What We Liked And Hated (Mostly Hated) About Batman V Superman

What We Liked and Hated (Mostly Hated) About Batman v Superman

Last week, two of Kotaku's staffers went to see DC Comics' biggest superhero icons duke it out on the big screen. World's Finest, it ain't. Mike Fahey and myself are probably the most superhero comics-loving people here at Kotaku. But we both went to Batman v Superman out of a sense of duty rather than excitement. After it all was said and done -- in my case, brown liquor was administered to dull the throbbing -- we convened in Slack to talk about it. There are many spoilers ahead.

What We Liked and Hated (Mostly Hated) About Batman v Superman

Evan Narcisse: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the first time in a long while that I approached a major superhero movie with active dread. I already had low expectations based on how I felt about Man of Steel. I lowered them as the first reviews started to hit (though I didn't read any of them) and lowered them even more after texting with a friend who saw it on Tuesday. Somehow, it managed to come in even lower than those twice-reset fears. This movie simply shouldn't exist.

I stay reading superhero and genre work because, when it's at its best, I get a certain kind of metaphorical cleverness and emotional resonance that it's tough to find anywhere else. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are aspirational symbols. Zack Snyder says he understands that but this movie turned them into the worst versions of themselves.

Mike Fahey: I went into Batman v Superman the same way you did, apparently. I was never really excited about the film, my expectations tempered by Man of Steel. There were some early buzz on Twitter over the weekend from insane people (or possibly just trolls) calling it the best Batman movie ever, so my hopes raised slightly, but by the time Thursday night rolled around I was actively dreading stepping into the theatre. An hour in and I was ready to step back out. I wanted to get up and leave, and only stayed for the sake of this conversation.

So you are welcome, readers.

Evan: Like, I already knew that Snyder's take wasn't one for me. I went in hoping to see cool fights, a nice debut for Wonder Woman and how he'd fold in callbacks to the source material. Only the Wonder Woman stuff made me feel positive in any way.

Again, spoiler warning: We're about to get into the plot so avert your eyes if you care. But you really shouldn't, because it's dumb.

BvS is set two years after Man of Steel and opens with a dream sequence recap of Batman's origin. It then cuts to Bruce Wayne desperately scrambling through Metropolis trying to save people during the big Supes/Zod throwdown from the last movie.

Mike: Snyder set the tone early with the worst on-screen version of Batman's origins I have ever seen. Bruce Wayne and his parents walking down the street, a mugger accosts them with a gun, and Thomas Wayne takes a swing at him.

Evan: Yeah, from the very beginning, I felt like Snyder doesn't get why certain aspects of these characters' mythos have become so powerful. Up until this point, Thomas Wayne was always shown in a way where protecting his son was the priority. I mean, taking a swing at a mugger just escalates things to an even more dangerous degree.

Mike: Everything in that first few minutes, dream or not, is just bad. Martha Wayne's pearl necklace catching the gun, young Bruce falling into the underground cave, only to be lifted up towards the light by swirling bat-symbolism. It established a tone, and the tone was "Here be some deep bullshit." "This movie is heavy," the movie says over and over again, pleased with itself.

Evan: Yeah! The word that came to mind for me was "lugubrious". Even Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Lex Luthor, where he's supposed to be a manically spastic super-genius trust-fund arsehole, felt way too heavy-handed. There's no zip, nothing nimble anywhere in this movie.

Mike: Except for the one line towards the end, which I'm sure we'll get to.

Evan: Meanwhile, Kal-El has been living with Lois Lane as Clark Kent and flying around as Superman, winning hearts by saving lives but still the centre of controversy. The tension about whether Superman does more harm than good moves to the foreground when he intervenes to save Lois Lane from terrorists in an African country. A senator holds hearings to call him to accountability, but has also been meeting with Lex Luthor, who wants her to let him bring newly-discovered Kryptonite to the US so he can play with it.

What We Liked and Hated (Mostly Hated) About Batman v Superman

Mike: I don't care how many lives Superman has saved at this point. By starting the movie off (ignoring the dream sequence now) showing the horror of the street-level destruction from Bruce Wayne's point of view, I was convinced Superman needed to be taken out. No rational person would call someone who'd caused so much death and destruction a hero. It doesn't help that Henry Cavill is a plastic doll.

Evan: Yeah, that one montage where he's saving lives felt like the most cynical middle-finger bullshit. "So, this is what you wanted?! Here, Clark is saving so many lives now! Happy?!"

What We Liked and Hated (Mostly Hated) About Batman v Superman

Mike: He doesn't even deserve a secret identity, that monster.

