Reviews Too Late: Batman vs. Superman

by wjw on May 3, 2017

7dc3ed2a-724f-4dce-86f1-123d48be293cTwo weekends ago, I got HBO free for three days.  They usually do this when promoting something special, but during those days I didn’t see on the schedule anything special like Game of Thrones or The Handmaid’s Tale (which is Starz anyway), so I’m guessing they were just feeling generous.

Be that as it may, I recorded Batman vs. Superman, which I didn’t see last year due to a general lack of enthusiasm for the subject matter.  I didn’t think it would be a good movie.

I was right.

It wasn’t a good movie, but it turned out to be a really smart movie.  Which is interesting.

I didn’t see it in the theaters because I figured it was going to be a fanboy movie.  Now I should hasten to say that there’s nothing wrong with fanboy pictures per se, just as there’s nothing wrong with being a fan— it’s just that I’m not a comix fanboy, so the question raised by the title didn’t interest me.

Fanboys are the sorts of people who ask questions like “Can Batman beat Superman?” or “Can the Hulk beat the Mighty Thor?” (Which is a movie we’ll be getting later this year.)  They not only ask these questions, they engage in long, learned disputes about the matter.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s just that I’m not the sort of reader who asks those sorts of questions, but instead might ask “What are the psychological effects of being invulnerable to everything except public opinion?” (for which see my novella “Witness”), or “Does the possession of metahuman powers act to transform compassion into contempt?”  (Haven’t written that one yet.  I think.  I don’t actually remember.)

Anyway, Batman vs. Superman has a fairly stupid premise even for a superhero flick, insofar as it supposes a pair of vigilantes who strongly disapprove of vigilantism in others— but it attacks the question with an impressive amount of intelligence and ingenuity.  Turns out that Batman can beat Superman if he can lure the Man of Steel into a smartly-designed series of traps, and if Supes pulls his punches.  (He is clearly doing that.  Supes could throw Bruce to the moon if he wanted, and instead he just knocks him into a wall.)

Unfortunately along the way we get endless flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s origin story— how many times do we have to see Thomas and Martha Wayne gunned down in that alley?  (Apparently more than once per movie.)  This does lead up to a very cleverly designed plot point that hinges on both Bruce and Clark having a parent named “Martha,” but we still don’t need to see it more than once.

I already know why Batman is depressed, you don’t have to bludgeon me with it.

Plus, Batman is so heavily armored in this one that Ben Affleck has to do most of his acting with his teeth.  (Usually that’s the Joker’s job.)  Fortunately Affleck’s teeth are fairly talented.

Jesse Eisenberg is a refreshingly unconventional Lex Luthor.  Amy Adams is wasted as Lois Lane, as the character exists only to run errands and to be regularly put in jeopardy by the baddies.  And Henry Cavill as Superman seems to have only a single expression, a rather disapproving, pouty one at that.  (“Why do these people insist on vexing me?” he seems to be thinking.)

There is no damned reason at all for Wonder Woman to be in this movie, and if you’re the sort of person to wonder “Can Wonder Woman beat Superman?”, you’ll be disappointed because the movie doesn’t address the question.  Still, Wonder Woman looks damned good, so that’s a hopeful sign for her movie.  (Also, I didn’t know that Wonder Woman was sufficiently long-lived as to have been in the First World War.  When was that added to the backstory?  Is Wonder Woman immortal now?)

So even if you’re not a member of the intended audience, the movie’s good for a few diverting hours of indoor viewing on a rainy weekend.

And if you are in that audience, you’ve seen it already, haven’t you?

bkd69 May 3, 2017 at 8:23 am

It was almost good.
It did share one major flaw with the last Fantastic Four movie, which was a completely OOC villain. In this case, Jesse Eisenberg seemed to be playing the Joker more than Lex, and in FF, they had a respectable Kirby-esque story, but for some reason, they had to make Victor von Doom the avenging avatar of the planet, instead of, well, Dr. Doom.

And when do we get to see Lois Lane as the Christiane Amanpour of the DCU?

Phil Koop May 4, 2017 at 7:03 am

I’m sypmathetic to your view, but even you must have enjoyed this amazing Batman versus Darth Vader Super Power Beatdown (with Superman!)

wjw May 4, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Phil, that’s a great video, and I have recommended it myself in the past!

Anonymous May 5, 2017 at 10:28 am

My greatest disappointment in the movie was, it was not a sequel to Superman Returns.

Ralf T. Dog May 5, 2017 at 10:34 am

Just posted to say, the Anonymous comment above (or below, when it is approved) about my greatest disappointment was me. I posted it while on the phone. One should not post while distracted.

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