By: Kevin Jordan
Difficulty: Evil. Cheat mode: Enabled.
I like how cocky the John Wick franchise has become. The first film’s title was simply John Wick. No fanfare. Just a dude’s name. John Wick grossed $88 million on a $20 million budget, coupled with an inexplicably high 85% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Brimming with confidence, Summit Entertainment and Thunder Road Pictures (among others) doubled the production budget and title words for the sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2. The bet paid off with the film grossing $171 million (double the first film) and garnering an 89% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In February. That is impressive for a movie that is barely more than hundreds of murders strung together by well-shot choreography.
With their pockets full of cash, the production companies have made their boldest bet yet – spending $55 million on a third John Wick installment, adding a chapter title – Parabellum – and opening the movie in mid-May with Avengers: Endgame still dominating theaters and just one week before everyone plunks down their cash to watch the Will Smith-fronted, live-action remake of Aladdin (Smith playing the Genie). All joking aside, the release date looks like a major mistake, as Aladdin is immediately followed by Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Dark Phoenix, Men in Black: International, and Toy Story 4, on consecutive weekends. Despite currently sporting an 89% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Parabellum is most likely going to die a quick and gruesome death at the box office. Much like nearly everyone in the cast of Parabellum.
(SPOILER ALERT: If you have not been paying attention to this franchise, there really is nothing to spoil since anything resembling a plot has never been seriously considered by the writers of this franchise. Unless body count is a spoiler.)
Parabellum picks up immediately where Chapter 2 ended, give or take a few minutes. We last saw John (Keanu Reeves) being given an hour head-start by the manager of the Continental Hotel, Winston (Ian McShane) before every assassin in New York City starts trying to kill him. Back in the tattooed-lady phone room, the murder contract on John is set at $14 million. While Wick is making his way to a weapons cache (presumably), one of the tattooed ladies is dutifully reciting the time remaining at regular intervals in a telephone.
Do you really want to know?
(Not to get sidetracked, but who exactly is she talking to and why? We know it isn’t any of the assassins (ancient dialing machines are seen spreading the contract information to individual phone numbers) and we can safely assume that every assassin can read a clock, as can the other tattooed ladies in the room. It’s not even useful for the audience because there are clocks everywhere and John himself keeps telling us how much time is left.)
As a reminder, the one thing this franchise beats us over the head with is that there are kinds of rules dictating the assassination business. As I’ve noted in the previous reviews of the franchise, the writing is, to put it delicately, dogshit, so it is not the least bit surprising that Parabellum can’t even wait for its own deadline to kick off the action, breaking the hallowed (and undefined) rules almost immediately. With a few minutes left in John’s hour, the first assassin takes on John, noting that nobody will notice a few minutes and John calls him out on his premature assassination attempt. I would never have remember this line if for not for a) 117% of the movie’s dialogue mentioning the rules and b) a doctor (after patching up John’s stab wound) telling John to shoot him because “they’ll know I told you where the medicine was,” where being on the top shelf of a cabinet in his office. The idea of the all-seeing and all-knowing eye of the High Table is the second-most quoted thing in the movie after the rules, so it is comically poor writing to have back-to-back scenes contradicting that idea.
Rules are made to be broken.
While Chapter 2 at least made an attempt at some kind of plot, Parabellum shoots that plot in the face, delivering us 131 minutes of mass murder interspersed with an adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) dispensing High Table punishments on everyone who helped John in Chapter 2 and the beginning of Parabellum. This includes Winston, as well as the hobo-king (Laurence Fishburne) and the ballet queen (Angelica Huston) and an attempt on the Casablanca equivalent of Winston, Sofia (Halle Berry). Want to know more about whose these people are? Me too and I saw the movie.
For the third movie in a row, the franchise refuses to dive into its underground/not-so-underground assassin world or any of its characters. Every time the movie stops for a moment and someone starts talking, I got interested. Finally, they are going to flesh out some of th….oh, John is killing more people. *38 dead people later* Ooh, ooh, ooh, someone is finally explaining the High Table and, dammit John, can you please just not kill anyone for five minutes? We desperately need some exposition here. Aaaaaand, he just shoved a shotgun up the exposition’s ass. *Sigh*
Wick isn’t the only one killing everyone in sight.
