The year was 1993 and DC Comics, seemingly in a publicity stunt, decided to kill the most popular comic book character of all time, Superman. Although I considered myself strictly a Marvel man (or boy, I guess, at that time), I scraped together enough nickels to go out and buy a first printing. There was quite the rush on the edition, and I cannot recall any other moment in my lifetime where a comic sold that many issues. I said “publicity stunt” earlier because even my young brain could guess that they would not let the Man of Steel stay dead. While I have not followed every comic book, even the most successful ones, all that closely, I can tell you that they all have had their moment six feet under only to be resurrected in some way. If you have a fertile enough imagination, anything is possible. Thus when Superman began reappearing on store shelves, my foray into DC Comics ended. Concurrently, I have never been the biggest fan of their movies. The Batman ones have been okay, but more hit or miss than anything else, and usually miss. I was seemingly the only person on the planet who thought Wonder Woman (2017) was stupid, though I’ll probably see Wonder Woman 1984 whenever they allow us. As for Superman, I vaguely recall his campy movies of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the boring Superman Returns (2006), and the horrendously bad Man of Steel (2013). You would think eventually they would get it right, and they brought in Zack Snyder (he of 300 fame) to direct Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). But even the master of dark interiors, exteriors, and everything in between could not save DC from another disaster.
If you have been keeping score at home because what else is there to do right now, you will see the well oiled machine (for better or worse) that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe cleaning DC’s clock. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and its various solo predecessors, were DC’s attempt to mimic Marvel’s universe construction. I guess this makes Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy the Caped Crusader’s origin story, and Man of Steel Superman’s. But boy did they make an odd choice in how they brought the two main characters together. We start with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) arriving in Metropolis during the climactic moments of Man of Steel where Superman (Henry Cavill) is involved in a city wrecking death match with General Zod (Michael Shannon). For whatever reason, Bruce places the blame for the catastrophe on Superman, and begins researching ways to kill the superhero alien. Others are clearly worried about the god-like powers that Superman wields, which is exacerbated by him intervening in saving Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from a band of terrorists. I never totally understood why that was such a problem, but it causes Superman to do a goodwill tour of good doing that begins to win hearts and minds as to the fact that he really is a good guy, or alien I suppose. Meanwhile, in his guise as Clark Kent, a low level reporter for The Daily Planet, he begins investigating the brutal vigilante justice being meted out by Bruce in his guise as Batman. Stirring the pot behind the scenes between the two is Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who is evil because the movie says so. He decides that Superman must be destroyed as well because good people just cannot be allowed to exist. His plan involves taking the corpse of General Zod, which, you know, was still laying around somewhere, and turn it into some kind of outrageous monster using technology from the spaceship that brought Superman to Earth. Movie logic also states that Luthor knows how to use alien technology. Actually, Doomsday (the creature that General Zod turns into) is more of an insurance policy in case Batman cannot get the job done, and adding incentive to their fight is the fact that Luthor kidnaps Superman’s mother, Martha Kent (Diane Lane). The inevitable grudge match ensues, with Batman using kryptonite (Superman’s one weakness) and various other technologies to keep himself from not being pulverized by Superman’s strength. And Batman is just on the verge of delivering a fatal blow to Superman when they realize that their mother’s share the same name. Yes, all the rage they had built up against each other is dissipated by the utterance of a single, common name. Putting aside their beef, and joined by Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who had been monitoring Luthor but, somehow, had gone unnoticed by him, they team up to defeat Doomsday. Their destructive fight, luckily for the citizens of Metropolis and Gotham (which are apparently right next to each other), is an abandoned section of the city. In the end, Superman gives his life to destroy Doomsday and Luthor is locked away.
That is probably the least confusing way of conveying Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s plot. The main problem with the whole thing is the concept. Why would two characters who are held up as exemplars of everything good decide to attempt to fight one another, much less kill? For Batman, the movie suggests it is about revenge, though it attempts to tack on the more “noble” purpose of taking out a possible (not real) threat to the entire world in the form of Superman. Hence we are supposed to believe that one of the smartest, most committed to justice persons in Bruce Wayne is setting aside his better judgment in order to kill Superman for something he has not done yet, and may never do. I emphasized “kill” there because that is something that supposedly Batman never did. And yet throughout much of the screen time for the Caped Crusader he is doing things that likely result in the deaths of dozens. As for Superman, we get this brooding, pensive, slightly unbalanced demigod who probably should be feared given the awful temper he displays. In between all this there are a bunch of other things that happen that do not make a lot of sense when you apply a brain cell or two to the situations, and in the end the film is just an awful mess.
I wish there were something more to say about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, particularly from a Faith perspective. As God is the ultimate source of all things good, I would love to tell you that the protagonists live up to those ideals. But no, the whole thing is just an excuse to see two classic heroes punch each other, and then see them and a classic heroine team up to punch a monster. It used to be that these kinds of characters would save people from burning buildings, or stop somebody from robbing a bank. It used to be that Superman stood for “truth, justice, and the American way.” It seems these ideals, like Faith, are just too corny of concepts in our modern world to interest movie audiences, at least in the eyes of Hollywood. Thus, unless you are some DC Comics junky, there really is no reason to see this movie. It is kind of pointless.