By: Kevin Jordan
Yellow-bellied and lily-livered.
The last time I played organized basketball, I was a sophomore in high school. Our team sucked. We finished the season 1-11, mostly due to the fact that we were playing against teams featuring kids who could dunk (we could not), but also the fact that our coach was an idiot. He seemed to believe that substitutions were pointless, leading to a starting five who were gassed well before halftime. Plus, that one win happened the one time when that coach was out of town. Want to guess how much subbing happened that game (it also helped that they were the only other team in the league without any kids capable of dunking)? The Way Back reminded me a lot of that season, making me think that maybe we, too, could have been state champions if only an alcoholic, former high school star could have coached us.
(SPOILER ALERT – I am going to ruin a lot of this movie for you to explain how much of a chickenshit was this film.)
Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) was a high school basketball phenom. Now, he is a forty-year old, alcoholic construction worker, separated from his wife, and still living in his home town. Everyone in town knows who he is and everyone in town knows he is a drunk. One night, he hears a voice mail from his old high school that the head priest would like to talk to him. He goes to the meeting and is offered the head coaching position of the basketball team (it is mid-season) because the previous coach had a heart attack. Somehow, the priest is unaware that Jack is a drunk, evidenced by the priest not mentioning it during their conversation. A completely irresponsible priest was the first clue that something was wrong with this movie.
Jack does not want the job, but, like all Catholics, the priest guilts Jack into thinking it over for the night. Jack goes home and starts plowing his way through a 24-pack of beer, running through various amalgamations of turning down the offer. He eventually passes out, wakes up the next morning, and decides to take the job. Because all good decisions are made on a hangover.
Even I can smell the alcohol.
When Jack arrives at the school, he is greeted by the assistant coach, Dan (Al Madrigal), and introduced to the team. Like all sports movies, we get a quick summary of the one thing that each player does well, which will probably come in handy in the eventual climactic game. The first couple of games do not go well, Jack does far more cussing than coaching. During one bus ride, Father Whelan (Jeremy Radin), reminds Jack that they do not allow cussing, and Jack retorts with “With all of the terrible things happening around the world, do you really think God gives a shit that I’m cursing around these boys?” To which Father Whelan replies “Yes. I do think God gives a shit.” I was intrigued by this exchange because it implied that Jack had lost his faith, which was probably the same reason he was a drunk.
After another demoralizing loss, Jack gives one of the kids – Brandon (Brandon Wilson) – a ride home. They chat for a bit and we learn that Brandon is getting scholarship offers to play college basketball, but hasn’t been telling his dad because his dad does not want him to put his hopes in basketball. This is later confirmed by the dad himself, which makes no sense in any context. It’s not like Brandon is hoping to get a scholarship to play ball; he already has them. Yet, his dad does not want him to go to college for free? Huh? This was the second clue that this movie was not well thought-out.
Dads, am I right?
We also learn during the chat with Brandon that Jack had a full scholarship to Kansas, but turned it down because Jack’s dad only showed Jack love when Jack excelled at basketball. Like with the cussing conversation with Father Whelan, this bit of information seems like it will be woven into Jack’s relationship with Brandon, so we keep watching this movie. After Jack drops off Brandon, he heads to the bar, but decides not to go in (there was also an exchange with Dan about Dan finding beer cans in the coach’s office). The combination of Jack stopping drinking (presumably) and the conversation with Brandon leads to the team turning things around. They start winning, leading to a showdown with the best team in the state. This leads to the biggest clue that this film was just not good – the big game.
I will not spoil the game for you, but it ends at the 75-minute mark of a 108-minute film. Uh, what? A few minutes prior to this, we learn why Jack was a drunk. His son died of cancer two years earlier at age seven. Yeah, you would drink and moon God, too, if that was your life. Shortly after the big game, he gets a call from his estranged wife (Janina Gavankar) that their best friend’s son is in the hospital, also with cancer (we are left to assume this is how Jack knows the family). They visit the hospital and Jack loses it, fleeing and heading directly to the bar. Not only does he fall off the wagon, he falls off multiple wagons. This causes him to be late to practice the next day and he shows up reeking of booze. Dan and the good priest confront him later that day and Jack is fired on the spot. Jack goes back to the bar, lather, rinse, repeat, drunk-driving accident, accidental break-in, beating, hospital, rehab, the end.
Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck. Well, maybe God cares more about basketball than cussing or I shouldn’t still be standing here.
As you can see, this film is not a redemption story, despite all of its marketing trying to trick you into thinking it is. It worked on me. I thought it was going to be Hoosiers: Now Featuring Cell Phones. I have never seen a movie bring up so many topics, then run away from them in terror. Dealing with childhood cancer, alcoholism, losing one’s faith, alienating your family, dad issues – all are given lip service and all could have easily been threaded together to form a powerful story of a man confronting his demons. At no point during this entire film does any character attempt to talk to Jack about his loss, let alone prod him to deal with it. Not even his sister (Michaela Watkins), who can only manage to make mildly snide comments and disapproving glances.
When the movie was over, I tried to think of what it was trying to tell us, but nothing is there. It wants you to believe in redemption, except it blows that wad before the third act. It wants you to think it’s about making people better, except it isn’t even interested in making its own main character better. It wants to say something about alcoholism, but can only manage to say the most obvious thing – alcoholics tend to be very self-destructive. A cynic might say it’s nothing more than a human story; that humans are flawed and weak and will inevitably fail everyone around them. That may be true, but that’s a shitty message for a sports movie (or any movie, really). Any way you look at it, this film fails to tell a compelling story, hiding in the shadows from its own topics, while simultaneously depressing the shit out of the viewer. In other words, chickenshit.
Rating: Ask for all but one dollar back and try not to dwell on your own terrible childhood coaches.
By: Kevin Jordan
Baby steps (or, I see you, Joss Whedon)
You know how when President Trump gives a speech that doesn’t contain racism, attacks, lies, or ads for his properties, certain people gush over how good or presidential he suddenly is? What’s that – too political? Okay; a different analogy. You know how when your dog doesn’t shit in your living room you gush over what a good boy he is? Oh yesh, jusht such good boy! Here’s a treat! That is where our expectations sit with DCEU movies. Thus, we have Justice League – a movie that can hold its bowels, but still chews up your couch.
Before getting into the movie, we need to talk about the movie production. Zack Snyder was roughly 80% through production when tragedy struck his personal life and he left the project. Joss Whedon was brought on to complete the project, including completion of shooting and extensive reshoots. Bringing in Whedon was a strange choice, not just because of his extensive involvement with the Marvel movies, but because he and Snyder are exactly opposite when it comes to directing and writing (Whedon also was one of the credited screenwriters on Justice League). Whedon makes movies that are usually light-hearted, quippy romps, heavy on character development and relationships. Snyder makes movies like a horny, 12-year old boy with the attention span of gnat who has perfected the perfect slo-mo shot of a just-fired shell casing falling in a drab, sepia-toned world. You will have no trouble distinguishing which parts of the movie belong to each of them. In a normal world, this contrast would doom a movie, but Whedon manages to keep the movie from ruining your carpet.
(Side note: There are also two scenes featuring Henry Cavill where his face has been poorly digitally edited to hide a moustache he wasn’t allowed to shave due to filming Mission: Impossible 6.)
What up, Joss?
(Some SPOILERS because, of course there are. It’s a review).
The problem with the DCEU is a complete lack of long-term vision beyond dollar signs. Snyder has helmed the franchise since the start and his sacrifice of narrative and storytelling for visuals and playing to the die-hard fan boy has resulted in an incoherent mess of nonsense. Wonder Woman is somewhat of an exception (a female director, Patty Jenkins, helped immensely), though still bogged down in parts by Snyder’s bullshit (again, it is obvious which parts). Justice League picks up with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) stopping a terrorist from blowing up four blocks of London, then stopping him from gunning down a bunch of bank patrons. This scene serves no purpose other than to remind you that Wonder Woman is hilariously overpowered. To be fair, it’s a decent action scene, but the bad guy’s stated motivation is to force the world to revert to a simpler time before technology. Huh? By blowing up a few buildings, Earth will be back in the Stone Age? That makes as much sense as Batman (Ben Affleck) wanting to kill Superman because “what if Superman decides to kill everyone?”
