Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Theatrical Release

Have you learned nothing?
Plot:  Lex Luthor inexplicably plays the two smartest, most powerful people in the DC universe while simultaneously keeping everything needed to shoehorn references to DC's movie plans.

Score:  2 out 5 Batman Murders

Review:  I realize I'm incredibly late to the party but I think I can finally processes this movie enough to where I can talk about it.  When I went to go see this movie it was at theater that served booze.  I had already had a stiff drink before, having ate at the attached restaurant, and my buzz was mostly gone by the movie.  However when we took our seats someone was going around taking drink orders from people.  This was the first time I had seen the theater do this after having seen a couple of movies there, in retrospect they clearly knew something I didn't.  I turned down the drink, in retrospect I should have taken the hint.

  This movie is an "F" student.  It is an "F" student in that it doesn't appear to learn anything from previous lessons and just barrels in Juggernaut style into the next thing only to be told the exact same things over and over again.  The complaints about Man of Steel were that it was dark, humorless, Clark is unlikable and there was a lot of destruction.  There were also some very heavy handed Jesus metaphors.  So, what did Zach Snyder put out for the second outing, after hearing all this very vocal criticism?  A movie that is dark, humorless, where Clark is unlikable and there was a lot of destruction.  Also there were were some very heavy handed Jesus metaphors.  Added to that inky, soul numbing gumbo was an absolutely inscrutable plot.  I need government ciphers to pour over this movie and tell me what it's about because fuck if I know.

  Now before we go on I want to say that I liked Man of Steel despite all it's flaws, and it does have many of them, I thought of it as the first superhero disaster film and for that innovative status I heaped praise on it.  However I now realize that I probably only needed one of those superhero disaster movies as the second left me wanting.

  Well, lets eat this elephant of a movie.  First off if you didn't like Clark in the last movie this movie does nothing to make that better.  He's absolutely smooth now.  There isn't a single rough edge that you can hang a personality trait on.  He isn't particularly likable but he also isn't anything.
You tell 'em Justin
  On the subject of characters not improving from the first film, Lois Lane is yet another bland serving of water chestnuts.  I don't know if I can say this but it's the only accurate description I have, they completely emasculated her in this film.  In the first film she may not have been the most focused on character and she did spend some time in distress but she at least seemed like a competent individual.  A little outside her depth but you had a feeling that if it weren't alien super science she could have handled herself.  Here we open with her being saved by Superman and then go with a motif of her finding herself in various bodies of water.  First a bathtub and then a bottomless pool that is, for some reason, in a church.

  Batman!  The Goddamn (Batman) Batman.  Ben Affleck seems to be the one redeeming thing about this movie.  People may not have wanted him as Batman but he puts in a good performance that separates him from the previous Batmen.  He's affable and charming with an edge as Bruce Wayne but downright scary as the Bat.  My only gripe is that this is not a Batman I'm familiar with outside of Frank Miller.  Now, I don't like Dark Knight Returns, I think, besides a few decent moments, that thing is just garbage.  This Batman seems to be entirely comfortable with murder.  He murders a lot in this movie and he uses guns pretty easily.  The character was acted fine but Holy Shit Batman was he written poorly.
Ben Affleck: Pictured here
  I liked Lex Luthor just fine.  I thought he was more Joker than Lex but he was competently played.

  Lets move on to the plot shall we?  What little of it we can suss out anyway.  Lex Luthor sets up Superman as something to be hated by Batman despite all the good press that Superman is getting by going around to save people in need.  He somehow frames SUPERMAN with bullets in a gun fight in the desert and puts a bomb in wheelchair that Superman never notices.  Superman barely beats himself up over this by the way, it gets a throw away line and nothing more.  Batman then has a 'knightmare' that has fuck all to do with anything other than looking cool, then he has a second dream that has even less fuck to do with anything other than set up a future movie.  Then he finds a picture of Wonder Woman, who is uncomfortably crammed into this already packed full movie, and finds time to watch videos of every other member of the Justice League.  I don't know why, they don't factor into really any of it but I guess they needed a stealthy way to hide their 'first looks' instead of just putting them online in a viral marketing campaign like any smart company would do.  Blah, blah, blah, Batman makes a Jesus lance out of kryptonite to try and kill Krypton's only son only to drop it in the aforementioned bottomless church pool.  Now, the reason he does this is because their moms have the same first name.  I never noticed that before myself so in a way it's kind of clever.  But it's clever in, like, four panels of a comic as a observation.  It's not really the major plot point that stops two characters locked in a death battle and makes them best friends.  More blahing as Lex creates Doomsday and they fight Doomsday, destruction abounds, but thankfully we are told in a cut away news cast that due to the time of day there's nobody downtown.  Holy crap is this movie over yet?  No!  We get a Return of the King style endless ending before finally being put out of our misery by the credits.

  This film has problems.  Most of those problems are mentioned above.  However I think the biggest problem this movie has is that it's shot like a comic book.  We have independent vignettes that act as individual set pieces.  Nothing is moored together and at no point are we settled in time and space.  Things just happen without transition, like turning the page.  That works in comics, because of how the medium functions you can jump around in time and space.  You can play with the linearity in a comic book in ways you can't in any other medium just by the tools you have you disposal.  It doesn't translate well to film as is evidenced by this movie.  The scenes are beautifully shot, the way the camera moves, the sparing use of color, how the actors pose and stand, how they express and move with the camera.  There is barely a single shot that you couldn't frame like an art piece.  It's just stunning.  But there is not structure to hold it up.  There's not plot to tell us why these people are doing these beautiful things, there's no characterization that makes us feel anything for them, there's no segue to tell us where we are in the awe inspiring world.  There is nothing but an extended commercial for DC's attempt at Marvel Phases.

  Where this is most egregious is in the never-ending ending.  Spoiler alert, Clark is dead so there's a funeral for a friend.  Except the only friend there is Lois Lane.  Batman is there but all except the last hour of their relationship they were trying to kill each other and Wonder Woman is there despite having barely talked to him in the 30 minutes they knew of each other.  So, we have this funeral and it's beautifully shot, the slow motion of the dirt falling on the casket, the way the camera looks up at Lois and pans across the graveyard.  It's really gorgeous.  But how long has it been since this all happened?  Where are we?  We can probably assume Smallville.  When are we?  What does this mean?  Batman and Wonder Woman are talking and we smash cut to Lex Luthor in jail and Batman visits him.  How did we get here?  Is this after the funeral?  How long after the funeral?  I don't know, I just heard Batman tell Wonder Woman to not worry about Luthor.  Is this a flashback to how he knows not to worry about Luthor?  Is this him handling Luthor?  What.  The.  Fuck?  Then we smash cut back to the funeral.  How much time has passed?  Why are they still there?  How long is this goddamn (Batman) funeral?  Then they talking about the fucking Justice League!  What the shit is happening?  Make some fucking connections movie!
It's not THAT bad
  At the end of this I was three hours older and none the wiser for it.  I stumbled out of the theater utterly baffled by what I had just seen.  I couldn't for the life of me figure it out nor could I explain it to my fiance who is kind enough to suffer through these movies despite not knowing comic books very well.  We just sat in the car and smoked a cigarette in order to process what had just happened.  The confusion was similar to if you paid $40 to walk into a dark room where a naked old man runs screaming out of the darkness at you and slaps you in the face with a handful of brown, clay like substance.  You are left wondering why you paid so much for that experience, what that experience actually was and why it had to happen all while hoping that you weren't, in reality, covered in shit.

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