Evan: Part of my problem with BvS is that its story logic is so terrible. It's a collection of plot beats with scant, rotten connective tissue. The thematic underpinnings that are supposed to tie things together are awful. Batman wants to kill Superman -- calling it the most important thing he'll ever do -- because he's too powerful, Superman isn't sure about his place in the world, Wonder Woman left humanity because underexplained bad reasons. It's impossible to accept the movie as sincere.

Mike: As much as I loved her, there needed to be a little less Wonder Woman in this. Bringing her in during the fight against the grey, genital-free mutant ninja turtle Lex Luthor created using the genital-free mutant ninja turtle machine he found on the Kryptonian ship would have been enough. Lacing her throughout the story made me expect more from her. But I am getting ahead of the movie here. We've got at least two more dream sequences to get through before that confrontation.

What We Liked and Hated (Mostly Hated) About Batman v Superman

Evan: Man, the dream sequences... They were undoubtedly the worst part of the movie, as far as storytelling. Bruce falls asleep and sees into a future ruled by Superman with an extra helping of parademons?! Gets visited by someone who you can't really tell is the Flash, in a riff on Crisis on Infinite Earths?!

Mike: Hahaha. I was thinking the same thing. "How are these people going to know that's the Flash?" If those dream sequences were cut completely this would have been a much more… well, no. I at least wouldn't have been falling asleep towards the end.

Evan: This franchise hasn't earned any of its invocation of the fantastic. There's a dissonance at its heart. Snyder's been setting up a ultra-gritty, grounded take on this universe and then starts sprinkling sci-fi shit in there. It doesn't hold together. Normal-dude Batman, of all people, has clairvoyant foreshadowing powers. FOH.

Mike: As does Lex Luthor, apparently. He spends the entire movie feeding Jolly Ranchers to CIA agents and hinting at Darkseid. I half expected him to start handing out pamphlets about it.

Evan: Hahahahahhahaha!

Mike: There is a lot of groundwork being laid here. Strip it all away and this might have been a much tighter, more enjoyable film. The first few Marvel movies kept the expanded universe stuff to post-credits scenes. Batman v Superman is very impatient about expanding the DC cinematic universe.

Evan: This is Warner Bros. trying to do in one movie what Marvel did in, like, four or five. Teasing the other metahumans in security footage? Weak. One friend said the Cyborg tease was like a bad YouTube fan film.

Mike: Hahahaha. It was! It was like someone superimposed a scientist over a faded Iron Maiden album cover and then went to town in After Effects.

Evan: I think the biggest sin in BvS is that it robs these versions of Clark and Bruce of the chance to stand up for their convictions. Supes wants to take out Bats because he thinks the Bat goes over the line; Bats wants to kill Supes because he's too powerful to exist. Only then Lex kidnaps Martha Kent. So then the whole reason Clark and Bruce fight changes. It's not because they're these diametrically opposed larger-than-life figures. It's because of weak-arse plot contrivance. And then! They stop fighting because a decades-old bit of trivia. It's the worst nerd dog-whistle ever.

What We Liked and Hated (Mostly Hated) About Batman v Superman

Mike: And then Lex Luthor activates his Doomsday machine. After five, thankfully. Not a lot of people on the streets of Metropolis after business hours. Screw you, movie.

The thing is, at a basic level the basic plot here could be good. The motivations behind the Batman and Superman conflict. Batman and Wonder Woman both investigating Luthor, Batman trying to hijack Luthor's Kryptonite shipment -- these are beats that would have worked really well in comic book form. But then Snyder had to go all Watchmen on it.

Evan: This movie is what happens when meatheads decide they're going to wave the nerd flag. We have to talk about the the big event near the end because, again, it shows Snyder's fundamental misunderstanding of superhero symbolism. Once Doomsday shows up, you know Superman is going to die. That's the only thing Doomsday is good for: killing Superman. Superman dies and then Batman and Wonder Woman talk about, essentially, forming the Justice League.

Mike: Superman falling on his spear. SYMBOLISM YOU GUYS! GET IT?

Evan: This is a Justice League that starts with Superman's death. It feels wrong because it's centring darkness and loss in this emo, fetish-y way that undermines any messaging about hope or altruism. Worse still, it sets up like at least five years of dread. I'm so nervous about the rest of this universe they're building.

The movie keeps telling us that Batman and Superman are doing justice but never convinces you of that.

Mike: There are two good things about this movie. One is Wonder Woman's grin in the middle of the Doomsday fight. That moment alone gave me hope for the next movie in this undertaking.

Mike: The other is the only line in the movie that made me laugh. Batman saves Superman's Martha. "I'm a friend of your son's."

