batman v superman spoiler review wonder woman

The Grand Debut of Wonder Woman

The absolute best moment in all of Batman v Superman comes during the final fight between the “Trinity” and Doomsday. Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman, who arrived on the scene a few minutes earlier in her warrior garb, is knocked back by Lex Luthor’s newly created monster. She lands in rubble, looks at her opponent, smiles a shit-eating grin that says “Oh, that’s how we’re going to do this?” and launches back into battle. It’s not much. It’s just a tiny reaction in the middle of a very busy sequence, but it contains all of the charm and personality that is missing from both Batman and Superman. In that moment, we actually see who Wonder Woman is.

While Gadot rocks her scenes and Wonder Woman is a certifiable badass during the climactic brawl, the truth is that you can cut her from the movie entirely and the basic story remains exactly the same. She exists for two reasons: to help set up future movies and to show up in the nick of time for the grand finale. That she’s not actually integrated into the plot is a huge problem – she feels more like a cool Easter egg that got blown out of proportion than a proper character who serves the film in any way.

Most damning of all is that Snyder, once again, refuses to embrace her iconography. Much like how Batman is never given a proper cinematic introduction, Wonder Woman just shows up and does her thing. Her powers and abilities aren’t given the weight they deserve. This is our first time seeing this character on the big screen ever and her famous golden lasso isn’t even given a hero shot. The film just treats it like no big thing when she uses it to tie up Doomsday. Is this fanboy nitpicking? Kind of. Sort of. Maybe. But it also showcases just how little everyone involved in this film seems to appreciate what these characters mean and how important their iconography is to so many people. Say what you want about The Avengers, but at least Joss Whedon knew how stage his characters so they visually lived up to their comic book legacy.

batman v superman spoiler review lex luthor

Lex Luthor and Alfred and Lois Lane

The supporting cast of Batman v Superman is a mixed bag, but most of the fault lies with the script rather than performance. Take Jesse Eisenberg‘s Lex Luthor, for example. A lot of digital ink has been spilled about the quality of his manic, bizarre performance, which leans heavily on tics and strange outbursts. It’s a performance that can’t help but feel desperate, but can you blame him? Because on the page, his Luthor is literally nothing. He’s a rich guy who hates Superman, just because. He’s a scheming snob who wants to frame Superman, just because. He’s a petulant egomaniac who creates an unstoppable monster and unleashes it upon the world, just because. Eisenberg’s performance isn’t as bad as many have claimed. It’s just a skilled actor trying to bring something to a cipher. Nothing Luthor says or does makes sense and he’s a villain simply because he’s always been a Superman villain. Considering how rich and complex this character has been in so many incarnations, this is inexcusable lazy…and it’s not Eisenberg’s fault at all. The poor guy did everything he could.

Far more successful is Jeremy Irons‘ Alfred Pennyworth, who is a refreshing update on Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler. He’s not so much a manservant now as he is a partner in crimefighting, fixing the Batmobile, piloting the Batplane by remote control, and tinkering around the Batcave when Bruce is out and about. There’s a casual, blue-collar gruffness to this Alfred that’s a refreshing change of pace – like the man he works for, he’s been doing this for a long, long time and Irons has a great rapport with Affleck. Plus, his constant concern for Bruce’s love life is simultaneously adorable and sad. He lives to serve, but he just wants Master Wayne to be happy, damn it!

And that brings us to Amy Adams‘ Lois Lane, who is given the worst subplots and in continuously put in needless danger just to give Superman something to do. That’s a shame, really. Man of Steel utilized her beautifully and allowed Adams to make this the definitive take on Superman’s greatest ally. Here, she stumbles through two hours of subplots that could have been excised entirely before getting trapped underwater so she can have an action beat in the third act. Adams, like Gadot, Cavill, Eisenberg, and Affleck, deserves better.

batman v superman spoiler review story and tone

Story and Tone

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Zack Snyder (a filmmaker I usually enjoy) is a bad fit for the DC movie universe. His natural cynicism and his interest in selfish, conflicted heroes goes against everything these characters stand for and everything they represent. Call it a re-imagining or call it a different take, but these heroes and their world actually mean something. To throw away and optimism and good old fashioned heroics in favor of darkness and violence and heroes who don’t act like they want to be heroes is the wrong choice and the worst possible way to launch a cinematic universe. Batman v Superman has two modes: grim and grimmer, and both of those are monotonous and tired and reek of desperation. These characters, this world, don’t need to be reinvented. The DC universe is many things – weird and colorful and unique and filled with infinite possibilities – but endlessly grimy and morose feel wrong. A Batman who brands some enemies and casually murder others is representative of this film’s tonal issues in a nutshell. At the end of the day, he’s still a man dressed in a bat costume. He’s still silly. He should still be a character kids can enjoy and look up to.

All I can say is that if someone told younger me, a kid who grew up devouring episodes of Batman: The Animated Series before launching into actual comics, that a new Batman movie wasn’t for me, I’d be dismayed.

Jimmy Olsen in Batman v Superman

But the big issues here go beyond Snyder recreating the DC universe in his own grotesque image. Batman v Superman is a just a huge mess of a movie that feels thrown together without care. Pointless scenes lead to more pointless scenes with no drive or connective tissue. The story is a collection of subplots where most of those subplots could be removed from the movie entirely. Even the action (and there’s not much action) feels unmotivated and sloppy. The coincidences and insane beats begin to add up. Why does everyone think Superman massacred a bunch of people who were shot? Why did Lex Luthor arm his men with special bullets, other than the movie needing to give Lois something (boring) to do? Why didn’t Superman, whose X-ray vision was his first power to manifest in Man of Steel, not notice that the wheelchair in the senate hearing was packed full of explosives? Why did Batman place a tracking device on a truck carrying Kryptonite and then proceed to chase that truck, and almost destroy that truck, when he just ends up stealing it from LexCorp anyway? Why the hell does Superman interrupt Batman’s big car chase, where his opponents are firing machine guns and launching rockets at him, just so he can scold a fellow vigilante? He’s Superman. He surely knew that Batman was chasing bad guys. Because they had rocket launchers. All of this before you even begin to tackle why Lex Luthor does anything that he does in this movie. Every scene gives you a new reason to ask “Why?!”

Despite giving Batman a crystal clear reason to want to fight Superman in the opening scene, the film muddies the waters so much that their actual confrontation is just a wet fart: two heroes, manipulated by the dumbest scheme in superhero movie history, fight each other just because they’re both huge dicks. It’s hard to love Batman when he’s gleefully using a Kryptonite spear to slice open Superman’s cheek before preparing a killing blow. It’s not just a betrayal of an icon – he’s just downright unlikable and cruel and stupid. The movie in a nutshell.

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