Aaand we’re back. Buckle in, folks. Here’s Part 2. Maybe this time we’ll make it out of Act 1 alive. Let’s get right in.
Spoiler Warning (Obviously)
So back with the escaped mental patient currently wearing Lex Luthor’s face, Senator Finch visits him at his home for the purpose of letting Eisenberg mug some more. (Seriously, I’m sure there must’ve been some reason she was there but I really can’t remember at this point). And mug he certainly does. I get the impression that a lot of his ‘Redcapes are Coming’ stuff was supposed to be more intimidating or darkly humorous, like Heath’s Joker, but instead it turned out immensely silly. Part of that is due to the writing/directing not being as strong, part of that is due to Heath’s acting being better but a huge chunk is because this kind of character type just doesn’t fit Luthor as a person. It fits the Joker because he’s a figure on the street, someone who goes and does whatever he pleases and, above all, a complete mystery in both backstory and motive. He’s not the CEO of a major company with political influence because that role requires intelligence, respectability and (outward) sanity. Something comics-Luthor has in spades but movie-Luthor severely lacks.
Now, I might accept the excuse that the movie was trying to play Luthor as an ‘eccentric genius’ but the problem is we only ever see the ‘eccentric’ and not enough of the ‘genius’. Heath’s Joker was crazy but showed he was also persuasive and clever in small interactions with other people. Eisenberg’s Luthor shows neither. Anyway, we also learnt that Holly Hunter is the best goddamn actress in this movie for somehow keeping a serious face all throughout Eisenberg’s mugging. But, once again, I’m left wondering why this whole scene needed to be in the movie. Ultimately, it only serves three things (aside from confirmed what we already know in that Lex is bugfuck insane). It tells us a little bit about Lex’s father, for the purpose of a single throwaway line about Lex’s motive. It introduces us to a painting, for the purpose of a single throwaway shot teasing Darkseid. And it gave us Senator Finch talking about ‘labelling a jar of piss as Granny’s Peach Tea.” Which is going to have the best payoff in the movie. Just the best.
“His time will come.”
As it is, there’s no real reason this scene couldn’t have been combined with the last Luthor/Finch scene. Other than because Snyder wants you to suffer. So, I’m going to add it to the counter.
Pointless Scene Count: 6
Anyway, after finding Luthor’s name during that pointless detour with Generic Sinister Henchman, Batman decides to infiltrate Lexcorp by attending a party at Lex’s house as Bruce Wayne.* And, coincidentally, Clark happens to be there as well, having apparently been kicked off the sports page. (Seriously, I don’t think he ever actually finishes that article Perry asked him to do). Plus Wonder Woman’s there as well! And the film makes sure you know it because it pointlessly focuses on her a bunch of times for no reason other than to say to fans ‘Hey look, it’s Wonder Woman!’. I mean, you could make the argument that she’s being focused on now as foreshadowing for when she steals a device from Bruce later in the scene. But, to be honest, I think it would’ve actually worked a lot better if her first appearance in the movie was just her stealing Bruce’s device. Being an unexpected spanner-in-the-works of Batman’s plan would give her entrance some actual weight, mystery, intrigue and purpose. As it is, her first appearance in this movie (and in a live-action movie period) is her just standing around in a party not really doing anything and only being focused on ‘because she’s Wonder Woman’. Anyway, with Alfred’s help via earpiece, Bruce plants a device that apparently steals all of Luthor’s computer files. However, Clark overhears the earpiece with super hearing and naturally realises that shit be going down. But, rather than trail Bruce and find out what the device he planted is, he confronts Bruce in that one trailer scene and passively aggressively asks his opinion on Batman.
Now, while the scene between the two isn’t bad, it does lead me to wonder something I’ve been wondering for a lot of the movie. Why is Supes largely handling Batman as Clark Kent rather than Superman? Don’t get me wrong, Clark, as a reporter, can handle stories and right wrongs in ways that Superman can’t, that’s part of his appeal, but a kung-fu bat vigilante doesn’t seem like one of those occasions. And it’s not like Batman existing is new news if he’s been active as long as he seemingly has. So why is he tackling this as the reporter? I mean, aside from this movie making no sense. Besides which, despite the ending of MoS making a big deal of him joining the Bugle, Clark never really does any actual reporting in this movie anyway. Hell, he actively avoids reporting if the sports page is any indication. Batman acts more like a reporter (as far as investigating goes) than he does. Why couldn’t Clark have been (seperately) investigating Lex as well, as Clark Kent, leading his path to cross with Bruce/Bats? Let him work with Lois on that useless bullet plot thread and give the two some chance to develop their relationship in the process, as well as develop his rivalry with Lex in both hero and civilian identity. Come to think about it, despite being the subject of Lex’s plot, does Clark/Superman even have any real interaction with Lex before Lex reveals his evil plot on the skyscraper? The only time I can think of that they even crossed paths was that brief bit at the party. But I suppose if I start picking away at all the loose threads now, this entire thing is going to unravel even more. So I’d better save that for later. Anyway, Bruce returns to find Wondy has stolen his file-stealing device. Why? Because we need yet another pointless detour so we can set up the Wonder Woman movie. Yey.