That's all the good. I could list dozens of bad things. Perry White as the newspaper editor who tells his reporters what to write. The Doomsday contrivance. Being able to see Gotham from Metropolis. The f***ing bagpipe funerals. Superman hanging over the flood victims like glowing alien Jesus. "We get the symbolism. Could you possibly save us now?"

Evan: Hahahaaha, yep. After I saw the movie, I had drinks with friends who hadn't yet. As I ranted about what I didn't like, we were all musing about how much money BvS might make and whether it might stifle plans for more DC superhero movies. I still want those movies to happen but I desperately want them to branch out into different tonalities. For a lifelong fan like me, watching these characters get twisted into nigh-unrecognisable form is like torture. There's no optimism here. Seeing "good" triumph over "evil" here is like watching a snuff film where they kill the Superfriends.

Mike: In closing, let me just say this is the one time I enjoyed the breakfast cereals more than the movie they represented.


    Another one?

      The petulant titles and the hate-wanking is getting very painful. Between these guys and Polygon I think I've been exposed to enough smug ranting about a 7/10 film that I may have to stop visiting for a few weeks.

        Have you seen the movie though?

    Garbage movie.
    Give DC back to Marvel so they can at least make them fun.

      DC are owned by Warner, not Marvel.


      Yeah let's make the new DC movies that can actually show us what superheros would really be like in the real world and make them like Marvel where the stories are full of juvenile fantasy and zero creativity. Yeah great idea.

    I have not seen this, though it will be interesting to see whether the "Ultimate Cut" with a supposed R Rating they are planning for the Disc release will be better than some of the current opinions on the film

    Maybe people didn't like the film because they went into the cinema with really low expectations.

    'I'm going to watch this expecting a piece of crap, I'm going to look for any flaws that I can spot and they're going to ruin the film for me. Hey look, I thought the film was a piece of crap.'

    Yes the film isn't perfect, but it's definitely not as bad as people are making out. Affleck is a great Batman against all of the backlash when he was first cast, Cavil is still a decent Superman in my eyes (and hey, I liked Man of Steel too). What's his face who played Lex, it was a weird decision to make him 'crazy'. There are plot holes of course, Batman's reasoning behind hating on Superman wasn't explored nearly enough for my liking, it needed more focus on stuff like the collateral damage from Superman fighting Zod causing a lot of death that Batman saw close up, after the first 10 minutes of the film that wasn't really expanded on so I kind of forget why Batman hated on Superman so much, and he also didn't do much detecting. Hopefully in an extended 'directors cut', that will be more apparent.

    As it is though, it was enjoyable and definitely sets up the following films which is what was intended with the film anyway. It shouldn't be seen as a standalone, but judge it once the next few films are out

      I agree its not as bad as this article and alot of people are making it out to be.
      "As it is though, it was enjoyable and definitely sets up the following films which is what was intended with the film anyway. It shouldn't be seen as a standalone, but judge it once the next few films are out"
      BULLSHIT. This argument has never, and will never work. EVERY single Marvel film Works as standalone, every movie thats part of a bigger picture(a trilogy) STILL has to work as a stand alone. This movie SHOULD and HAS been judged as a standalone.

        You and a million other marvel fans out there sure like to talk shit about DC movies. I don't think you really think batman vs superman is bad, you just feel threatened that a DC movie makes Marvel movies look so juvenile, and what is really making you angry is that DC actually did a good job which Marvel avengers fails to do. Every super great movie out there always gets so much talk. Titanic was won 11 academy awards and over a billion dollars was spent making the masterpiece, but it got so criticized so much, Avatar was also one. If Batman vs Superman grosses over a billion dollars you can takes your critical remarks and eat em

          Not a bad movie? Threatened? HAHAHAHAH oh boy.
          I even said its not as bad as people say, but its still not a good film.
          Dont drink the kool aid fanboy.

    I think the issue is that fans actually had alot of expectations for the film. Everyone keeps saying the had low expectations of it, but we've seen in the past film-goers with low expectations generally come out with a better than expected view of films.

    The people here have 2 expectations. They expect it to be absolutely crap or absolutely brilliant. Both high, albeit opposite expectations. The few people I know that had good reviews of the film, had no interest in comics (and knew nothing of the lore or symbolism or whatever) and had such a low expectation of the film, they expected nothing more than 2 hours in a dark room with a movie, a coke and some popcorn.

      I liked it and I'm familiar with the lore. I just think that a lot of the lore is stoopid and that slavishly working within previously established canon often holds stories back.

      The single thing that makes Superman usually so boring is that even when he's presented with an impossible choice, he somehow manages to choose an invisible third option where everyone's happy. And that is really dull storytelling. I like how they've left that behind.

