Badman V Stupidman

(Herein there be spoilers.  But honestly, if you haven't seen the movie yet, don't.  Just use my opinion as your own.  You have my permission.)

I hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Now I know you’re probably thinking ‘stop taking it seriously, it’s just a movie’ or ‘you probably didn’t like it because it didn’t live up to your unrealistic expectations.’  Some people have actually said this to me in real life when I told them I thought the movie sucked.  They basically assumed that my ire for this garbage is tied somehow to my overdeveloped affection for comic books and my entitled expectations.

Well, before I continue, I am going to address these two arguments.  The people that said these things to my face were wrong, and if you’re thinking as they did, so are you.

Argument the first: Stop taking it seriously, it’s just a movie

All right, listen.  Cinema is a storytelling art form.  As such, the narrative it presents is only as strong as the talent of the people responsible for it.  A lot of work goes into the crafting of a film.  Producers have to make nearly ironclad proposals in an industry that doesn’t like to take chances.  Budgets need to be designated.  Scripts have to be written and then rewritten.  Directors have to be chosen.  Cast and crew have to go through intense screening processes to narrow it down to not only the right number, but the right choices.  Salaries have to be negotiated.  Sets have to be built, either in full or partially and then enhanced with computer technologhy.  Egos and schedules need to be managed.  Ratings have to be determined and then strictly adhered to.  Months of principle photography have to occur.  More months of special effects need to be created in computer labs by hundreds of people simultaneously, all taking their cues from a person, or persons, that is/are seeing it in their minds and expecting that vision to be realized on LED displays.  Then there are all the test screenings that have to occur, all the focus groups that have to be monitored, all the feedback that needs to be assessed.  And then there’s the marketing and all the reshoots and rewrites.  And all of this-ALL of this-has to happen by a deadline that cannot be moved once it’s set.

As a fan of cinema, someone who respects the craft and handiwork that goes into the making of a movie, you expect me to not take it seriously and not be upset when a film I am anticipating isn’t good? 

That isn’t happening.

Argument the second:  You probably didn’t like it because it didn’t live up to your unrealistic expectations

My expectations for any movie, no matter how close the subject matter is to my heart, is that it interests me, entertains me and at the very least doesn’t insult my intelligence.  If you want an example of good ‘popcorn’ flicks that manages to pull this off, look no further than either Batman: The Dark Knight or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Both tightly crafted, intelligently told and superbly executed stories about society, complacency and obfuscation of truth for the sake of the commonwealth.  Not that a ‘popcorn’ flick even has to be a cautionary tale about security at the expense of freedom and knowledge.  It can be something philosophically profound or even controversial, such as Jon Milius’ swords and sorcery cinema love letter to Frederic Nietzsche, Conan the Barbarian, which you probably mistook for a good action flick because ‘Arnold swings a sword and there’s blood.’  In that movie, blood is not just the end result of violence.  It’s a powerful and profound statement on both the frailty and strength of the human body and spirit.  The entire film is about recognizing the circumstances of your life that make you the person you are.  Not just BEING that person, but realizing how you got there and at what price.  It’s a deeply spiritual movie that manages to hide its existential themes behind all that muscle and sword play.   

A movie doesn’t have to even be profound or possess any larger meaning.  Star Wars is just an adventure story that has become something greater than the sum of its parts to humanity and pop culture simply by virtue of mattering.  People CARE about the mythology of Star Wars, which raises it up to a higher platform than, perhaps, it deserves.  Although it’s inspired me more than any other nerd fixation in my life (due in no small part to my age at the time), that is a personal relationship I have with it and I recognize that for all of its timeless and influential qualities, it is at its heart an action film for the kid in all of us.  Its very simplicity is its power.  That makes it provocative and worth examining, but not specifically for any of its themes, which are as old as the craft of storytelling itself.

So understand.  A movie doesn’t have to live up to any lofty expectations in order to be good.  It just has to interest, entertain and not insult.

And boy, did Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice miss some of those marks, and spectacularly so.

Interest?  Yes, solely based off of my curiosity on how they would follow up the misguided Man of Steel’s portrayal of the Man of Steel.  The first film crashed and burned, but I wanted to see if anything worthy of the resilience to survive such a dismal outing would emerge.