(2018 Edit: Considering I actually really enjoyed the Wonder Woman movie, in hindsight maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing)
Clark, meanwhile, has to leave the party to help save a girl in Mexico from a fire. And by God does he look miserable when he does it. Seriously, he’s surrounded by people cheering and celebrating his name and he looks like someone just shot his puppy. Was a smile so hard? Could you at least make it look even slightly like you’re happy to be saving lives? Seriously, I don’t think Superman (as Superman) smiles a single time in the movie (aside from one moment which I’ll get to much later). Anyway, this sets off a montage of Superman saving people (and looking miserable about it) while a bunch of talking media heads comment on it. Why? Because The Dark Knight Returns also did talking media heads. Duh.
(2018 Edit: Also, holy shit, I only just realised this was where they stole Luthor’s ‘thoughts too big for you little mind’ bit from. In hindsight, that makes waaaay too much sense.
But while that comic was using Batman’s actions to create a commentary on the media, this film is… using the media to make a commentary on Superman’s actions. Which everyone else has already been doing anyway. Well, let it never be said that Snyder is unwilling to copy comic book ideas that he doesn’t fully understand. But the placement here just feels weird. Why wasn’t this montage placed at the beginning of the movie and used as establishment of Supes’s current character and role in the world? Why put it halfway through the movie? And it’s especially frustrating because there are a few interesting points that are brought up by the talking heads. But the movie never bothers to try and expand or develop on any of them. It thinks that paying lip service is enough. It isn’t.
“You mean stealing quotes from All-Star Superman doesn’t make my movie just as good?”
Anyway, as calls increase for Superman to attend the hearing against him, he visits his home back in Kansas to see his mother. Because God knows we needed more characters/plot threads in this. Now, while this scene may seem pointless at first glance, it does actually serve an important purpose. It reminds us Martha Kent exists so she can get kidnapped later. Hey, just ’cause it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s not a purpose. But, while it’s not a pointless scene, it is one of the biggest wastes of potential as far as scenes go. Not for developing the story, but for developing the characters. Because this scene was a perfect opportunity to actually make Clark feel human. This is the perfect opportunity to see him just casually chatting with his mother. To show his interests, likes, to show him enjoying himself and acting like he has a life outside of Superman. Which, to be honest, is something this movie never does. That’s fine with Batman, since a core tenet of his character is that he doesn’t really have a life/goal outside of being Batman. But not with Superman, whose life as Clark Kent is of equal importance to him. The closest we ever get to a Clark Kent character scene is with Lois in the bathtub, but that doesn’t really work because that relationship doesn’t feel genuine (due to lack of build-up/chemistry) and it devolves into talking about Superman and ‘what he means’ anyway. Just like this scene. It’s all exposition and giving lip-service to any themes (without going into any detail) and just outright telling us character motivation and thoughts rather than showing them through the characters.
In fact, this leads into one of my biggest flaws with the movie as a whole. When it comes to its characters it, few minor scenes aside, always tells rather than shows. If, like me, you’re a writer, then chances are you’ve come across the saying ‘Show don’t Tell’ at one point in your life. And it is one of the most important things you can learn. Actions speak louder than words. Simply having a character monologue and directly tell us about how they’re feeling or what their motivations towards a scene are is never as effective as having a character show us indirectly through their actions. The problem is this movie is only interested in telling. In telling us the themes, how the characters feel, what their motivations are, how they act, whether or not they’re heroic. That’s all delivered through dialogue directly addressing it and the moments where it’s shown through actions or even indirect dialogue instead are few and far between.
It’s also why the Metropolis destruction scene works so infinitely better at establishing Batman’s grudge towards Superman than basically anything else in this movie. Bruce doesn’t shout in it about how ‘all this is Superman’s fault’ or how ‘if there’s even a 1% chance he’s an enemy he has to be stopped’ or anything else like that. Instead, we see him taking in all the destruction, seeing Superman and Zod soaring through the sky and giving a single silent look. And that look shows us far more about Batman’s motivations that a million scenes of Superman droning on to Lois/Martha about how unsure he is about his place and whether his heroism is making a difference and yaddah yaddah.
