Thursday, March 31, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice was written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. It was directed by Zack Snyder.

Terrio previously wrote the screenplay for Argo, which was a very good, if completely inaccurate, historical drama. Goyer is a prolific and very uneven screenwriter, who previously wrote Kickboxer 2: The Road Back, The Puppet Masters, The Crow: City Of Angels, the Blade Trilogy, Batman Begins, Jumper, The Dark Knight, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, The Dark Knight Rises and Man Of Steel.

Snyder's career began in 2004, and it's been going steadily downhill ever since, no doubt a result of him gaining more control on each subsequent film. He directed the Dawn Of The Dead remake (very good), 300 (not bad), Watchmen (good), Sucker Punch (OK) and Man Of Steel (oy). He's very good at composing shots and integrating effects, but not so good when it comes to handling anything that has to do with coherent plots or character motivation.

So let's get this out of the way before we go any further— I didn't hate this film. No one's more surprised than I am by that admission. Based on Warner Bros. track record with DC movies, the various underwhelming trailers and the fact that I absolutely despised Snyder's detestable Man Of Steel, I was expecting to hate it. Maybe going in with absolutely zero expectations helped?

But don't get the wrong idea here. I didn't actually like the movie by any stretch of the imagination. I just didn't loathe it. Maybe Warner Bros. could paraphrase that as a blurb on the movie poster. "I didn't actually like it, but I didn't loathe it." Now that's a recommendation!

The fact that I didn't hate it doesn't mean the film is good, mind you. Far, FAR from it. It's a bit better than Man Of Steel, I'll give it that, but that's damning it with very faint praise. Batman V Superman is a flawed film in every measurable sense. 

The convoluted script is muddled and illogical, as whole swaths of plot seem to be absent or happen off camera. Some of that may be due to the fact that Snyder had to trim half an hour from the bloated runtime. The movie also spends far too much time setting up future films than it does servicing its own story.

Character motivation is largely nonexistent in the film. On the rare occasion when a character does have a reason for doing the things they do, their behavior suddenly changes radically just to move the story along. Early on we see that Batman has good cause for hating Superman, but it's tossed aside late in the movie for the stupidest reason possible. Superman hates Batman because he thinks he's a murderer, yet his body count is just as high, if not worse. And who knows why Lex Luthor hates the title characters and goads them into a fight. Because the script says so, I suppose.

The movie has a dark and dreary color palette that's so devoid of hue it might as well have been filmed on black and white stock. There's nothing particularly interesting to look at either, as the costumes, gadgets and even the monster at the end are all ugly variations of designs we've seen many times before.

It's also just plain no fun. I get that every superhero movie doesn't need to be an action-comedy like Ant-Man or Guardians Of The Galaxy. But even serious dramas need a bit of comedy relief to lighten the tension now and then. Everyone in this film looks grim, dour and miserable. When even the characters look like they don't want to be in their own film, why should the audience bother to stick around?

There's exactly one brief shining moment of unbridled joy in the film, and it doesn't happen until almost the very end. Doomsday backhands Wonder Woman and knocks her into the next county. When she finally skids to a stop, she flashes an "Oh, it is so ON" smile and rushes back into the fray to gleefully kick Doomsday's mutant ass. This is what passes for lightheartedness in Zack Snyder's troubled mind.

Once again Snyder proves he lacks even the most basic understanding of these beloved icons. All the characters in the film act so differently from their classic versions that they're virtually unrecognizable. I cannot emphasize this enough— Batman and Superman are not in this film. At least not the versions I grew up with.

Superman suffers the most here, just as he did in Man Of Steel. It almost seems like Zack Snyder has nothing but contempt and even outright hostility toward the character. For decades, Superman was seen as a beacon of light and hope; someone who stood for decency and honesty. Despite his god-like powers, he was always a righteous, dignified and relatable hero. He saved the world not for personal glory, but because it was the right thing to do.

Apparently Snyder thinks that notion is hopelessly corny and outdated in our modern world. His Superman is an aloof, morose and brooding demigod who actively resents his powers and begrudgingly uses them to save the planet. He constantly floats above us mere mortals, looking down on us with disdain. Even the way he moves is violent and angry. When he deigns to land, he does so with enough force to crack the cement beneath his feet. He punctuates conversations by blasting off into the sky with enough force to create a sonic boom. Compare this to the graceful way Christopher Reeve's Superman touched down and took off in Superman The Movie. No wonder the world's terrified of this version, and seeks to control him.

With Man Of Steel and now Batman V Superman, Zack Snyder has done what Lex Luthor, Brainiac and even Darkseid have never been able to do. He's effectively killed Superman. He's taken him from beloved hero to feared weapon of mass destruction. Talk about character assassination! Well done, Zack!

Further proof that Snyder hates Superman and everything about him— as Lois Lane is interviewing a known terrorist, her photographer is outed as a CIA agent. The terrorist nonchalantly walks up and shoots the man right in the head. In an interview, Snyder revealed that this unlucky photographer was none other than Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen! Yikes! Said Snyder:
“We just did it as this little aside because we had been tracking where we thought the movies were gonna go, and we don’t have room for Jimmy Olsen in our big pantheon of characters, but we can have fun with him, right?”
Jesus Christ! Oh, Zack, that was fun! I laughed and laughed when you brutally killed off a beloved member of Superman's supporting cast! How positively delightful!

Batman doesn't fare any better. Here he's a murdering sociopath who kills indiscriminately as he battles crime. I know there are many audience members who will pump their fists in the air and say it's about time Batman started killing crooks, instead of letting them live to commit crimes another day. But Batman isn't a cop. He's a vigilante who operates outside the law. A Batman who wantonly kills criminals is a criminal himself! Plus this Batman is absolutely brutal in his methods. He even takes to burning his logo into the flesh of criminals, effectively branding them like cattle. Holy crap!

In fact there's little or no difference between Batman and Superman in this film. If you're going to pit two characters against one another, they should be fundamentally different, else why are they feuding? Superman has traditionally been a lighter, more positive character, while Batman was the dark and mopey one. Not so here. These two versions are equally grim and somber, and the only real difference in them is their costumes.

