Friday, March 25, 2016

Thank God For Wonder Woman: Batman V Superman Is A Colossal Waste Of Time



This review originally appeared on SFist.com.

Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not so much a movie as it is an extended warning: You comic book movie fans better like this, because there's going to be a hell of a lot more where this came from.

Coming out of the film, I felt like I had suffered a slight concussion, so let me relay the basic plot as best I can remember it. (And not revealing any "spoilers" as we were implored not to, multiple times, once from a prerecorded message from director Zack Snyder himself).

Batman's parents were still killed during a robbery attempt, leaving him orphaned and free to run around the family estate, which is also home to pits filled with (possibly) magic bats. But now he's an older Batman, which we can tell because Ben Affleck's wig has some grey at the temples, but not a kinder Batman, now taking to branding the criminal scum he captures, with a bat logo, of course. He also has a chip on his shoulder about Superman (Henry Cavill).

It has been 18 months since the events in Man of Steel, when General Zod and Superman basically destroyed the city of Metropolis by flinging each other into buildings and burning down entire blocks with their laser eyes. One of the casualties of that little spat was a Bruce Wayne-owned building, and several of his employees, and he, as well as a lot of the world, are all kind of like "Uh, thanks Superman? For saving us? We think? Don't have a house or office building to go to anymore but that's cool!"

Enter Lex Luthor, Jr., (Jesse Eisenberg), who knows an opportunity when he sees it. He wants to weaponize some kryponite to help "protect" the country from another potential Kryptonian attack, but he's not fooling the Senate with that proposal. (The Senate makes an appearance in the form of Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. And so does CNN, Fox News, Anderson Cooper, Soledad O'Brien, among other real-life figures. Because realism?) Of course Luthor has a plan B, and that involves pitting Batman and Superman against each other. (And then a plan C if that doesn't work.)

Everything in Batman Vs. Superman is big, so we get not one, not two, but THREE superheroes. Not one super villain but a super villain AND a monster AND a side of human trafficking and possible child porn (?!) The giant BvS battle wouldn't have to happen if they just exchanged one single sentence first. And who are we supposed to root for in that fight? Does anyone really want Batman to kill Superman? Or vice versa? It's a colossal waste of time and something I feel Joss Whedon would have been able to handle a lot better.

One good thing can be said about the works of Zack Snyder: he doesn't shy away from naked male torsos. (FYI, Superman remains hairy, and Batman's workout routine involves pounding giant tires with giant hammers.) I was also thankful he kept his usual overabundance of slow-mo to a millennium. If he hadn't, the already bloated two-and-half-hour running time probably would have reached three-plus.

Henry Cavill is a much hotter better Superman than Brandon Routh was; Ben Affleck makes a more convincing Bruce Wayne than he does a Batman; and Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is a literal snot-nosed kid, and a twitchy mess. Every time he appeared on screen my soul cringed and I almost had to cover my eyes in embarrassment. And, of course, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is back, doing some sleuthing--when she isn't being rescued by Superman.

And then we have Wonder Woman...

If the movie gave me any glimmer of hope it was Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman. Sure, she's insanely beautiful, and impossibly thin, (quote heard coming out of the theater: "Wonder Woman's supposed to be Amazonian. Amazons are THICK! She ain't thick!"), but when she shows up it's like a breath of fresh, testosterone-free air. We'll have to wait another year until her movie comes out--what's one more year after decades of waiting?--but I will continue to live in hope that her appearance in Batman vs Superman, in which she rises above the doom and gloom around her, is a preview of at least one better thing to come.

When I was a comic book-reading teenager, I only read DC comics. Not one Marvel title. Which is why it continues to hurt me to the core that Marvel movies are, as a whole, just better films. I know the Christopher Nolan Batman movies have a lot of fans, but they never worked for me, were way too serious and pretentious, and sorely lacking in humor. But the success of those films seems to have set the tone for this new batch of DC movies (and, assuming this one isn't a complete bomb, we can expect a steady stream of them through 2020). Alas, they've seemed to forget that the original source material is comic books. Where's the fun?


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