Movies That Settle – Current Edition – Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Posted: March 28, 2016 in Movies That Settle, Uncategorized

Well, everyone is weighing in on this one, so I figured I would, too, but no matter what any critic, blogger, pundit or neophyte out there on the internets says, the only opinion that really matters has spoken, to the tune of the largest March opening weekend ever, and the sixth biggest U.S. opening ever. I don’t really understand it, but about $20 of that were mine, so I guess I’m just as crazy as the rest of the country.

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice

The opinions of this *ahem* film seem to range from “absolutely terrible” to “wasn’t that bad.” That’s certainly not a wide range, and I don’t think I’ve heard too many people say it was actually good, but that’s what’s kind of interesting to me. Despite the fact that people either think it’s one of the worst movies ever made, as I do, or they think it is just “not bad,” it seems to be a very polarizing piece of pop culture, especially in the comic book fandom. There is definitely a fair amount of comic-movie backlash floating around these days, but some of us who are devoted fans of the genre will defend it to the death, especially to those non-fans. It’s like Mel Brooks making fun of Jews; he can do it and it’s not offensive because he’s Jewish. You can’t make fun of my comic book movies because you’re not a fan and you don’t know my pain! I’ve waited my whole life for this!

Still, even though I am a comic book reader, that doesn’t mean I go all in. I mean, I also like baseball, but I don’t love every team. And when you really think about it, there hasn’t been a decent Superman movie since 1980. That’s five really bad movies in a row over 36 years. How many does it take before someone says, “You know what? I don’t think Supes works.” Apparently never, because we’re stuck with a few more of these Zack Snyder crap-fests over the next five years.

That aspect may be more remarkable than the public opinion of this movie; the fact that Warner Brothers felt so far behind Disney when it came to comic book movies that they jump-started their whole slate of tentpoles for the next five years with this one, never once thinking, “What if nobody likes it?” Next summer, we have Wonder Woman, followed by Justice League: Part One in November, then The Flash in Spring 2018 and the long-awaited Aquaman solo film for your summer popcorn flick in 2018. If that doesn’t make you want to toss your lunch, 2019 brings us Shazam!(?????) and Justice League: Part Two. Wow! And if I’m not in prison for murdering Zack Snyder by 2020, we’ll have a Cyborg solo venture, and a Green Lantern Corps movie. That’s eight movies, plus whatever Ben Affleck solo Batman films they churn out. And we are not off to a good start.

(PLEASE NOTE: I intentionally left out Suicide Squad, because I don’t really think they will have much interaction with the other DC heroes. Plus, that trailer doesn’t look that bad.)

Now, I know the counter-argument is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a movie with characters nobody had ever heard of that was way better than anyone expected. And yes, it could happen. Shazam! could be a Tour de Force of cinematic wonder. I’m just not holding my breath. And I know it’s hard for some, because most of my friends don’t know which company puts out which movies, but let’s not even compare the DC films to the Marvel ones, because they are using completely different pizza recipes, as far as I’m concerned. It’s like comparing all other animation companies to Pixar.

The funny thing is none of this actually matters a whole lot because Batman vs. Superman is being judged in the court of public opinion, which, thanks  to social media and people (myself included) wanting to get their two cents in, is not a vacuum. Last week, when the first reviews were coming out, the majority of them were negative. Then when the general public started seeing it, we saw more backlash. Rotten Tomatoes at this moment has it at a pretty abysmal 29%. By way of comparison, the universally-panned Phantom Menace is still pretty low on the Tomatometer, and that is at 56%. Still, way better than BvS.

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But then came the apologists. The people who just need a couple hours of entertainment. The people who just wanted to see some explosions and some pretty people duke it out. The people who really, really wanted to like it, so they willed it into the Not Bad category. And that’s totally fine. I sometimes wish I could be one of those people. But I went to film school and have a pretty analytical mind, anyway, and so I am cursed with having to wonder what went wrong. I mean, hundreds of people are involved in making every blockbuster. I can’t believe someone involved didn’t have the kahones to walk up to Zack Snyder and say, “This is drivel.” Or maybe they did, and he took the Billy Mack route. I mean, it made $170 million on opening weekend. I’d call that sold gold shit, all right.

But what I really want to study is this cultural phenomenon of a lot of people really hating a movie, and then suddenly a bunch of people coming out and saying it’s “not that bad.” I don’t know if it’s an underdog thing, but I’ve heard people stick up for this movie like it was a person. We’re talking about a major studio blockbuster release here, which probably cost about as much as it takes to launch a space shuttle, not some indy director trying to make it in this cutthroat business. And what does “not that bad” even mean?  To me, “not that bad” is kind of just a euphemism for “not that good.”

To be fair, some people seemed to have kinda-sorta actually liked it. One common (semi-)positive review is that it’s better than its predecessor Man of Steel, which is kind of like saying that one carton of sour milk tastes slightly less sour than another. However, that same reviewer goes on to say that ” ‘Batman v Superman’ is neither as stupid nor as stupendous as it might have been.” So, it’s not as stupid as it might have been? Seems like this guy still thinks it’s kind of stupid. But somewhere between stupid and stupendous then? Gotcha. Sounds like another way to say “not that bad.”

Andrew O’Hehir from Salon.com wrote: So Batman v Superman is kind of dopey and plays out some laborious plot twists in the DC narrative at unnecessary length, but as I’ve already said it largely kept me entertained for two and a half hours, which is not nothing.” No, but is it something? He also says that “This movie isn’t nearly as terrible as I was expecting.” These seem like apologist reviews to me.

Even Comic Book Resources, which should be this film’s bread-and-butter, could not sugarcoat this movie. That’s right. Even a comic book fan called this movie “a trainwreck.” And it is. Jesse Eisenberg plays the worst criminal mastermind in film history. Superman isn’t the Man of Steel here, because he’s actually wooden. Wonder Woman is fine, for the entire seven minutes she’s onscreen. The Aquaman cameo is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in any movie. And the long-anticipated battle of the century (y’know, Batman vs. Superman) takes so long to develop that they only have a few minutes to actually fight, since they didn’t really start until the thing was already around the two-hour mark. Plus, the trailer pretty much gave away that they would be buddies by the end, anyway.

But that’s just one side of the coin. Of course, every movie has its supporters and detractors, but this one seems different somehow. Some movies are needlessly long and drawn-out. Some movies are poorly acted or poorly written. Some movies are weighed down by too much plot and not enough action. Some movies just insult my intelligence. This movie does all of these things, and yet, some people liked it. Or at least, it wasn’t as terrible as they thought it would be. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe they like going against the grain. Maybe they don’t care so much. Maybe it appealed to them in some other way (and I don’t fault them for that. In fact, I’m sort of jealous.)

Or maybe they felt bad for poor, old Ben:

I could watch that all day.

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