Unfortunately, Snyder’s lack of concern towards ‘showing’ leads him to unintentionally show us some pretty horrible things about the characters. We see Batman with seemingly no concern for human life. We see Superman looking miserable as he saves people. What does that show you about their characters? Not good things, right? It’s also exactly why MoS’s Superman was so lambasted for not showing any real concern for Metropolis’s citizens (even if that talking point has gotten a little overblown). What the movie shows us, often unintentionally, can have a serious detrimental effect on the character. And what we’re shown about Superman/Batman here makes them look terrible. Especially compared to what we’re shown about Wonder Woman (probably the most heroic character in the movie). In the finale, she was on a plane heading out of the city, out of the danger zone, but when she heard about Doomsday, she chose to go out of her way to leave safety and help. Her actions show us her heroism infinitely better than Lois just telling Superman he’s great and a hero and etc. That’s why it’s so important to put thought into what you’re showing as well as what you’re telling.**
“For example, this poster suggests Batman and Superman will share more than five scenes with each other.
Anyway, speaking of Wonder Woman, let’s go back to the pointless detour to set up her movie. Bruce confronts Diana at a museum.*** He tells her that he sees through her ‘Babe in the Woods act’ which I don’t think she’s ever once done. (Seriously, prime example of Snyder telling when he should’ve been showing). She explains that she’s after a photo Lex has of her but she can’t access it from Bruce’s device. Bruce offers to access it for her. The two banter, Wondy lays down mysterious hints about her true identity that are kinda pointless since everyone already knows she’s fucking Wonder Woman and once more I’m left wondering why this needed to be a separate scene. There’s no reason they couldn’t have just done this at Lex’s party. So on the counter it goes.
Pointless Scene Count: 7
Anyway, Bats returns home with the data and starts decrypting it. And then we go straight into the Knightmare sequence, aka that one big glorified Justice League ad in the middle of the movie. Basically, Bats dreams of a dark apocalyptic future where everyone dresses like a poor Mad Max cosplay. In it, he meets with some guys who have apparently got some Kryptonite for him, only to be betrayed with a fake and ambushed. It’s alright as scenes go, but there’s one minor thing that really bugged me. During the betrayal, a hooded figure standing nearby throws off his hood to reveal he’s one of Supes’s gasmask stormtrooper guys from the trailer. How the hell Batman and his men miss that guy? It’s not like the goon actually put the mask on to reveal his identity, he was apparently wearing the whole gear under his hood. Minor detail, but whatever. Anyway, Bats goes on a killing spree with guns, even snapping one mook’s neck (because god knows we all wanted to be reminded of that scene from MoS, didn’t we?).
Now this could’ve been a genuinely good shocking moment for audience goers if handled right. Having Batman not just kill but shoot his enemies could’ve shown how bad this future had gotten by showing that he’d be willing to betray his core principles so easily. The only problem is we’ve already seen Batman deliberately kill in this movie. By proxy, sure, but still killing. So it has much less of an impact and just comes off as more Snyder 13yo fanfic with future Batman being ‘badass’ and ‘edgy’ and shooting a ton of bad guys before being taken down. Also Parademons because Darkseid and Justice League. Of course, if you’re not familiar with them it’ll just confuse and frustrate you and leave you wondering why winged demons are suddenly working for evil Superman.
“Seriously, is this a thing in the future?”
Anyway, Bats wakes up chained in an underground room. It turns out the big threat in this dark future is, surprisingly, Superman, who straight up heat visions a bunch of guys to death and then blames Batman for the death of someone he loved which apparently turned him evil. This makes no sense on multiple levels for reasons I’ll get into much later during the BvS fight, but most of all, it’s a pretty heavy insult to Supes’s character that he’d turn full on Immortan Joe evil just because of one person’s death. I mean, sure, you could make the argument that maybe he’s being manipulated or controlled by Darkseid, but there’s nothing really to seriously indicate that. Apparently Batman is right and Superman is that easy to turn evil. Imagine what would happen if some mugger managed to kill Lois/Martha/whoever before he could get there. We’d all be fucked.
