By Ben L.
Before the titular fight sequence between the Bat of Gotham and Son of Krypton, Lex Luthor tells his would-be archenemy: “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
And so very fortunately for Superman/Clark Kent, it’s his foster parent’s name that saves his life.
Had Martha Kent been named Maria, or May, or Julie, Batman would not have had the sudden attack of PTSD from witnessing his own mother Martha Wayne killed in front of him as a child. The Kryptonite spear would have certainly stabbed through Superman’s chest, and that would have been the end of the film after 105 minutes, of which only seven minutes actually belonged to the duo’s battle.
That is my biggest takeaway from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – having mums who share the same first name makes men the best of buds. What happens in the rest of the two and a half hour long film, you ask. A clusterfuck.
Have you ever gone to a buffet with a huge delectable spread on an empty stomach? You pile everything you see on that one plate – oysters, roast beef, rosemary chicken, sashimi – and you don’t even care whether the gravy has mixed with the wasabi, because in that moment all you want to do is just eat. You’re too famished to walk to your table, put down the plate, and walk back to the counter to grab a second serving. And if you do walk back to your table, somebody else is going to grab that last slice of pizza.
So what you end up with is a monstrous pile of unrecognisable food that is still edible, just perhaps not very palatable. Try eating that without spilling anything onto the table.
This is how watching BvS feels like. As Sulaiman wrote in his scathing review, the film is overly ambitious in trying to cram as many as five stories into 150 minutes. But with a script this poor, the runtime either feels too draggy due to unnecessary scenes, or too short because everything is happening too quickly or conveniently to make any logical sense. (IMDB has a list of top-rated movies that go well over the two-hour mark.) Is this a case of being greedy or lazy filmmaking? (“We have no time to make individual standalone superhero movies for the epic Justice League film, so let’s work with what we can in this one” must have been the decision in a Warner Bros boardroom.) For the average movie-goer who hasn’t read any of the comics, this is one of the most disjointed movies that does not explain or fully resolve any of its sub-plots, made worse by some terrible pacing.
For someone like me who has even the slightest knowledge of the Batman lore, BvS is how director Zack Snyder tries to prove to fans that he has listened to the criticism of 2013’s Man of Steel, that he has done the adequate research required of him as a director by reading and using storylines from the original comic books, in particular The Dark Knight Returns and The Death and Return of Superman. He even throws in a couple of Batman video game references with a little teaser from Injustice: Gods Among Us and choreographing the vigilante’s fights with Luthor’s henchmen very similarly to his combat moves in Arkham Asylum.
But there is no concerted focus on a plot or character’s development that steers this movie in a coherent direction. It is just a mishmash of what Snyder has sieved out from the source material without properly adapting it into a 150-minute screenplay. (Seriously, how many more times must we see the shooting of Bruce’s parents?) And this is a pity because had Snyder chosen to just place emphasis on one or at most two plots, this could have been the DC superhero film that we all need and deserve, setting up a tantalising Marvel vs DC Hollywood battle from which fans and the regular audience emerge winners.
Unfortunately this is just a show-off from Snyder, and he serves all his purported passion for and understanding of the DC comics, and more, on a paper plate that is falsely marketed as ivory. The movie’s title and trailers had been misleading – we don’t get the real battle of wits versus strength between Batman and Superman, and even the movie’s second title (dawn of the Justice League, in case you missed it) is merely a two-minute tease in the form of four video clips on a computer screen. If BvS is meant to be taken as a film that sets up future films, then it suffers the exact same problems that Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron had last year, only less fun and even more confusing despite having a smaller cast.
I didn’t feel it was as bad as the one and a half-star rating that Sulaiman gave in his review, and in my opinion there’s probably a popular hate bandwagon going round that has sent this film’s score even lower than Paul Blart: Mall Cop on Rotten Tomatoes. In trying to fix some, not all, of the problems in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman loses its direction in what it wants to be and becomes more of a sidestep than a stride forward, throwing away the opportunity to launch the DC cinematic universe on a high note. The harsh critic would say this is already strike two for Warner Bros and DC.
And so the movie cracks under the weight of everything that the director has thrown in. The end result, when everything spills, is messy.
P.S What a waste of Tao Okamoto, who’s played some valuable roles in Hollywood recently (special mention goes out to her casting in Season 3 of Hannibal). Okamoto speaks just ONE line in the film’s entirety, and did not even get to say her final goodbye to her employer.
P.P.S Zack Snyder is directing the next two Justice League films – drink on it.
P.P.P.S The home release version of the film is reportedly longer at three hours with a R-rating. Deleted scenes that could possibly fix some of the plot holes, or just pouring unwanted gravy on the already overfilled plate?