Directed by Zack Snyder (2016)
by Francis Friel
The Projectionist at Moviejawn
Zack Snyder has to be absolutely shitting his pants right now. Pacing around his no-doubt gigantic Fortress of Solitude somewhere in the Hollywood Hills, nervously moving his hand over his pants pocket, checking his phone, no vibration, no texts, no calls…“What must Warner Bros. be thinking right now?” Parading Amy Adams out in front of the press to quell the ominous, almost apocalyptic critical response to his latest film. Damage control being rolled out before most people have even had a chance to see this thing the studio is generously, psychotically calling a “movie.” Will Visionary Director Zack Snyder still have a job after Monday morning? He’s going over all the numbers in his head. Rotten Tomatoes currently holding strong at 32%, having dropped steadily by 10% every day for the last three days, again, before the public has seen a single frame of this DC Universe Doomsday Machine. Box Office Mojo projecting a weekend pull of $180million against the film’s purported budget of $410m. Will any of this, could any of this point to a new direction for the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader? Could they really, after all this, just reboot the whole thing again, Sony Spider-Man-style? Right now, anything seems possible. With Wonder Woman already set to debut in a standalone property just over a year from now, Suicide Squad pumping out one fucking batshit trailer after another, and Affleck threatening his own Bat-film shortly after…where will Snyder fit into all this after opening weekend?
I wish I knew. What I do know, unfortunately, is that he’s going to go down in history as having directed one of the biggest, loudest, most incomprehensible wrecks of a movie of the 21st century.
It starts in exactly the wrong spot. We meet the Waynes. We see them gunned down. We see their funeral. We see young Master Wayne fall down a hole and get swarmed with bats. Come. On. How many more times will we see this exact sequence in our lifetimes? For the good solid hour that both the original Richard Donner Superman and Snyder’s own Man of Steel spend setting up just who and what Superman is (and what he represents to the world), the fact that Snyder only needs to give us the perfunctory run-through that we’ve seen a thousand times shows that, A) he doesn’t really give a shit, and B) he knows that we actually don’t even need it. We get it. Batman. Does everyone get it? It’s the first in a series of endless, clumsy plot points that we have to get through in order to justify this movie’s existence. Because eventually we’ll need to get introductions to an entire Justice League’s worth of characters I can’t care about.
Right after the Batman origin sequence, though, we move straight onto the first (of very few) interesting moments in the movie that actually gave me hope that Snyder had something interesting up his sleeve. On a bright white screen we see plain black text that reads “Metropolis: The World Is Introduced To The Superman”. I can’t explain it, but that simple touch got me very excited. I was ready. I couldn’t believe I was about to see something bright and artistic. This is followed by a Back To The Future Part II level of self-revisionist history as we follow Bruce Wayne through the devastation as Superman battles Zod in the climax of Man of Steel. We see the street-level carnage, the full-on 9/11 chaos of it all. And most importantly, we see the destruction of Wayne Financial Tower. Here you go: a plot. Or, what would pass for one in any other movie. But nope, we have about a dozen more random plot threads to collect before we can make any sense of what Wayne/Batman is up to.
My favorite review of the week called Eisenberg “next-level terrible” as Lex Luthor. But really, he’s less terrible than terribly miscast. It’s his performance that leads me to believe that all the actors on display are innocent bystanders in Snyder’s House of Horrors. There is no way, and I mean no fucking way, that Eisenberg came to the set with that character. It was given to him. He was directed straight into a corner and told to, basically, play the Joker. Which makes no goddam sense. Luthor is a brilliant businessman. Not a cackling, twitchy, bouncing-off-the-walls lunatic as he’s played here. But sure enough, it actually doesn’t matter. Because nothing he does in this movie makes a bit of sense. You can tell a lot about a filmmaker by how well-thought-out their villains’ plans are. And this shit is beyond me. He’s basically a supervillain from minute one, without being given the slightest bit of motivation or reason for wanting what he wants from the rest of the characters. But this movie is hoping you won’t notice. This movie hopes you’ll pay attention minute to minute but not hour to hour, because by the time we get to a scene late in the film where the president is on speakerphone being asked to make a decision…you realize, wait a minute, how did Luthor not know this plan was a possibility?