    End of the day it's two guys opinions, they didn't like it. My opinion I enjoyed it, quite possibly Narcisse and Fahey are ultimate comic book purists and are blinded by hatred for a different portrayal of their beloved characters much the same as I feel about Game of Thrones, love the book but the series is meh....ok I guess

    I have to disagree with nearly every word of this conversation.


    - The opening sequence was effective. Have enough of the Batman origin iconography but keeping it simple and fresh. Allows it to be easily recalled during the "Martha" scene later on. It's played differently than historically presented but I find most of the changes work (the fact that the death of Bruce's parents was caused by action, not inaction is important)
    - I'm not enough of a comic purist to dismiss differences from lore out of hand. If they work, or they help tell the story you want to tell, then the film-maker should go for it.
    - Dismissing the tone as "here be some deep bullshit" tells us less about the movie and more about your expectations. There is a lot going on in this movie, and people pointing out the complexity as a fault are simply expecting too little from their modern action film.
    - OK the comments about Lex are acceptable. The Zuckerberg-after-a-breakdown angle would've worked a lot better if they hadn't literally cast Zuckerberg (by way of Eisenberg).
    - I'm sick of hearing about the number of people that died in MoS. Zod was going to eradicate humanity - the handful of people that died in Metropolis was inconsequential. The thing I loved most about MoS was how the Superman-Zod battle felt like a fight-to-the-death clash between two beings who are essentially gods. If this fight takes in a populated city, and yet somehow no-one dies, then that's just lazy storytelling.
    - I feel like the "dream sequences" are DC's equivalent of the post-credits stinger i.e. set up future plot points. Pure speculation but I'm sure they're going to make sense in hindsight after we've seen Justice League etc.
    - Doomsday was generic yes, but then this film was not about him. Doomsday was simply a force of nature, the incredibly powerful catalyst to bring the JL together quickly. Between establishing Lex's evil/insanity, creating a bond between the JL members and showing the level of threat the JL are going to face, Doomsday ended up being a very effective villain.
    - The Martha/Martha scene wasn't exactly groundbreaking, but given the context - after knowing that Superman has a mother is the first time Bruce considers him a man, and not an alien - it is effective and believable.
    - The "abandoned port" setting of the Doomsday fight should be blamed on the MoS whingers, not the film-makers.
    - You're nervous about the future of the DCCU? My only concern is that they're going to acquiesce to all the haters and make the new movies unambitious and generic. We don't need more Marvel-style superhero films. We need something different. And whether you appreciate it or not, DC is doing something different with these films.

      I agree. DC does not want to become a Marvel movie. They have tried this in the past with movies like Green Lantern and it was a flop. They instead are going a less action, more intigue and mystique method.

      Lol... Total horse shit they don't want to be like Marvel. You do realise they've pumped out this movie and are trying to get Justice League out before the end of next year to beat Marvel to the punch with their version of Thanos (Darkseid) before the Infinity War movies.

      This is the MAIN problem with WB. Instead of being patient, taking their time, releasing a few movies like Man of Steel 2 and the other stand alone titles, they were like ERMAGHAD!! GOTTA JUMP ON THIS SUPERHERO BANDWAGON IN CASE IT DIES! Anyone that can't see this is an idiot.

        Oh yeah no doubt they're going for the expanded universe thing like Marvel but the outcome is going to be completely different.

        I don't think it's fair to say that they're rushing it out. They didn't need a million films to set up their Avengers equivalent - everyone already knows Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. No one except comic book nerds knew who Iron Man, Thor or Hawkeye were so they had to introduce them gradually.

          I agree the outcome is going to be different. They'll be scrapping this Universe and rebooting it in 5 years.

            Lol but I hope you're wrong.

              i don't. I can't wait to see it done right.

        Oh yeah like Marvel is not guilty of doing that haha. Oh we need to set to release the avengers by 2012 but all we have so far is ironman, hurry let's through together a captain America and a Thor and we don't have time to redo hulk but let's just use the hulk story from 2008 and just use a different actor. Ok we are set to slap all of marvel fans into a story together. Yeah the story is cheesy and juvenile but at least we have all the heroes in it together now yay. Let's not waist time making our movie more creative and realistic like the DC movies are going to hahaha

          My word you are a hilarious and moronic troll. haha

    I liked the movie. All the haters either didn't get the plot or were disappointed at not enough lens flare and explosions.

      "Didnt get the plot"

        Here is an excellent movie that you'll enjoy: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118688/

      So if we didn't enjoy a film that should've been significantly better than it turned out to be then we are somehow stupid? gtfo.
      I didn't HATE it but there was plenty of problems with it that could've been easily fixed. I am a Batman fan, i even have a batman tattoo ffs, i wanted to love it, i honestly did, and usually i see the good in films and can overlook some issues but BvS just wasn't a great film - and i truly wish that wasn't the case.