Another example of Snyder's literal character assassination— in the Batcave we see an enshrined costume spray painted with the message "Ha Ha Ha! Joke's On You, Batman." Apparently this is supposed to be the costume of Batman's crimefighting partner Robin, who was presumably killed offscreen in this universe by the Joker. Dang, Robin doesn't even get a brutal Jimmy Olsen death scene! Snyder must really hate him!

Henry Cavill reprises his role as Superman, and once again comes off as little more than a talking slab of beef. He may well be a very good actor, but you'd never know it from his dour, scowling performance here. 

When Ben Affleck was first cast as Batman, there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments throughout fandom. Personally I couldn't possibly have cared less. We've had a whopping SEVEN big budget Batman theatrical films so far, and frankly I'm a little Batmanned out. Oddly enough he turned out to be the best thing about the film. His Batman is an older, world-weary version who's seen far too much and has stopped worrying about whether his actions make him a hero or not. Despite the fact that I'm not a fan of this iteration of Batman, Affleck does a very good job here, embracing the role and making it his own. His Bruce Wayne is pretty darned good as well.

Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman for a grand total of about ten minutes in the film. She seemingly does a pretty good job, but her screen time was so short it's honestly hard to tell if she's a decent actress or not. That said, even though she's one of the best things in the movie, she's completely inconsequential to the "plot." You could remove her from the film altogether and absolutely nothing would change. The only reason she's here is to introduce her into the DC Movie Universe that Warner Bros. is desperately trying to set up.

Sigh… and then there's Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. I cringed every time I saw him in one of the trailers. He's not as bad as I expected him to be in the actual film, but he's still way over the top and he's still horrribly, horribly miscast. He makes Gene Hackman's Luthor look like the pinnacle of restraint.

There've been many versions of Luthor in the comics and movies over the years, from mad scientist to con artist to ruthless businessman. In Batman V Superman, Eisenberg plays him as a cackling, Mark Zuckerberg-like elfin sprite who spouts non sequiters and seemingly goes insane before our very eyes.

One small ray of hope— Eisenberg is apparently playing Lex Luthor Jr. here, as he mentions his father several times during the film. Maybe someday we'll eventually see a proper, formidable Luthor in a future sequel (possibly played by Bryan Cranston). 

For months now I've been snarkily calling this movie Dark Knight V Hopeman, making fun of the fact that both Snyder and Warner Bros. seem embarrassed by the fact they're making superhero movies. Now that I think about it, the film actually works much better if you pretend it's about two brand new superheroes who've never been seen before. Heroes like Dark Knight and Hopeman. Or Armored Bat and God Man. Anyone but the title characters. As a generic superhero movie it's tolerable, but as a Batman and Superman movie, it fails on every level.

The script takes a few elements from Frank Miller's seminal The Dark Knight Returns mini series, puts its own twisted spin on it to make them nearly unrecognizable, and then inexplicably mashes it up with the end of The Death Of Superman storyline. Why they chose to do this, I have no idea. Either of these storylines could have served as the single plot of Batman V Superman. We could have had Batman decide that Superman poses a threat to the world and take it upon himself to neutralize him. Or we could have had Luthor creating Doomsday to kill the Man Of Steel, and Superman calls his friend Batman for help. In the hands of a competent writer and director, one of these plots would have made an epic film. Combining the two storylines only dilutes and muddies what could have been one of the best comic book adaptations ever.

My biggest problem with the movie is the basic premise itself. It's not Batman Teams Up With Superman, it's Batman VERSUS Superman. Personally I don't want to see Batman try to kill Superman. These two characters were my childhood heroes. They were legitimately trying to slay one another here. I cringed every time one of them landed a super powered punch. I don't like seeing either one of them hurt. They're supposed to be teaming up and working together! They're Super Friends, not Murder Enemies!

And who exactly was I supposed to be rooting for during the fight? Was I supposed to want Batman to kill Superman? Was I supposed to shout, "C'mon, Batman! Whoop Superman's ass!" Just another example of how Snyder has absolutely no understanding of the characters, and why the movie works better if you pretend it's about Dark Knight and Hopeman.

One of the biggest complaints about Man Of Steel was the massive amount of death and destruction Superman caused in his battle with Zod. Apparently Snyder was stung by these comments, and took them to heart. There's still a ton of destruction in Batman V Superman, but not nearly as many casualties. Snyder literally has a news reporter comment that the battle is happening after 5pm, when all the workers in downtown Metropolis have gone home for the evening (!). It's such a blatant attempt at deflecting audience criticism that it's inadvertently hilarious. I'm surprised that every time Superman hurled Doomsday into a building which subsequently crumbled, he didn't turn to the camera, wink and say, "Not to worry, chums! That building was empty!"

During filming, many fans were concerned with the numerous announcements that the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg would all be showing up in this already crowded movie. They needn't have worried. The three of them are included in the lamest, most jaw-droppingly ridiculous way possible. And just how were they added? Wonder Woman sits at her computer, and she honest to god clicks on mpegs of them. I kid you not. That's how they were included— spliced in at the last second. Are you fraking kidding me?

Back in 2008 Marvel Studios began releasing a series of interconnected films starring several of their major characters, such as Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. Five years later, they culminated this plan by taking the characters they'd meticulously introduced and teamed them up in The Avengers. It was the first time a studio had ever done anything like that, and Marvel's patience and carefully constructed worldbuilding paid off in spades, as The Avengers grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide.

Warner Bros. decided they wanted in on some of that sweet, sweet shared universe money, and the result is the laughably subpar Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Unlike Marvel though, Warner went about it in the exact opposite way. Instead of setting up their individual heroes and then teaming them up, they decided to team them up first, then worry about showcasing them in their own films later on. As you might expect, the impact is nowhere near the same. There's no thrill in seeing Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman team up when only one of them has been established onscreen (I'm counting this particular Batman as a new character). But hey, potato, po-tah-to, eh? They're just superhero movies. The audience'll lap it up no matter what they put on screen.