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. So. Batman hates Superman because he holds him responsible for the death toll racked up during the Battle of Metropolis. And by Batman, I mean the Bat of Gotham, or the Gotham Bat. The movie never calls him Batman. Which is meaningless from every angle because the movie itself calls him that right in the title. But. So. Batman hates Superman. Great. So they’re gonna fight? Yes, but…not for a while.
I might have missed the scene where they explain that the Scarecrow has spiked the water supply of Gotham City (and Metropolis, too, they being right across the bay from each other in this film). I don’t know how else to explain the constant hallucinatory dreams and visions that seem to pop up completely at random throughout the movie. Seriously. Bruce Wayne is a fucking psycho. He is totally overwhelmed and haunted by nightmares that seem like they came from chapter stops in six different video games. Nazi-like Superman Soldiers, giant mosquitoes, cameos from future DC characters popping literally out of thin air, CGI ghost zombies...honestly. What the fuck is this movie even about? The best I can say for any of these is that the DC Cameo Who Pops Out Of Thin Air gives Wayne an actual plot point, and thread to follow, that leads absolutely fucking nowhere, and this is in keeping with Christian Bale being visited by Liam Neeson in Bane’s prison and being given actual information he’ll need to go out and finish the movie. So in that case, there’s precedent. But even in that case, that precedent is meaningless and fucking stupid.
And we still have a long way to go before the two good guys (these are supposed to be good guys, right?) finally duke it out. We have kidnappings. Monsters. Wonder Woman. We even have Luthor replicating exactly a move straight from the Joker’s playbook in The Dark Knight. So my theory that Nolan has spent the past two DC movies napping in a hammock now has a hole in it. At some point Snyder must have asked his advice and Nolan scrambled to his blu-ray shelf, clumsily trying to get his Batman movies into the player, getting fingerprints all over the discs, angry, FUMING that you can’t skip past the Warner Bros. logo to get to the main menu, finally getting one going, chapter-skipping like crazy, and finally, Yes! “Eureka!” (he got that from Chastain in Interstellar (it’s traditional), he finds something. Calls Snyder, “Zack! Remember when the Joker [relevant Joker move that Luthor also does redacted], well, Just Do That!!” “Yes!! Thanks, Chris!” Snyder throws his phone in the trash (he’s rich). So, yeah. Thanks, Chris. Thanks a lot.
Every plot element is taken from other Superman and Batman films. Which is disgusting in how lazy it is, considering we have about a dozen of these movies to pull from but over a hundred and fifty combined years of stories to choose from, taking for granted that no one would ever dare to write an original story for these two. Not anymore. Not with GOYER (shudder) onboard.
Look. This movie is a disaster. Plain and simple. I dare you to find anything in here that points to any kind of narrative momentum that will lead into another movie. I feel like I’ve barely touched on the plot, but that’s because it all leads to (or rather, simply arrives at) a plot point that I can’t talk about, since it’s the “payoff” to the whole travesty and will allegedly set the stage for the Justice League films. But, honestly how? Again, without saying flat out what this plot point is (though, it takes actually no great amount of brain power to figure out, if you’ve watched the trailers and can put one foot in front of the other regarding who the villain of the film is), the movie ends on a note that at once, again, copies Nolan exactly in its very final shot, and also made me just go, “huh?” I truly have no idea where they can possibly go from here.
Because the truth is, there’s nowhere left to go. Snyder has burned every bridge forward into the future of the DC Universe. He’s a monster. A supervillain. Determined to launch himself, Zod-style, through the Warner Bros. studios and take as many people out with him as he can. He’s tanking everyone’s careers along with his own.
I just hope there’s someone on the ground who will get angry enough to take the whole thing back.