[WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW]
Snyder (character) assassinated my hero and he walks free.
There’s a scene in the first hour of the movie where upon hearing the dialogue, my heart sank. Allow me to set the scene. We’re inside the Daily Planet offices, in the bullpen. Clark Kent is trying to convince Perry White to let him do his story about the Bat vigilante. Perry’s not having it, he snaps back: “It’s not 1938 anymore.”
I hear it. It takes a beat to register. We’ve already transitioned awkwardly to another scene, but I’m stuck at Perry’s comment. My thought process: “That date’s important, but it’s not a reference to Wonder Woman or Batman” –– And then it hits me. Superman debuted in 1938. The beacon of hope for the American people and the wider world. The alien who could do anything he wanted and he chose to be human – to help people, look for the good in everything, persevere. A man who always finds another way. Zack Snyder’s not having that. So he kills Superman, and worse, he kills Clark Kent.
“If man won’t kill God, the Devil will do it!”
(Photo: Warner Bros.)
I’m not religious, I haven’t been for years, but I went to a Lower School linked to the Church of England so I’ve retained some knowledge. I don’t need that knowledge to recognise that Superman has been set up as an allegory for Jesus, Man of Steel makes that apparent, the ending of Batman v. Superman is almost fitting with an Easter Weekend release, we know that he’ll rise again. But here’s where the knowledge comes in – Jesus was persecuted, he died for our sins, but he never stopped believing there was good in everyone, he made sure he’d always be there to believe in should someone lose their way or need someone that can help make sense of this world. In this universe, Superman has never tried to do that. And now Snyder hasn’t just killed one person; he’s killed two and one of those can’t come back. It’s unexplainable to the inhabitants of the DCEU as to how Clark comes back at the same time as Superman. Superman has lost what made him human. And he’s lost what made him Superman. Snyder is the Devil.
“Twenty years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stay that way?”
(Photo: Warner Bros.)
There are no good men left. The Batman’s old, branding criminals he apprehends so the Arkham inmates can finish the job, spinning a gun around a room pointed towards goons, stabbing one with their knife and ripping through trucks in the Batmobile without considering if someone’s coming out of it without their head. Affleck does the best he can with what he’s given. He’s a great Batman (my qualms about him killing aside), and Irons is wonderful as Alfred. They have great chemistry evident even with the sub-par script, and I look forward to the solo movie in the coming years, but they go to war with no concern about collateral damage, and the movie seems to excuse Batman’s destruction while Superman’s is abhorred.
Snyder has claimed that it isn’t murder, that it’s manslaughter. He brought up the millions that die in Force Awakens due to Starkiller Base as if it’s alright because he’ll never hit a body count of that magnitude. He’s forgotten the First Order are the bad guys.
“It’s Lois, Lois Lane. She’s the key.”
There are two good women left – the first of which is Lois Lane. I have to be honest, in the climax of this movie, I was hoping that Lois would die. Not out of spite or because I wanted Clark to suffer, but because I felt sorry. Amy Adams loves this character – the headstrong, confident Lois that’s shaped female characters and told young girls everywhere they can do something if they put their minds to it. You only have to glance to the past decade, and you’ll find Veronica Mars, who’s just as confident and just as good at her job as Lois is at her’s. Amy is wasted, she exists so exposition can be delivered and in the climax she goes to get the Kryptonite Spear, then throws it away and then almost dies all so Superman can pick it up and race to his death. She’s the key to everything because in this movie is not a character by any stretch of the imagination; she’s a plot device. She, like many others do things because the plot requires it and not because there are tangible motivations, wants and desires. I wanted Lois to die so Amy could be free on this horrid universe and representation of the character, she doesn’t deserve the disservice. She’s better than this.
“I don’t think you’ve ever known a woman like me.”
Then there’s Wonder Woman. There’s a beat where Doomsday knocks her out of the field of play as she slams into debris. But, she’s not down. She smirks. And then she’s closing the gap between her and Doomsday, eager to get back in the fight. Gadot’s spoken of this moment in interviews, it was her choice to include the smirk. The smallest of beats that many probably won’t even notice. She embodies Wonder Woman.
