Saturday, March 26, 2016
Broodman v Supergrimdark: Dawn of Misery (Rant)
I think a lot of the reason I really stopped writing reviews was because I'm just... tired. After five years of watching any awful shit that came out of Hollywood I'm tired of doing this to myself. I looked at 2015's slate of bad comedies, bad superhero movies, and after things like "Age of Ultron", I just don't have the energy to say the same things over and over about the same kind of mistakes in the same kind of movies. Ironically I've seen a lot of really special, amazing, and original movies since I basically retired, "Room", "Anomalisa", "Hateful Eight", "Sicario", "Midnight Special", "The Boy and the Beast", "The VVitch", and I'm not writing about any of them. As a matter of fact, I think I'm just too old to watch shit anymore. I'm old enough to realize that life is too damn short to get hung up over the "Green Lanterns" of the world. One of these days I'll be dead and certainly nowhere on my list of regrets will be missing "Fantastic Four".
So here's my recommendation for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice": don't see it. Don't do it yourself. There's nothing here. Trust me. I only saw this movie last night because a friend from high school wanted to hang out and why not see a superhero movie? I was on the fence about seeing it at all before that. I gave you a list of half a dozen great movies, watch those! Or see "The Revenant", "Trainwreck", "Turbo Kid", "Ex Machina", "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl", or "Krampus". Your life can be enriched, it can be improved, you can learn new perspectives, see new things, experience new emotions. Don't see "Batman v Superman". In the great cosmic scale of positives and negatives of entertainment, this is pure negative. It's a hateful, depressing, dreary movie that has a bold new vision for superheroes: mainly that superheroes are not fun anymore. And it's boring.
On Thursday I was tired of Marvel and didn't want to see "Civil War" and thought it was just all too much. On Saturday I am a Marvel fanboy. Bring it on, Disney. They make colorful and fun movies where people crack jokes. They're not perfect, but they're trying to entertain. They're not... this. It's so awful. It is corroded with misery. It's like a funeral. I've seen cancer movies with more joy than "Batman v Superman". I've seen Holocaust movies with more joy. You could make a Holocaust cancer movie that ends in a funeral and it would be more fun than "Batman v Superman". Just don't. Really. I can explain more after the pagebreak, but please, trust me even if you've never trusted me before. Don't.
(Also this is Batman Movie Batdown: Week 1,000 or something. It is also the very first time I have not enjoyed a Batman movie. Yay...)
Remember when superheroes were fun? Seems like just last month superheroes were fun again. I don't think "Deadpool" was a perfect movie or should redefine the genre, but it was fun. He cracked jokes, he had a colorful costume, it was an experience you wanted to laugh with. Zack Snyder does not want to make fun movies. That is clear.
And if you don't want a fun entertaining movie, I do not understand you. Like that's the bare minimum of a blockbuster movie, it needs to be fun. That's what superheroes are, they're escapist fantasies. Even the - highly overrated - comic books "Batman v Superman" is getting inspiration from, "The Dark Knight Returns" and "Death of Superman", were trying to be fantasies. Frank Miller is an insane human being but he really wanted to make a new kind of Batman story that was, sure gritty and quasi-fascist and if you really think about it rather disgusting, but he was still out there creating a new kind of superhero fantasy. "Watchmen" is a deconstruction, it is a drama, you cannot judge it by the standards of mere popcorn entertainment, but you can still have fun with that movie. There are crazy twists, there's all kinds of action, there are moments that make you laugh, there's emotional transcendence. But Zack Snyder is actively against fun now. He's written the Anti-Fun Equation, and this is it.
"Batman v Superman" is a movie that goes out of its way to not be fun. I said a lot of bad things about "Man of Steel", Snyder's disastrously stupid take on Superman from three years ago. But even though I was horrified by the ending of that movie and exhausted by the endless fight scenes, if you just have an action boner that movie will satisfy it. I don't really get the whole Final Fantasy SciFi realm of Krypton prologue thing that movie did, but it was fascinating and a little campy. So at least there was an attempt to entertain between all the endless brooding and Jesus imagery and completely random editing and desaturated color. "Batman v Superman" does all of those same things wrong, but its action scenes mostly suck. And it is pervasively ugly and unpleasant. There no jokes in this movie, there are no people in this movie. Superman and Batman are horrible monsters and dumbasses who you can't root for. There is no superheroism! Just grit, grime and pain.
It also might be one of the worst edited films I've ever seen. Despite being clearly an hour too long, it also feels like a movie which has been torn to shreds to fit a 150 minute running time. Scenes seem to be thrown together at random, as you jump wildly between various running plots. There is no flow of any kind. Just one minute you're with Superman, one minute you're with Batman, the next you're over here, the next you're over there, but with no sense of a story really progressing as much as spinning its wheels for an eternity. This is a movie that interrupts the Batman and Superman fight so that we can watch little Youtube clips of the other Justice League members. This movie is edited to not to be about Batman fighting Superman but about nothing.
The idea of this movie is just Lex Luthor tricks Superman and Batman to fight. That's all it needed. That's a seventy minute story. Hell, I'll give you another twenty minutes to set up your "Justice League" movie and to throw in a final bad guy. But the story goes out of its way to invent new complications and conspiracies. Generally none of it goes anywhere. Every scene seems to be more exposition to create more plot, instead of resolving old plots or moving those plots forward. Or then there is the occasional completely insane hallucination as Zack Snyder loses all control and indulges in his wildest fantasies, but then buttons himself back up and goes back to making a truly boring uninspiring movie. Also Doomsday shows up in the only moment when the movie, after two hours, finally lets the heroes actually fight a villain and do something that is marginally exciting.