According to the website Batman On Film, when Warner Bros. executives saw a rough cut of Batman V Superman, they worried that it might tank at the box office. Not because of the film's poor quality though. No, instead they were concerned that the general public is used to the frothy, "fun" movies that Marvel produces, and wouldn't understand Batman V Superman's "deep" and sophisticated story. Heh. I don't think that'll be a problem, guys. Oh, the audience will have trouble understanding your film, but it won't be because it's deep.

I've heard many fans comment that critics are being too hard on this film, because it's a big, loud popcorn movie and you should just turn your brain off and enjoy it. This attitude angers me. A popcorn movie doesn't have to be stupid and poorly written. The aforementioned The Avengers was most definitely a summer popcorn flick, and it was well written, acted and directed. In fact most of Marvel Studio's output has been fun as well as intelligent. They're not mutually exclusive concepts. 

In the end it doesn't matter what I or anyone else thinks about this film. Despite its muddled script and the damage it does to the characters' legacies, it'll make billions. After just one week in theaters it had already grossed $500 million worldwide. Imagine all the good that could be done with that kind of money!

Did I say I didn't loathe this film? Maybe I need to rethink that opinion.


The Plot:
We start out with a flashback to yet another retelling of Batman's origin story, for the three people on Earth who don't yet know it. Then we get another flashback to the Battle Of Metropolis from Man Of Steel (ugh), in which Superman (played by Henry Cavill) battles Zod, leveling most of the city and killing millions. We see Bruce Wayne (played by Ben Affleck) dodging falling debris as he desperately tries to make it to his Wayne Foundation building and evacuate his employees. Superman destroys the building with his heat vision, causing it to fall and kill everyone inside. Wayne glares up at the reckless Superman with a white hot hatred.

Eighteen months later, many around the world see Superman as a threat, including billionaire industrialist Lex Luthor (played by a horribly miscast Jesse Eisenberg). He somehow knows of a cache of kryptonite inside Zod's world engine at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, and wants it in order to create weapons to stop Superman (never mind how he knows the substance can do this). He approaches Senator June Finch to help clear the red tape involved in recovering the kryptonite, but she refuses to help.

Meanwhile Superman rescues Lois Lane from a terrorist in Africa. He's inexplicably blamed for the massacre, which was secretly staged by Luthor to discredit him.

Bruce Wayne attends a fundraiser at Luthor's mansion, and uses a high tech gadget to copy data from his mainframe. The gadget is stolen by Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot), a mysterious antiques dealer. Luthor introduces Wayne to Clark Kent, and the two verbally spar for a bit about how dangerous both Batman and Superman are. How clever.

Later Diana returns the gadget to Bruce, saying she only "borrowed" it because it contained a photo of hers that she wanted back. Apparently Ms. Prince doesn't understand how digital photos work. Bruce downloads Luthor's files from the gadget, and sees he's compiling info on other metahumans. He sees the photo of Diana from the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, in Warner Bros. desperate attempt at setting up a DC Cinematic Universe. The photo's dated 1918, proving she's an ageless immortal. He also finds files pertaining to Luthor's experiments with kryptonite.

Bruce then has a weird dream/vision involving Darkseid, in yet another attempt at setting up a shared universe. He wakes up as the Flash's head appears before him. The Flash says, "Lois is the key," whatever that means, then tells Bruce that he must find the others, and then says, "Whoops, I went back too far!" before disappearing. Bruce does everything but look at the camera and say, "That was weird!"

Batman goes to the shipping docks to steal Luthor's kryptonite in the most violent and over the top way possible. He's stopped by Superman, who orders him to stop or he'll snap his neck like he did Zod's. Luthor's henchmen (the ones still alive, that is), get away with the kryptonite.

Senator Finch then holds a Congressional hearing in the Capitol, to discuss what to do about Superman. Right as Finch is declaring how dangerous Superman is, Luthor sets off a bomb that kills everyone. Well, everyone but Superman, of course. He's then blamed for the deaths and goes for a hike in the arctic. There he sees a vision of his idiot father, who tells him a story about how every action has unforeseen consequences or some crap.

Bruce sends Diana the metahuman files from Luthor's computer. She then literally sits and watches a series of YouTube videos of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, because there's nothing better than watching a movie of a person watching a movie. This is the brilliant way the film adds these characters to the cast.

Batman steals the kryptonite from Luthor's lab, which makes his earlier murdery attempt pointless. He uses the substance to build an arsenal of weapons, including an armored suit, gas bombs and a kryptonite-tipped Spear Of Destiny. When Luthor discovers his kryptonite is gone, he goes to his Plan B: entering Zod's abandoned spaceship, which is still inexplicably sitting in the middle of downtown Metropolis. The artificially intelligent ship is somehow still active, and is quite accommodating, as it cheerfully takes orders from Luthor for absolutely no reason. He dumps Zod's corpse into a cesspool in the ship, along with a sample of his own blood. The ship very helpfully combines the DNA of both men to create Doomsday, an unstoppable monster with one purpose— to kill Superman.

Luthor, who's apparently figured out Superman's secret identity, kidnaps Clark's horrible asshole of a mother Martha Kent. He blackmails Superman by threatening to kill Martha unless he kills Batman. Instead of snapping his neck like you'd expect this Superman to do, he obeys. Luthor has somehow intuited that Batman used the kryptonite to build anti-Superman weapons, and will be able to kill the Man Of Steel. So is this his Plan C? If so, why'd he need to create Doomsday? Your guess is as good as mine.

Superman then confronts Batman, and the two finally have their title fight after what feels like four hours of screen time. The battle doesn't last long though, as Batman weakens Superman with his kryptonite gas bombs. As Superman lays beaten and defeated he gasps, "Save Martha!" Why he would call his own mother "Martha" instead of "Ma" isn't clear. Batman is taken aback my this, as his own mother's name was Martha. Lois appears and tells Batman that Martha is Superman's mother. This causes Batman to come to his senses and realize that Superman isn't the real enemy here. Yep, I sh!t you not— the reason these two titans stop trying to outright murder one another, do a 180ยบ turn and then team up against Luthor is because their mothers have the same name. Jesus wept.

