Storytelling Failures – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The People With Dialogue

Well, of course you knew this was coming. This movie was just a mess on so many levels. Therefore, I’m breaking up my analysis of the storytelling failures into separate entries. This one starts with the first criterion, which is character. But before I get into it, this movie did not make me sad or mad like Man of Steel, or furious like Justice League: War. This movie was dour and a long slog for little payoff, but it wasn’t as relentlessly bleak as Man of Steel or as mean-spirited as Justice League: War. I knew that the characters were going to be outside of my amalgam. That said, here’s the more in-depth analysis:

The DC Trinity:
Wonder Woman – I’m starting with the only shining star in this dark, dreary, boring slog of a movie. Yes, she was obviously shoe-horned in and yes, she only has about ten minutes of screen time, but damn if I didn’t want more Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. As Diana Prince, she was mysterious and graceful and confident. As Wonder Woman she was just wonderful. I give props to the costuming department for this movie for Diana’s dresses. They were sexy without being overly sexual, they were of a visually interesting style (the cutouts and angle of the straps) which made her stand out in a crowd, and the use of heavy gold accents in the dresses invoked the gold of Wonder Woman’s costume (which sadly in the finale was washed out by the movie’s “Gritty Sepia” filter). I wish so much attention had been paid to the rest of the movie. So, yeah, for just a few minutes of screen time, she really stole the show.

Superman – In what was originally meant as a sequel to Man of Steel, Clark only has 42 lines of dialogue and one anguished scream. I know because someone painfully counted and recorded every line he had. He’s more of a wooden plot device than a character. He’s even more brooding than before even though he’s apparently hooked up with Lois Lane and got a good job at the Daily Planet. He’s supposed to be going through some existential crisis about whether his heroics are actually making the world a better place, but this is never really developed. Also, he’s still got a lot of anger issues which do not fit in with my amalgam. Basically his emotions shift between a bit angry and a lot brooding, which is boring to watch.

Crazy Steve (Batman) – Some of the crew involved in this movie claim to have been inspired by Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” comic book. I really don’t see this because while Batman is grumpy and paranoid (and apparently doesn’t have time to shave, he also kills a bunch of people. Batman in “DKR” did not kill anyone and in fact called for his followers to lay down their weapons. This Batman is straight of Frank Miller alright, but from “All-Star Batman and Robin.” Some argument could be made that the people Batman killed were bad guys (which still entirely misses the point of Batman’s character), but Batman didn’t know they were bad guys! In his quest for kryptonite, he attacks a convey escort without provocation. Yes, the cargo was being smuggled in, and they were armed with heavy assault rifles, but there was nothing to indicate Batman knew any of that. As far as this situation was presented in the movie, the escort could have been made up of Lexcorp employees who had no idea the cargo was being illegally transported. Later, Batman takes the stuff from a Lexcorp R&D facility and kills a whole bunch of guards (off-screen). Again, there’s nothing to indicate these weren’t just Lexcorp security guards trying to do their job. Why would they have any reason to know that the stuff in the facility was illegally imported, or that any R&D going on wasn’t on the up-and-up? The security  guards weren’t accomplices; they were bystanders and Batman killed them. He also brands criminals so when they go to jail they’re targets for shanking, which means this version of Batman has given up on the idea of criminal rehabilitation. I knew WB/DC didn’t seem to get DC’s characters, but I thought (näively it seems) that at least Batman would be portrayed as the target amalgam, but nope, that is not the case.

Everyone else:
Alexander (Lex) Luthor – Well, the trailers definitely presented the  character as he was portrayed in the movie. I have no idea what decisions led to having Lex Luthor (Jr. is implied) portrayed as a spoiled, manic twerp. This Lex, obvious mental instability aside, and the fact he somehow obviously knows Batman and Superman’s secret identities, is just not a credible threat. No one should have taken this red-headed git seriously and given him anything he needed to carry out his completely incoherent plan (which will be discussed more in the “plot” segment). He may be the worst comic book supervillain I have ever seen, and that is a pretty low bar. The Joker is the type of supervillain that is open to interpretation (although “ASBAR” got that wrong too) but Lex Luthor is not that flexible, especially since the character was changed from a standard mad scientist type to a corrupt literally xenophobic corporate mogul. This portrayal of Lex is just wrong and the character portrayed feels like he belongs in another movie.

