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[Movie] Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Alfred

Batman vs Superman is the story of an engineering genius named Alfred who has decided to dedicate his life in service to the Wayne family as a butler, much to his detriment. As not-so-young-any-more Master Bruce goes into an out-of-control spiral of obsession laced with extremely lucid an violent dreams that really ought to have him seeking out help from a mental health professionals, Alfred does the best he can to get him to reel it in, with such pointed remarks as, “…the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel.” Alfred can only watch in growing dismay as Bruce becomes completely fixated on Superman as a symbol of all things wrong, presumably resentful because Superman is way better at murdering people than Bruce, and is also the most popular girl at prom. It’s the story of one man being slowly crushed under the weight of another man’s insurmountable ego, as Alfred laments, “Go upstairs and socialize. Some young lady will make you honest… in your dreams, Alfred.” Ultimately, Alfred’s soul becomes one more piece of collateral damage in the massive manpain dick-waving contest that occurs between Batman and Superman, thankfully cut short by the intervention of a badass woman wielding a sword and round shield, who is the only person capable of finding some sort of joy in this entire film. Maybe she will make the dark knight an honest man and answer Alfred’s dying hopes, but I wouldn’t want to inflict that on her, she deserves so much better, and it’s obvious from the way she’s willing to dive into battle and take her hits with a fierce grin, having at last found a worthy opponent.

In case you couldn’t tell, the only parts of this movie I liked were Alfred (Jeremy Irons) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who probably accounted for less than 5% of the film’s running time. (My driving away from the movie reaction here, since Didi asked for it.)

I’m not surprised I didn’t like this movie. I really didn’t care for Man of Steel, and in Batman vs Superman, Zack Snyder makes a film that’s even less coherent than the first. Even worse, the soundtrack for this one is bombastic, overblown, and oddly desperate, which is the cherry on the shit sundae, kind of like the soundtrack for Transformers 4 sucking. (The only good bit of the soundtrack was when Wonder Woman showed up, holy shit that guitar though.) You leave me with nothing, Snyder. But I decided that I would see BvS anyway because 1) Wonder Woman and 2) Alfred, and at least they didn’t disappoint. Also, it’s hard to justify saying mean things about a movie if you haven’t seen it (particularly egregious nonsense like Gods of Egypt excepted) no matter how much of a hot mess it looks in the trailers.

As usual, Zack Snyder makes a film that’s visually appealing (if so ridiculously color filtered that at times it looks almost black and white) and lacks any sort of sequential or narrative coherence as shots form scenes. It also feels like he jammed at least three movies together and the plot just bounces between them all like a frantic pingpong ball. We get the Batman origin story again. We get Lex Luthor coming out of left field (way the fuck out in left field, more on this in a minute) and doing some kind of six dimensional villain chess thing that’s so poorly developed it’s impossible to follow. We get Wonder Woman trying to set up the Justice League, squeezed into a few spare seconds. We get Bruce’s manpain, and more manpain, and even more manpain, and then some bizarre dream sequences that really don’t add a fucking thing. We get Superman getting called in front of Congress and constantly talked about as what a giant threat he is because everyone likes him, which seems very weird when in the movie literally no one but Lois Lane seems to like Superman until we’re midway through the second act and he finally rescues some people from a burning factory. (By the way, Lois Lane and Clark have a couple really cute scenes and kudos for that tiny sliver of character development.)

Henry Cavill tries with Superman, bless him, you can tell he’s trying so hard as someone who gets the character under a director who plainly doesn’t. But I honestly laughed out loud when Ma Kent reassures Clark that he’s not a killer. Actually, Ma, we have Zack Snyder and the previous movie to thank for that. Though I will note that Clark goes out of his way in this movie to try to not murder a lot of civilians, and that I appreciated. But it’s a bit ridiculous when his supposed reason for going after Batman is that Batman is brutal and causing people to die. Your body count is still way higher, kiddo. But it doesn’t help that even Superman doesn’t seem to know why the fuck Superman is doing anything, perhaps because Zack Snyder doesn’t get it either, and Ma Kent acts as reverse Uncle Ben, assuring her son that, “I never wanted the world to have you… you don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.” (Ma Kent’s an objectivist, who would have thought.)

Of course Ben Affleck’s Batman is another step in the descent of this character becoming the Punisher Lite. There’s only one fight in the entire goddamn movie where it really feels like he’s fighting like Batman, using hand to hand and ninja skills and gadgets instead of shooting things and blowing up cars and basically murdering people left and right, even if he doesn’t do it personally. This version of Batman, charmingly enough, brands people with the bat symbol so that when they get sent to prison, they get murdered by the inmates. This is a thing he plainly knows is happening. It’s as if Snyder took a look at the Bale/Nolan Batman and went, yeah, but this guy is way too likable and morally upright. Now, why he’s got a hate-on for Superman makes sense in a strictly hypocritical fashion–it’s okay to murder people when you’re Batman, but Superman is just way too good at it. Obviously this cannot be allowed to stand, and thus some kind of battle, blah blah blah manpain manpain angst angst posturing oh wait we need to unite to defeat a common enemy that gets airdropped in at the last minute. (Though I will note that I think Ben Affleck did a fine job with what precious little he had, and I’d actually really like to see more Batfleck if he’s in a movie that isn’t directed by Zack Snyder.)

Maybe if you liked Man of Steel, you’ll like this. Maybe Zack Snyder movies are for you. But if you’re like me, just wait for some perfect soul to make a super cut that’s nothing but Wonder Woman (or ideally, Wonder Woman and Alfred) and watch it on youtube. Don’t worry, there’s a much, much better Batman movie coming soon.

The worst part of all of this is I’m going to drag myself to whatever DC does next as long as Gal Gadot is in it, because I’m that fucking thirsty for a female superhero movie. So hell yeah, I will still show for a Wonder Woman movie, even if Zack Snyder ends up directing it, (bless Farli for pointing out that Patty Jenkins is directing Wonder Woman, I can feel hope again!) because I love Wonder Woman and still have hope in my heart that hasn’t been entirely crushed that maybe she will get the treatment she deserves. (Her five minutes in BvS was pretty good.) But I sure don’t have a reason to trust her movie won’t suck, not after the way this one ended.

SPOILERS for the end from this point, if you even care.

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Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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