Batman goes to save Martha in a veritable orgy of death, violence and destruction, killing several hundred of Luthor's goons. Superman confronts Luthor, who releases Doomsday before scampering off. Doomsday is a gigantic half Kryptonian, half human cave troll, er, I mean alien monster who's completely unstoppable. There's even more destruction of property as Superman and Batman battle Doomsday. But no casualties this time, laws no! It's after 5pm, so Metropolis is deserted! It's OK to knock down buildings this time! Man, I need to go lie down in a dark room. I'm getting one of my sick headaches.

Just as Batman's about to be fried by Doomsday's heat vision, Diana, aka Wonder Woman shows up. She's armed with a sword and shield, along with her own cool theme music. She battles Doomsday for a bit as well, until the three "heroes" notice that the harder they fight him, the stronger he gets. Superman retrieves the kryptonite spear and impales Doomsday with it. Doomsday returns the favor by using his bony protrusions to stab Superman in the heart. Oh, the humanity, er, I mean the kryptonianity.

Luthor's then imprisoned for blowing up the Capitol. For some they shave his head, which totally isn't a thing in prison. Batman visits him in his cell, and Luthor warns him that "someone" is hungry and is coming. I suppose he means Darkseid, but it's never actually stated. Clark is buried in Smallville, while Superman, or I guess his empty coffin, is buried in Metropolis. How they explained that to anyone is left to our imaginations. Bruce and Diana attend Clark's funeral, and he says he plans to form a team of superheroes to protect the world in Superman's absence.

Lois looks down at Clark's coffin, tosses a handful of dirt into the grave and leaves. We see the dirt briefly levitate as we thankfully smash cut to black.

• Lord, where to start?

• As I stated earlier, elements of this film were based on The Dark Knight Returns comic. They made a lot of changes though, mainly reversing who takes out who, making this version almost unrecognizable.

See, in the comic, Batman comes out of retirement to fight the escalating crime in Gotham. After he defeats the leader of a gang of mutants, they rename themselves the Sons Of Batman and begin violently ridding the city of criminals. The US Government observes these events and determines that Batman needs to be taken out. They send Superman after him, and the two battle to the death.

For some reason this was switched in the comic, and Batman goes after Superman.

The "Superman Gets Nuked And Then Restored By The Rays Of Our Yellow Sun" scene was pulled pretty much verbatim from the comic though.

• In the obligatory Batman origin story, Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Bruce's dad Thomas Wayne, while Lauren Cohen plays his mother Martha.

Morgan and Cohen are both currently starring in The Walking Dead.

• In another flashback, we see Bruce Wayne driving through Metropolis during Superman's battle with Zod, which looks like a thousand World Trade Center disasters happening at once. At one point Bruce calls one of his employees and orders everyone to evacuate the building.

First of all, did he really need to do that? Would his employees have just sat at their desks working while the building came down around them?

Secondly, great confusion surrounds the name of the man Bruce calls. Many people think he's screaming "Dad" into the phone, which makes no damned sense, since we just saw his father die in the previous flashback, and this man looks nothing like Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

He's yelling "Jack!" into the phone, not "Dad." 

• What exactly was Luthor's plan in this film? Apparently he hates Superman and feels he's a threat to the world. To that end, he concocts Plan A, a convoluted way to obtain a sample of kryptonite, which he wants to turn into anti-Superman weapons. 

Then after Batman steals the kryptonite from him (to do the exact same thing with it), he comes up with Plan B: using Zod's ship to create Doomsday. Presumably he intends for him to kill Superman. What he's going to do with Doomsday after that happens is unclear. 

But then he also has a Plan C, which consists of kidnapping Martha Kent and blackmailing Superman into killing Batman. He assumes Batman has created kryptonite weapons, and will kill Superman for him. But for some reason, he puts this Plan C into action before Plan B, which doesn't make any sense at all. 

There may even be a Plan D, as he seems to be trying to kill Superman so that there'll be no opposition when Darkseid arrives.

Note that I think this is what Luthor's various plans were, based on what I was able to piece together from viewing the film and reading about it online. I'm not sure though, as the muddled script never clearly states any of this. I have a feeling I'm putting much more thought into it than the screen writers did.

• When did kryptonite become a thing in this universe? As far as I recall it was never even mentioned in Man Of Steel (I'd have to watch the movie again to find out for sure, and that ain't happening). Suddenly in this film it's not only abundant, but Luthor is intimately familiar with the effect it has on Superman.

I assume he somehow discovered its existence and properties between films. I don't need to have every minor detail spelled out for me, but this seems like a big oversight to me. Kryptonite is a major part of the mythos, and in this case we definitely needed a scene or two showing how Luthor unlocked its secrets.

• Lois Lane interviews a terrorist at his African compound. Several things here:

An unnamed (but confirmed) Jimmy Olsen is the photographer assigned to her. One of the terrorist's thugs exposes the film in Jimmy's camera to protect his boss' anonymity. So Jimmy still uses a film camera? What year is this?

One of the terrorist's henchmen is Anatoli Knyazev, who's secretly working for Luthor. In the comics, Knyazev is the villain known as the KGBeast. He's seemingly killed by Batman late in the film, but don't be surprised if he returns in a sequel.

Luthor's men then kill everyone in the terrorist's compound. Superman arrives to save Lois, and for some reason he's blamed for this entire sorry incident. Apparently the whole operation was engineered by Luthor to discredit Superman. The thing is, at this point in the film Superman is already hated by the public, so I really don't understand why Luthor bothered. Did anyone proofread this script before they filmed it?

I also don't understand why everyone's so upset about this incident. A known terrorist and his thugs were killed. Who cares if their blood was spilled? Isn't our government currently doing its best to kill every member of ISIS on the planet? That's what we want, right? To wipe out terrorism wherever it rears its ugly head?

And why does everyone think Superman killed this terrorist cell, when their bodies were all riddled with Luthor's special bullets? Do they think Superman got tired of snapping necks, and picked up a machine gun for a change?

• Near the beginning of the film we see Metropolis has a memorial to the battle in Man Of Steel, complete with a wall listing the names of those who Superman killed, er, I mean who perished in the disaster. 

The memorial features a giant statue of Superman that's… reaching out to help, I guess. Unfortunately the way the hand is sculpted, it looks a lot like he's bending down and flipping off those beneath him. I'm not kidding.

