Speaking as writers, sometimes the only recourse we have to deal with the horrible stories we see is fixating on what could have been. Think of it as writers’ coping mechanism — digging all the way down to the roots of whatever turgid tripe we’ve witnessed and attempting to figure out what, in an ideal situation, we wish had happened instead.
So this is not a review or strict critique. We’ve enjoyed this particular article by Walter Chaw over on Film Freak Central. And for a bit of a different perspective read this piece by Emily Asher-Perrin at Tor.com.
This is Cole & Clarice’s Batman v Superman Coping Mechanism Exercise. Settle in, folks, because after surviving every minute of BvS:Dawn of Justice we are presenting our top five of the movie’s most squandered opportunities.
It’s all we have anymore, guys…
SPOILERS FOLLOW AFTER THE PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF OUR SUFFERING…
Sad Sad Bruce Wayne
Clarice: Ok. I’ll be up front and say it — I actually don’t hate all of the Bruce Wayne stuff! Though I suppose it’s more accurate for me to say I don’t hate all of the ideas that were almost in play.
Cole: Oh, I don’t either. Bruce Wayne, and therefore Batman by obvious extension, is inherently damaged. You can’t give him his classic origin tale – seeing his parents gunned down before his preteen eyes – without acknowledging he’s going to be a somewhat damaged individual. Dude has baggage. To shrug that away is a discredit to the character and his backstory. HOWEVER. What we’re dealing with here is a supremely, overly, irrationally, messing with my supposed intelligence, damaged Bruce Wayne. There is a difference.
Clarice: Yes. Absolutely. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne can’t be Regular-Human-Being-Damaged, he has to be Bruce Wayne Damaged TO THE nTH FUCKING DEGREE. All caps required. And no, this certainly is not my favorite direction to take Bruce, but that said — I don’t dislike the concept of Bruce Wayne running around on the ground while Superman and Zod destroy everything, and that being an effective trigger for him. I even sort of liked that as an idea.
Cole: That was actually one of my favorite sequences. It made me think, for the briefest of moments, that I might enjoy the film.
Clarice: I thought that too! It almost works really well. And then it just sank rapidly after that. Except we didn’t so much sink into the rotten depths of how fucked-up Bruce’s mind is… as we did sink into watching him behave in erratic and “Damaged” ways. All we truly ever saw were the plot-driven superficialities of his damage. … Plus time-and-pace-devouring dreams and visions. It’s like Snyder essentially wanted to reach the consequences of that character without ever doing the hard work to give us that character.
Cole: And COME ON. This is a character with so much history as a figure in media. For fuck’s sake do him some justice. Put in the work to reach those consequences. If you’re going to go that route (which I think is a mistake but that’s an entirely other discussion) then you have to hit more concrete moments that really define the character. After all, this is the set up for Batman going into Justice League. Give us those solid character moments. Don’t just breeze past them like an afterthought.
Clarice: Right?? If Bruce Wayne must brood the darkity fantastic in his Depressing Man Cave of Darkity Broodiness then fine — but let’s actually take time and truly hit that as solid as we can. You must include a creepy glass-encased Robin suit?? FINE. But let’s sit with how fucking creepy that is and what that damage means on a real level — let’s not let it all be these tossed-off footnotes to drive an insane plot. And making this whole complaint worse??? For what was there, I didn’t hate Affleck doing that kind of character!! At all.
Cole: He’s actually among the least of my issues with the film. Especially when he’s doing Bruce Wayne and not Batman.
Clarice: Oh certainly. I don’t give a single shit about Affleck as Batman… But I realized I was fairly willing to buy into Affleck as Super Extra Damaged Bruce Wayne. Except then they didn’t utilize that to the level I think they could have.
Fuck. I cannot believe I’m about to argue for this right now… but for me I think it boils down to: he needed to be darker. If you’re going to insist on giving me a supremely psychologically damaged Bruce Wayne, then slow the fuck down, focus your story, do stronger character work, and let me fully stew in the dark psychological recesses of Bruce Wayne. If you don’t want to do that work, then don’t give me that Bruce Wayne. Basically? If you want to break my soul → don’t half-ass it.
Cole: SIGH. Yeah. Damn. I’m with you on that one. Honestly never thought I’d say it but it’s what they needed to do. If your Batman is going to be that psychotic you’ve got to back it up. That, and, you know, not just sweep it all under the rug when he abruptly does a 180 when it’s time to fight the real final act villain?