The most telling sign that this franchise has worn out its welcome is that the screening audience noticeably tired of the non-stop death. During the first action sequence, people were laughing and audibly cringing and having fun. As the movie drug on, the laughs become more sporadic until finally disappearing altogether around the ninety-minute mark. The second act somewhat revived the audience with a pair of ninja-dogs clamping their teeth on multiple assassins’ dicks (literally, the assassins’ actual dicks) while John and Sofia head-shotted their way through countless enemies. Bt, by the time the climax rolled around, the death and murder had become so tedious and mind-numbing that the audience was over it. True, a handful of people did clap at the end, but I’m pretty sure they were actually slapping their own faces to wake themselves up.
Essentially, the entire franchise is a video game, each entry bringing diminishing returns. Yeah, the fight choreography is still really good, but the high volume of bad guys causes the audience to notice how truly choreographed it is. You can literally see John’s opponents not fighting in order to allow him to defeat dozens of people simultaneously. It’s the punching equivalent of how the bad guys have the worst aim when shooting while the good guys score perfect kill shots with every bullet (which, incidentally, is also featured in this film and franchise). It’s like if you set the difficulty in Call of Duty to evil, then entered in a bunch of cheat codes. Sure, you’ll get to the end, but it’ll feel like a waste of time when you get there. Just don’t get cocky about it.
Rating: Ask for all of your money back and play a video game instead.
By: Kevin Jordan
Back to the future.
With the box office disappointment of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Disney executives are freaking out. Star Wars has reliably been a billion-dollar-per-movie enterprise since Disney purchased Lucasfilm, and anything less is the equivalent of the New England Patriots failing to win the Super Bowl. In other words, completely unacceptable. Heads will roll, the children of executives will have to settle for less-than-life-size TIE fighters for Christmas, and they might have to delay the opening of Star Wars Land at Disney World to avoid bankruptcy court. What’s that? Avengers: Infinity War has made over two billion dollars at the box office? Here is your full-scale TIE fighter, son. And a functioning Iron Man suit, just because.
A lot of ink (or electrons) has been spilt by people trying to explain why Solo failed and most of them are trying way too hard, saying it failed because of so-called Star Wars Fatigue or bad marketing. The reason we know marketing and fatigue are bullshit excuses, though, is because the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) exists. The latest film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is the twentieth film in that franchise and will succeed, in part, because it moves the story and universe forward instead of backwards. Solo did not do that for the Star Wars universe. And fans will be more than happy to make Ant-Man and the Wasp a box office success despite nineteen films worth of fatigue.
People are tired of this? Please.
After watching Infinity War, I noted that I was really curious where Ant-Man and the Wasp was going to take us because, well, you know (and if you do not know, you definitely are not watching this film any time soon). Ant-Man was conspicuously missing from Infinity War, so it became obvious that Ant-Man and the Wasp was going to explain why he was missing. The genius of this film is that it is a standalone story about Ant-Man (and Wasp) that waits until the very end of the film to reveal that explanation.
It is not lost on me that I just railed against going back in time and Ant-Man and the Wasp does exactly that. It works in this case because it is much more sideways than backwards, filling in a gap that was left purposely and precisely for this film. Incidentally, Captain Marvel almost assuredly will do the same thing. The MCU was designed to operate this way, with several parallel stories going on that converge into one film. Therefore, it is necessary to move sideways to avoid leaving a gaping hole in the overarching narrative.
Sometimes you have to move sideways to go forward.
Ant-Man and the Wasp picks up with Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), nearly finished serving a three-year house-arrest sentence for violating the Sokovia accords (see: Captain America: Civil War). With three days left to go, he has a crazy dream about Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). Hope, a.k.a. Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), kidnaps Scott because she and Hank believe the dream was actually a message from Janet from the quantum realm, where she was lost decades earlier. That would be our main plot – rescue the damsel in distress (side note: could this plot be any more Disney?). Our secondary plot revolves around Ghost, a.k.a. Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kamen), a woman who can pass through objects, due to an accident involving a quantum tunnel when she was a child. She also wants to get her hands on Scott for the location of Janet because she believes she can use the quantum energy Janet has absorbed to cure her of her affliction, which is killing her. Toss in Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) as a black-market technology dealer who wants Hank’s quantum technology and we complete what becomes a fantastically fun and humorous action movie.