Entertain?  This movie is NOT entertaining.  Not in any way, shape or form.  It’s dark, depressing, boring, lackluster and washed out.  I did not crack a smile a single time while watching it.  Not when Affleck first appeared as Batman.  Not when Clark Kent met Bruce Wayne.  Not when Alexander Luthor was trying so desperately to crack wise but the script and poor direction failed Jesse Eisenberg.  Not when Bats and Supes started punching and pushing each other.  Not when Wonder Woman arrived and not when the trio took down Doomsday.  There was never any emotional high in this movie, no ‘stand up and cheer’ moment and no moments of somber reflection on the more pale events.  The movie was emotionally dead.

Not insult?  Are you kidding me?  This movie is over two and a half hours of Zack Snyder ignoring storytelling logic, pacing or directing actors in favor of visual spectacle.  With a movie with as lofty an ambition as the first cinematic confrontation between comics legends Batman and Superman, this film better NOT insult.  But instead, it’s derivative of some much greater works (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) and some more cynical, commercial works (The Death of Superman) and is an insipid attempt to fast track a DC Cinematic Universe with jarring ‘me too’ infomercials for the other superheroes we can expect to see in future installments.  The film is poorly paced, badly plotted, lacking any compelling characters or characterizations.  It’s effete ‘Savior’ theme runs roughshod over creative common sense, directorial control, studio limitations or noticeable conscientious objection from anyone involved with the production of this film.

But none of the above is why I HATED this movie.  To give you an example of a stupid movie/movie series that I don’t have it in me to ‘hate’, consider the Resident Evil cinematic franchise.  Now, a guy like me, who clearly has a RE jones, has every reason in the world to despise those films.  They’re badly written, badly directed, have bad acting, copious amounts of bad CGI, no sense of desperation or tension and all of them feature some of the cheesiest martial arts ever seen.  By all rights, I should loathe Resident Evil.

But I don’t, and here’s why.

The Resident Evil films aren’t arrogant.  They’re modestly made, have no grand themes, aren’t self important (although they ARE self indulgent) and lack any sense of pretention.  You can make me look at a pile of cow shit and ask me what I think of it.  But when you make me look at that same pile of cow shit and tell me why it’s the greatest, most important and philosophically profound pile of cow shit that any cow ever shat, it will come to blows and you’ll end up face first in it when I trip you.

Batman v Superman aspires to be an ‘important’ film about tne human failure in fearing what we should embrace.  And in doing so, it forgot to be fun or make any sense.

The most infuriating aspect of BvS:DoJ is in how dumb its characters have to be in order for its oppressive themes and concepts to be pushed on a dimwitted audience.  I’m talking about character writing here, the absolute defying of logic and common sense in the face of any and all adversity.  It’s more important for characters to act a certain way so that events can commence based on rigidly enforced storytelling themes that lack any organic qualities.

I am going to do my best to tell you why the stupidity of these characters is so damaging to the narrative that I find it impossible to forgive this movie.  Characters being dumb because they are dumb is one thing, but characters being dumb in order to establish set pieces and achieve the desired outcome is just lazy writing and a clear sign that a creator is more concerned with the idea of a thing than in getting people to buy in to the idea. 

So, Superman is the dumbest motherfucker on Earth in this movie.  Here’s why.

1.)  He Doesn’t Try, At Any Point, To Befriend Batman or Negotiate With Him In Any Diplomatic Fashion

This movie spends a good deal of time trying to show us a world that is unsure what to think of Superman.  He’s all powerful, appears out of nowhere, spends all of his time helping people threatened by natural disasters and so forth.  You know, Superman stuff.  But for some reason, half the world is afraid of this guy even though he’s spent all of his time trying to help people in need.  This movie doesn’t make him personable, charismatic or even likeable.  The script has him exhibiting ambivalence about his role in the world and naively expects us to just accept this as him possessing a conscience about the things he’s doing.  “Oh, he clearly doesn’t know if he’s doing the right thing.  See?  He IS a good guy!’

This film doesn’t ever get us to even TRY to like him.  Instead, it asks us what we should think about Superman and then proceeds to give us an overblown series of examinations complete with talking heads, angry victims of collateral damage and so many slow motion shots of people all but worshipping Superman, and he stoically accepting this adoration without any sense of humility or personality.  He’s like a deer in headlights.  This movie doesn’t do a good job of getting us to see any other side of the character, the sides that people could possibly like or trust.   Instead, Superman is something to be in perpetual awe of, to be revered.  Or to be feared and loathed and skeptical about.  But never liked.  Never appreciated.

