Written by: Fiona Underhill, CC2K Staff Writer
By now you have read “Cavill’s Corner,” my magnum opus in which I watched everything on Henry Cavill’s IMDb and then ranked the films, as well as his performances and hotness level in each. I couldn’t bring myself to go into too much detail about his role as Superman in the DC/Snyder trilogy because I find it painful to talk about. However, I owe the cc2konline readers an explanation, even if it means it is never safe for me to go on the internet again. Yes, I am willing to sacrifice myself to the DC Dudebros for your reading pleasure. So, I am about to present to you my PERSONAL FEELINGS and OPINIONS on Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (I just threw up into my mouth a little) and Justice League.
I’ll give you context for this rant, but I already anticipate the “she hasn’t even read the comic books” crowd descending on me from on-high. I haven’t read the comic books. If this offends you, please feel free to stop reading. If you think this means I don’t get to have an opinion on anything, then I disagree. I am an avid watcher of TV and films, and I have been immersed in pop culture all of my life. I have been a fan of the characters since I was a kid, based on the cartoons, TV shows and films I’ve seen, so I get to have feelings about them.
Let’s start with Batman. I was a big fan of the New Adventures of Batman cartoon as a kid (as well as the Spider-Man cartoon – isn’t it weird that kids don’t know they’re only allowed to like DC OR Marvel?). I also watched reruns of Adam West’s Batman. Of course, Batman – The Animated Series is a masterpiece. My favorite film versions are Burton’s, especially Batman Returns. I have complicated feelings towards Nolan’s Dark Night trilogy, which I could write a separate essay on. I despise Batman Begins, but like both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. I enjoy the films, but I’m not a fan of Bale’s portrayal of Batman. Yeah, now I have both the Snyder AND Nolan fanboys after me – can’t wait! [Just in case you think I’m being overly defensive re: DC Dudebros, I can tell you that after seven years on Twitter, the only negativity I’ve ever experienced is from this particular corner of the internet.]
Superman has gone through more of a “development hell” roller-coaster than any other character in popular culture – remember when Nicolas Cage was going to be Superman? Remember when Kevin Smith was going to direct a Superman movie? Frankly, this character deserves better and in my opinion, his salvation absolutely was not to be found in Zachary Edward Snyder. As regards Superman, I grew up with the Reeve Superman films and I was an even bigger fan of 1984’s Supergirl. However, my love of Superman really formed during the 1990s with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. I love the character of Lois Lane so much. My niece is called Lois. Anyway, more on Lois (and what DC has done to her) later. I really like Brandon Routh’s portrayal in Superman Returns and wish he’d been given more of a shot with the character.
As with everything in this discussion, my relationship with Zack Snyder is complex and nuanced, and not black-and-white, love-or-hate. I really like 300; I love the aesthetic. I don’t hate Sucker Punch and again, I like the look. I have not seen Dawn of the Dead yet, but it’s one of the best reviewed remakes ever and I’m fully prepared to believe it’s as a great as everyone says it is. Now, we come to Watchmen. Watchmen is my favorite comic-book movie of all time and I genuinely think it’s a masterpiece. So, when I heard that Snyder was taking on Superman (and later, Batman), I was understandably excited and hyped. This just makes the betrayal run all the more deep.
Man of Steel (2013)
I liked Man of Steel when it came out, didn’t love it. Cavill is a great choice for Superman; yes, he’s a posh Englishman, but he embodies the chiseled looks, the feel of an all-American Kansas farm-boy, and the wide-eyed sense of wonder and hope. You cannot argue with how hard Cavill worked to get the role and once he was cast he did everything in his power to make himself Superman; the physically punishing and grueling workouts, the accent work and the comic book research (which he has done, even if I haven’t). More incredibly, one of our finest actresses, Dame Amy Adams was cast as Lois Lane. I love everything about this casting, including the fact that she’s ten years older than Cavill. I do NOT however, love the way both Adams and Lane have been treated by DC. As Mr. Perlman would say; “what a waste.”