The plot of the movie is nearly as pointless as that opening scene, which is essentially forming a super team to thwart an impending alien invasion of flying insect monsters. Batman spends the first part of the movie recruiting the heroes promised in Batman v Superman to thwart the bugs. Then, a tall, devil-y looking, poorly rendered CGI guy named Steppenwolf (worst villain name ever, voiced by Ciaran Hinds) shows up via Thor’s warp tunnels to steal a mother box (worst MacGuffin name ever) from the Amazons. We learn there are three mother boxes and if Steppenwolf puts them back together, he’ll be able to destroy all civilization on Earth…or something? He refers to mother and the insect guys follow him and when they smell fear they attack and wow is this story really stupid. We even get one of Snyder’s standard flashbacks of whatever convoluted absurdity he fever-dreamed to give Steppenwolf a back story that explains nothing. As an added bonus, he says he’s finally able to return to Earth because the death of Superman left no Kryptonians on Earth. Okay, shut up. Superman (Cavill) was literally the last Kryptonian and only on Earth for 33 years. Steppenwolf was banished 5,000 years earlier, so why couldn’t he come back for the other 4,967 years? You know what – I don’t give a shit. And that is the crux of the DCEU problems.
LOOK! It’s a bird!…It’s a plane!…It’s a middle-aged balding man wearing a browncoat! While I continue workshopping that sentence, two things. One – Superman is resurrected in this movie and if you didn’t see that coming, I envy your innocence. Two – Whedon injecting some sorely needed levity into the film. The Flash is the most obvious example and has almost all of the quipping lines. But the part that makes you have hope for the future of the franchise in a non-Synder’s hands is when the Flash joins the fray in a pointless Superman-fights-the-team-scene. The scene is in slow motion to highlight the Flash’s speed and as he nears Superman, Superman turns his eyes, then his head, to look at the Flash. The surprised look on the Flash’s face is brilliant and funny and projects everything this franchise could be in a non-pre-pubescent hands.
So, this new script says…
Virtually everyone coming out of the movie said it was okay or just fine or “thank God it wasn’t as bad as Batman v Superman.” Despite Wonder Woman carrying much of the movie and Whedon injecting competence where he could, the movie was a far cry from being the pinnacle of the franchise like The Avengers was to MCU. The new characters are minimally developed, even to the point of all of them having the clichéd dead moms (seriously, all but Wonder Woman’s mom is alive, not counting Martha Kent). Don’t get me wrong, there was just enough for me to want to watch a Flash movie, Aquaman movie, and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) movie. But Amy Adams and J.K Simmons were completely wasted and I am way off the Affleck-as-Batman train. To top that all off, we get a teaser at the end of the film that is so poorly conceived that it felt like the movie was trolling us (and you have no idea how badly I want to spoil it for you). One of these days, we’re going to get the DC movie we deserve, but a smidge of progress is better than nothing. At least we didn’t have to break out the carpet cleaner this time.
Rating: Ask for half of your money back. It’s fun at times and not fun at other times, but baby steps, people.
By: Kevin Jordan
But only during the day.
There’s a throwaway line early in Live by Night when Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) is lying in bed with his girlfriend, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), and Emma says something to the effect of “work by day…” She intentionally leaves off the second part of that phrase – live by night – in order to allow the viewer to automatically fill it in mentally, then go “oooh. I see what you did there.” The only problem is nearly the entire movie takes place during the day. I know – weird, right? This attention to detail is the kind of thing one might miss when one directs, produces, writes, and stars in one’s movie while also starring in Batman v Superman, The Accountant, and trying to write a kick-ass screenplay for a standalone Batman movie. Sorry Ben, you can’t do everything. You’re Batman, not Superman.
To be fair, he was only adapting a screenplay for Dennis Lehane’s 2012 novel Live by Night. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Lehane is also responsible for Mystic River and Shutter Island, as well as the short story The Drop was based on, which he also wrote the screenplay for. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, Google “nearest library.” Yes, we still have those things around.