So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when the time for the marquee matchup comes and Superman, in a desperate situation due to loved ones being threatened, tries to unnerve Batman with some unfriendly shoves and the power of his clenched jaw and steely gaze. 

Where was the attempt to solve the bigger problem?  The effort to work with Batman to achieve a greater good?  To stop a more pernicious and dangerous threat?  To appeal to Batman’s sense of compassion in order to help him save an innocent woman?


Fuck all that.

Just show up and threaten Batman, push him around a bunch and then get mad when he doesn’t do what you say.  Because that kind of immature response in the face of immediate adversity, at the cost of ignoring bigger problems at hand, all for the sake of bringing the characters to blows, is ‘awesome’.  Not even an attempt to restrain Batman with his incomparable strength and speed greater than the human mind can react AS EXHIBITED EARLIER IN THIS MOVIE!

See what I mean when I say that this movie requires its characters to be dumb in order for the plot to carry through?  Somewhere along the way, Superman forget he had those powers.

But we gotta have that fight.  We gotta have that metaphor for man being its own worst enemy by turning away from god and even trying to kill him because we are weak, fearful and resentful of those who would judge us.  Those themes…they’re more important than good writing.

But some folks out there will mistake this for good writing, and that’s the biggest pity of all.

2.)  Superman Fights Dumb Because The Screenplay Is Dumb

During the fight between Supes and Bats, the last son of Krypton literally pushes Batman around in that ridiculous and ultimately pointless Batman armor that could have been more than a giant steel shell if only the vision for the movie wasn’t to poorly ape a better story and rely on nostalgia chills.  Spare me your ‘But…but DARK KNIGHT RETURNS’ rhetoric.  That fight happened for entirely different reasons and with completely different stakes.  What Batman would put into a suit of ‘Bat-armor’ would be totally different in Batman v Superman than what he built into the armor in TDKR.  Zack Snyder calls back to the Frank Miller comic because, unsurprisingly, he’s thinking in entirely visual terms when it comes to the design, and not at all about how little sense it makes for this shitshow of a movie.

Moving on, Superman pushes Batman hundreds of feet without even knowing if the armor will protect him.  How does Supes know these godly shoves won’t kill Batman or break his back or neck?  How does he know he won’t fall off the edge of the building and plummet, potentially, to his death?  He has no idea of the durability of this armor or what it can do.  Despite all that, he uses excessive physical force on Batman, who slides to a stop and, after recovering his wits, pulls out a Bat-Kryptonite Gas Grenade Gun ™ and fires it at Superman. 

Understandably, Superman puts his palm up to block the shot, unaware of what the payload really is.  But bear in mind that he can react faster than a speeding bullet.  How else could he so casually bring up his hand in what must, given his skill with the maneuver, be a very familiar defense to him at this point in his career?  Or maybe Snyder just thought it looked good in his head and, without further consideration given to any other aspect of Superman’s combat repertoire, just went with something he could film in slow motion that looked iconic.  But okay, the gas grenade explodes against his hand, he starts breathing Kryptonite and suddenly is vulnerable and, therefore, slim pickings for the Batman.

While Superman’s offense to this point is stupid and makes no sense (why not tear Batman out of that suit faster than he can react?), the gas grenade is a logical sequence of events that plays out in a more or less acceptable fashion.  Superman gets weaker at that point and while I’m sure he knows punching 101, Batman is a master of unarmed combat and, if their strength is equal, the Dark Knight should have no problem handling Superman in this state.  Then Superman starts to get his powers back and begins to turn the tables on Batman.  He slams Bats around a bit and then sends him flying again!

How stupid can one (Super)man be?

The dude just shot you with a weapon that stripped you of your powers, something you’ve never experienced before in this version of your character, RIGHT AFTER YOU THREW HIM AWAY FROM YOU!

Once he has his powers back, why not end the fight right there?  Why not take the second opportunity to destroy that stupid armor?  Break his gun so he can’t shoot it again?  Tie him up with a steel girder?  ANYTHING!  But no, instead, because this movie has to have a nonsensical fight where the two trade blows despite defying logic or a believable narrative, Superman is REQUIRED by the script to be a doofus that forgets how he ended up on the receiving end of some Bat-pain just moments before.