Secondly, why the hell is there a memorial to Superman in the first place? Aren't people afraid of him? Don't they blame him for all the death and destruction? He caused billions, if not trillions of dollars worth of property damage. So who would pay for such a boondoggle?

• The film has a very vague sense of place. The characters seemed to flit back and forth between Metropolis and Gotham in what seemed like minutes. Seconds, even. It wasn't until after I saw the film that I found out the two cities are supposedly right next to one another! That's right, Gotham is visible from Metropolis, lying just across the bay. The movie does such a poor job of depicting this that I honestly didn't realize it until I read it online.

In the comics the exact location of Metropolis and Gotham has always been vague, but they've never been right next to one another. 

This twin cities concept inadvertently makes Clark Kent look like an idiot. He attends a party at Luthor's mansion, and when Bruce Wayne arrives he says, "Who's that!?" If Metropolis really is right next door to Gotham, how the hell can he not know what Bruce looks like? It's not like he's some Hughesian recluse, he's a billionaire celebrity!

• Zack Snyder seems to have a fetish for filming spent shell casings falling to the ground in slow motion. It happens at least five times during the film.

• In the Batcave we see Robin's vandalized costume, implying the Joker killed him, which is supposedly why this particular Batman is such a hard case. Honestly I thought it was one of Batman's costumes. There was certainly nothing Robin-esque about it. I only found out whose costume it was while researching the film online.

• In the Christopher Reeves Superman films, he plays Clark Kent as… well, as a mild-mannered reporter, complete with slumped shoulders and slicked back hair. It's an amazing performance, as his Clark really did seem like a completely different person. He made Clark's disguise— consisting of a business suit and a pair of glasses— seem plausible.

Here Henry Cavill plays Clark exactly the same way he plays Superman. Interesting choice! And amazingly, no one seems to notice!

• This particular version of Batman literally brands the criminals he catches with his logo (!). We're later told that such a brand is a virtual death sentence in prison, as apparently the other inmates will kill the brandee. 

Why this would happen, I have no idea. There is a hierarchy in most prisons— for example, child molesters are typically at the bottom and are regularly beaten and even killed by other inmates. But I don't get why they'd care if another prisoner had a bat brand. Does getting caught by Batman make the criminal profession look bad?

It's never stated in the film, but it's possible that maybe Batman is only branding the lowest of the low, like human traffickers, as he does here. Maybe the other criminals see someone with the brand and know they're bad news? I feel like this explanation is giving the movie too much credit, as once again I probably spent more time thinking about this issue than the writers.

• Let's look at Clark Kent's job performance at the Daily Planet, shall we? He wants to write a story about Batman's brutality in Gotham. His editor and boss Perry White says no, and tells him to write about a local football game instead. Clark refuses, writes the story he was told not to write, and doesn't write the one he was told to.

He then disappears from his desk for days at a time, much to Perry's chagrin. How the hell does Clark still have a job?

It's probably time for Clark to find a new profession anyway. Newspapers were thriving in 1938 when the Superman comic premiered, but these days… oy, not so much. It's a part of the mythos that definitely needs an update.

• Several times during the movie, Batman has bizarre dreams that are sort of precognitive, but not really. Because having dreams about the future is something he's always done in the comics for decades, right? Right? No? My bad.

First he dreams about falling into a cave as a child, as bats swirl around him and lift him into the air (!). I assume he's dreaming about a semi real event from his past, which is how he decided to adopt the bat motif here? Maybe?

Then in the most elaborate dream, he's in some Mad Max post apocalyptic world, in which the ground is branded with Darkseid's omega logo. But then Superman is there, supposedly having taken over the world, and there are all these troops with his logo on their arms, and then a bunch of Darkseid's Parademons appear and fly off with soldiers. Are they hinting that Darkseid's going to resurrect Superman and they'll team up? If that's the plan, then well done, but for now it's just needlessly confusing, and seemingly included as an excuse to show Batman and Superman killing more people.

• After Batman dreams about Darkseid, the Flash suddenly sticks his head through his keyboard as he reaches into the past to warn him about the future. It's an odd and very confusing scene, especially if you don't know the mysterious head talking into Batman's chest supposedly belongs to the Flash. And why should we know who he is? We've never seen this particular version of the Flash before, and he doesn't identify himself. I imagine most audiences were completely baffled by the whole thing.

This scene is very similar to one in the Crisis On Infinite Earth comic miniseries, in which the Flash runs so fast he goes back in time and tries to warn Batman of an impending disaster before disintegrating.

• Senator Finch holds a Congressional hearing on Superman. Among those testifying is Wallace Keefe, a man who lost his legs in the Battle Of Metropolis (!). He sits in a wheelchair (given to him by Lex Luthor) that secretly contains a bomb which blows up the Capitol.

Many are wondering why Superman didn't detect the bomb in the wheelchair. Eh, I'm willing to give them this one. We saw the courtroom audience getting screened for weapons before they entered, so why should he scan anyone with his powers if they're clean?

Plus we don't know how his powers work anyway. Maybe his super-hearing and x-ray vision aren't always "on."

• Diana "borrows" Bruce's hard drive skimmer so she can go through Luthor's files. She says Luthor has a photo of her on his drive that doesn't belong to him. Once she's done with the skimmer, she gives it back to Bruce. Oddly enough she didn't erase the photo, because Bruce finds it, sees it's dated 1918, and realizes she's immortal.

Um… none of that makes the least bit of sense. She stole a copy of Luthor's hard drive to get her photo back, but she doesn't delete it before giving the drive back to Batman, plus the original file is still safe and sound back in his mansion. I guess living on Paradise Island as she does, Wonder Woman doesn't understand how digital photography or computer files work.

By the way, the photo in question is dated 1918, and shows her in her full Wonder Woman Amazonian gear, looking just as she does today. Note the man to the left of her— that's Steve Trevor, played by actor Chris Pine. He's starring in the upcoming Wonder Woman film.

• As I mentioned earlier, the future members of the Justice League are included in the film as email attachments from Batman to Wonder Woman.

