Batman v Superman is a weird movie. I went into the movie expecting it to be awful but it’s not as infuriatingly bad as bad superhero movies can be. This isn’t as bad as The Amazing Spiderman 2, Superman: the Quest for Peace, Batman and Robin or The Dark Knight Returns. Heck, the movie gets a lot of things right: Jeremy Irons makes a great Alfred, Ben Affleck makes a good Batman, Amy Adams helps ground the emotional scenes of the movie (something none of her male counterparts can manage), and Gal Godot’s confident performance definitely steals the show (watch for her smile when she battles Doomsday). And yeah, there’s a spoiler that’s been pretty well preserved (i.e., isn’t revealed in the movie trailers) that is interesting, if arguably unearned.
On the other hand, this movie definitely is not “good” (it feels more like simply required viewing to set up the sequels that are coming) but there are so many weird, strange, and just bizarre moments that you’ll spend more time confused by what’s happening on the screen than loving or hating it. Much of the movie consists of brief, three minute scenes that cut away quickly to other scenes. Characters make strange choices and then immediately reverse them. People’s love and hate of Superman turns on a dime. Just when you think the movie is settling into a groove, something surprisingly unexpected happens. The movie may be good or bad, but it definitely is not predictable. That said, here are the five biggest problems I see with the movie.
Batman is Confusingly Homicidal
For a hero who traditionally prides himself on never taking a life, Batman kills a surprising amount of guys in this movie. Sure, he never shoots someone in the head (though he does shoot some guys), stab someone in the neck (though he does stab some guys), or break someone’s neck (he might have done that one). He does, however, force criminals into car accidents no one could survive, detonate his enemies weapons in huge explosions, and brand his enemies in ways that get them killed in prison. Further, it’s really hard to see how Batman can be so angry at Superman for destroying Metropolis when he seems perfectly happy to destroy large portions of Gotham while chasing down his enemies. Batman seems convinced that as long as he doesn’t actually pull the trigger himself, he’s not killing anybody, which is creepily close to Kilgrave’s logic on Jessica Jones (quick shout out to David Tennant’s Kilgrave, one of the best supervillains we’ve seen in years). Superman has a point here: Batman needs to tone it down.
The Batman v Superman Showdown is Painful to Watch
I’m not sure if the battle between Batman and Superman was meant to be exciting or cathartic, but it sure isn’t any fun. Given that the movie is named after this confrontation, this should be an epic battle between two superheroes, but this battle isn’t one of the best superhero battles, this isn’t even one of the best Batman v Superman battles. Heck, this battle isn’t even the best part of this movie. Both of the climatic superpower-heavy battles between Superman and Zod were exciting and the final showdown between Batman and Bane was powerfully brutal. This battle, in contrast, is more of a slog. Maybe it’s because the motives for the battle are pretty ridiculous; even by the traditional superhero-misunderstanding standard, the pretense here is really thin and could easily be straightened out with a thirty second conversation. Perhaps it’s wise then that the movie moves from this fight pretty quickly to other events that I won’t spoil but you already know are coming.
Lex Luthor is a Disaster of a Character
Between Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey, Michael Rosenbaum, Sherman Howard, and John Shea, I’ve seen a lot of Lex Luthors, and this is far and away the weirdest version of Lex Luthor I’ve ever seen. He’s twitchy, he’s socially awkward, and he gives long, rambling monologues on Greek mythology so meandering that the movie cuts away while he’s speaking. He’s intended to be some kind of captain of industry and mad scientist, but he’s not so much menacing as off-putting, not as much The Smartest Guy in the Room as The Most Irritating Person You’ve Ever Met. You’ll learn to cringe whenever he appears. I don’t think Luthor is Eisenberg’s fault by any stretch; Eisenberg manages to get some interesting small moments at the margins. But his motivations get blurrier as the movie continues and his nuttiness seems to intensify. So, let’s be clear: Clancy Brown’s Lex Luthor needs to be the gold standard for the DC universe and whatever the hell this is supposed to be needs to evolve before returning to the series (I did like how the movie introduces Luthor’s baldness, however).
The Dream Sequences are Weird as Hell
Even for a nearly three hour movie, this show spends a lot of time in Batman’s dreams, and they are weird as hell. It is definitely odd that we have to see the Waynes’ murder once again, which is quickly becoming the most filmed scene in cinema history. Weirder still are the later sequences which seem to depict some kind of future dystopia without any real explanation (have fun explaining that one to your non-geek friends). EVEN WEIRDER is the brief appearance of another superhero with a warning that never gets referenced again in the movie. The visions of Bruce’s are strange enough, but the fact that he seems perfectly willing to act on them as though they were established facts is stranger still. We spend so much time seeing the weird visions of Bruce Wayne that you’ll start to wonder if he has some deep psychological disorder or is experiencing the impact of too many concussions.
Superman Gets the Short End of the Stick
Even though his name is in the title, Superman seems to get a lot less screen time than the other characters in the movie. There are several brief sequences of heroism and some moments of levity (I particularly like his ability to hear Bruce’s communications with Alfred) and Amy Adams – who I think could exude chemistry with a lifeless muppet – gives the Lois and Clark relationship some weight. Otherwise, Superman largely broods through a lot of the brief time he has and spends a surprising amount of time getting thoroughly beaten up. This is really unfortunate as much of the movie depends on the audience investing emotionally in Superman. I’d still like to see a Man of Steel sequel that brings in some of Superman’s other enemies, like Brainiac, Metallo, or Parasite. However, this movie seems so convinced that nobody cares about the Man of Steel that he winds up feeling more like an afterthought in his own movie. I’m still hoping they find time in the crowded slate of DC movies for another Superman movie, but – if this movie is any indication – it looks like I’ll have to wait a while.