Anyway, Bats wakes up seemingly in real life only for the Flash to show up from a wormhole to yell at him. Of course, you only know it’s the Flash if you’re incredibly observant or super-heavily read the comics. Flash only turns up once more in the movie and he looks barely anything like the guy in the security footage so it’s really hard to tell. Casual audiences are going to be confused as fuck. Hell, if I didn’t know who it was before seeing the movie, I’d be confused as fuck. He really looks very little like Flash in that armour. It’s not even red. Anyway, Flash yells a ton of vague bullshit at Bats, hinting at Justice League and tells him that Lois is the key to this. Which is a blatant lie. Lois is the key to absolutely nothing in this movie. He also asks ‘Am I too soon?’ Which largely sums up my feeling towards this scene. Yes, you’re too soon. You should’ve been in Justice League instead. Then Bats wakes up again, seemingly in real life now. Yes, they actually did the double-dream fake out. You know, that cheap technique saved for lousy jump scares in lousy horror movies. Hey, why don’t we throw in Freddy Krueger while we’re at it? It’d make about as much sense.
“Hey, at least that movie actually tried to focus on Freddy vs Jason.”
Now, as annoyed as I am that they did the double dream fake-out, this scene unfortunately falls into a different category. The completely pointless one. In fact, this goes beyond being completely pointless and straight into Big-Lipped Alligator Moment because it didn’t change anything and nobody ever brings it up again. Ever. The only tiniest mention it gets in the end is Bruce saying ‘He has a feeling’ something bad will happen in the future. Rather than outright saying ‘I saw a crazy-ass vision of the future and I think terrible shit is about to go down’. And that’s at the end, after the movie is already over. This affects nothing else that actually happens during the movie. Flash’s comments didn’t change any of Bruce’s actions. He doesn’t go after Lois to see what she knows. (Hell, I don’t think he ever shares a scene with her until he’s about to kill Supes). He doesn’t choose to help Martha because of the dream. He was already going after Superman regardless and doesn’t change his mind about finishing him because of Flash’s words. Even his decision to bring together the Justice League at the end was fueled more by guilt for his part in Superman’s death and his wish to avoid a repeat. None of his actions are affected in any way by the vision. I joked about it being a glorified Justice League ad, but that is literally the only purpose it has. It affects nothing in the movie. The whole thing was completely and entirely pointless.
Pointless Scene Count: 8
Okay, anyway, now that those two detours for other movies are over, we can get on with the actual fucking plot. Bats finishes decrypting the data and learns that the ‘White Portugese’ is actually a ship which Luthor is using to smuggle in Kryptonite. It turns out that Bruce has been lying to Alfred the entire time about his true aim investigating Lex. He wants to obtain Kryptonite and forge anti-Supes weapons. Finally, we’re getting some actual build-up to the BvS conflict of the friggin’ movie. And the fact that Bruce was lying to Alfred (and so he could secretly support a cause Alfred disagrees with) is certain to cause some genuine emotional tension between the two. Maybe it’ll show further signs of Bruce pushing away his allies as he becomes more obsessively paranoid about Superman to the cost of his own relationships and- Oh no wait, hold on, that would require storytelling of actual intelligence and depth. Instead Alfred scolds him once and never brings it up again. Making the whole lie entirely pointless in hindsight. Between this, the Knightmare and Lois’s bullet investigation, maybe I should just create a pointless plot thread counter for this movie as well.
Anyway, Bats goes to try and steal the Kryptonite from GSH and a bunch of Luthor’s men. They all get into a big a car chase with the Batmobile. And, once again, we see Snyder directing Batman with all the grace and nuance of a 13yo boy writing fanfic. “So first, like, the Batmobile smashes into this one car and sends it flying into a building. Then, he’s like chasing this truck and firing machine guns from his batmobile and then smashing through buildings and ramping onto the truck and he would’ve totally got the Kryptonite, but Superman turns up and he’s like ‘Stop this now’. But Batman is too cool to be intimidated and he’s like ‘Do you bleed’ and Supes flies away and Batman’s like ‘You will’ because he’s cool and edgy like that.”
“I never thought ‘All Star Batman and Robin’ would end up being an inspiration for this film.”
That said, it is still a fairly enjoyable, if nonsensical action sequence. Despite all my misgivings towards him, Snyder does know how to do action. But Supes’s appearance makes no sense. First of all, it comes the hell out of nowhere. Seriously, there was no indication he was anywhere near the scene at the time.**** I’d complained that the two weren’t together enough before this but that doesn’t mean you should drop him a scene with no warning or foreshadowing. Secondly, why doesn’t he just arrest Batman? He obviously thinks he’s a threat (and justifiably since he probably just killed a bunch of Luthor’s men and smashed his way through dozens of buildings.) Even if we assume he was giving Batman one last chance, the second Batman starts with the ‘Do you bleed?’ shit, Supes should’ve realised he wasn’t going to stop and should’ve taken him down, rather than just fly away. Pretty much the sole reason this sequence doesn’t end with Supes throwing Batman in jail is because the story says so.