Note that the metahuman files on Luthor's computer are all branded with the appropriate logos! Did Luthor design those himself? If so, he's not a bad graphic designer!

• After the disaster at the Capitol, Clark decides to clear his mind with a hike to the arctic. I thought maybe they were going to include Superman's Fortress Of Solitude here, but no. That's a beloved part of the Superman mythos, and we can't have that!

Instead Clark sees a vision of his idiot dead dad. Pa Kent is stacking rocks at the top of a snowy mountain, trying to build… I don't know, some sort of outdoor grill or something. As you know, one of my many problems with Man Of Steel was Pa Kent's horrible advice, in which he told young Clark it was better to let a school bus full of kids die rather than reveal his powers to the world (!).

Pa's advice hasn't improved even in death. Here he tells Clark a story about how when he was a boy, he worked hard to divert a flood from the family farm, only to find out that the water just went downstream and destroyed a bunch of horses over at the Lang's. Com-O-Dee! Apparently he's trying to tell Clark that every action has unforeseen consequences. Hear that, kids? Anything you do may potentially blow up in your face! So don't do anything! Ever! Don't take chances. Don't try to help. Play it safe!

Pa then tells Clark he misses him. Well, maybe if he wasn't such a moron and let Clark save him in the previous film, he'd still be alive.

• Ma Kent's advice to Clark isn't much better. After Superman causes yet another disaster, she "comforts" him by saying, "Be their hero. Be their angel. Be their monument. Be anything they need you to be. Or be none of it. You don't owe this world a thing. You never did."

Jesus Jetskiing Christ! Awesome advice there, Ma! You do realize that this planet is Superman's adopted home now, right? He owes EVERYTHING to this world! His planet exploded, for frak's sake! This planet welcomed him into its open arms and saved his life. But god forbid he should lift a finger to save it. He should just sit back and watch as it's ravaged by natural disasters and aliens. I'm sure everything will work out alright without him. In fact, he should take from his adopted homeland. Take and take and take as much as he wants and never give a single thing back. That's the American Way these days, right?

You know, any second I expect Ma Kent's face plate to pop off, revealing she and Pa Kent are both androids being controlled by Lex Luthor. At least then there'd be a good reason for the horrible, horrible parenting advice they've given to their walking nuclear bomb of a son. Either that or his adoptive parents are secretly B.F. Skinner and Ayn Rand (obscure reference time!).

• All through the film we see actual news reporters and celebrities reporting on Superman and Batman. Among these are Anderson Cooper, Nancy Grace, Neil DeGrasse-Tyson, Charlie Rose and Soledad O'Brien.

I'm assuming this was done to give the film some verisimilitude, but for some reason it always yanks me right out of the movie. When I see a real journalist in a film I don't think, "Wow, this is really happening," I think, "Huh. I wonder how much they paid him to be in this film."

Plus once you see one of these "journalists" talking about Superman in a movie like this, it makes it hard to take them seriously when they report on a real world event.

• The "Superman As Christ" theme is alive and well in Batman V Superman. Look at him hovering there above that poor flood victim, as his head is framed halo-like by the sun. He hangs there like that for a good thirty seconds, waiting for her to desperately reach out for him, I guess. Less posing and more saving, Superman!

And look at the reverse angle of this scene. I pointed this out earlier, but it bears repeating— that's quite an impressive logo these flood victims managed to paint on their roof while trying not to drown. They even added the little serif at the top of the "S!" This has got to be the home of a graphic designer!

• When I first saw the trailer I scoffed at the idea that Batman could build a suit that could stop Superman. Now of course we know how it's possible— Batman cheated and weakened Superman with kryptonite.

I like the design of the Armored Anti-Superman Bat Suit quite a bit, and it looks a lot like the one from The Dark Knight Returns. There's just one problem with it— just like in the comic, it features a goddamned cape! A cape that Superman could easily grab and use to hurl Batman into the sun.

• I already mentioned the monumentally stupid reason why Batman and Superman stop fighting, then kiss and make up— because their mothers are both named "Martha." Did you get that? Not because they realized their battle was endangering innocents, not because they realized they were both being duped by Luthor, but because their moms have the same name. Bravo! Author, author!

• At one point we see Wonder Woman boarding a plane, trying to stuff her carry-on bag into the overhead compartment. I guess this version of Wonder Woman doesn't have her own invisible airplane. Anyway, she sees news footage of the Superman/Batman/Doomsday scuffle on TV.

We then see her jump into the fray, dressed in her Wonder Woman armor, complete with a shield and sword. So… did she have the shield and sword in her carryon luggage? How'd she get all that through the TSA?

Hey, don't accuse me of being pedantic! These movies want to be as "realistic" as possible, so I think it's a fair question. You can't be realistic and comic booky at the same time. It's one or the other!

Maybe this Wonder Woman spins around like the TV version and her weapons magically appear?

"They have a cave troll!"
• As pretty much everyone and their dog have pointed out by now, the Doomsday design looks for all intents and purposes like the Cave Troll from The Fellowship Of The Ring. I can also see a bit of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in there as well.

I have no idea why they didn't use the design from the comic. It was perfectly fine and could have easily been adapted into live action.

• Batman honestly isn't much use against Doomsday, even after weakening him with kryptonite. Doomsday corners Batman in the Batmobile and is about to blast him with his heat vision, when Wonder Woman jumps in and deflects his attack. Hooray!

We then get the big trailer moment, as Superman gapes at Wonder Woman for a second, then turns to Batman and says, "Is she with you?" Batman replies, "I thought she was with you."

Wait a minute... earlier in the film Batman saw the 1918 photo of Wonder Woman, decked out in the very same costume she wears here. So he knows she was active as far back as WWI. So why the hell would he think she was affiliated with Superman in any way?

Just another example of the care and detail put into the script by the screen writers!

• Once again we get a Superman film in which Lex Luthor doesn't become bald until the very end. At the end of Superman The Movie, Gene Hackman's Luthor whips off his wig, revealing he's bald underneath.

• Superman dies while ridding the world of Doomsday. Surprisingly he doesn't snap his neck, but simply stabs him in the chest with a kryptonite spear.

