Setting up Clark and Bruce as Zeus and Pluto was brilliant. I hand never thought about this, but Pluto is a deity with complex history. But through confusion (Pluton/Plutos) he ends up being the god of the underworld and the god of wealth. Which, damned if that isn't a great way to set up Bruce Wayne. The opening dream secquence basically set s this up. Then you get Alfred as a Haephestus type character, confined to the underworld but forging the tools of the gods. Even the new entrance to the Batcave is evocative of crossing the Styx.
Then, and I didn't even notice it the first time through. Bruce is chasing Diana out of the party at Lex's and he gets cut off by a guy pushing a cake shaped like the Parthenon... He literally gets blocked by "Athena" twice. This after Lex gives his rambling speech about Prometheus and the power of knowledge being implicit... But we are introduced to Lex wearing a T-Shirt showing a monkey with a detonator, certainly a commentary on Prometheus as a character.
I have had this conversation with a friend a few times... The Avengers are a paramilitary organization. The Justice League is Mt Olympus. I have never seen It set up quite so blatantly.
The new Batcave also reminds of of Nu, the watery Egyptian underworld.. leaving Bruce with an interesting relationship to Kek, the god of Darkness, vs Clark's sun-god Ra. Something that gets reified when Clark takes Doomsday up to the sky, vs Bruce striking from the shadows, or hiding behind the rocks.
The second thing that was brilliant was Bruce as King Arthur. In the first few minutes you see the death of the Waynes.... again. The only thing that wasn't either something we have seen before, or right out of the comics was that the movie changed. It has always been a Zorro movie they went to go see. Which makes sense, because that inspires Bruce to put on the black mask and go all avenging angel on the world. They changed it to "Excalibur" which (a) maps really well to the time-line of 1981, and (b) sets up a ton of stuff through of the movie: The Battle of Metropoilis bits show Bruce wandering through the ash like the myst of Avalon. Bruce literally pulls the magic sword from the stone. Lois becomes the Lady of the Lake. Then you have Clark as Lancelot dieing to restore order to the land and inspire the crusade as Clark gathers the Knights.
Then you have the other part of this: the Messiah/Spear of Destiny. The fake sword of Alexander (!) had a silver sheath on it like the "fake" spear of destiny in Vienna, where the "real" one is in the Vatican under a statue, which is kind of how the spear ended up under the statues in the movie. The hamfisted Jesus references from Man of Steel are replaced with a bit of Jesus, a bit of Moses (who the original Superman was based on), a bit of Mithras. A bit of al-Mahdi.
StoryDamn if was finally great to see a Lex worthy of the name. I know lots of people didn't like Eisenberg. I though he was OK right up until that last scene. But seeing Lex (a) spend 2 years orchestrating a plot and feeding The Detective a mystery knowing he was chasing him, then (b) culminate it in a Win-Win scenario (Bruce kills Clark, win for Lex. Clark kills Bruce win for Lex). As much as I love Kevin Spacey, at least it wasn't a "Let's destroy the world to run a real estate scam."
But mostly, I loved the way this story was set up. Bruce, after Clark says "Martha" has a moment like Sam Jackson does in, one of my favorite movies, "Jackie Brown", which a lot of the thriller aspect of the movie seems copied from (not in a bad way). Affleck does a laudable job in a silent scene where you see him get past his pain and figure out that Lex has been fucking with him the whole time.
If the script has a problem, frankly it is that nobody ever stops and spells out what the hell has gone on. From Lex intercepting Scoot McNairy's checks, the polaroids, trickling info to Bruce about the metahumans and kryptonite. I get the feeling from a lot of people that they just never "got" it. And a lot of the reviews I have seen bagging on the movie seem to get large parts of the plot simply wrong.
EditingIt seems like a lot of things got moved around. I am not sure what the shooting script looked like, but one thing that makes my skin itch is the bit with Diana at the end. So Lex sets a timer for 1 hour. Has a 10 minute conversation and we cut to the docks where the timer says 35 minutes. Whatevs. But during this hour, Diana arrives at her hotel, goes to her room, presumably takes a shower, because then we see here checking her email in a bath robe, changes, packs up an leaves, gets to the airport goes through security and boards a flight.... in an hour. It was pretty obvious the hotel scene was supposed to be earlier in the movie but got moved to break up the two big action set pieces.
Through the middle of the movie, too, there is a lot of... movement... that doesn't seem set up. Lois arrives at the planet, but never leaves for there.Superman never sets off for Canada, and never leaves. Roger Ebert used to make jokes about "You can tell a porn movie by the amount of the plot driven by people walking into or out of a door, or getting into or out of a car." Strangely, this movie could have used a LOT more of that. I suspect a lot of stuff got cut for time.
LoisI have said for ages, if I was writing Man of Steel, I might have done the first 2/3rds of the movie from Lois's perspective, and made Clark more like the Cloverfield monster. Lois basically has 3 scenes in this movie where she isn't just a weepy mate or a damsel in distress, and they are good scenes. But seriously, it is a short story. She puts the Lex thing together before Bruce, but still can't seem to do anything with it until she rushes to Clark's side.
Was there more to that story? I would love to see it.
Dream sequencesI thought the were great, but the non-nerds I saw the move with thought they were cheesy. More than that, though, it wasn't quite so clear that the Knightmare sequence *wasn't* a dream. You see papers flying in the cave when Bruce "wakes up" which should be the cue to let you know it wasn't a dream, but it was really subtle. And more importantly lots of people (my friend Jeanette I saw it with tonight) don't even know that time travel is part of "The Flash" thing. The whole deal was completely lost on her.
Comic stuffThe, as my friends have described it, YouTube scene was (aside from breaking the timeline of the movie as I mentioned before) really tacked on, and if you aren't a comic book nerd, you missed ALL KINDS of stuff. That the Mother Box was even ALIEN wasn't really explained, never mind tying that to the "ringing of the bell" that presaged the Knightmare sequence. I also had people ask me why getting nuked make skeletor Clark, but a hole in the chest takes AGES to heal. I mean, really the only answer is "because that is how the did it in the books?" There is WHOLE CRAP TON of stuff in this movie that if you aren't familiar with the source material is really hard to get.
SummaryI freaking loved this movie. I still hate Zack Snyder's action sequences. I think Doomsday looked like a turd, and it might have been more interesting if it has been Bizzaro.
But I also totally understand why people hate this movie. There is a CRAP LOAD of requisite knowledge you need, and a lot of attention to visual details, you need to "get" the movie. I have seen people bemoaning that "Martha" as a plot point was beat on so heavily, and still, when I was at the early screening, walking out I chatted with a dude who still didn't get that Martha Wayne and Martha Kent had the same damned name.
I think if they had moved 10 minutes from the BvS fight and 10 minute from the Doomsday fight into the more "thriller" first half of the movie, you might be having a Best Picture contender. It would be like the opposite of Mad Max -- a genre picture about story and not spectacle, but Zack just can't cut back on the spectacle. And having your intrepid reporter character in your thriller with three of six pieces to the puzzle and still ineffectual from a story perspective is SAD.