I’ve been writing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in my head ever since I got over mentally rewriting Man of Steel. By now you’ve probably read the reviews of this movie and maybe even seen it. So me telling you why it’s disappointing won’t help that much, I’d just be adding my small voice to a booming chorus. Instead, to help you understand why my heart is broken, let me tell you how easy it would have been to turn this into a good movie. I will be discussing the plot, so spoiler warning, I guess, but you’ve seen the whole story in the trailers anyway.
You start by combining the Bruce Wayne character and the Lex Luthor character into one person called Lex Luthor. He’s still allowed to have the bits of impotent, psychotic rage that Jesse Eisenberg brought to the film, but mostly he’ll be the angry, paranoid sociopath Ben Affleck played. We watch his journey as his self-importance gets decimated as he can do nothing when Zod and Superman destroy LexCorp Tower (instead of Wayne Tower) and slowly that helplessness turns into an insatiable need to prove how powerful he is, ultimately resulting in an obsession with destroying Superman.
A tragic Luthor, who starts out as a vicious, shockingly brutal vigilante? I think that fits the tone of this franchise and reinvents him in an exciting way, even though it still ends with his mania leading him to trying to kill Superman above all else. And you know what, the infamous “Do you bleed? You will.” line works as a delightfully ominous warning from a Luthor who is actually a threat. Superman movies always struggle with creating great villains, but that wasn’t the problem with Dawn of Justice. This movie’s problem was that it turned one of DC’s greatest heroes into the villain.
But the film needs Batman, right? There is a role for him in this movie too, it’s just the one that Wonder Woman was playing. In my version, it would be Bruce Wayne who’s snooping around Luthor’s business looking for information. He might even be checking out Superman too. Batman would be the no-nonsense character who avoids getting caught up in a stupid pissing match that Wonder Woman was. We would just catch glimpses of him through the film, but it would be enough to know that Batman was keenly aware of everything that was going on. Then, when Luthor is about to kill Superman with his Kryptonite spear, the Dark Knight appears and saves the day.
You see? Batman can be skeptical of Superman, even suspicious, but to actively try to destroy someone who has only saved people is just going too far. I want to see the heroes fight side-by-side, not with each other in a meaningless brawl. And so if Batman defeating Lex in isn’t enough for a finale, we can still have a big, CGI monster show up. Hell, it can even still be Zod’s reanimated body. Just instead of calling him Doomsday, we’ll call him Solomon Grundy. Since Grundy is literally a giant zombie, and a B-list villain who perfectly fits a limited, late-in-the-movie appearance. Doomsday and Superman’s death? Yeah, let’s save that for when it can actually matter.
If Zack Snyder had made this movie instead, it still wouldn’t have been perfect. It doesn’t address the dour, ominous tone of every Superman scene in the movie, or the ridiculousness of him being accused of slaughtering soldiers with a machine gun. But I see in the framework of this picture a worthy successor to Man of Steel. It just got so caught up in setting up a new Cinematic Universe it lost its way.