So why didn't he give the spear to Wonder Woman? She appears to be close to Superman's strength level, and she wouldn't be weakened by the kryptonite. He died for nothing!

• After Superman dies, we see Clark Kent's funeral in Smallville. So did Martha Kent request that Clark's body not be embalmed? Because I don't think a mortician could cut open a Kryptonian's body even in death.

• Clark gets buried in Smallville's cemetery, while Superman is buried in Metropolis. We know for a fact Clark's body is in the casket in Smallville. So who or what's in Superman's? Is it empty?

Maybe Batman told everyone that Superman was vaporized by Doomsday, and it was a symbolic burial?

• In the final scene, Lois tosses a handful of dirt into Clark's grave. The dirt lands on top of the casket, then levitates slightly as the film fades to black.

Obviously this is meant to suggest that Superman's isn't really dead, of course. It's a given that all comic book characters treat death like nothing more than a bad head cold, but c'mon! This scene totally negates any slight emotion his "death" may have brought to the movie, making the whole thing pointless. Why kill off a character if they're not even going to stay dead for the entire movie? At least let the audience believe he's dead for more than five minutes before bringing him back to life.

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is a dour, muddled mess of a film that mashes together two famous comic stories in a desperate attempt at setting up a DC Movie Universe just like Marvel's. It's slightly better than the awful Man Of Steel, but not much. Do yourself a favor— skip this film and re-watch Superman The Movie or The Avengers. I give it a C+.

Aqua Dude!

Get a load of this new statue of Aquaman from Sideshow Toys:

Apparently Aquaman is now being played by Jeff Bridges. Look at it! If that ain't The Dude, then I'll eat my hat.

Yeah, well, you know, that's just like your opinion, man.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 15: East

You're doing it again, The Walking Dead. For the second time this season, you start out with three or four fast-paced, compelling episodes, and then the plot engine starts sputtering and wheezing, and we get week after week of filler, as it limps toward the finale. 

Why do you keep doing this to us? And why do we keep falling for it?

Nowhere was this stalling more evident than in East. Actually one could argue that this week's episode was less filler, and more about setting up the various pieces on the board in preparation for the final move, aka the big reveal of Negan. Either way, it doesn't make for a very compelling forty five minutes of television.

Apparently there must be a gas leak in Alexandria that's affecting all the residents, causing them to all lose several dozen IQ points. Especially Carol. She doesn't want to kill anymore, so she leaves the protective walls of Alexandria and drives off into the Savior-infested wilderness, where she'll surely be forced to kill. Wha…?

Rick must have been affected by the gas leak too. He knows from bitter experience who's lurking outside the walls, yet he leaves the place he's supposed to be defending to find someone who doesn't want to be found, and… I guess drag them back, kicking and screaming. Yes, it's much better to risk six people than it is to write off one.

If that wasn't enough, his hubris in this episode is absolutely jaw dropping! He even lies in bed practically beating his waxed chest about the fact that he's not worried about the Saviors, saying "the world is our and we know how to take it." I suppose the writers are trying to set him up for a huge fall here, but there were less blatant— and less astoundingly stupid— ways to go about it.

The rest of the cast fell victim to the gas leak as well. Daryl goes off looking for vengeance against Dwight, who killed a woman he barely knew or ever even spoke with. Then Glenn, Michonne, Rosita and Morgan all take off into certain danger, leaving the home they've worked so hard to create unprotected, to again, find someone who doesn't want to be there. Brilliant!

Obviously the writers cooked up this half-baked episode because they need Negan to confront the characters away from Alexandria, and the only way they could think to do this was to make everyone act as stupidly as possible. But they went too far and made their actions too face-palmingly stupid. To the point where they're no longer characters, but mindless chess pieces. And why should I care what happens to chess pieces?

Congratulations, The Walking Dead! You've managed to make me not give a sh*t who you kill off next week! Well done!

Carol's abrupt and offscreen change from badass warrior to limp noodle has me kind of worried that the writers may be setting her up for her comic book death. 

See, in the comic, Carol was NOTHING like she is on TV. Comic Book Carol was a meek and traumatized housewife, thrust into a horrific world she couldn't handle. Rick was with Lori, who was still alive at that point, and Carol offered to be one of his "sister wives." A shocked and repulsed Rick said, "Um, no thanks," which apparently sent Carol over the edge. She then committed suicide by walker— literally walking up to a zombie and hugging it, letting it bite her in the shoulder.

I hope that's not where this sudden new Carol is heading.


The Plot:
We flash back a bit this week as we see Carol packing her bag and sneaking out of Alexandria. If you'll recall, she "just can't kill anymore," so she's heading outside the walls where she'll be forced to kill every day. If you understand any of that, then you're a better blogger than me.

The next day life goes on in Alexandria. Rosita and Sasha guard the walls. Maggie and Glenn take their last shower together. Rick lies in bed with Michonne, bragging about how they can handle anything the Saviors can throw at them, practically begging the screenwriting gods to smite him.

Daryl rides off on his bike, leaving Alexandria shorthanded. Glenn, Michonne and Rosita see him do so, and instead of reporting to Rick as they should, they drive off in pursuit, leaving Alexandria even more shorthanded. Rick finds out Carol left and he and Morgan immediately go after her, leaving Alexandria shorthanded infinity.

Carol drives down a deserted road in her Mad Max: Fury Road car, and is attacked by— you guessed it— a truck full of Saviors. They fire on her car and stop her. She gets out, raises her hands and begs them to just walk away as once again she either really hyperventilates or just pretends. The Saviors refuse to back off, so she guns them down with some sort of psychically controlled machine gun she has stuffed up her sleeve. She runs off into the woods. 

Rick and Morgan find the site of Carol's massacre. They see her tracks and follow her on foot. One of the Saviors, who's not quite dead yet, exits the truck, picks up Carol's discarded rosary and staggers after them.

Glenn, Michonne and Rosita travel to the spot where Dr. Cloyd was killed last week. They find Daryl's bike hidden in the bushes and begin searching for him. They find him, and Glenn begs him to come back. Daryl says he can't and leaves. Rosita, for reasons known only to the writers, goes with him. Glenn and Michonne head back to their car, but are captured by Dwight and a gang of Saviors (Jesus, how many men does Negan have, anyway?).