(Photo: Warner Bros.)
Gal understands the character. Her theme is fantastic (and perhaps the only part of the soundtrack I desire hearing again). The time she’s on screen in costume is perhaps the only time where I truly cracked a smile and enjoyed myself. Otherwise, she’s stuck in a CGI rumble with a rejected cave troll from Lord of the Rings, and that’s a shame because I just want to watch her do things: be sneaky, be elegant, keep the peace, take up arms (and lasso) when that doesn’t work. But I’ve got to wait over a year, and I have to worry that Snyder’s influence is as rife in the whole movie as the short sizzle reel we’ve seen suggests it’s washed out with slo-mo.
Martha Kent exists to be treated with the same amount of respect Barbara Gordon receives in the Killing Joke [read: none at all].
I feel sorry for every member of the cast; there’s an interview with the Trinity and Snyder after the reviews came out. They’ve more than likely known for a while how disappointing this movie is and had to live with it. Had to sell it as the best thing ever on the other legs of the press tour. It’s taken them three years to give us this. There’s a reason this moved when it squared up to Civil War. If it was pure coincidence and everyone behind the scenes was oblivious to the movie’s poor calibre, then God help the DCEU.
So there’s everything I can say that is positive without doubt – Affleck, Irons and Gadot. I don’t have an issue with Eisenberg, but he didn’t wow me. There are moments I like. The opening to the Batmobile chase is fun, but it’s way too long. The warehouse is great for seeing an agile Batman, and anytime Diana was on screen was delightful.
(Photo: Warner Bros.)
There are moments I laughed as well, but it wasn’t at jokes. The first of which is when Diana receives Bruce’s email – I can imagine him standing there waiting for Clark, typing away on a keyboard attached to his arm. The second time is at the end of the fight; Clark mentions his mother, Martha and it flashes back to the night Bruce lost his parents. It rehashes the entire sequence suggesting that not only did Snyder not trust the audience to remember Martha Wayne, but that he didn’t trust the audience to remember how they died.
Before I move on, I want to talk about that first beat. Earlier Bruce opens the files on the encrypted drive. He sees Diana’s files (with fan service logo from Luthor) and looks through them. The last file is a photo taken in 1918 (with Steve Trevor). I’m okay with this bit mostly; it feels very “In cinemas 2017”, but she’s relevant to the movie and plays a role, even if her reason for being in the movie is so she can get the photo back. However, I take extreme issue with the other metahumans’ files. Back in 2013, we heard about how they were filming a football game and then in 2014 Ray Fisher was cast as Vic Stone. A smart man would have put money on seeing him play football and getting injured in the process.
You’d have lost that bet.
Instead, during the climax of the movie, we take a two-minute time out so we can watch Aquaman (clearly holding his breath) attack a drone of sorts underwater. We watch Elias Stone use what’s probably a Mother Box to make his son Cyborg. Which leads to Barry Allen stopping a convenience store hold-up. None of these tangents have an impact of the final events of the film. They exist only to promise that Justice League will be better. Promises which will more than likely be broken, just like here where Snyder promised to address the destruction of Metropolis in a meaningful way.
As a result, we should really be talking about how much of an incoherent story and script this is. The following are few events and beats that I remembered because I took issue with them.
The movie opens with the death of Bruce’s parents. It’s over exuberant, with slo-mo and a focus on the gun over the people pulling the trigger and in front of the barrel. The moment a boyu loses his parents. It’s not meant to look pretty; it’s meant to look like horror unfolding.
Bruce is running away from the funeral procession; he falls into a well. There are bats in the cave beneath. They swarm to the light. They lift him up. He says it’s a dream, he’s wrong. This is a nightmare, and we’re less than five minutes in.
We’re in Metropolis. Chaos. Bruce hurries into a car and speeds to the Wayne Enterprises building. But there’s never a sense of speed, which makes no sense. Snyder can supposedly shoot action, but never do I feel this car picks up any momentum. It doesn’t hurtle through the streets; it goes for a steady Sunday drive. Then, the road’s blocked. Bruce gets out and runs, but it seems like a jog as he sharply turns the corner and the camera tracks wide, taking the opposite of the racing line.