Lois Lane – A critic described her role in the movie thusly: “The movie keeps trying to do something with Lois Lane and failing with embarrassing results.” The actress is great and doing absolutely the best she can but there’s nothing decent for her to work with. Another critic described Lois in Man of Steel as “Scotch-taped on to Clark’s story.” The writers cannot or are too lazy to move her out of the “damsel in distress/perfunctory love interest” role. At some points it seems like the writers went out of their way to make her seem as useless as possible. What little Lois does that makes a difference to the plot could have easily been accomplished by some other means. This movie doesn’t need Lois Lane and that is painfully obvious by what she’s given to do and her one-dimensional character.

Alfred Pennyworth – As usual, Alfred is the voice of reason. However, I don’t understand why Alfred allows himself to be an accomplice to Bat-murder. That’s not in character at all. There’s no reason for him to be in this movie either except to literally give Batman someone to talk to.

Perry White – So when did Perry White start channeling J. Jonah Jameson? And what editor-in-chief thinks a story about a caped vigilante isn’t worth pursuing? Perry is basically a jerk for no reason, especially to Clark. I feel like he’s only included and portrayed like this to make Clark feel bad so the audience will also feel bad for Clark. It doesn’t work.

Martha Kent – I’ve already discussed how a friend of mine observed that Clark has two terrible dads, but his mother isn’t much better. Where are those good, old-fashioned American values the Kents were supposed to instill in Clark? First his father tells him not to use his powers to help people because it could be dangerous to him, and now his mother
tells him (I paraphrase), “Help people, or not, whatever. [Expletive] them. It’s not like they ever did anything for you.”

Jonathan Kent – Hallucination? Hologram? Whatever, Ghost Dad 2 is not helpful and is only included to provide a sentimental line for Clark to re-purpose later. And that sentimental line doesn’t even ring true based on the events of Man of Steel. Ugh.

Senator Finch – She is perhaps the only person who realizes that Lex is a mentally unstable twerp, so I give her props there, but she also is leading the charge on whether Superman should save people. There’s not enough explanation for why she’s so hostile and she ends up feeling more like yet another plot device than a character.

Mercy Graves – Introduced in Superman: The Animated Adventures, Mercy served as Lex Luthor’s bodyguard and mercenary. So here this bad-ass was presented as a decorative secretary. *sarcasm* I’m so glad she was included for what, three scenes, to be pointlessly killed off. *sarcasm* Well, her history only goes back to the ’90s, so it’s not as though a
character with decades of history met the same fate…

Jimmy Olsen – Longtime Superman sidekick and Daily Planet photographer for nearly 70 years, and a fan favorite Jimmy Olsen was re-imagined as a CIA agent. That could have been bad-ass…no wait, never mind, he gets a line of dialogue before getting bumped off. *sarcasm* I’m so glad he was included for one scene to be pointlessly killed off. *sarcasm*

That’s All Folks:
So that’s it. That’s the list of characters of any importance that appear in this movie. Wonder Woman seemed fine for the few minutes she appeared but everyone else was boring, extraneous, or missed the mark completely. One would think with 75+ years of comic book material for Batman and Superman (and nearly as much for the supporting cast/villains) that it would be easy to find that target amalgam. Even in picking an Elseworlds comic for inspiration (“DKR”), the film-makers failed to successfully portray that version of Batman.

I didn’t expect this movie to be any great shakes character-wise based on Man of Steel and the trailers. Most of the characters suffer from lazy writing, but clearly a lot of effort was put into Batman and Lex Luthor. I understood the reasons why Superman was portrayed the way he was on Man  of Steel even if I hate it with those reasons with the fiery passion of 10,000 exploding Kryptons. However, like with Jonathan Kent in that movie, I just do not understand the reason for the direction for the most prominent characters of Batman and Lex Luthor, and everyone else barely has a character at all.

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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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