Batman v Superman: An Un-Review

I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. 

I mean, I HAVE – but primarily because it’s been literally impossible not to. Thanks to modern marketing, we’re all basically Alexes with our eyelids held open by steel claws, forced to watch an endless stream of images of Batfleck and Jesse Luthor.

Did you hear Zack Snyder has a new Superman movie coming out?

Did you hear Zack Snyder has a new Superman movie coming out?

I also haven’t seen any spoilers… I mean, other than the fifty thousand trailers that have been released. I did see that some lunatic on YouTube cut together all the trailer footage in chronological order from the film, and it amounted to something like eleven minutes. Which, I think we can all admit, is kind of bananas.

Even so, the running time of SUPERMAN v. BATMAN is reportedly well over 2 hours and 30 minutes, which means there’s a lot of the finished movie that hasn’t been seen yet. And that’s a good thing. Because I like my pain to be both surprising and long lasting.

I fully admit I’m walking into this movie as a non-believer in the Church of Snyder. I’ve never come close to a feeling anything other than rabid hatred for his “movies.” They remind me of the ugly, juvenile dreamscapes from the deranged Vincent D’Onfrio character in that shitty movie, The Cell. Sure, they’re intricate and clearly took some effort to create – but they’re wholly repulsive and not something that enriches my life in any way.

This looks like a job for Superman!

This looks like a job for Superman!

The truth is — I’m about as excited to head into this movie as Shears was to go back to the bridge on the River Kwai.

So, I’ve decided to make a bit of a game out of this movie going experience – I’m going to use my powers of deduction to anticipate five key story elements that I believe will bombard my senses on Thursday night.

Unless I’m very, very wrong, this movie is going to suck royally. So, reviewing it based on its creative merits is not something I feel capable of doing — let alone worth my time. I’ll leave that unenviable task to both the Supreme Being and the Evil Genius.

I should also add that I have not read early reviews – not because I’m trying to keep my movie going experience “pure.” The truth is I just don’t give a shit. I avoided spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens out of the hope that it would deliver something special, and look what that got me.

I should also mention I have been an active and passionate reader of DC Comics since 1978. I am aware of the various versions of heroes, major and minor plot lines from the comics over the years and the artists who wrote and drew these various stories. Snyder and David Goyer have been pretty vocal about some of the comics that have served as inspiration for this movie – THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS being primary amongst them.

But judging from the trailers, there are also other influences they’re tossing into the… well, let’s be generous and call it “broth.” And I’ll make some guesses based on what I’ve glimpsed so far in the trailers.

My Guesses (that, by the way, are 100% accurate):

1) BATMAN IS GOING TO KILL A LOT OF PEOPLE.

I know – hardly a “wild guess” considering the Big Blue Boy Scout murdered his opponent with his bare hands in MAN OF STEEL. And while Superman is the definition of the hero who NEVER kills, Batman is a close second.

I see no other way to solve this problem.

I see no other way to solve this problem.

The truth is, once you have the kindest, most benevolent character in the universe murder someone, having the angriest vigilante in DC Comics kill people is a pretty easy leap.

I also believe this will be a major plot point in the new movie because it so perfectly melds with the Snyder/Goyer goal to “edge up” these “lame, traditional superheroes.” SnOyer (TM) clearly hates Batman and Superman. They share an overt sense of shame and embarrassment for the source material. In interviews and in the movies themselves, the two are always apologizing for how silly the characters were before they got their gritty hands on them.

And SnOyer clearly thinks being a hero is a burden. Yes, it totally sucks having all those weak people mucking up the otherwise awesome lives with their constant needing of rescuing.

Their ideology seems to reflect Michael Bay’s school of thought – only “above the line” characters matter. All the other characters are just losers to add to the body count. It’s why we only saw Superman truly save Lois and Ma Kent in Man of Steel. They were stars — Academy Award winners and nominees. They matter.

So, I’m quite certain Batman will go around shooting day players with machine guns and blowing up other nameless characters with heat seeking missiles. And why the hell not? They’re just extras. Their lives don’t matter.

Of course, NOT killing is pretty much as important to Batman as it is to Superman – albeit for vastly different reasons. Superman is more powerful than anyone else he encounters in his adventures. Killing an opponent would be the first step of a very slippery moral slope for him — the easy way out. And anyone who knows Kal-El knows he’s not one to take the easy way out. He’s about doing the right thing. And the “right thing” is rarely the easy thing.

Batman, meanwhile, EXISTS as the result of violence. His parents were horrifically murdered in front of him (spoiler alert). And a result of this tragedy, he vowed to protect others from suffering the same sad fate. But in order to keep himself in check on his crusade against crime, Bruce Wayne created a strict moral code to ensure he did not become the very thing he was fighting against.

