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In 2014, the world witnessed the withering of the secondary Spider-Man franchise, leading to a tertiary franchise being folded into the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. In 2015, we were treated to the disappointing, over-stuffed, studio-manipulated Avengers: Age of Ultron, which featured too many characters and a confusingly sexist scene wherein a female character announced she was a monster because, perhaps, she was barren. 2015 also saw the bafflingly bad Fantastic Four, another stalled secondary franchise. With the release of Zack Snyder’s 151-minute glob of murky, self-aggrandizing, mythic superhero claptrap Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a sequel to the director’s abrasive Man of Steel, we, dear readers, may want to honestly consider rushing this genre into a coffin.

We may not be able to say what sort of box office this flick will earn – it’s tracking in the hundreds of millions, natch – but the critic is guessing that fan reaction will be split at best and sour at worst. What’s more, critics are pretty universally panning the film, and while Warner Bros. may be planning a giant franchise from here, we may be facing a dark future wherein Batman and Superman might be facing yet another reboot within the next decade. Speaking personally, the thought of facing down yet another high-end superhero mythology exhausts me.


Because Dawn of Justice seems to be indicative of the most unfortunate – and unfortunately growing – trends within the world of cinematic superheroes. Too many characters. Too long. Too much focus on multi-film super-narratives. Too much setup for future sequels. Citius, altius, fortius. The genre has simply grown too large. Now filmmakers like Snyder have full license to make movies with stories that are confusing (as certain plotlines are intended to be resolved in future chapters), contain baffling origins of characters to be featured in future solo movies, and protracted, ugly, violent climaxes wherein super-powered beings wail on each other for 45 full minutes. Note to filmmakers and to audiences: noise, movement, and happenstance is not the same thing as drama.

Dawn of Justice is a test of will and of stamina, and not just because of its length, level of visual noise, and its annoying introduction of a new super-franchise (which Warner Bros./DC has, it hardly needs mention, taken from the Disney/Marvel model). More than anything Dawn of Justice is a chore because of its own gloomy, maudlin, mirthless, pseudo-intellectual musings on how little fun it is to be a superhero. In this universe, Superman (Henry Cavill) is now a controversial figure, understandable following his destruction of Metropolis. Half of the public hates him for his destructive power, while the other half has taken to worshiping him as, essentially, a new Messiah. Batman (Ben Affleck) is of the former camp, and spends the bulk of the film seeking a chunk of Kryptonite in order to have the film’s title brawl. Also on the trail of the Krytonite is bratty billionaire Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg). Eventually, the two titans will indeed clash, although the title fight ends up being a small piece of a much, much longer, bigger climax.


The story is far more complicated than that. We also have an eye-rolling Jeremy Irons as a put-upon Alfred Pennyworth, a mysterious woman (Gal Gadot) who will turn up as Wonder Woman, a strange subplot involving Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and a cadre of Middle Eastern terrorists, and the fate of the corpse of General Zod (Michael Shannon). There will also be a fateful e-mail containing private video introductions to The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, all due for their own films throughout the next decade.

Oh yes, and the dream sequences. There are several. Batman has several surreal visions of the future, and how Superman may eventually lead an army of Nazi-like masked soldiers and a race of bug-like monsters in a takeover of Earth. Batman also receives a visit from a time-traveler warning him about Superman. Superman, meanwhile, has spirit conversations with his dead father.


Some audiences may react negatively to the depiction of Batman in this film. In previous films – and for the last few decades in the comics – Batman has followed a strict moral code that excludes murder. Batman will beat you in the face, but he will not kill you. Ha also doesn’t use guns, except on his car. In Dawn of Justice, he brands criminals so that they will be mistreated and killed in prison, blows up henchmen with bombs and guns, and is generally darker and more violent than he is ever been. If the betrayal of the Batman character bothers you, though, then you are concerned with the very least of this film’s problems. Batman has been reinterpreted so many times over the past 50 years, that there doesn’t seem to be a “true” version any longer. This means whatever film version we get of Batman – even if he starts wearing pink and using hand grenades exclusively – will be the correct one.

Am I being brusque and haphazard toward fandom with my reckless views of canon? Perhaps. But I would argue that a constant stream of reboots, and the frequent resurrection of assumed-dead superhero characters, that these characters have come to mean less and less. So now anything can be tried, and nothing matters.

It’s too much. I can’t take any more. I need a bath. I need a nap. I need a hermetic stint in a cave. I need to be in a world without the wet, mossy fungus of this movie.

Seriously. Enough.

Witney Seibold has been a film critic for nearly 20 years, and is currently the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast on CraveOnline. You can contact him on Twitter at @WitneySeibold.


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Witney Seibold

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • “Avengers: Age of Ultron, which featured too many characters and a confusingly sexist scene wherein a female character announced she was a monster because, perhaps, she was barren”
    Jesus, the film neither said not implied that. She announced she was a monster because, like the Hulk, she is a murderer. They are both in fact both serial murderers- one because of his “condition” and the other because of her “conditioning.” You’re simply looking to take offense at something so you took offense.

    • @Naes, I agree with your comment. I did not find Black Widow’s reference of being a monster a reflection of her barrenness. I absolutely interpreted it as being a monster as a result of what was done to her. And, in all fairness, Age of Ultron was not a great film-nor was it a bad one. While the narrative was a mess, It’s sense of fun makes it watchable in ways that Zach Snyder movies never are. DC didn’t need to try and copy Marvel, but they also didn’t need to try so hard to be so dark, deep, and different. They were doomed to fail when Snyder was put in charge.
      Not to be a Marvel apologist, but they have the right idea of making genre movies that happen to star comic heroes (CAWS was a spy thriller, Ant Man=heist comedy, GOTG: Space Fantasy), and the method is working. Hopefully they learn from Age of Ultron to reign in the overuse of future film set ups and keep those connections subtle or isolated to credit scenes.
      IMO, movies about heroes should have joy and amazement as part of the experience, Zach doesn’t know how to make something that isn’t centered around morose, darkness.

  • I reached a similar level of exhaustion with these films recently myself. BvS seems to epitomize what Watchmen scribe Alan Moore said in The Guardian a few years ago: “I particularly don’t like the modern way of comic book-film adaptations, where, essentially, the central characters are just franchises that can be worked endlessly to no apparent point.”

    Any chance BvS will be the end, not the beginning, of the so-called “superhero renaissance”?

  • Went to see Batman v Superman this morning at 11 AM.

    My first thoughts:

    -Much better than I had hoped. The anger that Batman has towards Superman makes sense. The movie is kind of a mess but it is still good. Kind of like eating hard shell tacos – they’re a mess but they’re still great.

    -I could have done without all of the Batman nightmares.

    -There are literally dozens of references to other Batman and Superman sources – everything from the 1st Christopher Reeve movie to the Dark Knight comic books.

    -Wonder Woman stole the show.

    -Best Batman movie I have seen for sure and maybe the best Superman movie – and I am a huge fan of the 1978 Superman movie (except for the last 15 minutes – that was just too stupid).

    Re: Batman branding bad guys

    Alfred comments to Batman that he is clearly frustrated because there is a never-ending supply of criminals. Batman has lost his way. Superman provides that compass for him and Batman provides a check on Superman’s power. Clearly, at the end of the movie Batman is moving on to bigger things – he will be the head of a coalition of good guys and that would not have been possible without Superman giving him a mental “re-set” and improving his perspective on things.

  • Just for the record, I don’t think Batman brands them SO THAT they will get killed in prison. I think it was an unexpected consequence of them having the brand. That’s all 🙂