Live by Night is the story of a gangster, Joe Coughlin, who does gangster things for 129 minutes. Those 129 minutes cover a few years of Joe’s life during the Prohibition Era and includes bank robberies, two girlfriends, a lot of bootlegging rum, two mob bosses, Joe getting his ass kicked, car chases, some KKK assholes, a lot of dead people, and Elle Fanning. Oh, and all of this happens in Boston, then Tampa. If that sounds like too much for a movie, that’s because it is. But only if you care that much about plot.
(Some SPOILERS ahead unless you read the book. Yeah, I laughed a little too as I typed that.)
You know how drunk people sometimes think they’re being stealthy?
Maybe the book is better, but the film was very scattershot (no pun intended). The first act of the film covers everything you saw in the preview and that’s not a good thing because the rest of the movie is basically a different movie. Emma is the blond woman you saw, but the movie isn’t about Joe and Emma. Emma is cheating with Joe on her mob boss boyfriend, Albert White (Robert Glenister), then sells out Joe to Albert just as they are running away together. This is never adequately explained beyond one of Albert’s goons seeing them, but Joe and Emma were barely trying to hide it. At one point, they are having dinner together in a busy, fancy restaurant (they would hook up when Albert was out of town). And, besides, wouldn’t Albert have one of his men escorting her around since his competition would probably be interested in kidnapping her for leverage? Sorry, I’m caring too much about the plot.
Joe is beaten within an inch of his life and only survives because his police captain father (Brendan Gleeson) just happens to show up in the alley where they’re about to kill Joe. Joe wakes up a few days later in a prison hospital and spends three years in jail for armed robbery. Once out, the new story begins. Joe joins the Italian mob in order to exact revenge on Albert for killing Emma (Albert wasn’t about to forgive the cheating). His new boss, Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) sends him to Tampa to take over his rum-running business there while simultaneously muscling Albert out of Tampa. On the surface, this seems like the logical road for a broken-hearted lover to take, but avenging Emma is soon forgotten when Joe meets Graciella Corrales (Zoe Saldana) and falls in love with her. At that point, Joe is just acting like a standard mob guy and we never actually see Albert until the end of the film. I won’t spoil the why, but it’s pretty dumb. And Joe verbalizes how dumb it is. Then bullets start to fly and bodies pile up as the movie climaxes, then we get three endings because Ben couldn’t decide how to actually end the film.
Her name was Elizabeth. No, Angela. No, something starting with M.
Like I said, there are parts of this movie that are good. The climax scene is very well done and Batman kicks some ass in that scene. There are good moments between characters, especially a diner scene between Joe and Loretta Figgis (Elle Fanning), the daughter of the Tampa police captain (Chris Cooper). Unfortunately, Loretta is one of the side plots that becomes the main plot for a time. At this point in the film, Joe has rid Tampa of Albert, and Joe is focused on getting a casino built. Loretta is preaching about the evils of gambling and drinking, and Joe doesn’t want to kill her. Later, the Ku Klux Klan show up because black people also drink rum and the movie becomes about racial history. It’s like if Batman was Forrest Gump, but made and sold hooch for the Italian mob.
And one Elle Fanning.
If the movie had stuck with a single plot like the love story (this could have spanned the entire film with the rum wars between the mobs woven in), it would have been a much tighter film. Then, Emma’s betrayal might have meant something to the audience rather than just being a forgotten plot device. They also could have spent more time developing the rivalry between Albert and Maso rather than trying to convince us of the animosity through occasional ethnic slurs. Even Loretta could have been a more important character (perhaps being played by both sides) rather than being an amusing anecdote in Joe’s life. The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes less is more. Live by Night is an average, but uneven movie that suffers from Ben Affleck trying prove that Batman is better than Superman. Or something like that.
Rating: Ask for half your money back. If Joe did any living by night, we never saw it.
By: Kevin Jordan
Two is the only number that matters.
