Batman v Superman

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived. Fans finally get to see the two titans of D.C. Comics square up against on another while simultaneously setting up numerous other movies. Was it good? Was it bad? Does the “Sad Affleck” viral video convey what millions of moviegoers will feel by the end of the weekend? I think that the one thing people will remember 10 years from now about the film is just how big of a turd Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor turned out to be in the D.C. Punch Bowl, but I will try and lay out what worked and what didn’t in bullet points below.

First off, it should be reiterated once again that director Zack Snyder knows how to make a movie look cool. There are scenes that are incredibly gorgeous and he seems to have a great gut instinct for the shots fans want to see — probably because he is a fan. His problem, however, comes from the writing side of the equation. It is glaringly obvious that someone mandated all sorts of things that should have never been in the movie, in part because Hollywood producers have a penchant for being idiots. The script paid the price.

The plot of the movie is fairly straight forward and essentially told in the trailer. Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne both view Superman’s existence on earth a threat to humanity and both pursue a monomaniacal quest to end his life.

Superman struggles with the role he plays living among humans and then a studio-mandated monster is shoehorned into the finale because needlessly spending lots of money somehow translates as “good” to executives in Hollywood (One would think they would learn a thing or two from X-men Origins: Wolverine, but no!) The credits roll and then everyone wonders if there will be an extra scene at the end because that’s what Marvel does. The end.

The question — Is it good? — still remains. First, let us acknowledge what worked:

  • Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman. He put in the time required to succeed, and it showed.
  • Henry Cavill did a fine job as Clark Kent and Superman, even if he took a back seat in what was initially supposed to be his movie.
  • Jeremy Irons makes an excellent Alfred.
  • The fight scenes are exactly what you would expect from the guy who knocked it out of the park with 300

Now, let us cover what did not work:

  • Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an embarrassment. The entire film is dark and gritty and then he plays Luthor like he drew inspiration from Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever (another Warner Bros. movie that suffered because it had too much going on, among its many other problems). Worse, the ominous music that plays when he’s on screen — juxtaposed with his goofy performance — reminded me of the “Large Marge” scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Any scene with Eisenberg that was supposed to be dramatic was not because he wasn’t believable as a Superman-worthy villain.
  • The movie was disjointed. Luthor should have been a serious businessman and there was absolutely no need for him to create Doomsday. The way it all unfolded was cringeworthy, which again begs the question: Was it Synder’s fault or studio-mandated? I will give Synder the benefit of the doubt since he stuck to his guns on Watchmen and wisely changed the ending for its film adaptation.
  • Batman v Superman was too long. There was a good 30 minutes that could have been cut from the film if they weren’t trying so hard to set up Justice League.

Jesse Eisenberg

In short, Batman v Superman is the classic case of “What might have been.” Parts of it are good. Parts of it are excellent. Unfortunately, some of it is just bad. In fact, just looking at Jesse Eisenberg’s face right now makes me shake my head in disgust. It’s not as bad as the time he likened San Diego Comic Con to “genocide” (yes, seriously), but it’s pretty bad.

I recommend seeing Batman v Superman to long-time fans because the impossible was made possible. For a kid who grew up in the 80s, I cannot help but feel as though this generation is spoiled rotten when it comes to cinematic superhero fare. See the film, but know that you will also walk away frustrated at the wasted potential.

It wasn’t your fault this time, Ben. Really. It wasn’t.

Editor’s Note: Check out Hube’s take over at The Colossus of Rhodey.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

30 comments

  1. I saw it last night and it wasn’t a good film.

    I agree Eisenberg was awful. He should go back to teenage comedies where he can be all angsty and nervous.

    While I agree Affleck was a good Batman I think we will see a much better Batman film, should it ever get made.

    I’m not a fan of Cavill and he has zero chemistry with Amy Adams. Both could have been replaced very easily.

    I found the teasers for future films Interesting, partly because there will finally be other DC characters in films.

    Finally I thought Wonder Woman was well handled. When she finally gets involved in the action the film improved.