What I love about the recent spat of MCU films is they have really embraced the comic part of comic-book movie. While they have included comedic relief since Iron-Man kicked off the franchise, the films were always much more serious than funny. Guardians of the Galaxy shifted the balance to something much closer to fifty-fifty and the films have become that much more enjoyable. For example, Scott is always joking about how he completely understands what all the scientists in the room are talking about, then, in a moment of perfect movie self-awareness, Scott asks Hank and Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) if they just put the word quantum in front of everything.
(Side note: Infinity War is definitely much more serious, but the attempt to end half of all life by Thanos is not exactly haha funny).
Is this quantum?
Another thing that is really good about this film is that Wasp is arguably the main character of the film. Much time is devoted to fleshing out her character, her motivations, and her skills and she easily has the best action scenes in the movie. By the end of this film, it is clear that if she got in a fight with Ant-Man, she would take him out without breaking a sweat. That is not to say Ant-Man is a bad fighter, rather she is that good. In a moment of cockiness normally reserved for men, she remarks to Scott that if she had been with him at the airport fight in Civil War, he would not have gotten caught. I am definitely Team Wasp after that exchange.
I got this.
Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a great movie that continues the string of high-quality films produced by Marvel. It has great pacing, really good writing, and a retro-70s-cop-show feel that comes off as genuine and subtle rather than as a cheap stunt for purely nostalgic purposes. If you are not entertained by this film, do me a favor and avoid saying it is because of Marvel fatigue. Accept that you are probably just dead inside.
Rating: Worth every penny no matter how many times you see it.
By: Kevin Jordan
Murder, death, kill.
It’s been two and a half years since John Wick murdered scores of people over a dead dog and stolen car and I still don’t understand how that movie scored an 85% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was easily one of the worst written movies of 2014 that somehow got a complete pass because of action scenes that were one take instead of 84 million (a.k.a. the Michael Bay). I get the reason why regular American audience members liked the movie – action, kill, death, action, Mustang, blood splatters, action, death. There’s a reason why the NFL is the most popular thing in this country and that fights are the most talked about part of hockey. We loves us some bloody violence. So of course Summit Entertainment was going to make a John Wick 2, especially when John Wick grossed $80 million on a $20 million budget. I just don’t get how critics weren’t foaming at the mouth at a movie with far less plot than a high school graduation ceremony.
Going into the sequel, I wanted two things to happen in the film – 1) explain anything in this mystical underground assassin world and 2) have something resembling a plot.
(Note: This is the point where I would generally give you the obligatory SPOILER WARNING, but there’s nothing to spoil. The title alone tells you John Wick won’t die in this film because it’s Chapter 2 and not The Final Chapter. You also know he’s going to kill somewhere in the neighborhood of an entire neighborhood because this would be a weird sequel if he didn’t.)
The movie opens with more of the same dumb shit that littered the entire first film. The uncle (Peter Stormare) of the Russian dog murderer has John Wick’s car and John (Keanu Reeves) has come for it. Here’s the conversation between the uncle and a henchman (paraphrasing):
Henchman: “What’s this guy want?”
Uncle: “We have his car.”
Henchman: “Why don’t we just kill him?”
Uncle: “It’s John Wick’s car.”
Henchman (with disconcerted look): “So…just send more guys.”
Uncle: “He’s the boogeyman. Did you hear about the pencil? He once killed three guys with nothing but a pencil. Who does that!?”
Henchman: “Why don’t we just give him his car back.”
Uncle: “Because he killed my nephew.”
Oh, so you’re going to make the same dumbass mistake as your brother? The one who ended up getting himself and all of his men killed even though he spent half the movie talking about how John Wick made a Terminator cower inside the actual boogeyman’s vagina? At least the brother was trying to save his son (even though he threatened to kill his son himself). Just give him back his car. Or are you just looking for a quick way to replace your workforce?
Thankfully, this movie has a plot, though one that quickly devolves back into John Wick getting revenge again. Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls on John to fulfill a promise John made in the form of a “marker” containing John’s bloody fingerprint. The marker is essentially an I.O.U. that can be redeemed for anything. In this case, Santino wants John to kill his sister, Gianna (Claudia Gernin), so Santino can take over her seat at “the high table.” What is the high table you ask? Beats the hell out of me. Like the first film, this movie introduces new concepts of the assassin world and never bothers to explain what they are or mean. All we know is the table has twelve seats and Gianna controls New York City maybe? John initially refuses, stating that “no seriously, it is literally impossible.” Santino leaves John’s house, then blows it up in retaliation for John’s refusal. Here we go again, right?