Cole: I feel that’s a dark path to take filled with rage, excessive swearing and rants and, considering what’s up next, perhaps we should move onto number two on our list so we don’t double up too much on that sort of thing?
Cole: Okay. Real quick. Can I just get something off my chest before we get into the nitty gritty of this? Awesome. Here goes: WHAT THE ACTUAL FREAKINGBLOODYDAMNFUCK ZACK SNYDER?!
Ok. I’m good now. We can go.
Clarice: I feel terrible lumping all of the women into one of these, but it’s not like Zack Snyder gave us many options outside of writing an entirely separate piece just about the wasted women. Cole, which woman should we start with?
Cole: Uuuuummmm. Well. Why don’t we start with the closest thing we’ve got to a leading lady? Let’s start with Lois Lane. They almost had a cool moment with her. ALMOST. I was so happy when she went back for the spear at the end. Genuinely thought she was going to retrieve it and bring it onto the battlefield. But no. I was so damn disappointed when she got trapped. I mean COME ON. She’s spent most of the movie being a hostage of one kind or another, you couldn’t give her one moment where she doesn’t need to be rescued?!
Clarice: Ah yes… Lois Lane — Professional Distraction for Superman! It happens three different times! In a 2.5 hr movie. At the beginning which causes all of the broohaha… In the middle when Lex pushes her off the helipad… And at the end when she nearly drowns trying to get the spear that she dropped into the well (or whatever the fuck it was?)
Cole: Um. Yeah. I think that boiled down to creepy abandoned building near the harbor? So there’s some flooding? But I digress. When Lois isn’t being a hostage in the film she’s…well…she’s kind of being an idiot. And honestly? If that was the intent? That might be fine (stress on the might). Except I’m pretty sure she’s meant to be viewed as brave. And plucky! And determined!
Clarice: Because it’s sooo “plucky” to constantly go running into dangerous situations when all that ever happens is her being used as a damsel prop. Ugh. I do not think this makes her brave — it makes her a damn fool.
Cole: Yup. Agreed.
Clarice: Not to mention that every single goddamn time Superman rescues her, it’s not like he just saves her and jumps immediately back into the fray. Nope. Each time there is an unnecessarily long, lingering moment between them. With face-touching.
Cole: I believe I did furiously whisper something along the lines of “This is not the time!” the third instance that happened.
Clarice: You did, yes. And may have even slightly whacked me with your flail of frustration. Anyway… Should we move on to “the other lady” in Superman’s life? Want to touch on Martha Kent?
Cole: SIGH. I suppose we should. Poor Martha. Literally only there to give motherly encouragement, stare painfully at the TV and be yet another hostage.
Clarice: And by ‘motherly encouragement’ we mean “Eh. Totally fuck the world if you want, Clark.” So heart-warming.
Question: why did she have be hostage by flame-thrower murder? Was there a point to that? Why flame-thrower? We’re already dealing with the inherent grossness of threatening a bound and gagged woman, and we’re seriously going to pile onto it by getting outside-the-box unusual with how she’s threatened?
Cole: It was because of Lex Luthor’s totally random witch analogy? I believe?
Clarice: Godfuckingdammit you’re right.
Cole: Yeeeeah. On that note, shall we talk Mercy Graves? Clarice, want to start us off on that one?
Clarice: Yeah. Sure. Ahem: Lex Luthor’s carefree explosion of Mercy Graves is unforgivable, straight-up LAZY-ASS VILLAIN-ING. Hey, Snyder and Co? You want to convince me of a smart and worthwhile villain? Then no blasé sacrifice of dedicated right-hand minions. Ever. *grump face*
Cole: Absolutely. Lazy is the key word here. And the worst part? Lex blowing her up is literally the biggest moment her character gets. That’s how little they put into her. Hence: what’s the point? We don’t know her at all. She should have been kept around to wear fabulous dresses and heels and be a competent evil second in command. And it’s such a damn shame because Mercy is such a cool character and this was her first official live action appearance.
Clarice: I know! I kept waiting for her to be more! I am a major sucker for fabulous second-in-commands, and Mercy Graves fit the bill so perfectly. I was genuinely naively excited to see what would happen with her! And turns out it was merely getting blown up by her psychotic boss. (Saint Wesley avenge her!)
Cole: Yeah I was not happy. Well, that’s three down. Two to go? Who’s next?
Clarice: Well speaking of getting blown-up… perhaps here is our moment to talk Senator Finch? Sigh.