Rick & Morgan continue the Search For Carol. Morgan says Rick didn't prevent a war with the Saviors, but started one, which is absolutely true. They find a barn surrounded by walkers, and see a man run off. Rick of course tries to shoot him, but Morgan hits his arm to make him miss. Morgan tells Rick to go back to Alexandria, and promises he'll find Carol.

Rick arrives back home. He asks Abraham if Michonne or anyone else is back yet, but the answer's no. Enid shows up to remind us she's still on the show for some reason. She gives Maggie a haircut, and she loves it so much she potentially has a miscarriage.

Glenn and Michonne are tied up in the Savior's camp. Glenn sees Daryl and Rosita creeping around in the bushes, and starts shaking his head "no." Suddenly Dwight appears behind Daryl, the master tracker and woodsman, and says hi. He shoots Daryl as blood splatters the camera and the screen cuts to black.

• Wow, that may have been the shortest cold open yet.

• As the Saviors threaten her, Carol somehow mows them all down with a machine gun that's concealed in her sleeve. I'm still trying to figure out how Carol was able to slip her hand inside her coat sleeve and somehow fire her machine gun. It doesn't look like there's enough room in the sleeve for both a gun and an arm (see photo above).

Maybe when she appeared to be mending her jacket, she was actually rigging up some sort of triggering mechanism in her sleeve?

• As of this episode, Rick's people have now wiped out a whopping SIX different groups of Saviors. Daryl obliterated the motorcycle gang, Rick & Co. killed the Satellite Crew in their sleep, Carol and Maggie killed the All Girl But One Team, plus the backup they called, Daryl and Rosita killed off almost all of Dwight's Group, and now Carol just wiped out the Truck Team.

As I keep saying, this is not how it happened in the comic. There Negan attacked Rick & Co. out of the blue, which made his brutal actions all the more shocking. Here on the series though, Rick's been poking the Negan hornet nest for weeks, practically begging to be stung. It's going to be hard not to see Negan's eventual retaliation as somewhat justified.

• During the "Day In The Life" shots, we see a nude Rick and Michonne in bed, as well as a nude Glenn and Maggie showering together. In both cases, the women's naughty bits are demurely and safely obscured, either by sheets or fogged glass.

Isn't it odd that this series has no problem depicting a veritable parade of over the top gore and violence on a weekly basis, but the idea of showing a woman's breast or even a butt is strictly forbidden?

• What is it about Johnny Cash and zombies? The Dawn Of The Dead remake opened with Cash's The Man Comes Around, while in this episode Carol snuck out of Alexandria to the tune of It's All Over.

• Is there no leader in Alexandria? I assumed it was Rick, since everyone seems to defer to his judgement. But in this episode most of the main cast decides, without checking with him first, to wander out of Alexandria in the middle of a crisis, when they should be doing everything in their power to protect it. If he is the leader, he's a damned ineffective one, and has zero control over his people.

• Glenn stupidly drives away from his pregnant wife and the relative safety of Alexandria. As he does so, he watches her in the rear-view mirror as she recedes in the distance. The foreshadowing here was about as subtle as a brick. Glenn might as well be wearing a red shirt, because I'll be very surprised if he ever returns.

• The only interesting part of this episode was Rick and Morgan's discussion as they searched for Carol. Morgan says he heard that Rick banished Carol from the prison for killing Karen and David, who were infected with a virulent plague. Rick says if that happened today, he'd thank her or even do it himself.

It was a good look into just how much Rick has changed the past few seasons.

• Late last year the fans lost their collective minds over the fact that actress Lauren Cohen, aka Maggie Greene, appeared at an award show with short hair. 

Bloggers around the world instantly claimed this was proof positive that Maggie would be killed off before the end of the season. According to their reasoning, her haircut meant she was no longer contractually obligated to keep the same appearance, ergo she was off the show. Welp, this episode proves that theory was nothing but bushwah, as are 99% of the ideas presented on the internet. 

She could still die, of course, but if she does it won't have anything to do with her hair.

• I totally called it! Last week I said the death of Dr. Cloyd was the writer's way of getting Maggie to the Hilltop, where she'd eventually become their leader, as in the comic.

Lo and behold, this week Maggie begins having complications in her pregnancy, which will no doubt lead to Enid helping her get to the Hilltop and their one and only obstetrician.

• This next bit actually applies to thousands of movies and TV shows, not just The Walking Dead. We see Glenn and Michonne being held captive in the Saviors camp, their hands and feet bound, with cloth gags in their mouth. Glenn sees Daryl and tries to warn him that Dwight's right behind him, but due to his gag can only croak out a weak, muffled moan.

That's not how a gag works! It cannot muffle sounds! You can demonstrate this yourself. Take a preferably clean handkerchief, open your mouth, and stretch it tightly across your face. You can even tie it in the back if you like. Now try to speak. Yes, your speech will be somewhat distorted, and you won't be able to form certain words, but you will be able to yell something— almost as loud as if you didn't have a gag in your mouth.

• At the very end of the episode, Dwight greets Daryl and then shoots him, as CGI blood splatters the screen. Shocking! The screen then fades to black, and we hear an obviously dubbed Dwight say, "You'll be alright."

I would bet practically anything that the original version of this scene was just the smash cut to black, but
nervous and jittery AMC executives demanded they add in the "alright" line. We can't leave the massive Daryl fanbase hanging now, can we? That would mean something of consequence might have actually happened in this episode.

• So next week is the big super-sized Season 6 finale. I have this horrible feeling the episode is going to troll us all, and Negan won't show up until the final couple of minutes. 

He'll appear in the final seconds, say he has to send a message to Rick, raise his barbed wire-covered bat Lucille over his head, and bring it down as the show smash cuts to black. We'll then have to wait until October to find out who got the bat to the head. I hope that's not the case, but the show's been screwing with us like this all season. Remember Glenn's fake-out death? And how the non-ending of the mid season finale, as Sam endlessly repeated "Mom?"

I hope I'm wrong, but I can definitely see them pulling something like this.
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