Review: Batman V Superman: Ball of Confusion
If you haven’t seen it, but intend to, don’t read on because - spoilers. In fact, don’t read on if you think World War II should have ended in Churchill v Hitler fist-fighting mano-a-mano, in the ruins of Berlin. Adolf’s about to run Winston through with a cigar-tipped spear, when Winston pleads: “Save Lady Randolph”, and Hitler goes, “Vait?! VDF?! [Vot Da Fuk] Why d’you say zat name?!” And it turns out both their mums were called Lady Randolph, and they suddenly become best buds and, yeah I know, Hitler’s mum was called Klara, but whatever, Adolf says: “Ich can’t believe it Vinston! My mumma is Lady Randolph too! Let’s be BFFs and end zis war and go beat up Jo Stalin instead.”
Superman’s adoptive earth mother, Ma Kent, is named Martha, as was Bruce Wayne’s mum. But, just in case we’re too dumb to know this, or see it on the tomb Bruce visits several times in this movie, we get an opening credits sequence that yet again (again) replays the death of Batman’s parents, only with the new addition of his dying dad’s last word being “Martha”, because that’s his wife’s name, and we’re too dumb to get that. In fact we’re so dumb, it needs to be repeated over and over until we get it. Martha, Martha, Martha.
Oh and then there’s the bats that lift young Bruce up, so he literally rises, as in Dark Knight Rises, geddit? But it’s just a dream, and then there’s all these other dream sequences that are kinda cool, as dreams sometimes are, but you could cut them out the movie and lose nothing. Zip. They’re just cool. That’s it. Cool and really annoying, in the case of time travelling Flash shouting a garbled warning at Bruce before he wakes up. Or does he? Is this a dream within a dream within an homage to Chris Nolan’s Inception? Yup. Snyder’s a Nolan fanboy, geeking out on Nolan’s dark approach to the Dark Knight and it really, really grates.
Dumb dream sequences aside, the plot’s a confused mess. Much is unnecessary. Perhaps literally taking the piss, Lex places a jar of urine labelled “Granma’s peach tea” next to Holly Hunter during a Senate hearing. Then he has a dude’s wheelchair explode, killing hundreds. Any reason? Not really. Creating Doomsday from Zod’s bod and droplets of Lex Luthor’s blood? No idea. Lex plays more like Jim Carrey’s Riddler doing an impression of Jack Nicholson’s Joker by way of Jesse Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg from The Social Network. His motivation seems to be no more than the old “some people hate what they can’t understand” schtick Kevin Costner babbled about in Man of Steel. Still, Ben Affleck’s fine. Jeremy Irons as Alfred? Great. Henry Cavill as Superman? Um, limited acting range, but, you know, Chris Reeve was no De Niro, so I’m not complaining.
Visually, Martha’s Son v Martha’s Adopted Son is typical Zack Snyder, and anyone who’s seen Man of Steel, Watchmen or Sucker Punch knows what to expect. In fact, if you didn’t like Man of Steel, then seeing this sequel is pretty much asking for it. You think Superman doesn’t kill? In Man of Steel he killed wholesale – to save the planet sure, but he still killed Zod by snapping his neck, and thousands of civilians by going all Michael Bay on Metropolis’s ass. So WTF are you doing seeing this if you hated Man of Steel?! Seriously!
That’s what I asked myself all the way through this movie. I loved Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead retake and the visual stylings of 300. But had I forgotten how misogynistic Sucker Punch was? Or how bored I was by act three of Man of Steel? How confused the plot was? How Snyder’s dark palate made the world on screen so dim that much was rendered an almost indiscernible brown CGI smudge? Had I forgotten how Snyder’s all surface flash failed to hide the emptiness of the script, characterisations or story? Worse yet, had I forgotten how Man of Steel took the true goodness of Superman, as represented by his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, and turned him into Kevin Costner – who young Superman just stands and watches die when he could have saved him in the blink of an eye? What the hell was I doing here watching the sequel?!
Well, turns out I was sucker punched. I thought this was a Batman v Superman movie. The marketing told me that and why would marketing lie? () Only really, this was Man of Steel II and what Snyder did to Superman he now does to Batman – turning him from Christopher Nolan’s dark vigilante, to a figure more reminiscent of Charles Bronson’s judge, jury and executioner Deathwish character, Paul Kersey, only minus the mischievous grin and with Ben Affleck’s implausible chin. Talking of which, take another look at that Batfleck chin. He’d make a great Judge Dredd.
As ever in the Snyderverse, women don’t fare so well. As Lois Lane, Amy Adams gets to be in a tub for one scene, for no other reason than she’s female, and taking a bath is better naked than clothed. She’s also pretty helpless, requiring rescue several times throughout proceedings. And why does she ditch that Kryptonite spear only to then go retrieve it?
Wonder Woman fares much better. She even gets a kick-ass theme tune, but Gal Gadot has little to do, aside from bump into Bruce Wayne a few times at high class parties and then show up at the end to kick Orc ass – sorry, Doomsday ass. As for Superman’s Mum? Well the less said about that whole Martha stuff the better, but it’s pretty flawed thinking. Hell, when Bats saves Ma Kent, he says “I’m a friend of your son”, and she cracks wise with I guessed you were a friend of Clark’s ‘cos of the cape. Hilarious – if Bats hadn’t just tried to kill Superman just minutes before, and then ploughed down the bad guys in front of her, before barbequing one so close, he has to wrap his fire-retardant cloak around her to stop her from toasting.
So, if you’re looking for realistic character motivation, or humour, or even a plot that makes half sense, go see a Marvel movie. There’s moments here to delight DC comic book fans, but far more to infuriate. Lex has computer files listing Flash, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Aquaman? (And don’t start me on Aquaman! He looks ridiculous!) And he gives them logos?! Lex knows Clark is Superman and Bruce is Batman?! Really? He knew all along? Then why… Oh just forget it. Forget I asked. As for Superman’s “death”? Not an emotion was felt. Nada. It was just – numbing.
Entertaining popcorn action while it lasted, with a sour as hell aftertaste, this is a movie with pretentions of grandeur. The words “Jesus” and “God”, “Alien” and “Man” are tossed around liberally by speechifying characters in an attempt to add depth and philosophical substance, but it’s about as edifying as a Donald Trump speech.
Like an undercooked hotdog, BvS is big, long, and covered in hot sauce. If you’re hungry for a DC movie to compete with Marvel, it’ll satisfy your appetite for a while, but leave an ache in your guts and have you waking up, covered in sweat, and desperate to throw up.
Actually, that analogy is a bit unfair on undercooked hotdogs.
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