It’s apparently 18 months later. More than likely added because of the delay.
Lois’ in Africa. She’s with a cameraman (apparently Jimmy Olsen) and has an audience with a warlord. I think. There’s zero exposition in these opening sequences. Jimmy dies, and she’s taken hostage. Some of the militia turn out to be PMC’s working with Luthor (revealed far later in the movie) and they mow down the actual members of the militia. The warlord hears this and uses Lois as a shield. Superman speeds into the room, he looks at Lois and she goes limp. Superman rushes the warlord. The PMC’s speed away.
There’s a hearing about Superman’s actions in Africa. Who the fuck knows what he did because we don’t get told. This is a movie that’s meant to debate whether the destruction in Man of Steel was justified, whether Superman himself was justified in what he did and whether he should continue having this power, but this is boring to Snyder. He blows the building up later on and these questions go up in smoke.
Someone mentions that it’s been 3 months since the Africa incident. Has it? There’s no sense of time in this movie. Earlier Senator Finch visits Lexcorp; Lex is playing basketball, and suddenly they’re in a different room with no axis of action or space established. That’s Filmmaking 101.
Perry’s looking for Clark in the bullpen. He’s not there. Perry asks if he just clicks his heels and goes back to Kansas.
(Photo: Warner Bros.)
Cut to Kansas.
Wrong. That would be the smart [read: correct] way to CUT TO.
We go somewhere else. This is a two hour and thirty-minute collection of loosely connected post credit scenes. There’s no transitions, no establishing shots. The space these characters exist in has no dimensions. They exist in a world of shot/reverse shot and poorly framed action.
Senator Finch is talking to Luthor; she’s an obstacle to what he wants. She tells him that you can call piss “Grannie’s Peach Tea”, but it still tastes the same. You can call this movie a masterpiece; it’s still piss.
Bruce is having nightmares. He’s envisioning a future where Superman is a totalitarian dictator. It isn’t a Knightmare, it’s a sad reality where later, Superman doesn’t even try to explain himself in their confrontation, just punching him straight away.
Bruce jolts awake. There’s something to the side of him. It’s probably the Flash, but it looks nothing like a general audience would have seen before. It’s perhaps a strange riff on the armour the Flash wears in the Injustice series, but I had to google that to find out. My friend had no idea who this was because they couldn’t recognise anything from the costume that has ingrained in pop-culture through the TV show.
He tells Bruce he was right all along, that Lois was the key and then ––
Bruce jolts awake again. Was the Flash from the future? Was it part of the dream? Who knows, it’s unimportant to the plot, just a post credit scene that finds itself in the middle of the movie. This just goes to highlight the dreadful pacing and the sloppiest editing I’ve ever seen in a blockbuster prevents this from even being considered mediocre. A film is meant to tell a narrative; this film attempts to tell five and barely accomplishes to tell one. At the very least, last year’s Fantastic 4 made it clear they skipped a year ahead. At the very least, that had 40 minutes I consider good.
Senator Finch stumbles over her words. There’s a jar of “Grannie’s Peach Tea” on the desk in front of her. She doesn’t know how to react. This isn’t Holly Hunter acting; this is her recounting how she felt when she saw the script.
Superman arrives at the hearing, and he’s about to deliver a speech where he shows his humanity and proves he isn’t something to be scared of. He doesn’t get the chance. Snyder needs an explosion. This is no longer a movie that is going to ask the big questions about man and God. Good and Evil. Right and Wrong. It’s only downhill from here.
Luthor goes to the downed Kryptonian ship and starts the Genesis Chamber up. He mixes his DNA with Zod and makes an abomination. Doomsday is the physical embodiment of the movie.
Lois is delivered to Luthor because she thought it was a bright idea to talk to a shady guy she was sure she’d seen before. She is not a journalist; she’s a plot device. Luthor throws her off the roof. Superman catches her. It would have been a mercy to Amy if she’d been Gwen Stacy-ied
The moment you’ve been waiting for: Superman v. Batman.
