By Sulaiman D.
Look Zack, I’ll admit that you are probably richer than me, that you have a nicer job than I have, and that you probably drive a car and date beautiful women and stuff. That’s good for you, but one thing you will never have (and I do) is an understanding of the characters of Batman and Superman. Oh, you might claim you’re a fan, and you conned a bunch of idiotic Hollywood suits into thinking that you know your shit, but I know you don’t. You are, in fact, full of it. Mr Snyder, I grew up with Batman. I knew Batman, I loved Batman, I may have occasionally spent hours at both school and work day-dreaming about being Batman. You sir, know nothing of Batman.
Ok, let’s start with some praise. As terrible as your movie is, you actually did a few things that were praiseworthy. In order to underscore the horror you have wrought, I will highlight the few things you got right so the magnitude of your war crimes can be fully understood. Because you see, you had all the tools to fashion a masterpiece. You had every conceivable resource and advantage afforded to a modern director. You had a license to print money and you took that license and shoved it up my ass instead. Who is more to blame, the amateur who dares greatly and fails or the so-called master who has everything and still fails? Obviously it’s you, you dick.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
1. The casting was spot-on.
You know, after all the hue and cry over Batfleck, he was very nearly my favourite part of the movie (the number one favourite of course, was Wonder Woman’s cameo). Ben Affleck has grown on me since his days as an angel in Dogma, and with very strong performances in Argo and Gone Girl he’s become a favourite of mine. He turns in another good performance here as an older Batman, a Batman straight out of the pages of The Dark Knight Returns. With a little salt in his stubble, a little more creases around the eye, Affleck is convincing as the former playboy who spent 20 years battling the likes of the Joker and Catwoman. There are nods to both characters in the movie by the way, with a spray-painted Robin suit in the Batcave and with Bruce Wayne telling Wonder Woman that he’s known ‘women like her’ (during her first appearance at a high class party, reminiscent of Anne Hathaway’s performance in The Dark Knight). So yeah, Batfleck wasn’t the worst thing about the movie by far. Ben Affleck did well. But that doesn’t mean Batman’s character was done well.
Henry Cavill is probably the guy who looks closest to my idea of Superman since Christopher Reeve. He can pull off the earnest, awkward Clark Kent and the heroic, kindly Superman with equal ease. It’s a shame the movie doesn’t give him the chance to do either. He is also terrifying when the eyes glow red and you know shit’s about to go down, as it should be when Superman gets angry. But that’s the fucking thing, because that happens like four times in the movie, and it loses its impact each time it happens. Superman getting angry should be reserved for planetary invasions and Darkseid showing up to eat Metropolis. Not for petty bullshit like a guy in a rubber bat mask. But wait, this section is supposed to be about the good stuff. So let’s come back to that later.
Gal Godot is regal, elegant, and just a touch exotic enough to play a very good Wonder Woman. I had my reservations for an inexperienced actor taking on the role, but she did very well. When you consider the weight of expectation, the first time in 70 years that Wonder Woman was in a film, the first appearance of a major female icon, Godot coped brilliantly. I also like that they are playing up her ‘international woman of mystery’ aspect of her character, as poor Diana doesn’t really have a memorable day job the way we automatically know that Batman is a corporate sellout and Superman is a journalist working in a dying industry. If her own movie focuses more on Diana when she’s not in her skimpy armour then I’m sold.
I really, really would have preferred if she wore some pants or the bulkier Kingdom Come armour because as it is she just looks like a cosplayer. Yes I know this is the accurate WW costume, but that was designed seventy years ago and a modern Wondy would almost certainly wear greaves. She’s supposed to be a warrior, for fuck’s sake.
Also some excellent performances by Amy Adams, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne and that black guy whose name I can’t remember but played the guy angry with Morpheus in the Matrix Revolutions. These are Oscar calibre, serious professional actors. Zack, you should be ashamed of yourself for wasting their time. Jesse Eisenberg…that’s another mess that I’ll have to deal with later.
