Batman vs. Superman, or Why Marvel Does It Better

(I intended to start off this blog with a review of Avatar, which would have been fitting given the title and URL, but it needs more polishing and the following was more immediate. So here we go.)

I held off seeing this film after all the negativity and furor. I’m not a comic book reader so much of the minutiae escapes me, but I’m fairly familiar with the larger ideas. I’m a lifelong Superman fan but the Marvel films have been much more captivating and this movie pretty much proves why.

The Avengers started building slowly, through hints peppered through films starting with Iron Man in 2008. The Avengers wasn’t released until 2012. In between, Marvel sowed plot threads in the first Captain America film and the first Thor film, with teasers and tidbits in Iron Man 2 and The Hulk. That made The Avengers a denouement, a payoff for everyone who had seen the other films and had seen how the strands came together. With this film, you see how not to do the same thing. Instead of building up the Justice League bit by bit through multiple films, they try to cram the whole thing into one movie by way of a convoluted plot that doesn’t work.

I did like the beginning, with Bruce’s on-the-ground perspective while Sup and Zod throw down, which is not an angle you get to see that often. The effects were well-done and I was ready to believe Ben Affleck as an older, worn-down Bruce Wayne. But this never felt like a single film; it was more like watching disparate scenes that didn’t have any connection to each other–each one strong in itself, but not part of a larger cohesive whole. It was as if you had twenty different writers each write a scene and then try to put them together. No cohesive unity, no strong sense of where things were going, and actors clearly struggling to figure out just what they were supposed to be emoting about. Bruce’s dream/vision/hallucination of the future was confusing and didn’t help the story; there was a wonderful opportunity to really explore the conflicting ideas of Superman being more of a threat and Batman not really representing justice, or even an opportunity for a good quality storyline of Lex Luthor manipulating Batman into attacking and destroying Superman (or did he want Superman to kill Batman? Who knows?).

This is a movie full of lost opportunities and ham-handed writing; the dramatic moment when Batman is poised to kill Superman, all it takes is the name “Martha” to send Batman into a slo-mo dramatic flashback and make him come to his senses and suddenly ALL of his obsessive suspicions about and vendetta against Superman are gone. So he decides to save Martha Kent while Clark goes off to battle this Luthor/Kryptonian LoTR cave troll thing that Lex managed to make, because apparently it makes sense that he was just given access to Zod and the remnants of a ship and allowed to frolic all by himself to his heart’s content and NO ONE noticed. That’s hardly the weakest part of this film, but one of the most annoying–we know Lex is the villain, so the writers just have him do openly Villainy things that genius crimefighter Bruce Wayne misses because Superman Vendetta Blinders, I suppose.

Oh, and Wonder Woman is in this film, but why, I can’t say. Her only purpose seems to be to connect the other soon-to-be Justice League members to this mishmash of a film and hint at things that are coming. Protip, DC writers; you’re supposed to do that through teasers at the END of the film, not shove a character into a film to serve no purpose. If this were television, this would be dangerously close to a back door pilot. So in effect, DC watched Marvel for at least four years, saw how they carefully and patiently laid the groundwork for the Avengers, and then decided they didn’t want to put that much effort in and tried to do it all in one movie. Badly. The result is this.

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