‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is a Noisy Bar where Nobody Likes You

by Simon Williams on March 23, 2016

in Print Reviews,Reviews

Before I begin, here is an open letter to Larry Fong, Director of Photography on Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice:

Okay buddy when you look at your camera near the top there should be a button with the letters “ISO”, or there should be an option in the menu saying the same. That plays a big factor in the exposure of your shots. What you’re gonna want to do is take that down a few notches and bring up your shutter speed, so that you don’t get that grainy effect that’s happening. I know learning how to use your camera can be hard, but I have faith that someday you’ll be shooting like the pros!

Sincerely, Simon.

[Rock Fist Way Down]

I’m still fairly new to the critic’s scene, so most people reading this might not be aware of my relationship with director Zack Snyder. We have a system. He tears the soul out of some of the best comics ever written as well as cinema as a whole; and I generally feel bad as a person for being of the same nationality, gender and species. He makes more money than I can even comprehend existing; and I get genuinely and deeply infuriated with people whom I otherwise love because they said something positive about his adaptation of Watchmen. It’s a solid system.

In short, I am not a fan. There is something about his films (and him as a person) that digs under my skin and nags at me whenever I watch his movies. I’d say it’s hard to define, but it isn’t at all, I just wish it was harder to define. It would help me understand why people outside of Junior High enjoy his films. He’s a twelve year old boy with all the empathy and intelligence of a horny bonobo at the zoo. He’s pretentious (and I mean that in the actual sense of the term, being that he doesn’t understand a single concept he attempts to explore in his films), he’s misogynistic (even though he doesn’t realize it, as you can see whenever he discusses his 2011 masterpiece Sucker Punch), he’s sophomoric (watch any DVD commentary of his and listen for the number of times he says he did something “because it was cool”) and he directs (I’m sorry) the worst action scenes in modern blockbuster cinema. He’s the Limp Bizkit of filmmakers, all style and no substance, which would be fine were it not for the fact that that style was also acidic and infuriating.

(The Nickelback of the movies of course being Michael Bay, being more popularly hated but ultimately less harmful to one’s health.)

So, for reasons I hope I’ve made clear, I was not feeling very confident about the quality of his newest film, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not at first anyway. But you see, Snyder is a tricksy one, and eventually the trailers wore me down and I had to concede that it was possible the new film could be at least passable. I doubted it, but still. It was possible.

But oh boy.

Guys, this thing is bad. I don’t mean your normal garden variety bad, I mean bad. Batman V. Superman is painful. Legitimately so, the score and sound design being so overwhelming I left the film with a pounding headache. It’s so bad I’m almost at a loss as to where to begin.

I mean we have all the reliable Snyder terribleness. Zackary, after all, is a creature of habit, and there are some things that you can expect all his films to have. The action beats are not only overly choreographed but shot awkwardly and distantly, giving the impression of watching a sped-up run of Arkham City played by a kid from Topeka hyped up on Adderol. The imagery goes so far to attempt iconography that it loses all sense of reality. The women are “empowered” and yet still scantily clad and only talk about or to male counterparts, often requiring their aide to have any agency in the narrative at all. OH and I shan’t forget the narrative itself, somehow still finding a way to have so much plot that one is clinging to every word of dialogue just to understand what is happening, but so little story that it’s actually surprising when the characters have arcs.

All that’s still there, but nothing prepared me for the rest of this thing.

Good god this thing is bad.

It’s so bad it made me hate Superman. Like as a person. This film’s depiction of Superman is that of a whiny toddler who feels guilty that he got the dog sick by feeding it chocolate. Superman spends the entire film silently looking dour and flatly monologuing to loved ones about how nobody likes him. Henry Cavill isn’t helping anything, having learned since the last film that emoting means scrunching your face up real tight like you’re hitting the falsetto notes in your acapella band. He is just awful in this. It’s like watching a Middle School play about Superman directed by the gym teacher.

Jesse Eisenberg, too, feels like he’s in an amateur school play, except while Cavill is the one pretty kid who has never felt an actual emotion in their life, Eisenberg embodies that kid who sometimes gets bullied but at last, now, on the stage he can show just how edgy and creepy and cool he can be. He’s actually kind of interesting at the beginning, but soon the constant twitching and ad-libbed quips reveal themselves to be nothing more than the desperate attempt of a solid actor hamming it up in the face of a director giving him no attention save toward the lines for the trailer.

Many have questioned the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, yet he may be the highlight of the cast on sheer virtue of not feeling like he was making up the character as he was going along. He also, surprisingly, did not feel distractingly like Ben Affleck. He didn’t particularly feel like Batman but you know, win some lose some.

Just a sec (throws back a shot of whiskey).

Okay, let’s keep going.

This movie is so bad that Wonder Woman, after all these years, finally solidifies onto the big screen, AND I FELT NOTHING.

This movie is so bad that the effects from the New Zealand based Weta Workshops (the group behind Lord of the Rings and Avatar) feel like they just ripped off their own work on The Hobbit Trilogy.

