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by Willow Yang

Dear Rob,

With all the developments concerning the “Snyder cut” of JUSTICE LEAGUE (imdb), I’m writing to discuss my thoughts on BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (BVS) (imdb).

I personally didn’t think the movie was absolutely horrendous; however, I did not particularly like it either. I’ve generally enjoyed Zack Snyder’s work: I liked the director’s cut of WATCHMEN (imdb), I liked 300 (imdb) (hey, it’s hard not to like something that features a bunch of muscular men fighting in leather thongs), and I liked MAN OF STEEL (imbd).

However, I do feel that Snyder can be a little self-important at times, and I do think that BVS suffers from trying too hard to appear profound. While there are definitely a lot of elements that I appreciated, overall, I found the movie to be bloated, bombastic, and unnecessarily convoluted.

Casting wasn’t the problem

When it comes to the casting, I didn’t hate Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor as much as some others have. I appreciated what they were going for with a modern interpretation of Lex as a Silicon Valley megalomaniac. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it was executed very well.

Lex was just too over the top and goofy, and felt too much like a discount Heath Ledger Joker or the Riddler. Fortunately however, most of the other main characters were good. I absolutely loved Ben Affleck’s rendition of a seasoned, grizzled, world-weary Batman. While I don’t think that Affleck is a better actor than Christian Bale, I enjoyed his take on the character more than Bale’s, and I thought Batman’s action sequences, in particular the “warehouse scene”, were rad. And even though I do feel that she was somewhat shoe-horned into the film, I really enjoyed Gal Gadot’s debut as Wonder Woman.

You’ve waxed rhapsodic about the opening sequence of BVS, and I agree for the most part that it was a great scene. People have complained about the destruction of Metropolis in MAN OF STEEL, and I think that Snyder and the writers made an effort to address the controversy by showing the incident from Batman’s perspective.

The movie provided a realistic depiction of what having a battle between two beings with god-like superpowers would be like and just the sheer horror of being a person on the ground below. I loved the scene of Bruce Wayne charging right into the midst of the calamity whilst everyone was running in the opposite direction.

I thought that the opening sequence did an excellent job of setting up his motives for wanting to take down Superman. What did ruin the opening a bit for me, however, were the scenes in Wayne Tower, with Jack apparently staying inside the building and doing nothing even after Bruce had told him to evacuate. I’d have been okay if Jack was trapped by debris or chose to stay behind to ensure all of the other employees were able to get out first; the way it was depicted in the movie however, he just looked like a moron.

Martha, Martha, Martha

And of course, there’s the most controversial and often mocked scene in the movie, the so-called “Martha” scene.

The lead up to the moment, the actual fight itself, was pretty cool. Again, for all of his shortcomings, Snyder is a very stylistic director who can create stunning action sequences. Depicting the two titans of DC going at each other mano-a-mano for the first time on the big screen is no easy task. I feel that Snyder did a commendable job.

Additionally, I really appreciated that the movie was audacious enough to give us a definitive winner rather than copping out with a draw. It’s a shot grafted right from the pages of The Dark Knight Returns: Batman standing over Superman with his boot on his neck.

Unfortunately, all the good in the fight sequence appears to have been undermined by what follows next, the infamous “Martha” scene.

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I will start by defending the scene just a bit.

Batman is messed up, as anyone would be if they saw their parents getting gunned down in front of them as a child, and I can completely buy “Martha” being a trigger for him. (As a bit of an aside, I’ve always found it a little funny that the two titans of DC both had mothers named “Martha”, and I’m glad to see that I’m not the only person who felt that way). I also don’t believe that Batman changed his mind about Superman solely because their mothers had the same name. To me, the word was just enough to give him pause. It served as the catalyst to have Batman question his initial perceptions of Superman, to finally listen to his side of the story.

Having said all that, I still disliked the scene because I felt that the line “You’re letting him kill Martha” was extremely forced. Unless both of you are acquainted with someone, you wouldn’t refer to them by their first name because the person whom you’re talking to isn’t going to understand you. You’d more likely say something along the lines of “Lex has taken my mother hostage.”

The line didn’t sound natural; it felt like the writers were forcibly trying to make the connection between the two. Moreover, I thought that Batman’s subsequent turn was very rushed. What I feel is lacking is an ideological discussion between the two heroes, a scene like the conversation that Daredevil and Punisher had on the rooftop in the Netflix series.

Too much of a good thing?

The movie devoted so much time to other things – from depicting the world’s reaction to Superman to introducing all the Justice League members, to hinting at an Injustice/Flashpoint storyline – but has neglected to develop the relationship between the two main characters.

In conclusion, I found BVS to be a rather frustrating movie; I do see sparks of brilliance throughout the film and I do feel that there is potential buried somewhere in this bloated mess. I’ve watched both the theatrical cut and the ultimate edition, and while I do very much appreciate the brief scene of naked Batfleck in the shower with his bare ass in full glory – uh, I mean, the added scenes of Clark investigating Batman in the ultimate edition, it still fails to properly flesh out the character’s ideological conflict with the caped crusader.

In the scene where he interrupts Batman’s car chase, Superman still utters just one line and flies off. Moreover, Lex Luthor, the Martha scene, the unnecessarily convoluted story and superfluous subplots, are still very much present in the ultimate edition.

Sometimes keeping it simple is better, and I personally feel that BVS would have been better if it had actually focussed on the story of Batman vs. Superman, instead of Batman vs. Superman vs. Lex Luthor vs. Doomsday vs. the government vs. humanity’s opinion on Superman vs. the studio’s rushing to set up a Justice League.

– Willow