On the Movie Fixers podcast, we have started a list of unforgivable sins, i.e. things that should never happen in movies. One of those things is not double-tapping an enemy. If you’ve seen a horror movie at any time in your life, you know what I’m talking about – the hero takes out the bad guy, but doesn’t hit/shoot/crush him again to ensure he is dead. Inevitably, that bad guy “comes back from the dead” to wreak more havoc. This does not happen in The Accountant. Ben Affleck (playing the title character), double-taps, and sometimes even triple-taps every bad guy in his wake. The best part is that my friend and I weren’t the only ones in the theater to cheer for this. I heard at least two other people literally say “double-tap” and I’m I could feel them fist bump from several seats away. It was glorious.
(SPOILERS coming, but they will be mild and few. You can count them if you like.)
But that’s not the only reason I liked The Accountant. It’s a pretty good action flick that makes the most boring profession on the planet (sorry, Dad) interesting. Affleck plays Chris Wolff, an autistic accountant who specializes in finding money. You read that right – autistic – and this isn’t solely to give Chris a quirk/superpower. It’s used to great effect to develop his character, comes into play with regards to at least one reveal, and makes you realize they are paralleling Leon in Leon: The Professional. Most of Chris’ clients are drug lords or weapons dealers or other uncouth characters, but he decides to take on a seemingly straight-laced job working for a robotics company helmed by Lamar Black (John Lithgow). One of their employees, Dana (Anna Kendrick), discovered some missing money during her accounting and Lamar brings Chris in to find it. After a night of going through the books, Chris has confirmed that money is indeed missing, but is shut down by the company before he can figure out where it went. And if anyone is going to be bothered by an unfinished money puzzle, it’s an autistic accountant.
The boring part.
The movie kicks into action gear as the people who know about the missing money start getting gunned down by Brax (Jon Bernthal) and some other hired mercenaries. I don’t need to tell you what happens for the rest of the movie because it should be fairly obvious. Action, action, and more action, completed with the missing pieces to the money puzzle. We also get treated with how an autistic accountant is also an insanely dangerous assassin and it’s very believable. I know – I was surprised as well.
As much fun as all of the action and mystery was, the movie has a secondary plot involving US Treasury agents Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) trying to identify and track down the accountant (it’s more fun to call him that than Chris, which is why they refer to him like that so often in the movie). Unfortunately, this plotline is as pointless as the cops in Fargo and No Country for Old Men – the cops never really get close to catching their quarry. To be fair, in all these cases they are used to further develop the main characters or villains, but they end up never really mattering to the plot. They are basically us (the audience), but getting paid better. Simmons owns every scene he is in (because of course he does, the man kills it in insurance commercials), so the scenes are enjoyable. The problem is they bring the movie to a standstill and never advance the plot. I think the tension of the movie could have been ratcheted up had the agents actually gotten into it once or twice with the accountant. It could have been worse though, as Terminator: Genisys so aptly proved.
The not-boring part.
Before I go, I want to leave you with an observation and lack thereof. There’s a clever little reveal at the very end of the flick that I didn’t pick up on. My friend was surprised that I missed it and my reason was that because the conflict was over and the movie had been resolved, I had stopped thinking about the movie. It’s not a great reason, but there it is. However, he was still a little incredulous so I pointed out a clever little bit of filmmaking that he missed – early on when Chris first goes to the robotics company’s building, he is standing in front of a picture of a human hand touching fingers with a robotic hand. Chris is placed in front of the robot hand and Lamar is placed in front of the human hand. See? Clever. My point is that this movie definitely had some thought put into it and that’s why I think it was very good. That and the double-taps.
Rating: Ask for one dollar back for the Treasury agent’s scenes. They shouldn’t have been the most boring thing in a movie about an accountant.
By: Kevin Jordan
What a hot mess.
After returning home from the screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I didn’t know how I was going to finish a full review of this film before its Friday release. The screening was Tuesday night and there were so many things that my friend and I discussed on the drive home from the movie that I was prepared to pull a Benjamin Button review out (my old review) just to get something out on time. In fact, here’s what I was prepared to post:
“BvS is such an incoherent mess that my brain tried to cook itself during the screening. While I try to put my thoughts together for a full review, just know this – the only people who are going to like BvS are the same lunatics that defend the nonsensical Man of Steel as well as those who defend Zack Snyder as being a competent director. Also, did you know fried brains smells like burnt popcorn?”