Cole: *WEEPS* Oh, Holly Hunter you deserved SO MUCH BETTER. And seriously? That’s all they can do with her?! Senator Finch would have been a great character to have for the long run. As the Justice League forms she could be the person who questions and checks them and ties the various films together in a simple, small but effective way. That’s what I thought she was going to become BUT NO. They blew her up too. We literally lost two potentially interesting female characters in one inferno.
Clarice: Yeah. Considering Finch’s philosophy, her sticking around could have been interesting. And I liked the basic set up of her conflicts with Lex. Sure, their conversations weren’t very well done, but I liked the core idea of them. Finch made an interesting antagonist for Lex. She was a legal/political buffer with which he was forced to contend. BUT I guess her staying around would have forced them to ratchet up just how smart Lex really was… So though it is for a different reason, she too is nothing more than a victim of lazy villain-ing.
Cole: Yup. Well, I suppose that leaves us with Diana Prince (though we never get her first name in the film…do we?) also known as Wonder Woman. In some ways she’s the one with which I have the least amount of issues.
Clarice: I can agree with that. Because again — I don’t hate the core concept of Ms. Prince essentially hanging out and staying removed from all the growling, testosterone melodrama… Until finally she has to get involved because it’s gotten that much out of control.
Cole: Agreed! Her very much being on the fringes is kind of cool. And her kind of annoyed frustration on the plane when she realizes she needs to go help is marginally entertaining?
Clarice: I did like that moment on the plane. That vague “oh for fuck’s sake do I have to fix everything???”
Cole: I guess my biggest issue is that we get to know her as more of a concept rather than a character? We don’t really get to know her at all, and I know it’s not her movie but all it would have taken was a couple of lines to give her a bit more characterization. Again: LAZY.
Clarice: True. As much as I rather enjoyed her and Sad Bruce playing off one another as party-attending fancy-dress folk, ultimately she did not amount to much more than a silent, exotic mystery in slinky dresses. The visual of her (or concept, as you said) was more existent than her as a real character.
Cole: And there you have the women of the film. Shall we do a quick shout out to poor Martha Wayne before we move on? Who is only there to die horribly while pearls fall, yet again, onto the sidewalk around her?
Clarice: Yes. Shout-out to Martha Wayne whose death was considerably more of a lingering, graphic scene than Thomas Wayne who gets to simply be shot and fall.
Manic Lex Luthor
Clarice: Early in the film I’ll confess that I didn’t exactly mind Eisenberg. With his first few scenes, I was willing to accept and flow with the idea of a hyper-privileged, psychotic child using his boredom and near-infinite resources to toy with forces outside of his control. I could see how that might be interesting. But I feel like then you don’t get to call him Lex Luthor?
Cole: Honestly, at first I didn’t even mind it being Lex Luthor. I’m all for reinterpretations of characters, especially comic book characters. But, dammit, if you’re going to do a radical take on a well known character? You had better do it well. Considering the utterly manic level Eisenberg starts to hit in the second act, that only gets worse entering into the third, you leave the reinterpretation behind and hit a point of “we wanted Lex Luthor and we wanted Jesse Eisenberg doing his thing amped up times 1,000 and we decided we could have both”. By the end I just really, really wished it was someone else besides Lex.
Clarice: He really did get steadily more psychotic / manic as the film went on, didn’t he? By the time we hit Act 3 I had no clue what he was doing anymore or why, or what I have done as a human being to deserve this.
Cole: I was cringing every time he was on screen by the end.
Clarice: All in all I think I could’ve been better able to support Jesse Eisenberg doing that weird twitchy thing if he’d just dialed it back few percentages and was some random new villain instead.
Cole: Dialing it back is the key there I think. The performance was so over the top by the end that it wouldn’t work even if he was playing someone besides Lex Luthor.
Clarice: Will say that I appreciate him not completely get away with everything…? I guess that’s a sort of compliment? He didn’t skip off without any consequences. He is going to prison.
Cole: That was nice. And seeing that horrible wig go away was even better.
That Final Battle
Cole: Ok. So. SIGH. The final battle. Beyond the convenient, out of nowhere villain cave troll from Krypton who can go toe-to-toe with our heroes, or the fact it’s one big CGI shitshow that’s nearly impossible to properly follow, there is one big issue with the final battle, which is the fact that our three ostensible superheroes ARE REALLY KIND OF DUMB AND NOT COMMUNICATING AT ALL.
