S: “Too much.”
That’s all I said when my buddy J asked how Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was. He was shocked.
J: “That’s it huh?”
Of course that wasn’t it! I’m a verbose mother fucker, especially when it comes to movie universes (movieverses). (I mean I didn’t love Star Wars more than any other movie universe by accident, it had the biggest universe, the largest space for my imagination to play in, and each movie made it bigger and better, plus Han Solo.) When Cost (that’s a person, a Loft Boy from high school to be exact) asked me the other night about the development of Marvel and DCmovieverses, I talked without breathing for about 20 minutes. So I’ve put some serious thought into the creation of these movieverses. (And I’m working on a separate piece about how the TVverses v. movieverses, but before I get WAY off track [TOO LATE!] let’s get back to Bats v Supes.) After that small amount of prodding, I couldn’t contain myself anymore,
S: [Zach] “Snyder is more spectacle than substance and they tried to catch up to 8 years of Marvel movies in one fell swoop. Snyder’s DC universe resembles [Michael] Bays’ Transformers universe inasmuch as it looks like a magnificent spectacle but the beauty is barely even skin deep.”
It looks fantastic. The effects are great. The costumes are superb. Technically it shines, but it is flimsy because in trying to do so much in 2.5 hours they weren’t able to do anything in depth. Snyder didn’t give his actors anything to do in this movie and as a result, there are gross amounts of underperformance, except for the 2 cases of gross over performance. The subtlety and nuance that often separate great comic books from decent comic books is also what is missing from this movie.
That’s a simple summary but its spoiler free, and no one appreciates that more than me. You can watch this movie, its fun. There are some epically good moments that any comic book fan will enjoy. They do some of the classic DC shots from comics far more than justice. There are a lot of cool pieces that set up the rest of the DCmovieverse, and sadly many that will make you groan because its just “too much.”
Now let’s get into some details, so if you haven’t seen it yet, and don’t want spoilers stop reading.
I take this spoiler shit very seriously, so stop now if you don’t want any.
I won’t warn you again.
Ok I lied, but this is your last warning for sure.
So here is a list of everything Snyder tried to do in this movie.
- Bruce Wayne (yes it’s 2 characters)
- Wonder Woman
- Lex Luthor
- Briefly introduce
- Continue the stories of
- Lois Lane
- Perry White
- Superman and his Earth Dad complex
- Battle between Batman and Superman
- Create Doomsday from Zod’s body
- Fight Doomsday with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman
- Have Superman and Doomsday kill each other
See what is missing there? TIME to develop any of that properly. There is no time for nuance and complexity, only time for spectacle and ambiguity.
Cultivating a movieverse is a process. It takes time. If you gave me that list, without ever seeing that movie, I would have told you that was the next 2 or 3 YEARS of DC movies, not the next 2 or 3 hour movie they were releasing. Yoda was right, “Patience you must have.”
2 disastrous costume change issues.
- First, Wonder Woman is in the lobby of her hotel done up (and looking hot). After a brief, 30-45 second, cutaway we see her in her hotel room in a robe checking email. That’s just not long enough. It jumped out at me.
- Second, after Bats fights Supes and doesn’t kill him Bats goes to save Supe’s earth mom and changed his cowl and half his costume in FAR too short a time frame.
Suspension of disbelief doesn’t apply here, especially if you want to be the “realistic” comic book movieverse, that shit HAS to matter.
The new Batmobile really struck me a stripped down version of the Tumbler from the Christopher Nolan Batverse, and that’s fine, I guess, but, at least for me, a big part of each new Bat incarnation is seeing the Batmobile reimagined. We don’t get that here, we sort of do with the Batwing, but not every Batman uses a Batwing, and so it’s far less iconic.
Next a few issues (issues are bigger than nitpicks, but not quite as big as problems).
Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor was Heath Ledger’s Joker meets Mark Zuckerberg, or worse Sean Parker. (I just gave myself chills.) To me Luthor was a cold and calculating super genius, and while there was plenty of that, it was delivered with an over the top flair that felt out of place. (And to be fair, I don’t lay this blame at the feet of Eisenberg, but Snyder, I think Eisenberg was great at what he did, I just think he should have done something else.)