For me (whether it’s accurate to the comics or not), Lois should meet Clark in the Daily Planet newsroom and over time, gradually learn he is Superman. Yes, we all know glasses are not a disguise, but we’ve always gone with it. All of this is dispensed with in Man of Steel. Lois gets to know Superman first, then when he arrives in the Daily Planet at the end of the film, she knows full well he is Supes. Adams is underused throughout the three films and the filmmakers need to afford her more respect. It’s extremely likely that she will be recast in the future, or maybe they will just drop the character of Lois altogether? They clearly don’t give a damn about her.
The opening scenes set on Krypton are gleefully bonkers. Who gets tired of watching Russell Crowe flying around on a giant dragonfly while living legend Michael Shannon has a lovely time with the Worst Haircut Ever as General Zod. On my recent re-watch, I got bored after the initial scenes of Clark being an itinerant worker (fishing with a magnificent beard, doing barwork with a good level of stubble) and once all the actiony peril stuff kicks in, it becomes interminable. The finale feels like it goes on for years.
There are some highlights (particularly in the first third): the use of Chris Cornell’s Seasons in the scene where Clark emerges from the sea topless and steals clothes is chef’s kiss. Despite my general hatred of Kevin Costner I like his scenes with Cavill. Diane Lane as Martha is another actor who deserves more, including her treatment here by DC. Diane Lane should be a sexy Mom in the vein of Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May. The amount of death and destruction in Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel proved controversial and was used as a catalyst for the events of Batman v Superman, and for this, it cannot be forgiven.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
The fact I re-watched this film proves my commitment. After watching this at the cinema in 2016 I couldn’t sleep; I was so angry. My mind boggles as to how you can take two amazing characters, put them in a film together, and then fuck up on just about every conceivable level. The concept was flawed from the start. I was naive to go into this film thinking there was a chance it would be OK. For some reason, I didn’t think that ‘V’ in the title would prove so fundamental to the whole enterprise. But no, in their wisdom DC/Snyder/whoever decided Batman was a hero and Superman was a villain who needed defeating. Ben Affleck must take at least a small portion of the blame. I was a huge Ben Affleck stan in the 1990s, up to and including Pearl Harbor (2001), THAT is how big of a fan I was. His twenty-first century fortunes have been variable, but before this debacle he reestablished himself as a critically-acclaimed director starring in quality Oscar-nominated work such as Gone Girl (2014). I get the appeal of him doing Batman. When he was cast, I was excited. I found the idea of an aging Batman interesting. But WHY did he have to be a Batman who hates Superman? Why did they even have to have these two characters in the same movie at all? We could have had a Man of Steel sequel that didn’t involve Batman or any of the Justice League, but this is the hole DC chose to dig for themselves.
Nothing that happens in this film makes any sense. It is all so profoundly stupid it makes my blood boil. Batman gets two heroic moments in the opening minutes of the film: saving a little girl and pulling a girder off Scoot McNairy’s legs. He saves the poor civilians from the destruction Superman has caused. OK, in the interests of balance and fairness I will talk about aspects of this film I like: Alfred (Jeremy Irons), Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are all great. On my initial viewing, Wonder Woman was the ONLY positive I took from it, so I’m growing as a person. Yes, I am a huge fan of Wonder Woman’s standalone film, in case you’re wondering. The line “is she with you?” “I thought she was with you” is funny. The bathtub scene between Lois and Clark is the best two minutes in the entire DC trilogy, let’s be honest. And Clark fries eggs topless; he really should be more careful around hot oil, it spits.
However, the remaining 148 minutes are an unholy mess. Casting Jesse Eisenberg as the Zuckerberg-like Lex Luthor was a little too on the nose. I can’t even talk about “Granny’s Peach Tea” or “Martha” because my brain will melt and pour out my ears. The fact that Batman is seen as a credible threat to Superman WHEN THEY SHOULDN’T EVEN BE AGAINST EACH OTHER IN THE FIRST PLACE is idiotic. Even after “Martha” it is still Batman who saves Martha and is the hero. Superman’s x-ray vision, a perfectly benign super-skill is mutated in stupid evil red laser eyes, which wind me up every time. And as for the ending, has any film ever ended on such a downer? [SPOILER ALERT] THEY KILL SUPERMAN. He has a funeral. There is a monument. Even though the film is so stupid, it still makes me cry. How dare they.