    1. “I’m not a fan of Cavill and he has zero chemistry with Amy Adams. Both could have been replaced very easily.”

      I think a big part of the problem is once again the script. They’re asking Cavill to play a much darker version of Superman when there is certainly a lighter side to him. I didn’t get a chance to see The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but it looked like Cavill knows how to turn on the charm when asked. Amy Adams is just “eh” to me. I think it would be much easier to replace her. When Superman walked into that courtroom he was Superman. You could feel the authority. He looked exactly how Superman should look to me. He had that old-school bodybuilder shape like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. I was impressed. In some ways, the movie would be better if you just put it on mute. 🙂 Or maybe we could just mute Eisenberg’s lines and imagine what he’s saying…

      Finally I thought Wonder Woman was well handled. When she finally gets involved in the action the film improved.

      I liked what I saw in terms of action, but it remains to be seen whether she can carry film. I think she had less than 10 lines in the movie.

  2. I grew up in the 70s and 80’s and I remember thinking how cool it would be to have films of my favourite superheroes. I was speaking with a friend of mine about that the other day, both of us long time comic book fans and neither of us are excited about this new film, nor any other superhero film that is coming out. Like Star Wars, having been co-opted by the greater culture at large, they are not much more than advertisements of everything that is wrong with that culture. We need new stories and heroes made by everyday people again.

    1. We need new stories and heroes made by everyday people again.

      I think Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” in 2002 and Joe Johnston’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” in 2011 both did an excellent job covering some dark material (e.g., Peter’s dad dying and the guilt he carried afterward) and detestable subjects (the Third Reich), while still instilling a sense of hope and optimism in the audience.

      It’s hard to read the news every day … see terror attacks, etc., and then have the movies be just as dark and dreary. A good film is a good film, but at the same time it would be nice if more films sought to inspire fans instead of depress them.

    2. I would agree with you on those two movies Doug. But creeping political correctness has practically ruined M****l comics is sure to be making its way to movies soon. They are way too powerful tools to dismiss. I mean how hard is it to make a good Fantastic Four movie? So many amazing stories but nope, the focus is the last movie is on…….

  3. I saw it yesterday. Chaotic in every way. As an editor I spotted the shambolic presentation at virtually every cut and was scrambling in my mind to restructure the movie so that an actual honest-to-god scene could play out and transition to one that contemplated the continuity a bit more strongly. Gal Gadot would be saved to the last act, and that JL build would not be in there at all, except maybe as a post-credit surprise.

    I do not appreciate that they are building for an Injustice adaptation…bad enough this is a film showcasing heroes through a darker lens, but now we’re showcasing a bad future through the lens..,.where is the hope? the anticipation of a stronger, coherent world? For god’s sake, even Smallville’s numerous episodes revolving about Clark’s destiny promise a hopeful future. Why does that have to be thrown away just so DC can seem more “compelling” than Marvel?

    Here’s where we disagree Doug…I actually thought Eisenberg was the best thing about the movie besides Affleck. Maybe “it’s the Gotham City in me” (wink, wink) but he added a lot of needed maniacal levity to such an overly dense darkly lit, despairing deconstruction job of characters I’ve idolized over the years. The only thing that was terrible with hum in my estimation was motivation. He had none. No in-story reason to act this overly hostile and prejudiced, had there been some clearer developments in the cut (and I have no doubt the directors edition will touch on these elements), I’d have been fully on board with where he was going with the character

    I believe Max Landis said it best in his reaction video, “a dark gritty Batman Forever”, but even Batman Forever had cohesion, direction, a great psychological approach to the character, and above all else, had hope and promise attached to it’s core story.
    When it comes to these despairing hatchet jobs, I have to quote the deleted scenes of that movie

    “Does it ever end Alfred?”
    “No ma’am, not in this lifetime”

    1. “The only thing that was terrible with hum in my estimation was motivation. He had none. No in-story reason to act this overly hostile and prejudiced, had there been some clearer developments in the cut (and I have no doubt the directors edition will touch on these elements), I’d have been fully on board with where he was going with the character.”