This movie is so bad it feels the need to steal large swatches of plot from The Avengers, X-Men, The Dark Knight and even the previous film in the franchise. Seriously, Lois Lane’s arc is almost beat-for-beat identical to her narrative line in Man of Steel. The difference between that narrative and this, though, is that Man of Steel at least pretended that Amy Adams’ Lois Lane had agency and personality. She didn’t, but they acted like she did. Here it’s like they gave up and told poor Amy Adams they really do only need her as 1) a magical exposition fairy and 2) a damsel in distress for Superman to rescue (even if it makes no sense that he could tell she was in danger or when there are much larger more pressing issues at hand). Strong Independent Woman for ya.

Fuck this movie.

This movie is so bad it made me hate Hans Zimmer. I’d be surprised if there was a single three minute stretch without music, and his score is the most bombastic piece of composition since Souza. His score spoonfeeds the audience every single emotional beat of the entire film. Thank god right? I mean I, as an audience member, get so confused by words and actions and visuals, thank god the music is there to make me understand that the character onscreen right now is sad. Thank you, Hans Zimmer, otherwise I would have had to use my brain. And that’s only one element of the already busy and just really awful soundscape of the film. The sound design is a constant stream of loud clangs and bangs, with not only every punch and explosion but every car swerve and dropped pen given the gravitas of a nuclear blast so you have no sense of dynamics. It’s like being in a noisy club with nobody you know and the DJ keeps playing the score from Gladiator over and over and everyone is generally very confused and screams as they bump into one another desperately trying to figure out why their footfalls sound like mortar blasts.

Oh! One good thing about this movie! I’m pretty sure a hell of a drinking game can be made around it. Every time Batman crashes into something: take a drink. Every time Lex Luthor monologues about God: take a drink. Every time Lois Lane gets trapped or captured: take a drink. Every time a character beat is interrupted by an action scene or a dramatic musical stab: take a drink. Every time they change the distance between Metropolis and Gotham: take a drink. When they have their giant teaser for the upcoming Justice League film: take a shot of the strongest stuff you have in the house then just finish the bottle anyway because good god nine more of these are planned and I just cannot do it sober.

I haven’t even gotten into half the bad stuff about this film yet! Some of it basic, rudimentary, first semester of film school crap. That silly, condescending open letter from the beginning? I have that because there isn’t a single properly exposed shot in the entire damn movie. This movie took how long and how much money to make and you can’t get the fucking exposure right?

This film is so bad the good parts make me angry. This film is so bad, it made Alfred annoying. This film is so bad, it made the Batwing boring. This film is so bad, it made a literal nuclear blast feel trite. This film is so bad, it made me miss Man of Steel. This film is so bad, it thinks a good reason to turn Batman to the light side is his realization that his mother and Supe’s mom HAVE THE SAME NAME.

 This film doesn’t understand people, philosophy, comic books, heroism or cinema. I’ve had more pleasurable and stimulating dental exams. I came up with more compelling superhero narratives playing with my action figures as a kid.

Superman is a baby, Batman is a bully, Lois Lane is a soulless automaton, Lex Luthor is the most evil boy in school, Gotham is Metropolis’ Oakland, Doomsday is an Uruk-Hai and Wonder Woman had more personality in the Linda Carter TV series.

Fuck this movie, Fuck this franchise, Fuck this genre, Fuck Zack Snyder, Fuck Hans Zimmer, Fuck David S. Goyer, Fuck Henry Cavill and his Stupid Fucking Face, Fuck you, Fuck me, Fuck everyone else who bought a ticket to Man of Steel for letting this happen in the first fucking place and Fuck whoever let Larry Fong get through film school without knowing how to properly expose a Fucking shot. My president is black and my lambo is blue and I’m gonna go drink a bottle of whiskey and reminisce about when superhero films made me happy.

Sincerely, Simon.

Simon Williams

Simon Williams is a media critic and filmmaker originally from Columbus Ohio. He makes short films about sad people who don’t speak their minds because he himself is a sad person who does not have that issue.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dude_relax March 30, 2016 at 11:59 am

It seems like this review was written more to have snappy one liners than to review the actual movie. The author doesn’t sound stupid, but pompous. While I disagree with a lot of the negative reviews of this movie I can honestly say that most of them are fair. I cannot say the same for this piece. This article could be submitted as an application to write for The Big Bang Theory, lots of isolated jokes with no real content.

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2 Joseph Weindl March 31, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Sure is easy to make fun of filmmakers when you’ve never done it, isn’t it? I’ve been there, I know where you’re coming from. Spend a little more time learning the craft and maybe you’ll stop spending so much energy on trying to entertain your readers with quips and elaborate insults that don’t really say much about the film itself.

You’re a student, and yet you have the nerve to accuse the cinematographer of not knowing how to properly expose a shot. Wow. Just cuz you don’t like his decisions doesn’t mean he doesn’t know EXACTLY what he’s doing. When you get past filmmaking 101, you learn that there are no rules.

Grow up, and maybe stop trying to have fun at your perceived shortcomings of others. You’ll get nothing out of it, and neither will your readers.

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