Little did I know that Mother Nature wanted to read my full review as well, so she delivered a serious blizzard to my home town this morning. (Snow day!) Buckle up – this is going to take awhile.
On the drive home, my friend summed this movie up, saying: “If you had told me before BvS that it would be less coherent than Sucker Punch, I never would have believed you.” Upon leaving the theater, my initial comment was “at least Captain America: Civil War will be out soon to wash the taste of BvS from my brain.” For all you DC Comics nerds out there, that does not mean I’m a Marvel apologist. I loved the first two Christopher Nolan Batman flicks (the third left a lot to be desired) and I think Suicide Squad looks like it’s going to be very good. BvS is just a clusterfuck of bad writing, visuals that never stray out of the dark end of the visible light spectrum, and Snyder’s usual insistence of including as many slow-motion shots (of people or shell casings) at the expense of telling a good story. But let’s start at the beginning.
(Unlike nearly every other review out there, I’m going to SPOILER the crap out of this movie, even the end because the end is bullshit. As I’ve said many times for other movies, there is no way I can properly explain why this movie was so bad without giving specifics. Besides, you’re probably going to see this movie regardless of what I think of it. So, go see the movie, then come back and read this and be ready to agree with me. I’ll wait.)
One big question I had was if they were going to keep any of the Batman story from Nolan’s trilogy. Right off the bat, we get the scene that nobody needed to see again – little Bruce Wayne watching his parents die, then falling down the well. So, I guess we’re rebooting Batman again. As executive producer, Nolan must have been thrilled because now his very good mythology won’t be tainted by Snyder’s stink.
Anyway, turns out this opening scene is the first of many dreams/visions throughout the film. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) wakes from it on his way to Metropolis to try save the people in his building from dying during Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod’s (Michael Shannon) battle royale at the end of Man of Steel. Even though the people are literally staring at the world engine and destruction, it takes a call from Wayne to get them to evacuate the building. I bring this up because it’s the first in a string of stupid that adds nothing to the film, but gives a convenient excuse for us to relive part of the battle and paint this version of Wayne as possibly the dumbest one in Batman history. I mean, what the hell did he think he was going to by driving into Metropolis without even so much as bringing along his Batman suit?
Cut to eighteen months later in the Nairobi desert where Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is getting ready to interview a warlord. The warlord’s security discovers a tracker on her photographer, kills him, then kills everyone in the camp, save for Lois and the warlord. Just after they leave, Superman shows up to save Lois and we get one of the very few decent scenes in the entire movie – Lois signals to Superman and Superman zips through the air, grabbing the warlord, and killing him while flying through several walls. Also, even though Superman presumably saw the entire firefight, he doesn’t go after the guys who just murdered everyone in the camp, which is important because if he had, Luthor’s plan would have died right there. So we now have a stupid Batman and a stupid Superman. Grea-a-a-a-t. This scene is also the first stage of Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) evil plan which is – wait for it – to kill Superman.
Why kill Superman, you ask? Just because. Seriously, the movie never gives us a motivation for Luthor’s plan, which is easily the biggest flaw in the movie. Our writers (David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio) apparently think motivations are lame because, not only is Luthor without one (the only thing we’re left with is he’s just crazy), but Batman hates Superman even more than Luthor does for the weakest of reasons ever. When Alfred confronts Wayne about it, Wayne says “he has the power to kill everyone on the planet. If there’s just a 1% chance that he might, we have to do something.” That’s flawless logic, but then doesn’t that mean that Batman should also want to kill the leaders of every nuclear-armed country on the planet? And are we only talking about people who can kill everyone? What about people who can kill thousands or hundreds or even just a handful? Do you see why this reasoning is bat-shit (sorry, couldn’t resist)? Oh, and in case you missed it, Batman’s a murderer now too (like Superman became in Man of Steel) because Snyder and company are that clueless.