      I agree with you — he was goofy and weird for no reason. He just…was. What?! As you point out, there needs to be a reason for his behavior, but we were just expected to believe it because his name was Lex Luthor. How on earth did that happen? I almost think the rated R cut will show highlight some kind of sexual abuse because he made a passing reference having to deal with his dad’s “fists and abnormalities.”

      I understand the need to find some mechanism to lighten the mood (Alfred to a great job), but what they attempted to do with Luthor did not work on any level. It was just bad.

    1. So once again my truism that “Zack Synder makes really good films from first draft scripts” hold true, eh?

      The script was obviously lacking. My guess is that they had a decent script in the beginning but every other day Warner Bros. was like, “Hey, can we get Aquaman in there? We need Aquaman. What about Cyborg? Can you do that? Also…let’s put in Doomsday. We need to spend 75 percent of our budget on one scene for no apparent reason and that’s what the guys decided on. Thanks.”

  4. When I saw Man of Steel, I liked it. I saw Superman in a way that was interesting, but he wasn’t really Superman to others and it made me question some things.

    This movie, I admit, is not a good movie. I love Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and I wish them the best in their own movies. But this movie is wrong, it’s not the tone or the gritty atmosphere that’s the problem, it’s the story, the pacing, the not so interesting drama. I think people shouldn’t b***h that Marvel is for kids when they have Daredevil and Jessica Jones, two shows that are anything but kid-friendly. I’m already getting complaints about this stupid film, saying it’s for the fans. Really? All comic book movies are for the fans, especially comic book fans. It don’t change bad direction.

    1. “I’m already getting complaints about this stupid film, saying it’s for the fans.”

      I agree with you — saying “it’s for the fans” is pretty lame when the problems with this movie generally revolve around bad writing for certain characters and trying to do too much unnecessary stuff instead of focusing on the essentials.

      Snyder’s “Watchmen” was one of the few movies where one could say it’s “for the fans” because he was as faithful as humanly possible to source material. I’ve heard non-comic fans complain about Mr. Manhattan, etc., and it’s like, “Well, too bad. That’s ‘Watchmen.'”

  5. I just learned spoilers today about two deaths that happen in BvS. Seeing those spoilers didn’t really change my choices much, since I’d already decided not to see this film at $8 a pop. I’ll wait for Redbox. But they cemented my feeling that I wouldn’t enjoy the film. The first death sounds needless and mean-spirited. The second death — well, I’m cold toward this iteration of that particular character, so as a result I don’t care. But both spoilers made me feel even less inclined to go to the movie.

    1. “I’ll wait for Redbox.”

      I can’t blame anyone for going that route. Movies are expensive these days, especially if you want to take the family and anyone wants drinks and popcorn. If I think I’m really going to like a movie I might buy a $4.00 box of Raisinets that would cost $1.00 in the grocery store. Heh.

  6. Agree with some of your points here Doug, and some not. To summarize (spoilers be ahead):

    Affleck seemed to phone it in as Wayne, but was much better, and physically intimidating, as Batman. But the fact that he kills many thugs in this film, along with the stupid “Bat-branding” thing, made me feel like I was watching Bat-Douche.

    Cavill as Superman has tons less to do this film than Man Of Steel, and pretty much just gets knocked around like a rag doll. I couldn’t care less that he “died” at the end, particularly.

    I didn’t like Irons’ rendition of Alfred–just seemed like he loathed Bruce. Gadot as Wonder Woman was good. Eisenberg was hammy and pretty terrible as Lex–somebody with a little more presence was needed. King Kong-style Doomsday was stupid.

    It was very typical Snyder: lots of flash and surface, but not much underneath. It’s actually kind of disappointing coming after Man Of Steel, which I think was a very good film.

    1. Affleck seemed to phone it in as Wayne, but was much better, and physically intimidating, as Batman. But the fact that he kills many thugs in this film, along with the stupid “Bat-branding” thing, made me feel like I was watching Bat-Douche.