2. The movie is visually stunning.
First of, I hate the colour palette that you introduced in Man of Steel and I hate that you’ve maintained it here. Everything is washed out grey and dark grey and black, and that was for a friggin’ Superman film. But visually, the landscapes are breathtaking. The spires of Metropolis reach up in glittering peaks, as Metropolis should. From what little we see of Gotham, it’s as gritty and grim as ever. The Wayne Manor is a blackened, burned out husk, and probably the only display of subtlety we see from you, Zack, in the entire movie. I want to know what the hell happened to it. Joker attack? Bane? It’s the little details. The wheat fields of Kansas, the peaks of the Himalayas, the eerie depths of the Batcave. Those are all fantastic. You should have been a cinematographer and not a director.
3. Wonder Woman and the final fight scene.
Diana Prince entertained me everytime she was on screen, from outwitting Bruce at Luthor’s house to her walking off the Turkish Airlines plane, ignoring the stewardess calling after her. But as Wonder Woman, she shone. Her fighting style is visually distinctive from Superman’s flight-and-fight and Batman’s urban brawler, and that’s important. Diana is a centuries-old goddess who knows how to swing a sword better than Batman can throw a batarang, and that came across well on the film. She was hacking limbs off Doomsday, using her (Greek) shield, and in a very memorable moment, hobbling him with her golden lasso of truth. Wonder Woman was excellent all round.
And despite the CGI bullshit, the fire, the explosions, the fiery explosions that you probably masturbate to, Zack, seeing the Trinity face off against a common enemy was a real ‘Fuck Yeah!’ moment, as it should be. This is fulfilling the dream of nerds around the world. It should have been so much better, but the brief glimpse of what we did get was almost enough.
Okay now on to the good stuff.
1. This movie was actually three movies, and none of those three movies were any good.
This movie had a fucking identity crisis, like if Deadpool was in the director’s chair (actually that would have made for a much better movie). It couldn’t decide if it wanted to be the sequel to Man of Steel, a straight up Batman vs Superman film, or a film introducing the Justice League. You could make a great film out of maximum two of those ideas. If you add a third, it all goes to shit. Now it might not be purely your fault in this respect, maybe those stupid fucking corporate Hollywood people forced you to introduce the Justice League. But you’re Zack Snyder, you directed Watchmen for fuck’s sake. You should have told them that directing a movie that was actually three movies was beyond your meagre talents.
The tragedy is that you actually listened to the criticism of Man of Steel. You actually bothered to point out that the buildings that Supes and Doomsday were blowing up this time were unoccupied and therefore there weren’t massive civilian casualties. The intro of the movie was inspired, showing the Superman/General Zod fight from the perspective of a helpless bystander, even if that bystander was Bruce Wayne. I thought that was a great touch, bringing the mighty Batman down to the level of mere mortals. It’s actually a great idea for a movie. What happens when God unleashes his wrath on innocent people? What can you do when the Super Man stops being a hero? You could have shown the stress that Clark Kent goes through, trying to save people and getting heckled for it. It would have made his meeting with Martha Kent even more significant, showing him being grounded by his mother’s influence.
Instead you had to go and fuck that up with Ma Kent basically telling her Godlike son that he can fuck the rest of the human race off, who cares. But you didn’t have the time (even at 2 and a half hours) to let the movie breathe, so it just falls apart. Instead of a thoughtful movie that reflected on the immense responsibility of a man with the powers of a God, you had fucking Jesse Eisenberg babble on about Prometheus and Lucifer and you thought that would be enough to make the movie deep and philosophical but you fell flat on your face.
We could have a cool philosophical moment like this where Superman wonders if the burdens of the human race are too heavy for him. Oh wait, I forgot you actually directed Watchmen. Do you not pay attention to your own damn movies?
The second movie would also have been a great movie. Batman vs Superman? This is the one thing comic nerds like me have been dying to see for basically all our lives. We wanted The Dark Knight Returns on the big screen with a hundred million dollar budget. Instead we got like five minutes of fighting which ends, hilariously, with Bats realising that his mother shares the same name as Supes. And while it might have been a neat little trick to make Bats pause or something, you forced poor Ben Affleck to shout ‘WHY DID YOU SAY MARTHA’ like five times, and then have Amy Adams yell that it’s the name of Supes’ own mom. Do you even understand the meaning of subtlety, you hack?
