I’m on record as enjoying Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. I genuinely enjoy a good bit of it, while also acknowledging that it has some deep flaws. As I headed into the onerously titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I kept that in my mind — that this was built on a foundation that, while flawed, had great potential. I avoided advance reviews, stayed mostly away from Twitter and other entertainment sites in the days leading up to my viewing. I wanted to be fresh and unbiased, because I wanted to give this film the chance it deserves. It’s the beginning of something potentially amazing, the birthing of a cinematic version of the Justice League. It features a terrific cast — Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman, Amy Adams returning as Lois Lane, and bringing in Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, and Jeremy Irons as Alfred. This could be the beginning of something wonderful.
Holy fucking shit, you guys.
Batman v Superman is shockingly bad. I mean, I am genuinely surprised at how absolutely, astronomically atrocious it is. I don’t have a great deal of faith in Zack Snyder, but I honestly didn’t think he was even capable of producing a film as wretched as this one. It’s not Daredevil or Catwoman bad, because those are garbage films that never had a chance, movies made before this current golden age of superhero films and franchises, films that were never taken seriously by studios in the first place. No, Batman v Superman is on a whole other level of terrible, and in no small part because of the money, effort, and faith put into this film. This is a film that cost an insane amount of money to create, something that is part of a massive, sprawling, long-term plan. People believed in this film, and I simply don’t understand how that’s possible.
It’s a failure on every conceivable level. Whatever your expectations are going in, lower them. Actually, it doesn’t matter — however bad you think it may be, even after reading this review, it’s worse. I mean it.
So, the story: Superman is now a part of the world’s everyday life, but since he totaled half of Metropolis when he fought Zod and the other Kryptonians, people are split on how “good” he is. One of Bruce Wayne’s buildings was destroyed in that battle, so Batman has decided that — despite the fact that Superman was clearly trying to save Metropolis — not only is Superman not to be trusted, but that Superman must be killed. This isn’t a defensive reaction, by the way — this is Batman spending the first two-thirds of the film actively planning to murder — MURDER — Superman. More on that later. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is nefariously plotting behind the scenes to pit the two against each other in a meandering, nonsensical subplot. Superman is having a crisis of faith about whether he should keep saving people (because yeah, that’s a thing that Superman does). Lois Lane looks concerned a lot and still can’t seem to stop falling off of shit. Wonder Woman shows up for about eight minutes, is never referred to by name (any name), and briefly kicks ass.
That disjointed mess of a paragraph? That’s what it was like to watch the film. It’s a disaster. Nothing in it works. The Superman crisis of faith is frustrating and idiotic, because the whole point of Superman is that nothing else matters, just doing the right thing. Batman is a killer in this film. And I don’t just mean his asinine quest to destroy a man who literally saved the planet, because he believes there’s an infinitesimal chance he might turn on us — I mean he is a straight up, cold-blooded killer. He kills bad guys. He sets bad guys up to be killed. Batman, after 20 years of being a hero to Gotham City, becomes The Punisher. Guns and all. It violates the golden rule of golden age superheroes with such astounding arrogance and disregard for humanity that it’s almost unfathomable. Wonder Woman is underused, even though Gadot is very good in her brief turn. Lois is once again relegated to damsel in distress for the back half of the film. Lex Luthor is somewhere between Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Heath Ledger’s The Joker, a shrill, harping neurotic mess whose motivations, particularly in the second and third acts, make absolutely no sense. He goes from ambitious, scientifically curious xenophobe to absolutely bonkers psychopath for no reason whatsoever.
But worse than any of that is that the film is boring. It’s a hopeless, hapless grind, stumbling about like a wounded elephant, occasionally crashing into things, but never accomplishing anything. It takes forever for the story to develop, because Snyder can’t get out of his own ass and so he needs to include countless exhausting expository scenes and speeches. The dialogue is horrendous — no one in this film just talks to each other. Instead, every single line is delivered as if it’s a moment of incredible weight and importance, with everyone glowering morosely at each other. It’s a banal, dull, joyless effort, with the two or three sad attempts at humor plummeting to their deaths amidst its relentless gloominess and undying awfulness. Despite its efforts to be dark and serious, nothing ever seems to matter, because you will be completely unable to sympathize with anyone. There’s nothing of merit to any of the characters, no defining trait that makes you want to cheer for them. There’s no fun, no love, no hope to the entire film. And those three things — fun, love, and hope, should be the hallmarks of a superhero film, especially the iconic ones like these. Instead, it’s a destitute, barren, soulless trash heap of a film, removing any semblance of heroism from its heroes, destroying any possibility of empathy and giving its audience nothing to root for at any point during this 151 minute-long atrocity.
Even action can’t save it — the entire film is incomprehensibly dark, with every major action sequence taking place at night. It’s a murky mess, and the final battle, between the three heroes and Doomsday, feels like I watched it with a scarf wrapped around my face. It’s terribly edited, flashing from one cut to another without giving you any of the sense of size or scale that Man of Steel gave us, and then compounding that lack of perspective by filming it in nothing but shadow and shades of blueish grays. That darkness is unrelenting, a constant throughout the film, giving you no chance to appreciate even the slightest detail.
Batman v Superman isn’t just bad, it’s hopelessly, artlessly, brutally awful. It’s an irredeemable, mawkish, maudlin nightmare. Am I using a lot of adjectives? Because I truly, truly don’t think I’ve adequately conveyed my thoughts. I came home last night and spent a solid fifteen minutes raving to my wife at how… not just disappointed or frustrated I was, but how angry I was with this picture. It’s one thing to reach and to fail. But the staggering hubris and arrogance behind this picture is actually infuriating. Snyder abandoned everything righteous and good and wondrous about his characters, and instead made a dour, sullen pile of smoldering shit. And even if you have no history, no love for these iconic characters, it’s still simply and objectively trash. I’ve seen any number of terrible films in my eight years writing for this site, but I truly don’t believe I’ve ever hated a movie as much as I hated this one. I’d rather watch someone melt kittens than sit through it again.
I walked out of the theater wanting to shout at those walking in, to beg them not to subject themselves to it. But I didn’t. Because my heart was full of hate, and I decided that the only way to dull the pain was for them to suffer as I suffered. Let them suffer. And that’s why you should see this film. All of you. Go forth, and endure it. And then spread the word to everyone you know. Let the world know your rage, so that we can hope to never see anything like this ever again.