Clarice: What was SO. GODDAMN. HARD. about saving Lois → flying back to WW (because you can fly really fast, remember??) → telling WW there’s a fucking spear that will probably kill this thing → tag out! → keep fighting / distracting while WW goes super quick and retrieves the damn spear → letting her drive said spear into Doomsday’s chest??? You’re goddamn superheroes! It shouldn’t take that much time to do! And frankly — if you can spare lingering, face-touching moments with your fucking girlfriend, then you have the goddamn time to do this. But ya know what? FINE… even IF you retrieve the fucking spear yourself, why would you not fly it out to the battlefield and hand it off to Wonder Woman WHO IS NOT POISONED BY IT and have her deliver that blow?? We’ve already shown that she can clearly get some fucking momentum going. And she’s fucking Wonder Woman! SHE KNOWS HOW TO USE A SPEAR! Seriously. There is absolutely no reasonable reason why that all couldn’t have worked just fine. Harrumph.
Cole: Agreed. Superman having the self-awareness to recognize, hey, this thing is killing me so maybe I should hand it over, makes him a better hero. It doesn’t even, necessarily, prevent him from giving the final blow, if that is absolutely necessary, but it does give him self awareness and shows, both textually and visually how he, Wonder Woman and Batman naturally work well together and will therefore form a strong foundation for the Justice League.
Clarice: Sorry, I got nothing else. Hahaha. That was the entirety of my thoughts, and they have been expelled.
Cole: Hah! I kind of figured. And I’m pretty much in the same position. My feelings on this one are straightforward. However, since we’re talking about the final battle that leads quite nicely into our final missed/wasted opportunity…
Cole: So it really feels like he died because it’s what happened when he faced Doomsday in the comics. And because manufactured drama. There have been interviews where Snyder has said he thinks it helps the Justice League film if Superman isn’t around (for the start, because we all know he ain’t dead). But, from my point of view, that comes across as more laziness. We know as viewers there’s no way he’s actually dead so it’s false drama. And as for the Justice League film? It comes across to me like Superman would be complicated/hard to write so we’re just going to conveniently kill him so we don’t have to do that hard work.
Clarice: And so we can probably (I’m assuming) utilize him as a deus ex machina in Justice League.
Cole: Which, again, we can pretty much guarantee will happen so why even try to mine the drama and will he/will he not come back tension out of it all? It’s a recurring theme with this film but it’s cheap and it’s above all lazy. These characters deserve better storytelling than this.
Clarice: Lazy and overstuffed. If they hadn’t been so concerned with doing SO FUCKING MUCH and scrambling to set up pieces for Justice League, and just focused their characters and story, then they may have had a better movie on their hands. But at the end of the day, they are literally “killing” Superman simply because they need things to be easier for their own half-ass mythos going forward. And it may as well be a death knell on any hope for the DC movies as whole.
Cole: Agreed. And, as I’ve said above, these characters deserve better than that.
Rapid-Fire Runner-Up Comments
Cole: Well…that’s kind of it really, isn’t it? Any last minute things we want to mention?
Clarice: I know we discussed the way the rest of the Justice League was introduced. That was… something? An odd something.
Cole: YouTube videos! And both of us missing that it was The Flash that showed up in that random-ass dream sequence!
Clarice: We did! Sorry, I couldn’t discern who the fuck it was between the CG and the whole I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-is-happening-right-now dream? vision? sequence. Also — hi dead CIA agent Jimmy Olsen!!
Cole: Yup. Just WTF. Uummm…we both laughed at the musical cues at more than one point?
Clarice: BATMAN STANDS ON A CRANE! WONDER WOMAN GUITAAARRR!!! But as far as unintentionally hilarious things I would also like to nominate the “Fat Bat” signal which will never fail to send me into hard giggles (I believe I was literally hiding my laughter behind my scarf in the theater.) It looks so chubby and cute!!!
Cole: You were. And I was laughing at you…and it. Speaking of Batman…want to take a moment to contemplate the ridiculous glowy-eyed suit that popped up for one fight scene?
Clarice: Was it seriously only one fight scene?
Cole: Yup. Pretty sure.
Clarice: Whatever. That suit makes him look exactly like a Darth Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robot.
Cole: That’s about the best description I’ve heard. So, moving on! There was also a terrible, supposedly sexy bathtub scene. I know Clarice has FEELS on this one.
Clarice: HAVE YOU EVER TRIED HAVING SEX IN A FOOTED BATHTUB?? IT IS NOT COMFORTABLE!!!
Cole: As I said: FEELS. Oh! Yeah. JAR. OF. URINE.
Clarice: Jar of urine.
Cole: I think that’s it?
Clarice: One last thing — obviously all of this may have been solved by the ultimate wasted opportunity: getting a new director all together.