I would have given my left nut for a full length Batman vs Superman movie, a movie where Bruce Wayne stalks Clark Kent while Clark in turn does his own investigation, watching as Bruce slowly figures out the connection, figures out his weakness (he is the World’s Greatest Detective, after all), and then fires up the Bat Signal and cracks Superman across the jaw with a punch fuelled by the entire power system of Gotham. That would have been a fucking awesome movie. But instead we got five minutes and ‘MARTHA!’ ‘WHY DID YOU SAY MARTHA? TELL ME WHY?!!!’ Good God.
The third and final movie also could have been great. You could have spent a little more time teasing the appearance of the rest of the Justice League. You could have slowly revealed Jason Momoa rescuing Superman in the depths of the Atlantic, or a non-descript guy suddenly moving faster than the eye can see. In a Flash, if you will. Instead the first time we see the league is through a zip folder from Lex Corp computers, where it looks like Lex has been stalking them all this while. It looked like extra features on a DVD (Cyborg in particular looked terribly hokey) and good God, I need to devote one paragraph to ranting about whatever the fuck that was with the Flash and the time portal and him yelling at Batman about something. Under the right circumstances, I love time travel shenannigans as much as anyone (I am the world’s biggest Doctor Who fan after all) but that ridiculous hallucination or whatever it was totally took the viewer out of the moment and left a lot of non-comic viewers going ‘Huh??’ Should have left that scene on the cutting room floor.
Any of those three movies would have been great. A combination of any of those two movies would have been still good. But jamming all three together just doesn’t work, and it’s a big reason why your final movie sucked so much.
2. The movie got the characters of Batman and Superman totally wrong.
BATMAN DOES NOT KILL. Let’s get that through your thick skull one more time. BATMAN DOES NOT KILL. HE DOES NOT USE GUNS. HE DOES NOT KILL. USING GUNS TO KILL IS KIND OF THE OPPOSITE OF BATMAN.
Do you remember that scene in The Dark Knight, when the Joker is holding everybody hostage and Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne walks to the room, is accosted by a thug with a gun, and without even looking at him knocks him out and dismantles the gun? That was Batman in a nutshell. That was the pure essence of Batman in a ten second scene, and that was why Christopher Nolan understood Batman in a way you never will.
Now you say you’re a Batman fan, Zack, and that you read Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, but I’m having trouble believing you because even in that book BATMAN SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT KILL. The entire last few pages of that book specifically shows him dismantling a gun and saying ‘We don’t use this, ever.’ He doesn’t even kill the fucking Joker when he could because that’s the essence of his character. Yes, I know you lifted that ‘I’ll kill her, believe me!’ ‘I believe you.’ scene directly from the book, but even that proves you know fuck all about Batman, who he is and what he’s about. That scene was left ambiguous, in the movie Batman sets a Russian guy on fire and leaves him to burn to death. I counted all the times Batman used a gun to kill people during the movie and gave up after 12. Not only that, he dragged around a car WITH PEOPLE IN IT with his Batmobile and sent it crashing into another car and you can’t tell me that all the people in those two cars didn’t die terrible deaths.
Why am I so mad over this one detail? Because it proves you have no fucking clue why people watch superhero movies. We know the world is a hopelessly fucked up place where the rich bad guys always win and the people with good hearts lose, more often than not. We know the world is a mess, which is why we watch movies. We want to escape into a world for two hours where we can see a Dark Knight and a Man of Tomorrow fight the bad guys and make the world a better place. When your heroes are not doing heroic things, that kinda undermines the whole point. Batman does nothing heroic in the entire movie. The one and only time was at the beginning, where Bruce saves the girl from falling debris. Bruce, not Batman. Why should I care if Batman wins if he’s just another heartless, mass-murdering psycho? You could have Superman zap him with his eye beams from space and turn him into a pile of ash and I would cheer. And getting me to cheer the death of Batman IS A VERY BAD SIGN.
