For Bill Finger, I sat through this.
If you care to recall the loud, numbing, protracted climax of Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” (2013), it was like — I’ll just say it — 911 on steroids. Skyscraper after skyscraper toppled in Metropolis accompanied by cookie-cutter orchestral bombast. Who gets off on this? I thought of it as “destruction porn.” Superhero movies needed to present destruction on increasingly epic scales, in polished digital perfection that shows no seams, but you know it ain’t real.
Like I said: numbing. If you accepted what you saw in Act 3 of “Man of Steel,” it may have occurred that every one of those fallen buildings spelled thousands of lives. But these movies aren’t assembled to make you think. Just to extract your cash, and keep you on the hook for the next one.
(Nowadays, small mercy, the genre has shifted focus somewhat to continuity obsession — in other words, inter-universe geeking out. Andy Muschietti’s upcoming “The Flash” has Michael Keaton as Batman! I felt a dull pang that I might want to see it for the 1989 nostalgia alone. But all those FX that you can’t believe? And those characters you don’t care about? Pass.)
Anyhoo, I saw the first-ever Batman movie, “Batman” (1966) starring Adam West, on the day it opened. (It was at a drive-in; I was 8.) When Tim Burton‘s film of the same title opened in ’89, I saw that one on opening day as well. (The date somehow clung to my synapses: June 23, 1989.) I kept up the Batman movie opening-day tradition through “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012), the third and final one with Christian Bale as the Cowled One. (All three movies were loud and depressing. The only good things about them were Michael Caine as Alfred and Heath Ledger as the Joker.)
I skipped the next film, Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), and every one since. Why did I finally cut the cord? The answer is in my two-word blog post HERE.
Anyhoo, I’m working on a Batman-related project, and for my sins, I was obligated to finally watch “Batman v Superman.” Man, I didn’t miss a thing, except for a trifling item in the opening credits: writer Bill Finger received co-creator credit for Batman for the first time on a movie screen. Too bad the movie had to be this one.
The ‘roid rage movie “Batman v Superman” is a sequel to “Man of Steel” concocted as the second in a planned Justice League megafranchise meant to Xerox the success of Marvel’s Avengers movies and their satellite solo superhero films (“Captain America,” “Iron Man,” “Thor,” and on and on). As ever in Hollywood, it’s follow the money.
In “BVS,” Ben Affleck plays Batman for the first time; Henry Cavill returns as Superman; and Gal Gadot returns as Wonder Woman. Jesse Eisenberg is super annoying as passive-aggressive power merchant Lex Luthor, no doubt written and played to remind you of real-life CEOs in sheep’s clothing like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg — who, whaddaya know, Eisenberg played in “The Social Network” (2010).
The movie opens where “Man of Steel” leaves off, with Metropolis in ruins, and Bruce Wayne running around rescuing a life here and a life there while hundreds of thousands perish.
Bruce and Clark Kent meet in their respective roles as millionaire industrialist and newspaper reporter. Crossing paths at an opulent soiree thrown by Luthor, Bruce asks Clark his position on the so-called “Bat Vigilante,” a masked figure who has been torturing and branding criminals. (Branding? Shame on Warner Bros. for so cavalierly using this loaded, to put it mildly, device.)
Bruce: “The Daily Planet — do I own this one, or is that the other guy?”
Clark: “Civil liberties are being trampled on in your city. Good people are living in fear.”
Bruce: “Don’t believe everything you hear, son.”
Yep, Clark Kent is what they used to call a “crusading journalist,” while Bruce Wayne is a raging NIMBY capitalist. Later, during an editorial powwow at The Daily Planet, we see Clark go head-to-head with publisher Perry White (Laurence Fishburne, returning from “Man of Steel”) over the Bat Vigilante story.
Clark: “Why aren’t we covering this? Poor people don’t buy papers?”
Perry: “People don’t buy papers period, Kent.”
(As someone who witnessed the slow death of newspapers in real time from the inside, that line seemed, um, topical to me.)
Another “BVS” baddie is Doomsday, the big galoot who “killed” Superman in the comics in 1992, in a transparent bid for circulation-building buzz. (In the comics realm, the 1990s was the golden age of editorial gimmicks like “death of” editions, polybagged premiums and hologram covers. More people “collected” comics than actually read them.)
Jeremy Irons plays Alfred the butler. Dream casting, except they changed Alfred into Q from the 007 films. Alfred no longer wears a tux or answers the bat phone. Now he develops high-tech battle gear.
There’s a depiction of the Capitol building being bombed. In real life, this didn’t happen. Five years after the release of “BVS,” the Capitol was instead stormed by flag-waving insurrectionists.
This movie may have set the record for cameos by real-life people in a superhero movie, and every one of them has disgraced themselves: Anderson Cooper, Charlie Rose, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Viram Gandhi, Andrew Sullivan, Dana Dash, Erika Erickson, Brooke Baldwin. Were Bruce Vilanch and Simon Cowell not available?
The promised battle royale between Bats and Supes is ripped from the pages of Frank Miller‘s serialized graphic novel of 1986, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” Batman — a mere mortal, after all — wears a robo-suit (or an “Exoframe Batsuit,” if you please) to level the playing field. The fight ain’t up there with “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man,” but anyway, it’s a fight.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” left little impression on me other than reinforcing my decision to part ways with the movie Batman until or unless conditions improve dramatically (in both senses of the word). And not to hold my breath in the meantime.
Below: The “Batman v Superman” trailer. Like I said, I only watched it for Bill Finger.
Below: Not even the 1989 Batman will get me in theaters to see this … this …