One bad day…

The core wound…

But I am assuming Batman kills (a lot) in this movie. I am also assuming SnOyer would argue that we need to see Bats kill in order to believe the life-and-death stakes of the showdown between the Last Son of Krypton and the Dark Knight of Gotham.

And perhaps they’re right – I dunno. I haven’t seen the movie yet. But my guess is it would be just as powerful (if not more so) to have Batman decide to cross the line he’s set for himself within the course of the story. We see the man who instills fear in the criminal element finally give in to his own fears. And as a result, he FINALLY breaks his own rule and decides to kill his enemy. That seems like a story that would be interesting to tell.

And maybe that’s indeed what happens. But somehow I doubt it.

2) BATMAN WILL BE A MORON.

This is not a bash against Ben Affleck. From what I’ve seen so far, he seems like a fine Batman. And he looks a lot like Bruce Wayne to me. I also like the costume (look at all of these positive comments!). But judging from some of Lex Luthor’s comments in the trailers, it certainly seems as if Lex is manipulating Batman. Like a chump.

Duhhhhh....

I will love him and pet him and call him George….

Batman is known as “The World’s Greatest Detective” (in America, anyway – I think there’s an entire British Empire that would take umbrage at that title). So, the idea of Batman being played like a douchebag getting conned by party girls seeking free drinks with no intention of actually banging him later is frustrating to longterm fans of this iconic character.

This manipulation seems like a dumbed down version of the clever way Luthor played Batman in the Mark Waid/Alex Ross KINGDOM COME mini-series. For two issues of that story, Bruce Wayne appeared to have turned against his old friend Superman and teamed up with Lex Luthor in order to protect the Earth from the threat of super-powered beings (sound familiar?).

Of course, in that seminal work, Bruce was merely biding his time to earn Lex’s trust to expose the villain’s nefarious plans. Waid and Ross skillfully manipulated our expectations. For two issues, readers believed an older, disillusioned Batman had finally given in to his darker impulses and teamed up with Lex. But – surprise!  Our hero was still the hero we loved and got the upper hand. He was smarter than the readers. And, more importantly, smarter than the villain.

This is how it’s done

This is how it’s done

My guess is that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will not exhibit the same respect for the character. And as a result, I also assume Batman will come off looking like a total tool.

3) “CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS” WILL BE INVOKED.

Okay – most of you have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention this comic book, but I’ll try to explain here… Back in the ‘80s, DC Comics rebooted itself with a year long mini-series that effected literally every book the company published. By the end of the year, some characters had been killed, others had been erased from continuity, and a new, all encompassing canon was created.

Like all things in comics, that lasted… oh, twelve minutes. But for some reason, that horribly written, incompetently executed series is a touchstone for uber-fanboys and DC aficionados across the world. And Snyder, Goyer and DC Comics guru Geoff Johns are no different. (Johns is an executive producer of the CW’s television adaptation of THE FLASH, which, I’m told, featured many winking references to “The Crisis.”)

In the original comic book, the superhero known as the Flash travels through time to warn the Batman of a crisis that threatens the existence of the known universe (for reasons too stupid to relay here, the Flash was living in the 25th Century).

For those of you who don’t know, the Flash is a hero who runs at incredible speeds. He can move so fast he becomes disjointed from time/space (comics everyone!). In CRISIS, the Scarlet Speedster appears as a haunting vision to Batman, desperately trying to make him understand a cryptic doomsday warning.

Come again?

Come again?

So, why do I think the Flash will play a role in the story? Well, for starters, we’ve seen glimpses of a hellish landscape of alien creatures attacking Batman in the desert. This has been confirmed to be a vision of Bruce Wayne’s mid-way through the movie.

The Omega Man

The Omega Man

In the post-apocalyptic vision, we also see a quick glimpse of a giant omega carved into the landscape. To those in the know (and I sadly am one of them), this is a clear precursor of the arrival of the big bad space villain known as Darkseid (the flying creatures in the dream are undoubtably Parademons from his home world of Apokolips).

Darkseid is blatantly being set up as the main villain of future JUSTICE LEAGUE movies (this one is merely the “dawning” chapter). The specific details of Bruce Wayne’s “nightmares” suggest they are not dreams, but “visions of the future.” And once you start talking about time travel, you gotta start talking about the Flash.

Time travel is the Flash’s wheelhouse. And even my mother has heard that Ezra Miller makes a brief cameo as the Scarlet Speedster in this movie. So, my guess is the Flash will be briefly seen warning Bats about the immanent arrival of the biggest bad guy in DC Comics. I could be wrong. (But I’m not).

4) LOIS IS GONNA GET SAVED. A LOT.

