This is a retrospective review, because I’ve found that Zack Snyder films have a rather peculiar effect on my subconscious. I usually go from entertained to confused, then drop off into sheer disgusted exhaustion. I call it the Snyder Effect, patent pending.
In the case of BvS, the result was no different. Which is a real shame. I’m a huge Batman fan, and I’ve been waiting for an authentic Superman film for a while now. Who I’m not a fan of? Zack Snyder, the Michael Bay of superhero movies. Actually, I can’t even say that because Michael Bay films take themselves a lot less seriously.
Massive spoilers follow. So if you haven’t seen it, stop here. If not, you can only blame yourself for knowing that overall, the movie fails. Miserably.
I’d like to imagine it’s hard to screw up a movie as bombastic as Batman vs Superman. The premise was quite sound: Batman is enraged that Man of Steel ended with massive destruction and a horribly loud Hans Zimmer score, so he pulls on his ticked-off fanboy tights and decides the alien from Krypton must be dealt with. Sure it’s silly, but it’s silly fun, right? Cue the overly dramatic music, and let’s watch these titans tussle.
But that wasn’t enough for Snyder, who apparently wanted to hog everything for himself, including in no particular order: Batman vs Superman. Introducing Wonder Woman. Hey, let’s throw in some poorly executed Justice League cameos. Lex Luthor discovering Superman and Batman’s secret identities with no explanation how. Batman visions. Batman dreams. Batman rage. Superman’s love life. Lois Lane definitely not being a Mary Sue. Doomsday. The death of Superman story shoehorned in yet another CGI-filled climax whereupon Batman’s rage at Superman destroying a city ends with Batman and Superman destroying another city.
And if all of that slog isn’t enough for you, why not take a look at how Snyder managed to get both of the most revered superheroes completely wrong.
Superman: I feel kind of sorry for Henry Cavill. It’s apparent he really wants to portray Superman in a defining way, and he comes off as a nice guy in his interviews. In another world, he might have been an iconic version of the Blue Boy Scout.
Just not in Zack Snyder’s world.
Once again we get the cold, emotionless, Snyderized version of Superman. An alien marooned on a world suspicious of his existence, with no one to keep him anchored except a mom who tells him he owes the Earth nothing, and a girlfriend who only exists to provide a romance angle that was never established in the first place. I mean, seriously: where did the Lois-Clark bond come from? There is no chemistry, no history, no reason the two have this far-flung, doe-eyed romance. Simply put: it feels extremely lazy, as if we should just believe it because previous movies, television and comics have done the work for us.
There is no reason to like or root for the Zack Snyder Superman, or Snyderman, as I call him. We are beat over the head time and again with God comparisons and religious allegory during the film, as if Snyder is telling us Superman is some mystery figure we can’t understand because he’s simply too complex. Which reveals a shoddy misunderstanding of Superman’s character.
It’s actually quite simple: Superman is a being of great power who does the right thing because he loves and respects his adopted family: humanity. He recognizes mankind’s potential for greatness while protecting them from their darker nature. And he enjoys doing so.
But Snyderman doesn’t seem to be interested in much of that. He rescues people in a cold, detached manner, as if he’s begrudgingly assisting them when he’d rather be canoodling with Lois, or rescuing her from the many distressing instances which befalls her. Saving people appears to be a chore, whether he’s listlessly hovering above flood victims or morosely towing a stranded ship to safely in the Arctic. Snyderman is a being of strained patience, putting up with stupid humans because he might disappoint his ghost dad and his girlfriend if he doesn’t.
So when his apparent ‘death’ occurs in the hamfisted ending of the film, it’s impossible to feel anything at all. First, we know the Justice League movie is coming, so he can’t be really dead, and second: who cares? There was never much of a reason to like him in the first place.
And why doesn’t Snyderman ever use all the powers at his disposal? How can Batman ever lay a finger on him when he can move faster than the speed of sound? And how laughable was it when Batman concealed himself with a smoke canister. From someone with X-Ray vision? Oh yeah: he never uses it.
Overall, poor Supes comes across as extremely gullible, and pretty useless in crisis situations.
Batman: BvS does the tragedy of wasting an outstanding job by Ben Affleck as Batman. He shuts the haters up by stepping into the shoes abandoned by Christian Bale and completely inhabiting them, both as Bruce Wayne and Batman. The action scenes were pretty much pulled right out of the Arkham games, meaning the best on film so far. In another world, he might have been the best Batman ever.
Just not in Zack Snyder’s world.
Instead of the Dark Knight, Snyder introduces us to the Death Knight: a rage-filled lunatic who brands his victims with the bat logo, because just beating them senseless isn’t enough anymore. The film carefully explains that the victims are subsequently murdered by other inmates when they get to prison, which makes no sense at all. It’s comparable to inmates murdering other inmates because they’ve been beaten by the cops. But Snyder doesn’t believe in making sense because he wants to use the trope as a reason for Superman to hate Batman. Mission accomplished.
Batman also has no problem killing anyone who gets in his way. The Death Knight uses all sorts of firearms to mow down goons that try to prevent him from stealing a Kryptonite stone so he can murder Superman. Now, I actually don’t have a problem with collateral damage, but Snyder goes out of the way to show that the Death Knight kills purposely, without remorse. In other words, he’s no different from the person who murders his parents at the beginning of the film, except his victims are ‘bad guys’, so it’s acceptable. He even kills people with complete abandon in his dreams.
Speaking of which, since when did Batman get psychic powers? In a sequence more befitting to someone like Charles Xavier, Bruce has some bizarre prophetic vision/dream where he’s in a dystopian future in which Superman rules the world with an iron fist and armies of willing soldiers. Then there’s the Omega symbol, foreshadowing Darkseid, a major villain never mentioned in the film. Then Bruce wakes up to another vision, this time of Flash(?!) yelling incoherent warnings. Then Bruce wakes up again. That’s not even mentioning his other dreams of being attacked by a giant, bloodsucking bat(?!), or being levitated to the light by a myriad of the furry flying rodents.
I have to ask: what did any of that serve to furthering the story at hand? It felt like Snyder just wanted to film some kind of Injustice/Red Son sequence and did it because he could. But Batman prophetic dreams? Are you serious?
I can’t even talk about Lex Luthor. It’s bad. Very bad. And whiny. And pathetic.
One of the few bright spots is Wonder Woman, and I think it’s because she spends so little time in the film that Snyder just didn’t have time to screw her character up. As it is, she’s pretty awesome, sexy and mysterious. Hope her solo film does her justice.
There are many other nagging points throughout the film that simply make me cringe when I think about them. And yes, there are some exciting and well-filmed sequences hiding in the mire of Snyder’s dreary world. Just not enough to suffer the rest of the film for. Suffice to say that BvS is a lumbering Frankenstein’s monster of a film, stitched together from different parts and brought to life by the madman that is Zack Snyder. In his eyes the result might be beautiful, but don’t be fooled: the result is a monster even uglier than the Lord of the Rings troll cave leftover that is called Doomsday.
And look, I know plenty of people enjoyed the movie, and I’m not mad at that. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a preference for what they enjoy on screen. This is simply my take. Personally, I’ll be skipping any more DC films helmed by Zack Snyder. Movies should be enjoyable. They shouldn’t aggravate or make you wonder what in the world the writers/director were thinking. Fool me once (Man of Steel), shame on you. Fool me twice, (BvS) shame on me.
When Bard Constantine isn’t consumed by pop culture, he writes gritty futures and far-flung fantasy. See more at bardwritesbooks.com