Still, at least we’re actually getting some Batman v Superman at this point. Seriously, I mentioned this last part, but I’m pretty certain Clark/Supes and Bruce/Bats have only interacted twice now at this point (Knightmare not included). Yet we have 8 entirely pointless scenes that could’ve been cut or worked into other scenes with no issue. And while the lack of direct Supes/Bats interaction could’ve been forgivable if they were each the main focus of the other. they’re not. Superman’s main focus/worry for the story up to this point is the Government hearing. And while Superman is what Batman is preparing for, his main focus/worries at that point are Lex/Wonder Woman. I said it before, I’ll say it again, this movie seems dedicated to setting up everything except Batman v Superman.
Okay, before we go on another break, I’d just like to go on a brief tangent about this movie’s 3 hour Director Cut. People seem to be convinced that any problems in the movie will certainly be fixed if Snyder has more of a chance to expand on them. But I can almost certainly say they won’t and the fact that Snyder thinks they will shows exactly what’s wrong with him as a filmmaker. (Or one of the things that’s wrong). This movie does not need to be longer. In fact, as far as my Pointless Scene Count shows, this movie needs to be shorter. Much shorter. This movie needs a hatchet taken to it to remove all the unnecessary fat, scenes and plot threads that ultimately add no depth and lead nowhere. And I know that sounds like anathema to a lot of people, especially in this current moviemaking climate where people seem to think being ‘simple’ and ‘short’ somehow makes a movie worse. But sometimes making a good story is not about knowing when to add. It’s about knowing when to subtract. And this movie needs that more than anything.
Anyway, next part’s going to be a doozy. We get to cover the Courtroom scene, Batman vs Tires and the return of everyone’s favourite character…
“Oh how I’ve missed you.”
*Brief minor footnote for a minor quibble, but during the party Lex goes on a odd faux-philosophical talk about Gods and Prometheus and etc. I assume this was co-screenwriter Chris Terrio’s work, since he talked in interviews about his inspirations from Mythology for this movie and Justice League (which I actually do like, especially since an argument can be made that Superheroes are effectively a modern mythology.) However, he brought up Prometheus and stated he was struck down by a lightning bolt for stealing fire from the gods. Which really bugged me because it’s completely wrong. Prometheus was, quite infamously, punished by being tied to a rock and having vultures peck out his heart every day. It’s strange that a guy who talked so much about researching mythology would get something so basic wrong. And honestly, the vulture thing would’ve been a cooler story and could’ve tied into Lex’s eventual fate with a bit of work (he succeeds in his goal of bringing down fire to man (killing Supes) but is punished in a long and drawn out way (being stuck in prison)). Minor detail but it really bugged me.
**I didn’t want to go into any kind of Marvel v DC bit here, but if you want a perfect example of ‘Show don’t Tell’ storytelling for a Superhero character, look no further than in the first Captain America movie. There are so many moments that show Steve as a character (standing up to the bully in the theatre, his constant attempts to enlist, jumping on the grenade, retrieving the flagpole) and all without needing to go into huge monologues about his feelings and motivations.
***Another minor mythology moment turned up here in the museum with the Sword of Alexandria which cut the Gordian Knot. And for a very brief moment I thought that might’ve actually been really smart and subtle foreshadowing. That Wonder Woman would be the sword (person) that easily cuts through the seeming untangleable problem (Batman v Superman). Then I remembered who I was dealing with here and, surprise no surprise, she has nothing to do with Bats/Supes making up. The sword is just there to because it’s a ‘cool reference’ and to show Wonder Woman knows about swords.
**** It’s funny because there’s actually a perfect scene elsewhere in the movie that could’ve built up Supes’s appearance in that car chase. One of the weirdest, most poorly placed scenes in the movie is a very short one where we cut to the Daily Planet and to Perry White asking where the hell Clark is. Nobody knows, so Perry makes a joke about him ‘clicking his heels three times and vanishing back to Kansas’. And that’s the scene. Now, in an example of terrible editing, the next scene is not in Kansas and doesn’t even feature Superman in the slightest. Neither do the next few scenes. Which is just facepalm worthy. But imagine slipping that into the middle of the Batmobile chase. Perry wonders where Clark has gone. Cut to Batman rounding the corner in the Batmobile and suddenly slamming into Superman. Wouldn’t that have worked so much better? As it is, Perry’s Kansas jibe, while funny, is completely pointless. So I’m retroactively adding it to the count.
Pointless Scene Count: 9
That’s right. Not even in the footnotes is this movie safe.