And yes he had long hair and that was very weird, and very Joker, I’ve got far less of an issue with that than the simple fact that the reason Luthor fits so well against Superman is it is brains versus brawn, super mental ability versus super physical ability. And this comes off far more as super crazy versus super stoic, and that’s shit. I know that everyone loved Heath Ledger’s Joker, I did too, but not every hero/villain relationship should be that, it won’t the characters, and it diminshes the Batman/Joker relationship. The Joker character has evolved to be the perfect anti-Batman, much like Lex Luthor evolved to be the perfect anti-Superman. It feels like Snyder tried to make Luthor a little of column A for Superman and a little of column B for Batman and in the end just sort of created a monster, and not in a good way.
The creation of Doomsday seemed forced and unnecessary for the scope of this as a single film. The way he was born felt a lot like how the Golgothan was shit into existence in Dogma. And while the effects here were much better, they certainly bore a resemblance. He also looked like an Ogre from 1 of the 3 Hobbit movies. (God it still pisses me off they made 3 Hobbit movies.) If you are going to use a character of the magnitude of the creature that kills Superman 2 things should be clear; 1 the character’s name, and 2 he should look distinct and memorable. I went back and looked up the drawings of Doomsday; there were plenty of avenues they could have gone to model him closer to character in the comics.
Superman’s doubt about how humanity sees him. The story line has one great moment, but this movie is so surfaced you don’t get anymore. The great scene is where a man who lost his legs during the battle between Superman and Zod in Man of Steel climbs up the Superman statue and spray paints FALSE GOD over the Superman logo. It’s a powerful moment, but that’s all it is, a moment. Snyder tries to help Superman deal with his feelings after this three time, let’s call them the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. They may not appear in this order in the film, but Kevin Costner comes full circle from his Field of Dreams days and visits his son from beyond the grave. Too bad it wasn’t in the cornfield. Diane Lane talks to her adopted son about his conflictions. Amy Adams talks to him about his place in the world. None of those scenes holds any power, emotion or depth. Partly because they are so short and partly because I don’t feel like they cared about the depth of Superman as a character. That is shameful because Superman isn’t just an orphan coping with the loss of his parents. He has been orphaned from his entire race. It’s a level of depth that is completely ignored here, and that if done well, could have carved a space in the heart of a new generation of Superman fans, fans that enjoy, and respect, and like physical feats of strength, but are looking for MORE than that from their super heroes and villains alike.
Now a big problem
I’ve already stated it. They put too much into too little screen time. My theory is this: They watched Marvel make the Avengers and they wanted in on the pay day. So they decided to try and reverse engineer the Avengers. The idea was to have a movie where you see all the heroes at least a little bit first and then go off and give them each their own movie. Well I’m here to tell why it didn’t work.
I’ve now seen Wonder Woman fight. I’m only sort of curious about the backstory during World War I, and I’m not even really that curious, because I imagine it’s going to look a lot like the first Captain America Movie.
They showed Cyborg’s origin story almost completely and it didn’t make me want to see more.
The showed the Flash do his thing and it was great, but in a 2 hour Flash movie are they going to give me something more intriguing than I am getting on CW right now? Nope.
Aquaman looked like a bad joke and Jason Momoa looked even worse. It was a crap scene and small sample size, but I was much more intrigued when Batman was simply looking at the Wonder Woman file and you saw the other 3 files there untouched. (As a small aside, why was Lex Luthor the only one tracking these metahumans? And why didn’t he have a file on Superman?)
In the Marvelverse I was much more intrigued by the post credit scene where Agent Coulsen is looking at Mjölnir in the middle of a New Mexico desert. THAT sort of nuance and intrigue is what makes comics great. The patience they showed, the measured approach is what has given the Marvelverse consistent success both critically and at the box office.