The guns and killing thing is such a colossal error I don’t even have the energy to mention how fucked up the idea is of Batman branding criminals with a bat brand so they get gang-raped to death in prison. What’s wrong with you???
Now Superman. I know you’ve complained before that Superman’s powers and his invulnerability makes him a boring character, and that proves you know fuck all about Superman. He is a God you can touch, not an impersonal God who stays silent while you pray but someone who actually can save you from a burning building or a flood. I love Superman because he is the God who chooses to become a man. He has the power to conquer the world in a day, he has the power to burn the human race or enslave them and you know what he does with that power? He chooses to help people, as best he can, while working as a journalist and living a normal life with Lois Lane. There’s something beautiful and simple about that ideal, and simple does not equal stupid. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people with power behaved as Superman does, choosing to help the less fortunate every day? That’s why he’s a symbol of hope. That’s why he has endured as a character for 75 years. That’s the power of Superman, as an ideal. The idea that choosing to be good and doing the right thing is what makes him a hero, not his eye lasers or his ice breath.
And you can do a lot of cool things with that idea. You can weave some pretty complex stories around that. What does it mean to have a God you could touch? What kind of impact would that have on society? What would happen if one man shoulders the burden of the entire planet, even a Super one? You could have great moral dilemmas, and showing that Superman remains human because of his love for humanity, both in the abstract and in the personal. He loves the human race, and he loves Lois Lane. He loves his parents, who taught him right from wrong. You could show scenes where Clark is just being a regular guy, hanging out with Lois. You could depict him as a noble journalist, a crusader for the truth in a media culture that is rotten and slowly dying and replaced by Twitter.
We get ONE scene with Lois and Clark at home, in the bathtub. We get ONE scene with Superman saving a life, in this case that Mexican girl in the burning building, and then the Mexicans all revere Superman in a way that feels slightly racist. Yeah he saves an exploding rocket and people from floods, but it’s shown in a sinister light, to emphasise the idea that he’s a False God leading humanity down a wrong path. He doesn’t even smile! He broods and sulks as much as fucking Batman over there. So when Lex Luthor says ‘Day vs Night, Son of Krypton vs Bat of Gotham’, it means nothing to me because Superman doesn’t represent hope and the light like he really should. It’s more like ‘Late evening vs Night time.’
Ok, I know I already ranted about casting Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor instead of ‘Heisenberg’ Bryan Cranston, but at least it was a legitimate different take on Lex Luthor. Making him genuinely unlikeable in the vein of Mark Zuckerberg, making him creepy and off-putting in a movie without the Joker. That was fine, I warmed to the idea after a while. But what the fuck was up with him suddenly deducing Superman’s secret identity without even a scene explaining how he did it? Did you really have no better idea how to engineer a fight between Superman and Batman, you utter moron?
The entire point of Lex Luthor is that he cannot, will not believe that Clark Kent is Superman because he fundamentally does not understand the point of Superman. Lex cannot comprehend the idea of someone having unlimited power and using it for purely altruistic purposes. He is a sociopath and compassion is unknown to him. THAT’S how you draw a comparison between him and Superman, that’s how you show the fundamental humanity and decency at the core of the alien, and make a powerful statement about how it’s not where you come from that makes you a good person, it’s what you do. A fitting and worthy message in a time like now where Donald Trump is stoking up fears over illegal immigrants and all that bullshit. Superman was created by two immigrants, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who wanted to send a message that immigrants could be heroes just as well as anyone else. That could have been a powerful moment.
Instead you have Luthor magically find out that Clark Kent is Superman and have him kidnap Martha Kent and for fuck’s sake you’re a goddamn idiot, Snyder.
AGAIN, MAJOR SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH.
3. The movie wasted Doomsday and wasted Superman’s death.
Yeah yeah, the big spoiler that you didn’t want anyone to know. Not that it matters much, because you totally wasted a plot point that could have been used FOR AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MOVIE. So that’s actually four movies you tried to jam into one.