So of course, Batman shoots him with another gas grenade, which takes away Supes’ powers.  Again.

“But it’s cool for Bats to fight Supes!” I hear people saying already.  To which I reply ‘Really?  Why?’  Because I prefer when they’re getting along.  But, in fairness, a fight between the two CAN be compelling if done for the right reasons and with a solid foundation of writing that creates a believable scenario in which Batman could even compete, let alone win that fight.

When the setup is right and the struggle doesn’t require lazy writing in order to reach its intended destination.

You know, like The Dark Knight Returns, where Superman was still recovering from a nuclear bomb going off in his face and, while powerful even on the mend, nowhere near his full strength.

And all of Gotham City’s electrical voltage was channeled through his skull.

And Oliver Queen shot him with a Kryptonite arrow.

In that encounter, neither character was written like a moron in order for it to have the predestined outcome.  It felt organic and believable.  But Zack Snyder can only see the stylish visual elements and is informed by his misguided and inaccurate interpretation of Miller’s influential work while trying to call back to TDKR in his movie. 

Batman and Superman slugging it out should be compelling because of how the writing pulls it off, not the sheer virtue of it merely EXISTING.  Sheesn.

I love this one, too.

“How do you expect Batman to win if Superrman isn’t making mistakes?”

I don’t.

Which is why you need a carefully constructed scenario that doesn’t break immersion in order for it to be a believable series of events.  People that liked this fight like the concept of Superman and Batman fighting.  And they stopped judging the movie at that sentiment.

But I didn’t.  It’s a shit fight in a shit movie.  Now you know.

3)  That Countdown

After Superman and Batman settle their differences and the details of the manipulation behind their struggle are discovered, Batman goes off to save Martha Kent while Superman goes off to have another pointless discussion that doesn’t amount to anything.  To wit, he confronts Lex Luthor in the bowels of the crashed Kryptonian ship the mad scientist has broken into so that he can reanimate the corpse of General Zodd and, with a little bit of unholy communion, turn him into some metaphor for the devil to kill god or something (I understand the theme and I’m mocking it intentionally here.)

But in the scene leading up to Zodd’s rebirth, Superman and Luthor are discussing current events.  While this is happening, a computer is vocally counting down from 10 to 0 and I CAN HEAR IT PLAIN AS DAY.  I have to presume Superman can as well, since he can hear Lois Lane anywhere on the planet at any time when she’s in danger and rescue her.  I also have to presume that even if he is somehow hyper-attuned to Lois’ voice, that super hearing of his has to work on anything he can hear in the room he’s occupying, even when talking to other people.  Or his regular hearing could do that for him.  It worked for me.

And what does Superman do during this ominous countdown? 

He keeps talking to Lex.  He doesn’t stop the computer, doesn’t force Lex to turn it off, doesn’t even register that anything’s happening.  Maybe Superman is deaf to timers.  Maybe it was a Kryptonite timer, since it’s a ship from Krypton and he’s weak against anything Kryptonian.

Or maybe this movie has shit writing and could have used a few more scrutinizing edits.

Let’s presume that with Lex Luthor being somewhere he’s not supposed to be, i.e. the Kryptonian ship, when Superman confronts him, that timer is one of two things:

A.)  It’s a part of Lex’s devious master scheme

B.)  It’s a completely unrelated timer that is going off independent of Lex’s illegal presence or activities.  It’s a ship that just happens to count down from time to time for…reasons.

If you’re Superman and you find Lex Luthor in a Kryptonian ship just after you learned he had your mother kidnapped and threatened the life of the love of your life all in some convoluted attempt to get another superhero to murder you, which of the two above possibilities are you going to presume is the reason for the timer counting down while Lex is sending verbal jabs your way?

Well, of course it’s unrelated to Lex’s presence or actions.  Just let this completely autonomous and independent computer continue to count down.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

4.)  That Kryptonite Spear

Are you fucking kidding me?

Okay, let’s look at the basis for the fight between Batman and Superman in this movie.

Batman believes Superman is too powerful and reckless to be allowed to live.  His irresponsible use of his powers has caused incalculable collateral damage.  He needs to be taken down for good because, according to Bruce Wayne’s Bat-math, a one percent probability of calamity should be taken as an absolute certainty that something will go wrong.