I’m guessing those mirrors aren’t going to last very long. Kind of like him.
Well, not quite so fast. John goes to the Continental hotel (the safe-haven from the first flick) to consult with Winston (Ian McShane). Winston says those are the rules and that John is lucky Santino didn’t just outright kill him. Of course, Santino needed John’s help, so blowing up John’s house with John still in there seems like a bad way to change John’s mind, especially if he’s dead. Whatever – the point is that Winston tells John to nut up and honor the marker.
You know that impossible task I just mentioned? Well, turns out it wasn’t so much impossible as it was Hitman on novice level. Literally as soon as John completes the task, Santino’s men and head henchwoman, Ares (Ruby Rose), attempt to kill John because Santino says he must avenge Gianna’s death. Huh? Isn’t that against the arbitrary assassin rules of the Continental? Whatever – the point is that the rest of the movie is John exacting revenge on Santino. The only difference between the rest of this movie and the first movie is that there isn’t a James-Bond-villain-leaving-the-laser-room scene involved. Just lots and lots (and lots) of death.
What happens at the Continental…is pretty much nothing.
On the positive side of this movie, there are better looks at this underground assassin world that don’t leave you scratching your head in confusion. Remember the dead-body cleaning crew that shows up at John’s house in the first movie right after the cops literally see the bodies and walk away? That crew was pointless because John could have thrown the bodies into a wood chipper on his front lawn and the cops would have helped him. This time, there is a standard “gearing up” scene in which John goes to an arms provider and they have an absurd, but fun exchange where John is ordering his gear as if he is ordering food, at one point saying “and I’ll have some dessert as well.” The marker was also another good component of this world that gets a full treatment instead of a cursory mention. Finally, we are shown a 1940’s-style operating room where tattooed women plug in those old telephone cords on switchboards, utilize pneumatic tubes, and operate an 1980-era computer to communicate hit contracts to all the assassins. The room doesn’t actually matter to the plot or movie at all, but somebody had some fun spending money on that set.
That’s not to say they don’t pile on more unexplained world stuff. Besides the high table, we are introduced to Laurence Fishburne’s homeless spy network that might be as powerful as the Continental (which is a world-wide chain, by the way), or just a bunch of homeless assassins indebted to a crazy pigeon guy, or some sort of rebel faction within the assassin world. We also learn that pretty much everyone in New York City is really an assassin, even the mother feeding her baby on a park bench. And, we still have no idea what the hierarchy of this whole world looks like. You’re right – who cares when you get to watch John perform another pencil trick.
I decided to take the blue pill.
In order to enjoy this movie (and the last), you really do have to ignore everything for the action, which isn’t that hard to do. Somehow, Reeves’ acting got even worse, though the director and writer share a lot of that blame. I’m pretty sure Reeves’ dialogue does not include a sentence longer than one word (you’ll see what I mean). The movie continues the awful multicolored subtitles that even Michael Bay has never stooped to and he gave us racist transformers. And definitely don’t try to understand Santino’s motivation because they don’t explain anything about that guy. He’s just that kid at Thanksgiving dinner that is throwing a tantrum about not getting to eat at the adult table, even if he presumably has all the cake he could ever want. Just sit back and enjoy some good old-fashioned, American ultra-violence. What else are you going to do now that football season is over? Read?
Rating: Ask for seven dollars back. It satisfies your need for dumb action flick and that’s all you can ask for in mid-February.
By: Kevin Jordan
Are we there yet?
The best science fiction usually focuses on a question or topic having to do with psychology or society and dressing it in technology or science and placing it in a fictional world. District 9 tackled apartheid through the lens of alien refugees living in slums. Interstellar wondered if humans were capable of saving themselves when staring extinction in the face. Most recently, Arrival took a look at xenophobia and how fear of the unknown makes people do really stupid things. This week, Passengers asks what you would do if you accidentally woke up from stasis 30 years into a 120-year flight? If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that I have a soft spot for science fiction and this film sat right on that spot.
(I really liked this movie, so I will keep the SPOILERS to a minimum, but there are a couple I cannot avoid. So, see this movie, then come back. I’ll wait *wink*.)
