Well, we finally got the new trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and, boy, was it underwhelming. Many fans have been expressing fears about DC rushing into things since the movie was announced. A team-up with Batman already when he hasn’t even been introduced into the DC Extended Universe? Still, fans were with Batman v Superman, because all of the footage seen thus far had looked pretty cool. The showdown between Batman and Superman on a rainy rooftop next to the Bat-signal set up great expectations for the movie. Despite some concerns about casting, Ben Affleck looks to be a very capable and appropriate Batman, bringing to mind Frank Miller’s stocky brawler, which is a Batman we’ve not yet seen on the big screen. Even Jesse Eisenberg, who is a complete departure from any sort of Lex Luthor known to anyone anywhere, didn’t appear to be completely terrible. Unfortunately, it looks as though our willingness to give DC the benefit of the doubt will not be repaid, as the new trailer makes it clear that every bit of interesting and compelling footage from the movie must have been used up already.
There are a lot of things to complain about and chide from the new trailer, but there are three big problems that we want to focus on here. From Eisenberg’s portrayal of Luthor to characters being shoehorned in willy-nilly to the seemingly convoluted story-line and muddled themes, join us for an antiseptic wash of indignant grousing to cleanse our besmirched palates of this newest trailer, won’t you?
Let’s dive into the first problem here. Gene Hackman. Kevin Spacey. Jesse Eisenberg. Which of these things is not like the others? Eisenberg is the correct answer, for those of you playing at home. Previously, Lex Luthor has been played by two of the greatest thespians to ever grace the silver screen. Now, he’s being portrayed by a mildly-accomplished, seemingly one-note actor. (Please know that we’re only speaking well of Kevin Spacey here, not Superman Returns. Never Superman Returns.)
Remember earlier when we said that Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor didn’t appear to be completely terrible? Scratch that. It does. Oh man, does it look terrible. We’re not even completely against trying to update Luthor as a spoiled genius millennial, but this portrayal just falls flat. Not to mention that dozens of actors have done the annoying, pathetic loser turned super-villian thing and done it much better, perhaps most recently by Guy Pearce in Iron Man 3. Heck, Syndrome in The Incredibles did it better. Maybe Eisenberg’s simpering awkwardness would be a better fit for the Riddler?
He’s almost reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s Joker, but before he was entirely finished with puberty. Eisenberg’s Luthor could be the Joker before he’d fully become an adult with some hard life experiences under his belt to help him really refine his beliefs and purpose, twisted though they may be. This Luthor is what would have happened if you had given the Joker unlimited resources back when he was still a whiny, emo teenager. Maybe we’re being too hard on Eisenberg. Or maybe it’s director Zack Snyder‘s fault. Maybe this is the performance he wanted from Eisenberg for reasons that no one will be able to fully understand. Maybe we’re wrong and the trailer just showed the worst of Luthor’s moments. Maybe we’ll see the movie and end up applauding Eisenberg’s turn as Superman’s brilliant arch-nemesis. Maybe, but we highly doubt it.
The second problem we want to address here is everything that DC is trying to needlessly shoehorn into one movie. We understand that you don’t want to be compared to Marvel, DC. You want to do your own thing, make it on your own. We respect that, we really do, but maybe there’s a lesson or two to be learned from the immensely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe that has been able to produce 12 films so far without a single flop. One lesson that could be taken from the MCU is that audiences want you to earn their excitement. Marvel had five movies under their belt before we had any kind of real crossover (not counting some brief cameos and references here and there). It was a slow burn and it built anticipation that it could pay off later. One of the reasons Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was so successful was because all of the main characters were fully formed. We already had a history with them, an emotional investment. They had all had at least one movie to themselves to be fleshed out and explored as living, breathing people. All of those moments with Captain America and Iron Man and Thor and the Hulk interacting with each other that worked so well weren’t just moments to be marked off a fanboy checklist. They were earned, perfectly motivated, character-driven moments.
The inclusion of Doomsday in this movie is a perfect example of what seems to be what will be the primary failing of the DC Extended Universe. It’s too much, too soon. Slow down a little bit, DC. Relax. You don’t have to be so overzealous. We like you, we really do; and we have plenty of time to get to know each other. We know this is your first time building an intertwined movie universe, but put on some Barry White and sip on a glass of wine for a second.
It looks like DC is using Lex Luthor to turn Zod into Doomsday or something? Why? That’s just overkill. Doomsday is the creature that killed Superman. He deserves to have an entire movie dedicated to him. He should be a larger event later on in the future. Instead, he just looks like one of Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles developed a meth problem. It appears that DC is giving him the same quick and careless treatment that other villains have gotten in the past that makes all of us want to cry. Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer come to mind in the worst way.
Then there’s Wonder Woman. A character this big deserves her own movie and we’re absolutely glad she’s getting it, but she just feels like another unnecessary inclusion here. A hollow nod to what they think fans want to see. This deus ex cinema seems to just come out of nowhere during the final fight when the two main characters have put their differences aside to fight the larger evil and completely shatter whatever thematic accomplishment the movie may be striving for. Sure, we all know who Wonder Woman is, but imagine any other movie where, during the climax, a character that we’ve never seen before, that we know nothing about, just shows up to resolve the problem for the main characters before just leaving again. It doesn’t look good.
The last problem we want to talk about here is the seemingly muddled themes of the movie. This goes along with the second problem, because it’s always going to be hard to stay focused on the arc of your movie when you’re throwing characters in without reason, but the trailer looks like the thematic ball gets dropped toward the end of this movie. And it gets dropped hard.
Zack Snyder is no stranger to this problem. Even in Man of Steel, a central theme of the movie is that Clark Kent cannot reveal himself as Superman or the world will just lose its mind. He even lets his dad die because of this. Then, when the time comes for him to reveal himself, nobody really seems to make a big deal of it. The thematic payoff seemed to be when Superman snapped Zod’s neck, but that’s not what the movie had been building to at all. Sure, Superman is the all-American good guy and it’s never easy to take someone’s life, but Superman killing someone or not was not something that had been explored in that movie at all up until that point. That would have been a great thematic payoff for The Dark Knight or the Daredevil Netflix series, where the dilemma of whether or not to kill someone was actually a theme that had been established at some point before the climax.
Batman v Superman seems to have the same problem, where the themes of vigilantism and operating outside of the system and the mistrust that that breeds seem to be dropped as soon as Doomsday shows up. It is certainly dropped when Wonder Woman shows up, causing Batman and Superman to utter some of the worst cliched lines in recent memory.
These are our complaints with the trailer. Hopefully, your palate feels adequately cleansed. We know we feel a little better. Tell us what you think. Do you have other complaints about the trailer? Are we way off base and the trailer was awesome?