My guess is if the filmmakers had the option to drop Lois from this movie, they would’ve. SnOyer strikes me as a couple of guys who fall into that “Superman should date Wonder Woman” subcategory among fanboys. I have no idea if they actually believe this — I just assume it to be true. Mainly because that belief is so inherently wrong for both characters, I cannot imagine them NOT agreeing with it.

In her early days, Lois was a strong, self-reliant character. Later, in the 50s and 60s, she was demoted to simply being “Superman’s girlfriend” in order to promote the role of sublimated females in a male dominated society. In the 70s and beyond, Lois became a stronger character again (sometimes).

Where to begin…

Sigh…

I love Lois Lane. I think she’s smart, brave and heroic – without relying on superpowers or utility belts. And as a result, she’s one of the most interesting, unheralded superheroes of the modern era.

Fighting for truth, justice and the American way…

Fighting for truth, justice and the American way…

Yes, she’s spent a lot of time being rescued. But that’s what lazy writers do when they don’t know what to use her. And part of me understands that — she’s a pretty woman who makes Superman feel funny where his red bathing suit covers. So, when she’s in danger, we instantly care.

But that’s an overly simplistic use of a truly interesting character who provides intriguing story and challenges our hero with her own acts of bravery.

Using Lois as something other than the damsel in distress requires thinking beyond the obvious — which is, admittedly, not Snyder’s strong point. It also requires a respect for the source material (again, not something that Snyder or Goyer are known for).

But when she’s used correctly, it’s glorious. The great Darwyn Cooke utilized Lois to wonderful effect in the beautifully crafted DC: NEW FRONTIER (well worth a read, by the way). In that story, Superman gets taken out of the fight pretty early into the final climax. Lois is the one who gallantly remains to document Earth’s last stand against annihilation, reporting fearlessly from the frontlines. It’s one of the best uses of her in recent comic lore.

But I am 100% certain Lois will be little more than Pearl Pureheart in this new movie.

5) EMPTY CITIES.

Yes, by now we all know that a lot of people died during the climax of MAN OF STEEL. I was certainly one of the many, many, many people who banged a cyber-drum bemoaning this fact. Even Marvel noticed, stopping the action in their most recent Avengers movie to discuss protecting as many lives as possible during the final climactic battle to distinguish themselves from Snyder’s creative impulses.

It’s clear from interviews after the release of MAN OF STEEL that Snyder was bothered by the almost uniformly negative response his violent ending garnered. My guess is he will go out of his way to explain the cities being destroyed in the epic battles are actually devoid of civilians.

Which reminds me of a show I used to watch when I was a kid. It was a Japanese cartoon called G-FORCE (in the States, it was known as BATTLE OF THE PLANETS). The dubbed U.S. version was scrubbed clean (awkwardly) of the violence that clearly riddled the original, censor-free Asian version.

Luckily these are rubber bullets!

Luckily these are Nerf bullets!

In the Japanese version, entire city blocks would be destroyed by missiles and fleets of battleships would be sunk by giant robots. But, in the American version, an RD-D2 clone known as 7-Zark-7 (oy…) would calmly inform the young viewers that there were no human casualties!

What?? No deaths??? After seeing the footage, you may (rightly) ask how the fuck that is possible. Well, it turned out those sprawling city blocks were “thankfully” evacuated. Or “luckily” those giant battleships were “remote controlled.”

Even at ten years of age, my brother and I knew that was bullshit. How could they clear out an entire city block so quickly? How did they know there weren’t some people who stayed behind during the attack? It all just seemed silly and a cheap way to have your violence without any consequences.

It’s tough these days to have violence without consequence. We know too much. Yet, Snyder somehow seems to still get off on 9/11-style porn – buildings collapsing and glass shattering. And he shoots it all with a giddy excitement. “Fuck yeah! That’s awesome!!!”

But in a post-9/11 reality, we know those buildings are filled with people. Even in the middle of the night, there are security guards and cleaning crews in them. So the idea of any building being totally empty of people is patently absurd.

That said, it’s clear from the trailers that Superman and Batman throw each other through buildings and shoot each other with lasers and machine guns. Wonder Woman even gets into the action by leveling an entire neighborhood.

I find it hard to believe that Snyder will repeat the same creative choice he made in the climax of MAN OF STEEL. My guess is he’ll pull a 7-Zark-7 and assure all us viewers that everyone in Metropolis is safe and sound at home. That way, we’ll be able to enjoy the carnage without any of the “ew gross!” feelings we all felt at the end of MAN OF STEEL!

Director Zack Snyder

Director Zack Snyder

Anyway, those are my five top guesses for the movie. I guess I’ll find out how close I am to the truth tomorrow.

Getting any justice or American way is completely out of the question.

One response on “Batman v Superman: An Un-Review

Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.