It starts and it’s over in less than five minutes, Martha comes up and they stop fighting. At numerous points when Clark has his strength back, he could have just stopped hitting Bruce and explained, but no. Clark gets towed through the rubble and the mud. If Superman is Snyder’s favourite superhero, he’s got a funny way of showing it.
Doomsday is unleashed. Superman drives him through the atmosphere to the stars. He’s protecting humanity as he should have done in Metropolis almost two years ago. He’s nuked from orbit. Doomsday falls to Earth. Superman floats above the Earth, cast aside. In space no-one can hear you scream, in the screening all I want to do is yell.
Bruce does what he can to stop Doomsday to no avail. He’s about to die. Wonder Woman saves him. She’s a warrior; this is one of the few moments that works, but it’s soon ruined because the CGI Doomsday fills the frame. Snyder seems to have forgotten how to direct action; it’s a mess. People go flying, but the camera’s too close to them to see anything beyond the rubble they crash through. Destruction is all Snyder knows be it of property or character.
(Photo: Warner Bros.)
Superman comes back to life and he returns to the fight. The Trinity-assembled, they go to work. They get lost in the CGI. Superman hears Lois elsewhere, struggling to breathe underwater in an attempt to get the spear. He saves her, the spear hurts him, but he realises what he has to do.
One might hope that he gives it to Wonder Woman who can use it without being hurt. One fears that he’s going to use it.
Fear is a prerequisite of nightmares. I can’t look away from the screen, but I desperately want this to be a bad dream. I want to wake up and find out it’s a good movie.
Superman charges at Doomsday, impaling the monster with the spear. Doomsday impales Clark with a bone protrusion.
My heart sinks further than it did at any point in the previous two hours. I know where this is going.
Clark keeps going. Doomsday dies. Clark dies. Snyder never bothered to check what ‘Kill your Darlings’ really means in filmmaking.
There are two funerals. One for Clark, One for Superman. One private, the other for the general populous to mourn. One with a body in the coffin, one without. Superman’s casket is empty; Clark lies next to his father. We’ll come back to this.
Bruce says he won’t fail Clark in death. He should assemble the other metahumans to fight what’s coming. We spend time setting up Justice League. This movie is a mess. It spends too much time trying to do this and then tosses away the conflict it’s been building to. The final act is rampant with destruction, so it makes no sense why it even toys with questioning if Superman is accountable for the destruction when fighting Zod because Snyder needs a CGI fest.
I never wanted this movie to fail. Competition means that both sides are encouraged to do better, to strive for greater things. I felt nothing but anger towards this once it finished. Mad Max: Fury Road never takes its foot off the pedal, but it works. 10 Cloverfield Lane has a perfect final act which wasn’t expected. Those movies are perfectly paced and everything exists for a reason. Damien Chazelle made Whiplash, one of the tightest movies of the decade his script for 10 Cloverfield Lane might be ever tighter – everything is relevant and introduced.
(Photo: Warner Bros.)
With this, I was just mad. I should have been mourning. I should feel sad, there was a funeral scene after all. Going back to that, both Clark and Superman are dead. Superman can come back; he will – Justice League is on the docket after all. That’s why his grave is empty, it’s hollow because in two years it’ll mean nothing. Clark can’t.
Therein lies the problem. They’re not different people.
Clark Kent is Superman. Superman is Clark Kent. He’s proof that an everyman can represent so much more. He’s someone who could be a god, but chooses to be like us. Human. Superman can’t be human anymore, that link is gone.
At the end of the showing, I was curious why I didn’t cry, why I didn’t feel anything besides rage. I realise now. The President decided to nuke Doomsday and treat Superman as collateral damage. Superman died to a bone of Doomsday’s.
These statements are wrong. Superman was killed far earlier than the third act. He was already dead the second Snyder got his hands on him. That was announced on October 4th 2010. Superman has been dead for five years.
In that time, Snyder has set out to demolish everything he stood for. And we watched. People will continue to watch and he’ll be given the chance to continue what he’s done. This wasn’t manslaughter, this was a character assassination. Snyder deserves, to and should be on trial.
Before he’s able to kill again.