      I would argue that even Affleck at his best is still going to come across as “phoning it in” to many people because, truthfully, his range is limited. I didn’t see his performance in Argo, but for most of his career his given us things like “Bounce,” “Changing Lanes,” and “Surviving Christmas.”

      It’s probably fair to say that on some level I’m grading on an Affleck curve. With that said, just because I said he “succeeded” as Bruce Wayne should not be interpreted in any way as, “Affleck has reached Michael Keaton levels of Wayne-ness.” No. He has a long way to go for that kind of compliment.

    2. So far for me, Bale was the best Bruce Wayne. Keaton’s Wayne was just a little too aloof and eccentric–the whole trick to pulling off the Wayne / Batman dynamic, IMO, is that Wayne should be a little glazed-over, an unconcerned kind of rich brat, so as not to bring scrutiny to his alter-ego. Bale nailed that perfectly in the Nolan films. Here, they were unconcerned, I think, with the dual identity thing with Bruce (would no one bat an eye that Bruce Wayne was hanging out at the underground fight-club thing, along with the KGBeast guy?).

      Again though, Affleck was passable, his Batman more than made up for his Wayne (I have to say, this is the best the Bat-cowl / costume has EVER looked on an actor, the costuming was perfect for once), and it wasn’t a deal breaker. The film had all kinds of other problems aside from that, but it is mostly enjoyable and doesn’t fully deserve the super-negative critical response that it’s getting.

    3. “Would no one bat an eye that Bruce Wayne was hanging out at the underground fight-club thing, along with the KGBeast guy?”

      Haha. I also thought that was kind of odd.

      “This is the best the Bat-cowl/costume has EVER looked on an actor, the costuming was perfect for once.”

      Someone needs to get a raise for that costume because it was pretty darn cool.

      “The film had all kinds of other problems aside from that, but it is mostly enjoyable and doesn’t fully deserve the super-negative critical response that it’s getting.”

      I was kind of surprised someone didn’t appear in the comments section and say I was needlessly dumping on the film. I kind of wanted someone to do that so I could respond, “Really? Because I said parts of it were good and parts of it were excellent — and I said that visually it was often gorgeous.”

  7. I agree about your assessment of Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce, as he was the best aspect of the movie by far. And I agree about your assessment of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Zuckerberg (and no, that’s not a typo because I refuse to call that ADHD, spastic, mop-headed, snot-nosed, hipster-doofus of a character “Lex Luthor.”). My only disagreement with regards to performances, however, is Henry Cavill as Superman. Except for maybe a couple of scenes, the whole time he just looked bored and like he didn’t even want to be there, as if he was thinking to himself “I just hope this is the last take cause I really need to go home and get some sleep.” I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I thought Cavill was more convincing as Superman in Man of Steel than this movie.

    Overall, I thought the film was okay. It’s wasn’t horrendous as some critics made it out to be, but it definitely was no epic cinematic masterpiece by a long shot. As you said, it lots of great individual scenes, character moments, action, and visuals, but when you look at Batman v Superman as an actual story, one with a clear beginning, middle, and end, it’s chaotic, confusing, and just downright sloppy. It has all the ingredients to make an exciting, gripping, and thought-provoking Batman and Superman story, but barely holds together under any scrutiny whatsoever. It’s as if Zack Synder cut out several panels from five or six different graphic novels, pasted them all on individual sheets of different colored binder paper with some Elmer’s School Paste, drew whatever “panels” he thought were missing with some crayons, stapled all the sheets together, took one cursory glance at the gooey, crumpled, haphazard patchwork of a “comic book” he created, and said, “Well, it looks good to me–let’s start filming everybody!”

    It also could have benefited with a tighter script and some editing, especially if they cut out all the dream sequences and hallucinations. Like that post-apocalyptic “dream within a dream” future Batman has which winds up having jack-all to do with actually happens in the movie. That was one real “WTF?!” for me

    1. It also could have benefited with a tighter script and some editing, especially if they cut out all the dream sequences and hallucinations. Like that post-apocalyptic “dream within a dream” future Batman has which winds up having jack-all to do with actually happens in the movie. That was one real “WTF?!” for me.