DC’s approach seems to be to give it all away on the first date and if you do that, it’s gotta be amazing or why am I coming back? (Yes that’s a sex metaphor.) The point being if you give it up and it’s only mediocre, I’m not invested in you enough to want to come back. Sure that one thing was nice and cool, but so much of it was only ok that I don’t’ need to go back there again because I know you aren’t satisfying my needs.
Now the definitive problem
Let’s play pretend for a moment.
Snyder: I want to introduce Batman at the beginning and funeralize Superman at the end.
Sully: You are fucking insane!
Snyder: I’m not done yet. I also want them to fight in between.
Sully: Did you do a ton of cocaine last night? Is that how you think all of this would fit into 2 hours?
Snyder: I want it to be 3 hours.
Sully: Jesus Christ man.
Snyder: That’s a great idea, let’s add that too!
Snyder: The ‘Superman struggles with his place on Earth, some call him a false God’ plot.
Sully: That’s a 2 hour movie by itself.
Snyder: Nah I can do it in 10 minutes with a can of spray paint and I’ll borrow the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future from that guy.
Snyder: No, no Michael Caine played him in the Muppet version.
Sully: You realize that’s not an autobiographical, you know what never mind. It’s too much Zach. You can’t do all that in one movie and give any of it any depth.
Snyder: What do you mean depth? Like the Aquaman scene? Of course he is going to be deep in the ocean.
Sully: I quit.
DC gave it away like the girl in Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light and now they are asking us, “Do you love me? Will you love me forever?” And the answer is simply no, mostly because of our final big problem.
The Two Martha’s, similar to the Two Corey’s
So the Martha’s thing, it’s not a bad storyline. Conceptually I think it’s pretty compelling because why wouldn’t Superman uttering in his dying breathe the name of Batman’s mother NOT trigger a significant reaction from Batman? The reason it doesn’t work is because of what I keep saying, the movie (and its characters) have no depth. That scene isn’t spectacle, it’s not surface, it’s the type of scene that needs to be nuanced not overtly explained with flashbacks. It’s probably the best single concept in the movie, and easily the best way to tie Batman and Superman together, but it is so poorly executed it is easily identified and rightfully eviscerated.
Suicide Squad is next (August 5, 2016), the Guardians of the Galaxy of the DC movieverse. Overall, I’m not sure how this movie will influence the Justice League sphere. I’m pretty sure it will only influence the Batman sphere (I’d include Green Arrow, if they had any plans for a Green Arrow, but they seemingly don’t). Let’s just be clear, this movie has to do justice to 2 very important Batman villains, the Joker and Harley Quinn. You could maybe include Killer Croc in that list too. But Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Enchantress, Slipknot (that’s not the band, right? With DC it doesn’t hurt to ask), Katana, Rick Flagg and El Diablo are all pawns, sacrificial lambs, mid-boss level villains from the Arkham video games. Oh, and I don’t care that Will Smith is playing Deadshot. If anything I think it means Deadshot is the first one to die and that’s how they got the Fresh Prince to do it. I personally think this movie should have come out first, post Man of Steel, pre Bats v Supes. I think that’s a neat idea, and I think they could have subtly introduced a lot of cool Batthings. And maybe they still can because it’s not like we have seen any real Batdepth yet. I have little faith of that transpiring though.
Then (June 23, 2017) we get the best part of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s solo movie effort, Wonder Woman. I was nervous as hell to see Gal Gadot put on the WW costume, but in Bats v Supes she is great. She brings a ton of subtlety and nuance to the character, and let us hope that isn’t only because she wasn’t asked to do much but stand around til the end. Demure, soft spoken, detached but not without a conscious, much like a person who had walked the earth for 100 years watching mankind destroy itself. I don’t love the idea of this being so much like the first Cap movie, set in World War I, but I’m confident she will be good, and I really like Chris Pine, so it may just work.
And then BOOM Justice League Part I (November 17th, 2017). Hey Snyder are you really dividing this into two films? You sure you can’t just squeeze it all into 1 like you did in Bats v Supes? But tell me Zachy-poo you are going to now fully introduce Cyborg, Flash and Aquaman, bring Superman back from the dead and introduce or reintroduce us to all the side characters that fall under the umbrella of each of these folks. Also who is going to be the villain? I don’t want to see Jesse Eisenberg and Jared Leto both try and do Heath Ledger.