So, that’s the plot of the movie, I think, and it couldn’t have been handled more terribly. For starters, the first thing we see after the “18 months later” screen, is a diver pulling up a chunk of kryptonite from the world engine that crashed near India. If you were like everyone else and wondering how Batman – a man with gadgets – could possibly have a fight lasting longer than half a second with an indestructible humanoid with super strength, super speed, super breath, and eye lasers, kryptonite still wouldn’t help since Superman could just burn a whole through Batman’s face from half a mile away. Or throw a gas truck at him. Or…you get the point. And, why are they fighting again? Superman doesn’t like vigilantism involving branding criminals with a bat symbol (which leads to their deaths in prison) and Batman has that whole 1% problem he can’t get over. Batman blames Superman for thousands of deaths, but doesn’t seem to give a shit that Superman hasn’t killed anyone else since the city battle, saved the entire world from being krypton-ized during that battle (and saving the rest of the world in the process), and saving a bunch of people after the battle from various predicaments. Is it just me or is Batman kind of a raging dick in this movie? But the kryptonite has to exist so Batman can make it into a Jesus spear with which to kill Superman (not making that up).
And you should be asking yourself at all times, why does Batman never even attempt to have a nice, calm chat with Superman or vice versa? They’re basically on the same side right – stopping criminals? There’s even a senator (Holly Hunter) who literally says “That’s how democracies work – we talk to each other.” Of course, she gets blown up almost immediately after saying it, proving that the Republicans have been right all along – terrorists are everywhere and fuck the Iran nuclear deal.
Which brings us back to Luthor’s, er…plan. He doesn’t want to just kill Superman; he wants people to hate him first, especially Batman. Blowing up the senator had the same goal as the Nairobi incident – to frame Superman for a bunch of deaths and of course it works. Because Superman always kills people with guns. And Superman can definitely cause a building to explode just by standing in it. Oh wait, nobody believes that. They even immediately identify the source of the bomb as the guy who had it in for Superman. But does anyone bother to point out that Luthor paid the guys’ bail and had a reserved chair in the senate hearing precisely because he was the bomber’s benefactor? Of course not – we’ve got more shit to blow up in slow motion.
This nonsense goes on for the entire movie. People doing things that make no sense, knowing things they couldn’t possibly know, believing things that couldn’t possibly be true. Examples:
- So, in eighteen months, metropolis has been completely rebuilt and they even had money left over for a really nice, giant Superman statue?
- How does Luthor know that Bruce Wayne is Batman and that Clark Kent is Superman and that Lois knows that Clark is Superman? This is never even hinted at.
- Why are we still doing the glasses gag? It was bad enough before, but we have facial recognition software now and Superman doesn’t exactly hide his face.
- If Batman and Luthor both want Superman dead, why not just have them work together?
- If Luthor wanted Batman to have the kryptonite, why didn’t he just give it to him instead of going through the elaborate car chase charade? (And we know he did because when he finds out Batman has stolen it, he smirks.)
- Why does Batman leave a batarang in the case containing the kryptonite? Considering it was stuck into the middle of the case, he had to have thrown it there after removing the rock.
- Since when is Gotham City just across the harbor from Metropolis?
- Why would Clark Kent be invited to a glamorous gala at Lex Luthor’s house if he is the sports beat writer?
- How the hell does Clark not know who Bruce Wayne is? You work for a newspaper and you’re Superman. WTF?!
- Why wouldn’t the Daily Planet cover the obviously sensational story about a vigilante Batman branding people? Especially since Gotham City is right there? (The editor, played by Laurence Fishburne, is fuming that he’s not covering a random football game.)
- Why wouldn’t Bruce Wayne’s secretary alert him to the returned checks (to the bomber) with the crazy red writing all over them? And why would the writing make Wayne hate Superman more? It’s not like Superman was intercepting them.
- Why did Luthor just feed that guy a Jolly Rancher? (Not making this up.)
- Why would Luthor be allowed unescorted access to an alien ship in the middle of the city?
- Would a super-advanced alien ship really be tricked into accepting a new commander by fake fingerprints? Really, not even a security question like “what was the name of your first pet?” And if it knew he wasn’t Zod (it literally says, new commander accepted), why did he need the fingerprints at all?
- If the Council of Krypton decreed that no abominations would be permitted to be made, why would they build the function into the ship? And why would the computer change its mind on the subject just because Luthor reminded it that the council was dead?
- Seriously, human blood is the key to reincarnating Zod and it has to go in his mouth? And why does Zod reincarnate into an orc? And why is Luthor always putting stuff in other dudes’ mouths (living and dead)?
