When you go to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (and let’s face it, you’ll have to work really hard not to since it’s showing in on every flat surface in the world) you’ll need to be prepared and, since I’m nothing if not civic-minded, I figure I’m just the guy to help get you battle-ready.
The first thing you’ll need to do is leave all cognitive reasoning abilities outside the auditorium, which means ignoring the reviews. Critics far superior to me have weighed in and the notices are lacerating. But having sat through it I’d say that any review not starting with something along the lines of “Batman v Superman is so bad it made my St. Vitus Dance act up” is just being polite. So you’ll just have to pretend you haven’t read them.
Then you’ve got to surmount the whole “why?” question. Why is Batman versing Superman? Aren’t they heroes—why would they be fighting? In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice they go up against each other because… well because Batman’s forgot to take his mood elevators—he’s depressed and angry and doesn’t seem to realize it. In the previous Man of Steel, Superman fought with General Zod and their battle leveled Metropolis. One of the buildings getting trashed belonged to Wayne Enterprises and Batman (a.k.a. Bruce Wayne) is pretty bent out of shape. So, naturally, he decides to kill Superman.
You might think that sounds ridiculous, but imagine what President Trump would do if somebody knocked down one of his buildings?
The weird thing, and one of the big reasons you need to leave your brain in the parking lot, is that the rest of the world hates Superman as well, even though he saved them from Zod. You know, just how you’d get pissed at a firefighter for kicking in the door when rescuing your child from a fiery death. Like you’re standing there with your still-gasping kid in your arms saying testily “well somebody has to pay for this door!”
The next thing you’ll need to do in preparation is pack ear plugs and some light reading material. The movie begins with three or four unconnected violent sequences involving people you don’t know, all of them very upset and killing somebody for reasons not made clear. I’m not sure you need any of this information, so leafing through Cosmo or the TV Guide might be a better use of your time than wondering how we ended up in the Indian Ocean or what we’re doing in Senate hearings and is this flashback to 1981 relevant to these current scenes set in the Middle East? And you’ll want the earplugs because most of this stuff is played at membrane-rupturing levels.
But once you get through that, take out the earplugs because we get to the only part of the movie offering what might be called entertainment. Holly Hunter plays a Senator investigating Superman and Jesse Eisenberg plays villain Lex Luthor… and they have scenes together which involve actual acting. Surprising, I know, and even if you wonder why they bothered you’re pathetically grateful they did. Hunter brings layered subtext and humanity to this CGI circus and Eisenberg is quirky and scary/funny with an offbeat energy.
Which is really needed because Ben Affleck, as Batman, is a total Debbie Downer wallowing in his own misery. Honestly, if being a caped crusader is such a chore Batty, then hang it up and start dressing like a normal person.
Henry Cavill as Superman doesn’t bring much pep to the proceedings either; he’s all moody because people don’t like him and he spends much of the movie pouting. Cavill is also slightly undercut by his looks; his jaw is so square and chin so cleft you’d swear to god he was a robot … a really petulant robot.
A Brilliant Disguise?
And while I’m on the subject, how stupid are the people of Metropolis anyway? How do they not see that Clark Kent is Superman? Believe me, it’s a miracle there’s one person in this world who looks like Cavill, two’s an impossibility. “Hey everybody! I’ve put on glasses so you can’t tell who I am… lol!”
The next preparatory item doesn’t actually exist so you’ll have to make do the best you can. You’ll need something that’ll physically stop your eyeballs from rolling back into your head, popping out your ears and making their way out of the theater. Because here we are in hour two and Batman and Superman are about to face off.
The eagle-eyed among you will notice the inherent flaw in this plan. Superman is, well, he’s a super alien with super powers; Batman’s just a guy with a lot of gadgets. (Although the costumes for Cavill and Affleck are so heavily padded you’d think they’re going on an expedition to the North Pole.) Because of this difference in power, any battle between the two would be, by definition, rather brief. So the writers (and trust me, I use that word charitably) concoct a scheme whereby Lex Luthor gets his hands on some Kryptonite which Batman then steals. Once in his possession, Bruce turns it into a misting spray he uses on Superman to weaken him just enough so this “battle” can be drawn out to mind-boggling length. It’s really just a long fist fight with lots of silly effects, including Batman spinning Superman around by his feet like a Whirly Tube.
“Can’t We All Just Get Along?”
Batty finally gets Supie pinned to the ground and is about to impale him with a Kryptonite-tipped spear (don’t ask) and then … here’s where the eye-rolling comes in. (And yes, this is a Spoiler Alert.)
Bat: I’m going to kill you!
Supe: Okay, but save Martha.
Bat: Why did you use that name?
Supe: My mother’s name is Martha and Lex Luther has her hostage.
Bat: Get out! My mother’s name is Martha, too. She’s dead.
Supe: Dude, that’s so cool.
Bat: Let’s be friends. Sorry about the Kryptonite.
Supe: That’s okay. I love you, Bruce.
Bat: I love you, Clark.
Okay, maybe that’s not entirely verbatim, but it’s pretty close. Rabid fans might think it’s a powerful sign that the mothers of Batman and Superman are both named Martha. But really, it just points to the feeble quality of the source material.
So the bros team up to fight Doomsday, which is this giant potato-like thing created by Lex using skin from the fingertips of Zod. (Don’t ask.) But the thing about Doomsday is that whatever energy you use on it only makes it stronger. Things don’t look very promising for our caped duo … until Wonder Woman shows up and they form a crime-fighting trio. (You don’t even want me to explain how she got there.)
It looks like the film’s heading for the home stretch and so your final items will be a Snuggie, neck pillow, and a change-of-address card.
Because this movie refuses to stop. You find yourself thinking, like Prince Charles does every time he considers his mother’s reign: “It is ever going to end?”
First that battle with Doomsday has to play out—and if people in Metropolis were unhappy about how their city looked after Zod got done with it, they’ll be livid now… if any of them are still alive. At one point the army explodes an atomic bomb in the atmosphere, they don’t think that isn’t going to effect property values?
Eventually Doomsday is destroyed and all the stories have to wrap up; Batman, Superman, his mother, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman. As it turns out, this movie is really just a trailer for a new superhero franchise called “The Justice League” featuring Wonder Woman and Batman and we’ve got to sit through that being teed up. (I should have guessed since the clue’s in the title.)
It just goes on and on … so here’s where you’ll want to break out that Snuggie and neck pillow. You’ve come this far and deserve a snooze. And when it finally ends, 151 minutes later!, you might seriously think about sending out that change-of-address card to loved ones who’d given up hope of seeing you again.
Following the bad reviews and underwhelming three-day box office returns, director Zack Snyder has been making the P.R. rounds talking about upcoming non-comic book movies he’s looking forward to making … which probably means he’s been “uninvited” from working on any more Superman flicks. But I think that’s unfair—though he certainly deserves some of the blame, a debacle of this nature required millions of dollars, thousands of people, and a handful of idiotic studio executives. The only item they’ll need to get through Batman v Superman is an account on Monster.com.
Ted Hoover is a Pittsburgh-based writer and critic.