I’ve been a comic book, and general hero, fan my entire life as far back as I go. As a rule, I’m more of a DC fan than Marvel, or at least that was true until the DC reboot several years ago. I’m also a big fan of movies. Give me a dark room, a big screen, and some popcorn and I’m a happy guy. I say all this as background to try and get across what a big thing it was for me to NOT see Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in the theater. It was the first time two of the most famous comic book heroes out there shared the big screen, and I just couldn’t bring myself to see it after Man of Steel. I’m not going to rehash the Man of Steel controversy here. I will say, and most have agreed, that it was the most divisive comic book movie ever made. For me, on the heels of such dismal products as Green Lantern, Jonah Hex (how do you screw up a cowboy movie??), and Dark Knight Rises, I didn’t like where they went with Man of Steel. Everything I saw suggested that Dawn of Justice would continue that, so I decided to not give them my money. For me, I made the right choice.
Obviously, I didn’t like this movie. There will be spoilers here. And you’ve probably already read reviews, seen the movie, made your own opinion. I’m late to this party because, as I said above, I wouldn’t spend money on it and it just now got to HBO. So, if you’re still with me through this, I’ll start below. This also won’t be my usual review. I’m going to talk about major plot points rather than overall plot (such as it was).
My summation of the plot: after an opening montage of the Batman’s origin (is anyone seeing this movie not likely to know it?), a furious and helpless Bruce Wayne looks on as the Superman/Zod fight from Man of Steel wreaks havoc and the 9/11 imagery is even stronger than the first time around. Some 18 months later, Batman is a very brutal fighter in Gotham while Superman is a controversial figure in the world. Lex Luthor has a very involved conspiracy that includes pitting Superman against Batman, studying other meta-humans, and somehow making people think Superman is behind deaths by bullet and bomb, two things Superman isn’t noted for using. Batman, on the other hand, kills I don’t know how many people in this movie with weapons on the Bat-mobile, plane, and in combat.
For the big showdown, after some of- to-the-side flirting/meeting with Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, Lex manages to get Zod’s body, use the ship that crashed in Man of Steel to turn it into Doomsday, and then kidnap Martha Kent to force Superman to fight Batman. When they almost kill each other and then bond over the fact that “Martha” is both their mother’s names, Lex turns Doomsday loose, which spurs Wonder Woman to finally join the fight. The Trinity of DC Comics fame team up to fight Doomsday, and Superman survives getting nuked by the US Military (thanks for the help, guys) only to die after Doomsday stabs him in the chest. Big funeral, Clark Kent is listed as killed in the debris, and Bruce and Diana decide to find the “others.”
Yes, I’m simplifying a lot. I’m also trying to make it sound like it made sense, which not all of it did. One of the early scenes was Lois getting in trouble while trying to interview a warlord/terrorist in Africa. Lex has somehow gotten a team of military contractors there who discover Lois’ photographer is a CIA agent, kill him, and take Lois prisoner. Then the contractors, part of Lex’s master plan, kill the warlord’s security team, but use special bullets that only LexCorp makes. How this looks bad for Superman, I’m not sure. The Man of Steel does show up to save Lois, taking the terrorist that has her back through several walls at superspeed, but we’re supposed to believe he didn’t die. Heat Vision on the gun probably would have worked better. The special bullets are the conspiracy that Lois Lane spends most of the movie chasing after.
Batman, the world’s greatest detective, is after a slavery ring. He’s desperately trying to find the “White Portuguese.” Somehow, he manages to miss the fact that this is the name of a ship… which is public knowledge, easily available. Guess that big Bat-computer doesn’t come with Google. Eventually, these white slavers end up being shown as henchmen of Lex’s because that furthers his plot…. no, actually, it doesn’t. I don’t know why these guys work for Luthor.
There’s a bizarre subplot with Lex trying to influence a Senator, and she ends being one of the ones blown up when Lex’s other plot involving a crippled Wayne Enterprises employee goes off. How the Wayne guy got a bomb into the Senate I’m still not quite sure. I’m also unclear on if Lex was planning on killing her all the while, and if he killed off his aide, Mercy, who we saw in that chamber shortly before the explosion. At the party where Clark and Bruce meet, Lex is acting really strangely, trailing off in mid-sentence, and I don’t believe that’s ever explained either. Luthor gains access to the crashed Kryptonian ship and tricks it into obeying him, which is how he manages to turn Zod into Doomsday.
Much as I was glad to finally see Wonder Woman in a major movie, this was a peculiar version. She was active back in World War I, then walked away from everything, and is only back now because… Lex stole a picture of her? Then the first thing we see her do is steal one of Batman’s gadgets. She’s not seeming too heroic there, although she does step up for the big fight at the end. She’s the one who points out that Doomsday is apparently feeding on energy, right before Superman brilliantly blasts him with heat vision… which is energy.
The gadget, which Bruce was using to steal info from Lex, also contained info on Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman herself, shoe-horning more characters into an already crowded movie. Flash also has some kind of strange cameo when he either time travels back to warn Bruce about something or Bruce is having a weird nightmare.
The only two characters who seemed to be at all like their comic book incarnations were Lois Lane and Alfred. Lois is smart, tough, stubborn, and dogged in the pursuit of her story. Alfred is sarcastic, droll, and capable, although the affection for Bruce isn’t quite as obvious. Alfred also points out that Batman is out of krpytonite weapons in the final fight… a bit before Batman fires off another one. That’s before Superman manages to get Batman’s green k spear which at one point knocks him out being near it, but then he can fly around with it.
So… this movie had massive holes in it. The main characters were written oddly. The dark grimness of Man of Steel continues. There are plot twists that don’t make sense, too much going on, and not enough explanation. This could have been two, or maybe three, decent movies. Instead it was one big mess.
I’m giving it a low 2 out of 5. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 27%, so I’m not alone.