I'm not a student of film. I'm not qualified to critique the writing or directing, though as a fan of films I will say that both seem bad. But I do want to talk about the characters. I think that is the biggest problem I have with BvS. Almost every major character seems wrong. Seems not only like a misfire, but the worst version of the respective character. The opposite, the antithesis of the best version of each character is introduced to your utter incomprehension. They say yes when they mean no, good when they mean bad; circles are squares and up is down. You might not realize it at first, but eventually it all makes sense. The DCCU is a Bizarro universe. Let’s look at each of these Bizarro characters.
Note: Bizarro is a sometimes enemy of Superman from the comics, typically an imperfect clone of Superman. This “mirror image” of Superman has an inverted Superman power set (eg, freeze vision instead of heat vision, strengthened rather than weakened by green kryptonite, etc) and speaks and acts in opposites to conventional behavior.
Jesse Eisenberg was horribly miscast as Luthor. Check that, he was perfectly cast as the Luthor of this Bizarro universe, but he was miscast as what I consider the true version of Lex Luthor. Fans were right to clamor for Bryan Cranston to play Luthor. You know he looks great bald, and he can play the cold, calculating, genius industrialist without even trying. Cranston can be the Luthor we deserve. Not the Bizarro Lex that we got.
Bizarro Lex, as played by Eisenberg, channels Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. He is manic, talks fast and often has quirks and ticks, almost like he has Turret’s Syndrome. He even has TDK Joker’s long, curly hair. Worse still, Bizarro Lex is a trust fund kid. He inherited his father’s corporation and fortune, and there is zero evidence he’s done anything to deserve either. This is not the Lex Luthor of Smallville, who had to prove himself worthy of the legacy of Lionel Luthor. There is nothing to suggest that Bizarro Lex is a genius scientist or brilliant industrialist, the 2 hats Lex Luthor has most commonly worn. He is either an agent of chaos (like The Joker), or a servant of Darkseid (or both). Lex Luthor has never been either, or perhaps I should say, should never be either. If Luthor won’t bend the knee to Superman, why would he to any other alien?
Lex Luthor, at his best, is a perfect arch-villain of Superman because of his humanity. Much like humanity is what makes Batman so special as a hero, Luthor’s humanity makes him unique among Superman’s rogues gallery. He hates Superman for one of 3 reasons:
- An Alien who Can’t be Trusted - This is the philosophy bestowed on Bruce Wayne in BvS. Just because Superman is a boy scout now, doesn’t mean he will continue to be forever. To paraphrase Wayne, if there is even a 1% chance, Luthor has to take that as an absolute certainty.
- An Alien who has Stolen his Thunder - This seemed part of Luthor’s motivation in the excellent All Star Superman (by Grant Morrison). Lex Luthor came up from nothing. He is a self-made man, lifting himself up by his bootstraps and making his fortune with his own intellect and acumen. He is a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Luthor sees himself as the pinnacle not only of the American Dream, but of humanity. And he’s shed blood, sweat, and perhaps even tears to do it all on his own. Now Superman shows up, and by a quirk of his alien physiology, he is a god among men. What has he done to deserve that? Why should he be lauded and worshipped?
- An Agent of Stagnation - Luthor doesn’t just think Superman is a threat because of the chance he might go bad. Even if he acts the hero forever, he still is a threat to humanity, because humanity will look to be saved, rather than save themselves. Superman halts evolution. He stops the thinning of the herd. He is a drug humanity is addicted to, and Luthor sees it as his responsibility to cure humanity of that addiction. He must kill Superman, for the good of us all.
Bizarro Lex of BvS exhibits none of those motives. In fact, he doesn’t seem to have a motive. He is a gibbering psychotic who hates Superman for no discernible reason at all.
The Bizarro Batman of BvS is a mass murderer. He not only breaks the one unbreakable rule that Batman has (Thou shalt never, ever kill), he kills wantonly and indiscriminately. A news reporter says at one point that Batman commonly brands his victims with a Bat-symbol, and that the brand is essentially a death sentence, as other criminals will kill any inmate that has one. Here is where I point out that Batman has been operating in Gotham for 20 years. That, combined with the fact that Batman kills numerous henchmen himself in BvS, must mean that his kill count is in the hundreds, maybe thousands.
Bizarro Batman would never utter the words, “You’re going back to Arkham, INSERT NAME OF ROGUE”. The thought would never enter his mind, because he would straight up murder them.
At one point Bruce Wayne says to Alfred, “20 years in Gotham, how many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”
Et tu, Bruce?
Batman trusts Superman only as far as he can throw him. They may fight together on the Justice League, Batman may owe Superman his life, but he still has a kryptonite ring in the Bat cave, just in case. Should the day come when it is necessary, he won't hesitate to take Superman down. Until that day, he will keep an eye on the big blue boy scout.
Bizarro Batman wants to murder Superman, plain and simple. Both for what he has done, and (even more) for what he may do. He wants to launch a preemptive strike. And the thing is, he does, and plausibly pulls it off. He has a weakened Superman under his boot, kryptonite spear poised above his chest, and what stops him?
