SPOILER WARNING: This feature contains major spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen it yet.
Walking out of the cinema after watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice I had to ask myself, did I just watch a really long, really over-styled music video? It was as if Zack Snyder had made a cool trailer for his superhero-off, and then decided spreading it out over 2 hours 33 minutes was all he needed to do (god help the people who watch the 3-hour long director’s cut!).
Like all great relationships, Batman and Superman desperately need to work on their communication skills if they’re going to give the likes of Marvel a run for their money. And I’m not just talking about the need for a fuller, more rigid script (although that certainly would have helped). No, the problem with Batman v Superman is that none of the characters in Zack Snyder’s all-style, no-substance superhero movie actually talk to each other for more than 5 seconds.
Sure, there’s plenty of glances, moody stares and awkward silences, which might overall make the ‘conversation’ more than 5 seconds long, but no one’s saying anything. And I don’t mean no one’s saying anything of importance. I mean, NO ONE’S SAYING ANYTHING. This would be a problem for any movie, but for a film with multiple major characters to introduce, and an extended universe to launch, it’s disastrous.
Considering this is supposedly the ultimate showdown between two of the world’s biggest heroes you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve chatted some, fallen out, or even, you know, met. Nope. Superman and Batman meet a grand total of once (plus once as Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent) before they go at it and the conversation is no more than a high school bitching match. You’ll have seen it in the trailer; Supes crashes Bat’s car and tells him in 10 words or less to stop saving people because that’s his thing. Bat's reply? He wants to know if the Man of Steel bleeds. Not creepy or gross at all.
It’s an excellent bit of aggressive banter, and when I saw it in the trailer it gave me chills. I just assumed it was a teaser of things to come; a titbit from a wider disagreement or on-going conversation between the pair, but no. Superman might as well have yelled: “Your mum!” and flown off. Doesn't Batman wonder why Superman is pissed with him? And vice versa. We know why (he can burn the Earth! He brands people!), but they haven’t told each other. I don't know about you, but if the guy I was trying to take down thought I was the bad guy, I’d be asking why. Maybe they’re too busy constantly saving Lois and being broody to sit down and talk it out, but surely their civilian personas know each other a bit, right? RIGHT?
The only other time you see the pair interacting is as Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne at Lex Luthor’s party, and guess what? That entire conversation - the entire thing - is also in the trailer you saw months ago. While the pair throw shade at each other like no one I’ve ever seen, cheap insults and one liners do not a conversation make. If you were hoping this would be the moment the pair realise each other's secret identities and reveal their mutual beef, you’re going to be disappointed.
Luckily Lex Luthor turns up just in time to distract us with an even weirder addition to the conversation. You know the one I’m talking about: “Bruce Wayne meets Clark Kent. I love it, I love bringing people together!” Also in the trailer (was there any dialogue NOT released before the movie?), this statement alone begs the question, why does Luthor know or care who Kent is? We’d certainly expect him to be familiar with Bruce Wayne who’s a minor celebrity and, you know, on the guest list, but an unknown reporter who’s just there to cover the red carpet? The obvious answer is that he knows who Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne really are and is enjoying toying with them. Yes, that must be it. And Lex knows their secret identities… how?
How the baddie of the movie comes into possession of this incredibly valuable knowledge is never explained or even said out loud. There no unmasking, no gloating on his part, nothing. Superman and Batman have used a pair of glasses and the admittedly more effective mask to conceal their true identities from the world for years, but we're just supposed to accept that Lex knows who they are. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could find out somehow, but surely this is a plot point worth a few words of explanation?
It seems that Batman’s secret identity is common knowledge though, as when Superman comes to find him after their one very intense, very short interchange, he calls him Bruce. Yep. There’s no, ‘Hey Batman, I know we don’t like each other but I need your help’, he’s like, ‘Hey Bruce!’ Who the fuck is Bruce and why do you think he’s Batman? No one told you, not on screen anyway. Sure, you know Wayne is up to something dodgy because you overheard Alfred’s secret instructions at Lex’s party, but that doesn’t mean you know he’s Batman. He could be a spy. In fact, it’s more likely that Bruce Wayne is 007 than he is Batman, so why did you call him Bruce? WHY?
It’s not just the main trio of characters who seem to be mind-readers though. Lois Lane has also been keeping her superhero telepathy under wraps until now. Incredibly, the most meaningful conversation between the two caped heroes comes at the end of “the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world” when Batman has Superman pinned, and Henry Cavill grunts: "Save Martha", to which Batman bellows back, "Why did you say her name?!" It’s deep, seriously.
Obviously, the Bats is wondering why the hell his enemy is saying his dead mum’s name, but thankfully Lois Lane rocks up to tell him that Martha is Superman’s mum’s name too and the world makes sense again. Except it doesn’t, because how did she know whose name Superman had said? He could have said Martha... he could have said Lois... hell, he could have said Hillary Clinton and considering he’s struggling to get the words out from under Batman’s foot and she wasn’t even in the room at the time, the only way we can work out how Lois knew what he said is that she’s telepathic. Enter Professor X.
My ‘Lois Lane is really an mutant’ theory is also supported by the fact that after Batman and Superman make friends she, quite wisely, decides to get rid of the Kryptonite spear Bats made to destroy Supes. While she searches for a deep well to chuck it down, Doomsday makes his introduction and Batman and Superman start getting their asses kicked. Running outside she sees… well, burning buildings and fire, but as far as the audience is concerned, not Doomsday. And yet, she runs back to find the Kryptonite spear because it’s only thing that will destroy him. No one tells her that’s what they need, no one even looks in her direction. She just knows. See? Lois Lane is psychic.
Henry Cavill is presumably used to Zack Snyder's ‘minimalist’ approach to dialogue, but I have to wonder why Ben Affleck didn't ask why he didn't have more than 10 lines in the entire movie when his script was delivered. Looks like those Daredevil decision-making skills are alive and well, despite the Oscar win. With two Justice League movies (plus, plenty of solo outings) on the horizon, here’s hoping Snyder and DC have a heart to heart about what they want to say in their next film. For, you know, more than 5 seconds.