2.5 stars out of 5
(This review was written for ijpc.org, but I figure as the author I also have the right to post it here)
In journalism movie terms, to go from Spotlight to Batman vs. Superman (BvS), is to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. From an Oscar-winning best film to a movie that struggled to a 29% favorable rating from reviewers. It is mildly entertaining, in a meh sort of way, but it lacks the joie de vivre we have come to expect from superhero movies, thanks to the smash-hit Marvel universe films.
I speak here, in part, as a fan boy. The difference between the films is not a complete surprise. From 1958 to 1963, I purchased every DC superhero comic, and from 1963 to 1970, every Marvel comic. Right from the first, Marvel was messy, chaotic and funny, featuring “real” people with “real” problems in “real” cities (mostly New York). DC was straight-laced and uptight. It was hippies versus the establishment. This is still the basic difference between the products of the two companies, even if no one uses the term “hippie” anymore.
Fast forward to 2016; Marvel has cornered the market on sly, wry and ironic, leaving nothing for DC but dour and didactic. Which is OK if you are a huge fan, but not great, and even less interesting to the casual observer.
And while Lois Lane and Clark Kent continue to be journalists, their profession and its practice take a much more secondary role in this film than in Man of Steel. This film does open with a journalism scene in which Lois (Amy Adams) is interviewing a terrorist somewhere in the desert. “I was not expecting a woman,” he says. “I am not a woman, I am a journalist,” which got a good laugh at the showing I attended (and established Lois’ feminist credentials). It was pretty much the last intentional moment of levity in the film. There were other laughs, but they were of the nature, “Oh my God, I can’t believe they just did that…”
Her photographer, by the way, is shooting wet film (turns out to be critical to a plot point I won’t spoil). Really? Is there any news photographer in the world still shooting film? You can’t even buy it anymore, nonetheless get it developed.
Our first glimpse of Clark (Henry Cavill) is in casual clothes, in a newsroom full of business and business casual. Did he not get the memo? His first interchange with editor Perry White is purse insubordination. Perry wants a sports story. Clark says no. I’ve been in a lot of newsrooms, and that exchange right there would have introduced me to a banker’s box and a security guard in most of them.
Speaking of Perry, I don’t know what newsrooms scriptwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer looked at before dashing off this opus, but Perry’s habit of dictating the headline before the story has been written (heck, before the reporting has been done!) was irritating and unrealistic. The extreme cynicism displayed by the workers and editors at The Daily Planet might have been appropriate in 1942, but it rang false here.
Alas, BvS continues one sad but realistic trend in recent print journalism movies; jokes about the straitened financial condition of print media. Lois asks to fly to Washington from Metropolis (wherever that is). Perry says “Fly coach,” and Lois responds, “economy?” (I thought they were the same). Perry counters, “No extra legroom.”
Near the climax of the film, Lois asks Perry for a chopper from Metropolis to Gotham City, which, for the first time to my knowledge, is placed across a bay from Metropolis, like San Francisco and Oakland. Perry says, “A chopper? We can’t afford a bicycle.” Lois makes some brief, simple, heartfelt plea; Perry changes his mind and orders a helicopter.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is fantasy.