The coincidence that his mother is also named Martha. In the moment, I thought this was cool, but really, it only makes sense in the Bizarro universe. Bizarro Batman is unswayed by the fact that Superman fought his own kind to the death to save his adopted planet. He is unmoved by the fact that Superman has committed himself to selfless acts of heroism. He sees the premeditated murder of Superman as his legacy, that is, until he learns that hey, Superman has a mom too.
Superman doesn't just wear a symbol of hope on his chest, he is one. He is the embodiment of hope and optimism and goodness and decency. He takes time out of saving Metropolis from a giant, rampaging robot to save a teenage girl from committing suicide not by using a superpower, but by simply telling her, “you're stronger than you think,” (again, All Star Superman).
Bizarro Superman, inconspicuously introduced in Man of Steel, is a joyless slab of muscle full of angst and self doubt. He is mopey and whiny. His dad advised him NOT to save people, for Crom’s sake. If you hoped the unrecognisable Superman from MoS would finally get over it, come into his own, and actually be Superman, well you'd be understandably wrong because you wouldn't know this isn't Superman. This is Bizarro Superman. And Bizarro Superman spends most of BvS still full of doubt and angst.
Most of it stems from the fact that Bizarro Superman saved Lois from a terrorist, who I'm pretty sure he kills or at least SEVERELY injures, then (and I'm not sure about this because we hear it secondhand) a bunch of civilians are killed in retaliation.
How was Bizarro Superman supposed to know that would happen? He was just saving his girlfriend. Does it matter that he was saving her from a warlord/terrorist accused of war crimes/atrocities/genocide? Bizarro Superman doesn't care about his victims, he didn't want to get involved, man. He just wanted to save his girlfriend and get out of there so they could have bathtub sex (actually happens in the movie).
Anyway, a bunch of people are killed and the world doubts Bizarro Superman, which makes him doubt himself. He goes to visit his mom who actually tells him he doesn't owe the world a damn thing. Reminder, this isn't Martha Kent, this is Bizarro Martha Kent, married to the guy who told Bizarro Clark it's better not to save people and then let himself die by tornado to prove his point.
Superman would know that he owes the world everything. Without earth, he'd by as dead as the rest of Krypton. And this wasn't some random planet his parents sent him to, but a planet where they knew he'd be essentially a god. They didn't want him to conquer, but to help. To use his powers for good. To do the right and just thing, the hard thing. To view saving the world from aliens and saving a girl from depression as equally important.
I also want to point out that Bizarro Superman, despite having spent very nearly his entire life on earth, apparently doesn't recognize Bruce Wayne, literally one of the most recognizable people in America. Also, despite operating as Batman for 20 years, and despite Bizarro Gotham sitting literally right next to Bizarro Metropolis, and Bizarro Superman living in Bizarro Metropolis for 2 years, he JUST NOW decides that hey! this Batman character is bad news and needs to be stopped.
So there you have it. There is the reason BvS is a mostly terrible mess (aside from the writing and acting and directing). It's the Bizarro DCCU, and in the Bizarro universe, “terrible mess” = “amazing film”. And since WB & DC will insist on sticking with Zack Snyder, expect Justice League to be equally terrible (amazing!). Bizarro Flash will have none of the wit, charm, or optimism of the CW television show. Bizarro Aquaman will be Aqua-Khal Drogo. Bizarro Cyborg will be whatever the opposite of Cyborg is (I don't know, I don't read his comics).
Oh, you may be wondering about Wonder Woman. Well, she is in the movie, and one would assume that if she's in the Bizarro universe, she must be Bizarro Wonder Woman. Honestly, she's in the film so little that I couldn't get a read on her. But the fact that while in the middle of a life or death battle with a monster capable of destroying the world, she grins as though she is having a wonderful time seems incongruous with a Wonder Woman who left the world after a century of war and violence and would therefore be an advocate of peace. Though I suppose it lines up with the New 52 version of WW, so… exception that proves the rule? (Also I swear to Crom WW’s smile while fighting Doomsday is one of the few smiles in the whole damn movie.)
Other Bizarro elements in BvS:
In Bizarro Kansas funeral processions involve horse-drawn wagons, unadorned pinewood coffins, and guys playing the bag pipes in kilts and full Scottish regalia, none of which happens in Kansas.
Bizarro Kansas also features cemeteries with what appears to be fields of actively farmed wheat or corn within their borders. Again, this is not a thing in Kansas.
Time in the Bizarro DCCU is out of whack, and often and for extended periods slows to a crawl.
According to one of the most experienced tactical minds around, “weaponizing” the largest chunk of kryptonite ever found means turning it into an oversized spear (and then leaving that spear well out of reach at the start of a fight with Superman). And some gas grenades, but mostly just a spear.
I can think of nothing else to say, except a hearty “Mediocre!” in the voice of Immortan Joe. I will close in the style of Bizarro himself:
Not welcome to the Bizarro DCCU! You will have a wonderful time and love every minute of the excellent movies not coming to a cineplex far away from you.