      Yes, that scene should have totally been left on the cutting room floor. It was jarring to just dump it right into the middle of the movie, and then once it ended you’re still sitting there like, “Wait, what? Did they just use that much time setting up a future movie? Wow…”

      I can see your point on Henry Cavill’s performance. I just don’t think he was given a whole lot to work with this time around. He’s been professional in the promotional efforts for the movie, but on some level he is probably a little ticked that this turned into Ben Affleck’s movie. If they cut out all the Justice League stuff, then a proper creative balance could have been found.

  8. Affleck learned to keep his mouth closed during any public appearance. HURRAY! He still sucks. He nails what? some easily psychotic fever dream maniac? Maybe we should stop making excuses for this overrated turd that should be directing movies, not acting in them.

    Somewhere, somehow in the past decade or so, despite some decent movies, we have forgotten who batman is. He’s first and foremost a hero. Nolan kind of shrinks that a bit with his psychoanalyzing of crazy people in costumes, but you never really get the feeling that he’s going to cut a criminals head off. Hell, the greatness of ‘The Dark Knight’ is how dark Batman refuses to be…despite being dark (lol).

    I’m sorry, but Henry Cavill’s only real trait is his body. If thats good enough for Superman movies, lets just replace him with a CGI mannequin ( I know…they are the same, but the mannequin is cheaper). We can than make his chest pass the barriers of normal human limits in sculpt and size. This guy is an emotionless, stoic, boring, blank spot. In Man of Steel and this movie, you can understand why people are scared of him…he looks like someone who will blast you in half if you push the right buttons or his team misses the playoffs. The only time Henry uses emotion is when superman is pissed off. The great thing about Donner’s superman is that he’s easy-going and friendly. He’s more than a boy scout, he’s a popular and charismatic leader. He’s not a hero just because he’s can do incredible things, he’s a hero because he’s inspiring and approachable. When Bryan Singer came to destroy superman, he robbed superman of these traits…and after seeing Brandon Routh behave like the real Superman in the Arrow show…I’m pretty sure it’s because of Bryan Singer’s extreme arrogance and need to put Superman in the Jesus role (as Bryan sees it). Zack’s way of showing Superman’s charisma is his effect on women. it’s shallow.

    Lex Luthor has a personality…it would be nice if that personality were considered important and interesting enough to put on the big screen, but even Donner couldn’t be bothered. The Bruce Timm shows and movies are still the only place you get to see and experience the best Lex, a man of extreme arrogance and intelligence with the charisma, fortitude and fearlessness to face the worlds most powerful being and even win a few (for the worst of reasons of course).

    In regards to Lex, lets examine the originality of modern filmmakers: HEATH LEDGER WAS REALLY COOL AS THE JOKER!! DO THAT WITH LEX LUTHOR!!! well…that was short.

    Wonder Woman was great. It’s amazing what you can do in a bad film when you don’t have to use the script or be a major part of the plot.

    Sorry for the tone, put I figured it would make for an enjoyable read! fingers crossed for the X-men movie.

    1. “The Bruce Timm shows and movies are still the only place you get to see and experience the best Lex, a man of extreme arrogance and intelligence with the charisma, fortitude and fearlessness to face the worlds most powerful being and even win a few (for the worst of reasons of course).”

      Boom. Well said, Chuck. This was a movie where Luthor had to essentially be operating at a level that could frustrate both Batman and Superman and what we got was socially-awkward Lex Zuckerberg (as Stillanerd pointed out). He came across as the spoiled brat of a successful businessman. It was like he read Nietzsche and perhaps J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and thought he knew how the world works… That’s mildly amusing, but that’s not a character who can go toe-to-toe with Bruce Wayne.