        Of course it's not a "great" or "awesome" movie. But going into the cinema expecting epic viewing is going to leave you mostly disappointed. I'm a huge Batman fan (don't care about Superman) but didn't go into this movie expecting it to blow my mind. It had to keep me entertained, and it mostly did. I rated it a meh.
        But a lot of people suddenly became grossly offended by it. Really? That's what gets you going these days? I movie that didn't live up to your expectations?

          You rated it meh, Yet youre SO quick to claim people who didnt like it, didnt get the plot.

            I'm not outraged and I don't hate it.

          How dare i be hopeful that a film I pay good money for would be great. Silly me.

            Welcome to life.

            Yeah how disappointing to you being a Marvel fan that a DC movie can actually make a good movie unlike any one of the fantasy juvenile Avengers movies were able to.

            You don't hate the movie, your just upset that DC was able to do what Marvel failed to do cause your obviously a Marvel fan. If you really thought it sucked you wouldn't have gone to see it. The bad reviews would have been enough for you.

              I saw it opening night, before the reviews were in, just fyi.

    Overall, I thought it was average. Won't go into everything that I thought weakened the movie, as my thoughts are in line with the criticisms that are common to many fans already (Luthor was bad, plot was messy etc).

    But there were some things that worked good. To me this Affleck version of Batman is very close to how I imagine Batman to be in the comics, overlooking the killing anyway (itself a major issue, but to me not enough to outweigh what they got right with this Batman). Even if the movie itself was a mess, it did an OK job in laying the groundwork a bit for the future of DCEU, especially with the Darkseid teases.

    I went with my wife.
    I havr a reasonably good knowledge of DC universe (I would not call myself a fan though), and my wife knows only movies.
    ... we both enjoyed it heaps.
    There was character development and intrigue. It closed enough of the plot to be complete while opening up lots of possibilities for the future.
    It is so easy to try and pick holes in anything but I think it can all be down to one thing: hype.

    At the risk of lots of fanatics screaming at me: I personally enjoyed it more than the latest Star Wars.
    *runs and hides from torrents of fanatical loons*

    Agree with the haters. Movie was average at best. And that's being generous. Nonsensical plot (and anyone that says "oh you didn't get the plot.. Oh no I got the stupid plot.. It just didn't make sense), disjointed scenes that jumped around, horrible dialogue, really stupid dream sequences that were comedic when they weren't supposed to be and some very wooden performances...

    Maybe I'm being so harsh on it because DC could've done something amazing by doing a gritty real life version of their characters but instead their skipped the foreplay and blew their load prematurely. Shoving 4 different comic story lines into one movie was a stupid idea and they've pretty much ruined Superman in their stories as now the stakes can never be taken seriously. Doomsday and the Superman arc that he represents should've been a post Justice League forming movie. I could rant about this movie all day long but I'm over it... One thing I do find interesting is how divided people are on it. This is a movie that people either hate, love or find average. While I can't see how anyone liked this movie, I respect that people do.

    Dear Warners/DC,
    stop putting people who don't love your characters just they way they are in charge of your films.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who actually enjoyed the movie. I actually went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Affleck was great as the Bat. Cavill is an enjoyable Supes. I expected Eisenberg to just be the same as he was in every movie he's in, but I was one of the minority who really enjoyed his psychotic portrayal as Luther. Also thought Gadot was good as WW and l look forward to seeing her movie.

    I agree that the film is just a setup for the Justice League. It shouldn't be spared a grilling because of this. As someone said earlier, it should stand alone as its own film, which it doesn't really do. I also thought the dream sequences were weird as fuck. I also didn't like how quickly Batman changed his mind and decided Supes was aight. Oh your mother has the same name as mine did? Let's be friends. Fuck off. That's cheap.

    Despite those things, I really liked it. I'm not a comic uber-nerd, so maybe that's the reason. But for all the shit they crammed in, it was paced well.

      I think the Martha thing worked. Batman (and everyone) had never seen Superman as anything but this godlike alien. Only a threat. But then he learns that he has a mother i.e. he is pretty much human. The fact that both his mother and Supes' have the same name would probably seem like divine providence at that point.

    Batman was like ironman a believable reality of the near future where some guy pours his wealth and genius into tech to support his agenda.
    Then we have the alien god crap...of avengers and superman. And suddenly its detatched from the futurist prediction.

    And we don't see you doing better shit. Fuck you too smartass.

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