could almost make up for the sheer ridiculousness of it.
Batman V Superman reminds us of a very real problem taking place in the United States today and that’s that people aren’t speaking to each other enough. Instead we make plans to build walls and think of whether we might apply a stoppage on Muslim immigrants based on a few, albeit extremely tragic, incidents. The idea of god versus man explored in the film is a very relatable debate taking place around us while Lex’s character reminds us that manipulative puppeteers are often waiting in the wings for opportunities to stick their heads out from behind the curtain and say, “I told you so.” Lex takes advantage of the fears, attachments, and insecurities of Batman and Superman just as any good politician might, and it’s little wonder why many incarnations of the character find him becoming President of the United States. Perhaps Lex’s motive to eliminating Superman is that it will help him garner the accolades that many politicians receive when championing absurd causes. We’re seeing this play out right now before our very eyes.
While Superman V Batman is filled with flaws, it’s also important to acknowledge how much reality there is between the lines of what is sometimes a solid script. We live in a world where black and the white extremes get the most attention and we don’t make much consideration for anything that falls in between. In the months leading up to this film, the question I got more than any other from non-comic book fans is why two good guys would ever fight one another. It just didn’t make sense to them. But I think one only needs to take a look around to find that there are people fighting each other all over the world and that one side isn’t necessarily as good or as evil as is being portrayed. Batman V Superman deserves the criticism it has received, but now that what’s done is done, we should learn what we can from it and move forward. Snyder’s Batman V Superman reminds us of the need for love and affection, the importance of communicating with one another, and why we shouldn’t always be so distrusting of aliens from other places. These things are far more important than the filmmaker’s constant need to remind us that innocent people are not in harm’s way of a fight scene or the quick escalation of discovering that since guns don’t work on the monster named Doomsday, we should probably just try and nuke him. Seriously, that’s Plan B??? Is there no in between plan???
Sigh. I guess what I’m trying to suggest is that we should try our best to focus on what matters most and see how we might apply Batman V Superman to our personal lives here in the real world. Superman claims he didn’t see the bomb hidden in Wallace Keefe’s wheelchair because he wasn’t looking. It appears as if we all might be heading in the same direction and we need to change that. Because if we don’t, it just might spell Doomsday for us all.