- Why is Luthor a psychotic man-child who uses strong-arm mob tactics to get what he wants rather than the super-intellect that used to define his character?
- How does Batman magically know where Luthor’s men are holding Superman’s mom (Diane Lane)? And, if Superman can hear Lois screaming from underwater through concrete, why can’t he hear where his mom is?
- Who the hell is that super-hot woman dressed like Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot)? Oh, that is Wonder Woman? Good thing you told me, because this movie sure didn’t (Yes, I recognize the armor; that’s not the point).
- Why does Luthor have a bunch of files on meta-humans, complete with unique logos for each? And, what’s a meta-human?
- Also, meta-humans? Really?
- Why is Wonder Woman on that airplane while an apocalyptic battle with a Kryptonian super-orc is going on? And, how did she get her shield and sword past airport security? For that matter, how did she even fit them in her carry-on bags?
- Do you seriously expect me to believe Batman refrains from killing Superman because their moms are both named Martha?
- Do you seriously expect me to believe that Superman can survive being nuked, but can’t survive being stabbed?
- Are there any rules to these superpowers at all? Even a little bit?
- Did you guys even try to write something that made even a modicum of sense?
Whew. That was a lot and I’m sure I missed some. And if you think I’m nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking, just know that my friend and I said all of that and more in the half-hour drive from the theater to our houses. That’s how terribly written the movie was.
Now, let’s answer some other important film-y questions in case you don’t care about little things like plot and character development (of which there really was none).
Music – mostly bombastic, but was cool when Wonder Woman joined the fight.
Dialogue – a lot of bad filling in the holes when Luthor wasn’t monologuing (and wow, he pretty much never shut up).
Performances – I won’t fault any of the actors here, except maybe Eisenberg. The only character who didn’t suck was Wonder Woman and she was ridiculously underdeveloped. The actors delivered what they were directed to deliver – an angry, confusing Superman; an even angrier Batman with zero signs of being the best detective on the planet; an obnoxiously annoying and decidedly non-genius Lex Luthor (though Eisenberg was way over the top, which was his fault), a lame CGI Zod-orc, and an Alfred that is suddenly a master technician, electrical engineer, surveillance expert, and computer wizard because Batman was reimagined as an angry rage-aholic lacking the charm, charisma, cool-headedness, intelligence, and guile we expect out of the caped crusader (and Irons was criminally underused). In all seriousness, the best performance is arguably the cameo by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Yeah – I know.
Visuals – slow-motion artillery shells dropping to the floor. Massive fight scenes in sepia tones. Gadot’s jaw-dropping dresses and beauty. Afflecks ripped abs and shredded body doing pull-ups, pounding on tires, and pulling weight sleds (is he being trained by Rocky or something?). Question – how is that going to help him fight a guy who can punch a hole through the Earth? And, that Orc. Gech-h-h-h. It’s exactly what you expect from Snyder – decent fight scenes and no slow-mo he didn’t love.
Now that my brain is free of all that shit bouncing around, I feel better, but not about the movie. As I said in the beginning, the only people who are going to look past all of the awfulness of the movie are the same people who looked past all of the awfulness of Man of Steel. And Sucker Punch. And 300. Yes, as many apologists will try to say, it is just a superhero movie that is only supposed to be entertaining, but that is bullshit. Marvel has proven this trope dead wrong multiple times. Even DC, through Christopher Nolan, has proven they can make really good movies that are more than just popcorn flicks. But, even if those people were right, BvS isn’t even a decent popcorn flick because even decent popcorn flicks have coherent plots. But rather than go on for several more pages about how BvS is a bigger, hotter mess than every Bachelor relationship, I’ll leave you with my friend’s theory on why Batman is really so angry with Superman.
If Gotham and Metropolis are so close, and Superman can hear people screaming for help, why doesn’t he help people in Gotham? Says Batman, “we know you can hear us – you’re right there. We can see you.”
Rating: You should definitely save your money for Civil War, but I almost want you to see BvS just so you can see how badly they’ve handled what should have been an awesome movie. ALMOST.