  9. Anytime I see Superman anything these days, I keep thinking “Go back to Lois & Clark! Use that as your starting point!” I mean, John Shea was the right mix of arrogant, brilliant, conniving, and entitled to make you not even care that Lex Luthor had hair! To me, the ideal Luthor is the man who could never have enough and has been corrupted by the mix of his empty existence and his insatiable desire for accolades and recognition, particularly when faced with Supes’ brand of selfless righteousness.

    Trump would make a better template for Luthor than a Zuckerberg; the Zuckerberg types are the ones that Luthor would wrangle into Lex Corp and let take the fall when their schemes come unraveled.

    1. “To me, the ideal Luthor is the man who could never have enough and has been corrupted by the mix of his empty existence and his insatiable desire for accolades and recognition, particularly when faced with Supes’ brand of selfless righteousness.”

      Agreed. We’re definitely on the same page with that one. It seems so obvious that using a “Trumpian” figure as Superman’s foil would be 100 times better than Mark Zuckerberg. Oddly enough, I read an interview where Eisenberg said Luthor was a “classic xenophobe,” and then alluded to Trump as a “real-life parallel.”

  10. As I understand it, this was supposed to be both the second installment in a “DC Cinematic Universe” and the DC version of “The Avengers.” I haven’t seen it (is it worth checking out at all if you’re like me and not a DC fan, don’t follow the comics, but are curious about seeing it as a Redbox rental or something?), but did it work as a DC “Avengers”?

    Given that the two attempts to make a DCCU have not been very critically well received, I am curious how this will affect the several movies they have in the pipe line; nine so far (not even “Star Wars” was gambling that much on their sure-fire Episode 7). Based on the first impressions I have, Warner Bros. rushed to cash into the “cinematic universe” craze everyone is trying to do without much planning ahead. I’m suspicious that the DC film franchise is going to be regarded as an inferior MCU copycat, for good or bad.

    1. “Is it worth checking out at all if you’re like me and not a DC fan, don’t follow the comics, but are curious about seeing it as a Redbox rental or something?”

      It depends on how much disposable income you have. If you’re not particularly a DC Comics fan, then I’d say wait until Redbox.

      I think Warner Bros. can carve out a nice place for itself within the superhero genre, but I’m incredibly leery that Justice League will be more coherent than BvS. It is really hard to juggle so many characters at once. It seems strange to me for them to rush Justice League when there is absolutely no reason for it. Just make a really cool Wonder Woman, another Batman movie, The Flash and then Cyborg. When those are in the bag, then do Justice League. Oh well.

  11. I’m not a DC fan so for me watching this movie was a win whether it suceeded or failed if it was good then I just watched a good DC movie with Superman Batman and Wonder Woman if it failed that throws a monkey wrench in the DCEU averting an oversaturated superhero film market.

    I was going in expecting an overstufffed mixed bag (fortunately the other justice league members roles were so small) but I actually felt it was quite good with the exception of Lex being too wacky and Superman needing more screen time in the first two acts I think the idiotic marketing campaign is what really wounded it just like Amazing Spider-Man 2. That being said there does seem to be a big gaping hole in this film and it has nothing to do with the story I don’t know if it was the writing, directing or acting but while I found few flaws in the film itself it was impossible to emotionally invest in the film outside a few scenes when Man of Steel doesn’t fail to make one shed a tear from time to time and Civil War definitely won’t fail in getting people engaged. I guess the problem was they didn’t have a singular protagonist. Also am I the only one on earth who likes Amy Adams as Lois?

    1. You are a very forgiving guy, Ryan. You are certainly correct about Luthor, the “gaping hole” feeling, etc. The reason why you felt like there was something missing was, in part, because the editing was rather horrendous. One second you’re in the movie, and then the next you’re in some long, drawn-out dream sequence. Different scenes were not tied together well at all.

      “Also am I the only one on earth who likes Amy Adams as Lois?”

      I’m rather indifferent towards her, but I think that is in part because in this movie she really didn’t do a heck of a whole lot. She was the damsel in distress a couple of times, she was in a bathtub, and she sat around looking confused. It’s not her fault, though. The script was just weak in terms of character development for anyone other than Bruce Wayne.

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