Movie review: Batman v. Superman waits too long to show Wonder Woman

Too much B+S, too little WW

Too much B+S, too little WW

JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve never posted a movie review here before, because there’s so many other people reviewing movies, why bother? But I went to see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice tonight with an entirely Chinese audience, accompanied by six of my freshmen. So this review will have a different perspective than others out there.

For those who have not seen the movie (or read the reviews), I’ll cut to the chase and skip all the story commentary.

(1) For whatever reason, director Zack Snyder felt it necessary to provide Batman’s complete back story, though it was hardly necessary for an understanding of this movie.

(2) The first half of the movie was just plain dull, despite the fight sequences. One student, Lee, said it was boring. Another, Meredith, just fell asleep. I almost did myself. I sat through the first half comparing it unfavorably to a Marvel Cinematic Universe flick, waiting for something exciting that would advance the main plot.

(3) My students were all female, with no previous knowledge of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. They all really enjoyed seeing WW in uniform, kicking ass alongside the boys. They said she was cool, and powerful. And I thought, why did Zach Snyder wait until the movie was practically over to show WW in full battle mode? My students would have loved to see her do more kick ass stuff.

And hey, DC Comics/Warner, about that tweet I sent you. A decent Wonder Woman movie will make big money. She impressed six 19-year-old Chinese women who would probably pay money to see Gal Gadot suit up again. . I bet lots of girls and women would, too. Hell, I would. Too bad we have to wait until 2017, a full 76 years after her introduction in the comic books, to see WW in her own film.

(4) When Ben Affleck’s casting as The Batman was first announced, comics fans were dismayed. We were wrong. He does a great job being an older, more weary Batman than the earlier versions were. The film establishes he’s been haunting Gotham City’s criminals for 20 years already.

(4) Some parts of the movie were pretty good; they grabbed the audience and got an emotional reaction. A guy behind me sobbed during a mourning scene. Others seemed gratuitously scary. Still others were, meh. The outcome, if you’re familiar with DC’s comic books and graphic novels, was almost too predictable. In fact, after the big Batman-Superman fight sequence, the rest of the movie (aside from WW’s grand appearance) was a snoozer. For me, anyway.

Is it worth going to? Yes, but be prepared for a long narrative build-up. Skip the 3D version. Save some bucks and see the 2D version.

SPOILER ALERT: Plot details may follow. Enter at your own risk.

I’m going to focus first on Wonder Woman/Diana Prince, who spends most of the movie as a bit part until she suits up to help The Batman and Superman battle this movie’s existential threat.

Good points: Diana is a mysterious, and very wealthy woman from parts unknown. Bruce tries a pick up line on her, and gets put off. She manages to steal from Bruce the information that he’s stealing from Luthor, then returns it as stealthily as she took it. When Bruce inspects Luthor’s data on four metahmumans, he finds a photo of Diana from 1918. Even to the unitiated, that’s a tipoff that Diana is … different. Her sudden appearance in uniform near the end of the flick was a beam of sunshine on a gloomy day.

Bad points: Diana is supposedly 5,000 years old, a demigoddess and obviously very intelligent. Yet, she can’t decrypt Luthor’s computer files, and so returns the stolen data to Bruce Waybe, who of course can decrypt “military-grade” encryption. After her brief encounters with Bruce Wayne at ritzy social functions, Diana disappears from the film until Doomsday is unleashed. Then, and only then, does Diana decide to suit up and join the boys in battle. Her share of battle time maybe totals a minute or two, which I suppose is a great teaser for the forthcoming solo venture, but hardly does justice to the character.

Sure, I know the movie is about Batman fighting Superman, but if you’re going to introduce the third eldest chief member of the DC Comics pantheon, she needs more screen time as a superhero. Missed opportunity, Snyder.

The other superheroes teased in the flick are: Aquaman (seen in some underwater research footage), The Flash (not in uniform, caught in surveillance footage stopping a holdup), and Cyborg (seen on research footage). The Flash also appears in the middle of one of Bruce Wayne’s weird-ass dreams, in uniform and probably time-traveling, trying to warn Bruce about some future (for Bruce) danger. That appearance is a pretty long Easter egg for fans, but for someone new to the DCU, it made no damn sense at all, and it would lead them to assume Bruce Wayne is more than a little crazy.

Minimizing Wonder Woman’s appearances was bad enough, but slipping Time-traveling Flash into a dream sequence was just plain clumsy. I can imagine the Warner bosses saying near the end of production, “Hey, Zack, great movie so far, but we need a scene to set up the next Flash movie appearance.”

Some more nit-picking. Why does a criminal mastermind like Lex Luthor need to obtain a freaking import license from the feds to bring a chunk of kryptonite to his lab? he could just smuggle it in. Why is Superman trudging along a mountain trail, only to imagine meeting his dead human father piling up rocks on a mountain peak? It makes no sense. How many more battles can Metropolis withstand before the whole city is condemned? Who’s the bright light who located Metropolis and Gotham City “across the bay” from each other? They’re not supposed to be neighboring cities. Is it really necessary to begin and end a superhero movie with funerals? Good way to make moviegoers depressed, DC.

Despite my misgivings here, the movie was worth seeing. Maybe it’s not as awe-inspiring as a Marvel Cinematic Universe flick, but at least it wasn’t a dog like a Fantastic Four movie. I might even watch it again.

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