Okay, pop quiz. You’re Superman, you have this monster that can only be hurt by Kryptonite and you have this Kryptonite spear but oops, you are also vulnerable to Kryptonite. What do you do? Do you;
A) Give the spear to the ACTUAL AMAZON WARRIOR WHO CAN PROBABLY WIN AN OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL IN THE JAVELIN EVENT WHILE SLEEPING and let her kill Doomsday?
B) Give the spear to Batman, who is NOT vulnerable to Kryptonite and can probably stab Doomsday in the back while you and Wonder Woman distract it?
C) Hold the spear yourself, bid Lois goodbye, fly towards Doomsday, lose your powers and have him stab you in the heart?
If you answered anything but C, congratulations, you’re smarter than Zack Snyder. Not like that’s any great accomplishment.
Leaving the utter jaw-dropping stupidity of that tactical move aside, what a goddamn waste. The death of Superman should be a world-shaking event. Ideally it should come after Superman has had a long career saving people, so that his death is an actual tragic emotional blow. In the context of the movie, people are probably rejoicing that the illegal immigrant is dead. And they buried the body in Clark Kent’s grave, not Superman’s, which makes me think that the Justice League movie just doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of Superman’s life as a human, which if you’ve been paying attention just goes to show how fucking clueless you are, Zack, because being human is a fundamental aspect of Superman’s character. It’s not like he can come back to life and pretend like ‘Oh no, I just actually suffered amnesia for a few months!’ and get his job at the Daily Planet back.
You could have an entire thing about the legacy of Superman, what he meant to the world, and how it feels like hope and optimism has been snuffed out now he’s gone. I know you tried, by showing those idiots holding a candlelight vigil, but it doesn’t work because your Superman hasn’t earned it. Just 18 months ago he was levelling entire buildings by punching General Zod through them! He destroyed half of Gotham by punching Doomsday to the Earth! In the world you’ve created, Superman is a fucking terrorist and people would be cheering because he’s dead! And if you’ve managed to make a movie where people would actually fucking cheer because Superman is dead, YOU KNOW YOU’VE FUCKED UP.
Now Doomsday, he’s supposed to be the ultimate opponent. Doomsday should not have been the second ever villain that Superman faced. He should have wiped the floor with Lex Luthor and Metallo and Brainiac and the Parasite and Solomon Grundy first, leading to an escalation, and then Luthor unleashes Doomsday out of desperation, not because he thinks it’s cool. Now maybe it’s cos I’m a wrestling fan, but the concept of gradual escalation should be taught to all directors. You don’t have a rookie wrestler beating the Undertaker in his first match and Brock Fucking Lesnar in the next one. That just cheapens his victory, makes Brock look like a chump, and where do you fucking go from here? Who can you possibly bring in as a believable villain now that you’ve wasted the one villain that actually managed to kill Superman? Yeah I know Luthor referenced Darkseid or whatever but I’m already not interested because you’re a fucking useless director, Zack.
At the end of the day, that’s the real problem. This movie, which so many people have worked their asses off for, is going to tank because of your tonal mistakes. This movie is supposed to be the catalyst for a Justice League movie, but the problem is that the movie doesn’t make me want to see that Justice League movie. Poor Ben Affleck endured so much abuse for taking up the mantle of the Bat. Gal Godot got so much criticism for being too ugly or whatever (which is fucking mental, because she’s an excellent Wondy). Henry Cavill, if not for his role in the Man from UNCLE he might be sunk as an actor. And all the hundreds of producers, cameramen, bus boys, key grips, whatever. They worked so hard for this to be a success and you fucking blew it.
You may not agree with me, you might think the movie was good. And it’s honestly not 100% terrible. It’s not as bad as Green Lantern, for example. But the missteps and the missed chances and the terrible director decisions and all the rest of it means that this is the biggest swing and a miss ever in the superhero genre. So disappointed, because that fight at the end showed me a glimpse of what a good Batman v Superman movie could have been and we didn’t get that. Instead we got what you gave us. That, and a jar filled with Lex Luthor’s piss. Sadly, that’s my takeaway from the movie. A Superman who doesn’t smile, a Batman who fucking shoots people, and a jar of Lex Luthor’s piss. I can’t wait for Captain America: Civil War.