That’s the question facing Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) when his stasis pod malfunctions and wakes him up way too early (89 years and 8 months too early). The ship he is on is carrying 5000 passengers and over 250 crewmembers, all of whom are in stasis for the long journey to a colony planet called Homestead II. The very first question you will ask as an audience member is: can he go back into stasis? No, he can’t and the movie explains why (lack of required equipment). Then, you will ask why they wouldn’t have spares on this trip or the necessary equipment, to which the answer is the pods have never malfunctioned and include multiple redundant failsafes. Guess who just won the galaxy’s worst lottery? Also, this movie is taking care of potential plot holes, which I couldn’t be happier about.
Being a mechanic, Jim does exactly what you expect he would do – try to solve the problem. He tries to fix the pod, rig the pod to restart, access the crew quarters where the crew is (passengers are denied access), look for spares, and look for alternatives. This goes on for more than a year, during which time he frequents the ship’s bar and talks with the closest thing to a conscious human on the ship – an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen). As his efforts continue to fail, we see him losing hope both mentally and physically and we are laser-focused on that question – if you were alone a ship in space knowing you would die before getting to your destination, what would you do? Your choices are wake someone else up, commit suicide, or continue living alone with no purpose and limited activities at your disposal (a fun detail they add is that he is the equivalent of economy class, so doesn’t have access to many of the things on the ship), constantly thinking of the other two choices.
It sure looks like he tried everything.
Since you’ve seen the previews and know Jennifer Lawrence is in this movie, you know what choice he makes. Like I said, I really liked this movie, but I think there were two missed opportunities in this film. The first has to do with waking someone up. During his hopelessness, he stumbles across Aurora Lane’s (Lawrence) pod. Since you’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence, you know how beautiful she is, especially in this movie as a first-class passenger, so you’ll understand that Jim starts researching her. Seriously, she is gorgeous in this film; you’d do the same thing. Anyway, if I could have contributed to this story, I would have had Jim investigating all of the passengers and just zeroing in on Aurora. And, maybe, in the long version of this story, he does. If it were me on that ship, that’s what I’d have done in my boredom. To me, this would have added much more depth to the feelings he developed for her prior to waking her up. It also would have added some potential fun as he learned about other passengers.
Everything is beautiful in this movie.
The thing you need to know about this movie is that the surface story is a romance. You probably already know this because you’ve seen the trailers. That being the case, it follows the standard romance formula. Meeting, getting to know each other, falling in love, break-up, attempt at redemption. The second missed opportunity happens during the break-up and it’s that the movie doesn’t spend enough time during this phase. I know that’s also standard romance movie procedure, but this movie’s main premise is delving into the psychology of the situation and this is a fascinating component of this scenario. (SPOILER) After learning the truth about how she woke up, Aurora is confronted with just as difficult a choice as Jim, but with a bonus choice. Commit suicide, wake someone else up, spend the rest of her life alone on the ship (she at least has more entertainment choices due to her class), or take Jim back. Considering that Jim gave her a death sentence by waking her up, you can understand how pissed off she would be at him, but after time, she was going to end up in the same position as him. How great would it have been to see her struggling with herself as she begun to rationalize Jim’s despair and loneliness as she experienced it herself?
I think she wants to kill you Jim.
For as much time as the film spent with Jim, an equal amount of time should have been spent with Aurora. Instead, the film jumps to the big event that allows Jim the opportunity to redeem himself. Of course, this being a spaceship movie, and given that the film sprinkles in shots of the ship’s computer depicting more and more ship failures (the movie starts with the ship getting hit by a meteor, which is what led to Jim’s pod malfunction), that event is obviously Jim trying to save the ship from exploding. Plus, you’ve seen the trailers so you already know they have to deal with the ship failures. I never said this movie wasn’t predictable.
Based on all that, the movie sounds decent at best, but what elevated this movie for me were the stunning visuals of the interior and exterior of the ship and the performances of the three main actors (Laurence Fishburne enters in the third act, playing a crew member). I liked the story and the first and second acts were done quite well (the third act was a little over-the-top, but still fine). Pratt did a fantastic job of emoting despair, then emoting the internal torture of his decision before and after waking Aurora. Lawrence equaled Pratt and more (her reaction to the truth was so perfect it was almost scary) and their chemistry together was amazing. There’s also an extremely cool and slightly terrifying swimming pool scene. Put all that together and you’ve got a very good movie that can sit on my spot as long as it wants.
Rating: Worth your money with or without a soft spot.
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.