Hey on March 23, 2018 we will find out for sure if the DCmovieverse can compete with the DCTVverse as Flash hits the big screen. By that point, barring cancelation (and that’s fucking doubtful) we will have essentially 4 full season of The Flash on TV. That’s roughly 80 hours of Flash storylines, and based on seasons 1 and 2, extremely well done story lines. Can this 2 hour movie come close to topping that? (The answer is I fucking doubt it.)
Then on July 27, 2018 we get the most likely film to be canceled, if the 2 minutes shown in Bats v Supes is an indication of not only how they want the character to look, but act, Aquaman! Just cancel it now DC, write him out of Justice League, just say he drowned or something, Atlantis isn’t that important. I mean the Gungans lived an Atlantis like settlement in Phantom Menace and look at how Jar Jar turned out. Aquaman is your Jar Jar. I’m not wrong, and I think you know it.
At some point in 2018 we will get the Solo Batman flick written, directed and starring Batfleck. I’m pretty excited to see Affleck do something like this where he has complete control. When he has had control he has done pretty unique stories that have had great tension and nuance to them. I think he can translate that into a great Batman story.
April 5, 2019 will bring us Shazam. I’ll keep an open mind because I think The Rock as Black Adam is very interesting and I’ve been waiting for Marvel or DC to get the Rock involved in their franchises because I think he is perfect for them. Plus Geoff Johns is writing it.
Then June 14th, 2019 we get Justice League Part 2, almost 2 full years later. I mean you can’t have a “to be continued” (in writing or in moment) at the end of Part 1, and then not have another movie for 2 years, right? I mean how do you do stories about the characters involved in these two movies in between? The correct answer is no, you can’t.
Then in 2020 we get Cyborg and Green Lantern Corps. Now we have already seen Cyborg, but we don’t get his solo movie for 4 more years? And there is no confirmation that the Green Lantern is going to show up anywhere until this point. There is talk he shows up in the Justice League pieces, but I don’t think we need to give Snyder anymore toys to play with inside of those 5 hours of movies. So who the fuck knows.
And are we ever going to get the story that goes along with this?
It’s far more intriguing than anything else they set up in the whole movie and I think its probably just a throw in.
This all brings me to my biggest question and problem with the DCmovieverse as it stands right now. What the fuck is the timeline? Man of Steel happened then Bats v Supes and I hear Suicide Squad is before Bats v Supes and Man of Steel. Then Wonder Woman may show pieces of the world after Bats v Supes, but will take place mostly during World War I. Then we are straight into Justice League Part 1 and when is that going to be? At some point after Bats v Supes theoretically. Which means that each solo movie is going to take place in the past and be an origin story like Wonder Woman? While people tend to enjoy complexity inside of their plot lines, they want simple continuity in a movieverse. No one wants to have to think too hard about where each movie fits in the timeline. This isn’t multiverse or time travel, which are cool ways to play with the space time continuum, this is simply poor planning. And you can’t tell me it is going to be a multiverse because you can’t have a multiverse without a well-established Earth One and we are nowhere near a well-established Earth One.
They can’t just copy Marvel Sull!
Why not? Who is going to give a fuck about that? They are different characters and in many ways better characters. Marvel can’t compete with Batman and Superman when they are done properly. The closest they get is Spider Man, and he is huge, but he is only 1 guy. So why didn’t DC take their better roster of characters (including their much better villain lineup) and just build to a Justice League movie like Marvel built to an Avengers movie. Hell, they could have done it better! If they took their time and looked at Marvel’s errors and didn’t make those, in 5 years DC could have been the king.
In the end DC decided it wanted to be first rather than best. Congrats DC you beat Marvel to the “kill a major character” punch. One problem, you didn’t give us enough time with Superman to give a fuck about him dying and you basically told us he’s not quite dead yet. So sure, you did it first, but again Marvel will do it best, when Cap dies at the end of Civil War on May 6th.