I am going to briefly earn my Marvel paycheck by saying a similar premise is used in Civil War. The Avengers has been partly responsible for the destruction of a city and they need to be held accountable. They argue over the Sokovia Accords and how policed superheroes are. The arguments are set out logically, and when Iron Man and Cap fight you feel like you’ve followed a step-by-step process to get there. There has been character development; you have seen the disintegration of their relationship. None of this happens in Batman v Superman. Batman’s anger at Superman and his desire to humiliate him comes from nowhere. Everything could be solved if they talked to each other, but it escalates to a ridiculous level. Yes, the characters are manipulated by Lex Luthor. It just seems like Bruce Wayne should be brighter than this? I guess he has to spend a lot of time working out now, so…
I could rant on and on about this film. What the hell did they do to Jimmy Olsen? Why can’t we see any scenes of Lois and Clark working together and sharing zingy banter? Why can’t they include anything that would make these characters and the film enjoyable? The subtle inter-weaving and introduction of the other members of the Justice League is one of the more positive aspects, and to be fair it sets up Justice League well. But my God, what a journey to get there. Never do Superman this dirty again. Pay him some respect. Cavill deserves more. We, the audience deserve more.
Justice League (2017)
I approached this with understandable trepidation. There was no way I was going to see it in theaters. The wounds from BvS were too fresh and raw. However, for my Cavill Colossus, I felt it had to be done. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised. I even (checks over shoulders) enjoyed it more than Man of Steel. Mustache-gate will forever and always be hilarious. The fact that they OPEN the entire film with Cavill’s play-doh face is breath-taking and my hat goes off to all involved, especially the Mission: Impossible producers. However, as funny as this scene is to look at, if you can actually concentrate on what he’s saying for a moment Superman sounds like Superman. And that is entire reason why the scene exists in the way that it does. Justice League tested negatively, so they did re-shoots and tacked on a scene where Superman gets to be, you know, super? His character in the rest of the film is still under-used and mishandled. He’s just not in it enough, but when he’s there he gets to smile occasionally, exchange some banter, and generally lighten the fuck up.
Batman’s character is also a massive improvemen and for this (is that the sound of pitchforks being lit?) I credit Joss Whedon. Whedon is problematic in real life, but I love his writing going back to Buffy, but also the more recent Cabin in the Woods. There is no doubt in mind that the reason much of the dialogue is so zippy, funny, and would you believe entertaining is down to Whedon. The other major factors are the characters of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Amazons (albeit in much skimpier outfits eye roll) and, most especially, The Flash (Ezra Miller). I adore Ezra Miller and if there is one positive we can all take from this DC trilogy it’s the SDCC outfits Ezra Miller served as a result. Miller is one of the best things about the first Fantastic Beasts film and I’m so glad he’s returning for the sequel. It goes without saying Justice League is a giant, confusing mess, but it’s messy like a kid’s birthday party as opposed to like the long, dark tunnels of a sewer you can see no escape from. I had fun with it, sue me. Who is to say if the Dudebros will ever get their longed-for Snyder cut? Could I give a single solitary fuck? Not really. They have their cause, and like the Ghostbusters and Last Jedi man-babies, I just wish they’d be slightly less douchey online about it.
Where will it go from here? Who knows. I am not convinced the Man of Steel sequel is happening. I will believe it when I see it. Will we ever see Batfleck again? Who is to say. We should have had a Man of Steel sequel and a Batman stand-alone film (and I would have been fine with it being Batfleck) before Justice League (and skipped BvS all together). For the sake of Cavill, I hope positive strides are being taken to provide him with a story and a character arc worthy of him and worthy of Superman. Cavill has been badly let down by what DC has given him to work with and hopefully it goes in a more positive direction. And yes, I am still extremely upset about the lack of Superman kiss curl. I am stupidly excited for the 1980s-set Wonder Woman sequel. I really hope DC sorts themselves out and decides what they are trying to achieve. So far, the tone has been all over the shop and Batman and Superman deserve better. I’m going to go and hide under a large rock now.
Author: Fiona Underhill, CC2K Staff Writer
Brit living in Southern California.
Former teacher of Media and Film Studies.
Current film writer for jumpcutonline.com, moviejawn.com and others.