So to Batman, 1 percent equals 100 percent.  No matter how obsessive the character may be, I find it incredulous that Batman would be this extreme in his caution.  If he thought this way, he wouldn’t have a rogues’ gallery.  They’d all be one and done because there’s always a percentage chance some of them could escape jail at some point to go make more trouble.  Maybe 10 percent equals 1000 percent to Batman.

But moving past that idiocy into the next chamber of this Fortress of Stupidity, Batman has decided that Superman Must Die!  So how does he go about doing it?  Well, he gets his hands on a bunch of Kryptonite and fashions…wait for it…

Kryptonite gas grenades that he SHOOTS with a RIFLE and a FUCKING SPEAR!

If Batman wants Superman dead, if the reason for this battle is to eliminate him for good, and isn’t merely to take him down a notch or remind him of the person he used to be as it was in the case of Snyder’s inspiration for so much of this fight…


Batman clearly uses a gun in this fight to gas Superman into a weakened state, after which he proceeds to beat him to a pulp and then DRAG HIM INTO THE MIDDLE OF A DILPIDATED ATRIUM AND THEN IMPALE HIM WITH A KRYPTONITE SPEAR!

No, Bruce-imus.  I am not entertained.  Quite the opposite.

Why the ceremony?  Why does he want to torture Superman before killing him?  What’s the point?  To prove to a person that will soon be dead anyway that he wasn’t a god?  He’s going to be cease all bodily functions in a few moments if you have your way.  Why go through all of that pomp and circumstance?  After all, I'm sure there's a 'small percentage chance' that Superman could somehow turn the tables at some point on the way to that atrium.  And according to Batman, even one percent must be considered 'an absolute certainty.'

You see, in the fourth issue of The Dark Knight Returns (and I keep going back to this graphic work because it’s the main reference point for Snyder’s vision), the point of the fight is to help Clark remember the person he used to be.  The hero he once was before he devolved into a pathetic shell of that former nobility.  Sure there’s a little bit of that competitive streak in Bruce in that he wants Superman to know that he beat him, and to live with that memory.  He says as much right before he fakes his heart failure.  But remember that the context is entirely different for this sentiment.  In TDKR, the emotions that are swelling up in Bruce aren’t just the product of the here and now.  They’re a metaphor for their entire shared history in the DC Universe, one that the readers lived through and understand.  This is a BIG DEAL when it happens in the pages of TDKR because it is encompassing 50 years of compressed continuity and relationship as well as a hypothetical scenario where Superman forced all the other superheroes to stop helping people, which resulted in the world becoming more dystopian, more totalitarian, more fascist, more anarchic.

In Baman v Superman, there is no reason for Batman to want to prove who the better man was.  He just wanted to kill Superman.

So why the denigrating beatdown?  Why doesn’t Batnan just shoot Superman with Kryptonite bullets if killing him is the point?

Because ‘Batman fighting Superman is COOL!’’



Whatever.  I prefer good stories over ‘cool fights’.

And then there’s the whole ‘Martha’ thing and how it’s so poorly executed that it made me laugh out loud in the theater.  This is one of those instances where Zack Snyder thought of an emotional turning point that meant something to HIM but forgot how to properly construct the sequence so that it meant something to US.  The whole scene is a circle jerk between Zack Snyder and his own pretentious ego, but I could have accepted it if it would have been built up to so that it carried some real gravitas.  Instead, it all made sense in Zack Snyder’s brain and he arrogantly presumed that if he built it, we would come.

There’s dumber shit still in the movie that exists only to make things happen in the most lazy and incoherent, nonsensical of fashions.  Lex’s thugs being willing to kidnap God’s mom.  Human blood being a factor in reanimating Zodd’s corpse.  ANYTHING involving Lois Lane once the third act begins.  Going into greater details on any of these plot points just hurts my feelings, so I’ll spare myself the suffering of having to consider any of it further and just say ‘it is dumb’ and let others rationalize for themselves why it’s okay for then to like awful things.  It’s amazing what the human psyche will do to get itself to a happy place.  I did it for years and years with the prequels, so don’t think I don’t understand.  But I was wrong about the prequels.  I hope you’ll come to the same personal epiphanies about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as you grow older, more wise and less dumb than Stupidman.

Which, honestly, shouldn’t be that hard to do.

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