I have not really said much about the characters, mainly because they are not here. I feel bad for years ago calling Christopher Nolan more of a watchmaker than a humanist in my review of "Interstellar". As soon as his influence left the DC cinematic world, whatever humanity existed in these films instantly disappeared. I'm not going to call Tom Hardy's Bane a masterwork in character crafting, but at least Bruce Wayne, Alfred, the Joker, these were all people. They could smile and had hopes and dreams. "Batman v Superman" only has plot points masquerading as characters. They are all so lost in their own egos and interested in defining the greater meaning of their characters that they never have time to be people. I think Ben Affleck could be a great Bruce Wayne if he was given a fair chance. Henry Cavill... maybe never will work as Superman, but when he's given nothing but wood, wood is what you get on screen. Amy Adams doesn't work, nothing works. I wanted to like Jeremy Irons as Alfred but... no, nothing is good here. This movie is so bad in every way.
By far the worst is Lex Luthor, which repeats the old Joel Schumacher-era mistakes of turning the villains into the main comic reliefs. Only Jessie Eisenberg is no Jim Carrey. His Lex Luthor is an obnoxious extremely annoying twit, who seems to be three interpretations of Lex Luthor at once depending on the scene. We owe Joel Schumacher an apology. Turns out that "Batman Forever" could have been so much worse. Nobody at the theater I was at laughed once at this Luthor.
Actually nobody at my theater laughed at all. Not once. Dead silent crowd. "Batman v Superman" is the rock that Warner Bros is leveraging its future upon; they have a whole decade of movies planned as sequels to this. I've never given financial advice on this blog before, but if you own stock in Time Warner, I suggest very strongly you sell it. Get out now.
Okay, so maybe you don't care about anything I've said so far. Maybe you're the ultimate comic fanboy and just want to see Batman and Superman fight on screen. Okay. The marquis fight is five minutes long, extremely slow, and is resolved thanks to the fact that Batman and Superman both have moms named "Martha". So no, you do not get that joy either, sorry. And if you are a comic book fan you can also enjoy characters like Mercy Graves and Jimmy Fucking Olson both being murdered on screen without ceremony. Hope you didn't like those characters, because Snyder definitely didn't. Oh, and Batman uses guns. And he kills people. Indiscriminately murders dozens of people, including at least one innocent bystander who had the poor fortune of driving a tanker truck full of petroleum through a car chase scene.
Fanboys who raged at the critics for giving bad reviews this week: what are you defending? By the way, critics like me are not out to get you, fanboys. I am trying to help you. I hate this movie, and a lot of this writing is made as catharsis for a bad time at the movies, but I do want to help other people. So this is me helping: don't see this movie.
You know, okay, it's a gritty new interpretation of Batman. It is not the Nolan movies as much as I really wish I was watching those again. I can accept this. But even on Snyder's own terms the movie is terrible. Most of the time Batman is not even killing people for a good reason. He does it to steal some Kryptonite from Lex Luthor to kill Superman. Everybody was mad at the end of "Man of Steel" when Superman killed Zod, so the very first time we see Superman in this, he throws a criminal through like six concrete walls, almost certainly killing him. This is what I mean about there being no heroes in "Batman v Superman". Look, I'm not raging against this movie for being dark (well, I am, kinda) but I am raging against it for being depressing and awful down to the very core. I mean, Batman killed people all the time in the Tim Burton movies, often it was played for laughs, it's fine. But he always did it for good reasons. I just want a moral core to a superhero movie, is that too much to ask?
Zack Snyder has rapidly regressed as a filmmaker. I knew after seeing "Sucker Punch" that he had a very deranged view of the world that most did not understand. But you would think with Warner Bros needing a billion dollars out of this project that they would try to reign him in. The men they put around him are David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio, whose work here makes them look like outright psychopaths. I know this is a more serious and adult version of superheroes. But there's no room for any audience under eighteen in "Batman v Superman". How it got a PG-13 rating is beyond me. Yeah there was nudity in "Deadpool" but I think that movie might actually be more family friendly than this. Snyder and his fans seem to think that grit and "dark" stories are automatically more "mature". Actually no. He simply does not understand these characters, and his own interpretation of them is half-baked and unappealing. The Marvel style should not be all pervasive in this genre of filmmaking but I'll take a million "Ant-Men" over this.
Maturity does not come from how tortured your character is, or how moody you make the lighting in the scene. It comes from having characters and real human drama and asking difficult questions. If you wanted a mature Batman story, how about a story where he has to put away his costume and try to make a family? How about falling in love? How about finding people that he wants to protect? If you want a mature Superman story, don't look to fucking "Death of Superman", look to "Superman Returns", the one where he barely fights anybody and has to accept that Lois Lane has moved on with her life without him. The very concept of "Batman v Superman" should be enough to show you what a mistake this movie was. Batman and Superman shouldn't fight, that's idiotic! The mature interesting stories are them working together despite their differences and making the world a better place. Instead of blowing it up. Mature stories should be difficult but inspirational and meaningful. Not horrifying.
I'm going to be more careful with my choices of my money and my time in the future. Because I can't do this forever. If Zack Snyder makes another seven superhero movies, what am I supposed to do? Actually watch them all? Oh my god, no. I have not seen "Man of Steel" since I saw it last in 2013, I will never watch "Batman v Superman" again. There is no nutritional value here. I'm telling you now, don't see this movie. It isn't fun-bad or interesting-bad, it's depressing. It is a punch in the gut. Unless the reviews for "Justice League Part 1" (jesus) are glowing, why should anybody watch it? You have no obligation to see bad movies just because Batman is in it. Be free. See anything else.
Actually, if you want a new Batman movie just wait for "Lego Batman". It will be charming and fun for the entire family. And charm is one thing "Batman vs Superman: Dawn of the Fucking Death of Cinema and Life Itself" does not have.