After a little bit of a hiatus, we return with the latest DC film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Directed by Zach Snyder and starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavil, and Amy Adams, it is rated PG – 13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.
From IMDB: Following his titanic struggle against General Zod, Metropolis has been razed to the ground and Superman is the most controversial figure in the world. While for many he is still an emblem of hope, a growing number of people consider him a threat to humanity, seeking justice for the chaos he has brought to Earth. As far as Bruce Wayne is concerned, Superman is clearly a danger to society. He fears for the future of the world with such a reckless power left ungoverned, and so he dons his mask and cape to right Superman’s wrongs. The rivalry between them is furious, fueled by bitterness and vengeance, and nothing can dissuade them from waging this war. However, a dark new threat arises in the form of a third man: one who has a power greater than either of them to endanger the world and cause total destruction!
4.5 out of 10
Despite maybe the new Star Wars film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been the most hotly anticipated movie in recent memory. The announcement was made all the way back in the summer of 2013 as well as the fact that Warner Brothers was going to follow Disney and Marvel in creating a DC cinematic universe in the wake of Man of Steel, all leading up to a Justice League movie, which is scheduled to come out next year. We have been bombarded with trailers for this film for over a year, some that have revealed so much of the plot in my opinion, so I won’t spoil that here. I would try to tell you the story, but it is so long winded and convoluted that all I can tell you is that Bruce Wayne comes back from retirement to become the Batman again, and comes into conflict with Clark Kent aka Superman at some point in the film. There is also a young Lex Luthor played by Jesse Eisenberg on the side trying to toy with the heroes, along with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman looming around with various points of the film.
And failing at explaining the plot to you reveals what really doesn’t work with BvS: it’s forced use of way too many characters and side stories into one film. I feel that Dan Murrell, the editor for the youtube segment Honest Trailers, said it best when he likened the film to “walking into a Chinese buffet, only to find that they also serve caviar, pizza, Mediterranean food, and gelato,” all possible tasty foods, but just ending in a gross mush. It is basically five films (a Man of Steel sequel, a Batman solo movie, a Lex Luthor feature, a Justice League preview, and the actual Batman vs Superman conflict) all jockeying for time, which makes all five rushed and under explained. It makes last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, a film that also had way too many characters and side stories, paper thin in its plot comparison.
But before I go into specific complaint in the film’s story, let’s get positive for bit. The most controversial element of this film was the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, and he turned out to be the most widely acclaimed part. Affleck is actually quite sensational as an older and broken Bruce Wayne from past tragedies that I am sure they will go into in his upcoming solo movie, which may be possibly directed by Affleck himself. Although there have been SEVEN other Batman live action films, this may be the most comic book accurate costumes we have seen in any of his previous incarnations. His regular costume looks incredibly stylish and his kryptonite suit that he dawns to take on Superman is directly taken from the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. There is a fight scene with Batman tearing his way through a warehouse that is easily the best scene in the film.
The character of Wonder Woman is also pretty compelling in her limited screen time. Gadot is able to tip toe the line between tough and seductive very well and makes me very interested to see her in the first wonder woman live action solo movie next year. Although Eisenberg plays a much different Luthor in history, I found him quite interesting and a bit humorous in his role, seeing that both him and the writer’s fully went for this different interpretation. But it is the character of Superman that I felt was completely underused and mishandled. His “inner struggle” after the events of Man of Steel are lazily thrown together, and overall he’s given very little to do, along with Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, in the overall scope of the film.
As with most Zack Snyder films, the look of the film feels fully polished and strikingly beautiful, but he does rely in style over substance overall. The characters, I feel, are unnecessarily dark, without any reason as well, and is a bad idea to continue this string of darkness that Snyder portrays in the upcoming Justice League film.
Despite all of these other factors, the film could really be saved by a strong conflict by the titular heroes. And the fight, although its short length, is pretty intense and well executed in keeping both characters on a similar level, but it is the ideological battle, or lack thereof, that makes you feel very little during the conflict as well. It feels like they waste the first two hours of the film with Justice League teases or weird dream sequences and so have to slap together a very contrived reason for them to fight at the very end.
Overall, Batman v Superman is an overstuffed, mostly joyless venture with a few excellent moments and characters to look forward to, but with all of the hype going it, is a failure through and through.
4 out of 10
You know, as a tutor (Shameless plug), I’ve really learned one overarching lesson: a mistake isn’t truly a mistake as long as you learn from it. It’s okay that you stumbled as long as you hit your stride. And, hey, Warner Brothers really stumbled with that last Supes feature so it’s time for them to start their strut, right? They hit the (comic) books and came back swinging after that last half-baked effort?
No, no they didn’t. You forgot this is Hollywood and Hollywood is brain dead. You forgot that Hollywood has short term memory loss and can’t remember what it had for breakfast much less its last misstep. You forgot that a team of writers and filmmakers poring over cut after cut can somehow fumble Batman v. Superman (Come on, that title writes itself) even when handed the greatest Bruce Wayne actor we could’ve asked for and given heaps of source material to work off of.
Batman v. Superman is a microcosm of everything wrong with the D.C. Cinematic Universe (as if it’s earned that title). It’s a near-three hour patchwork of clumsy stabs at constructing a franchise inhabited by actors forced to spurt dry, exposition-heavy dialogue. Props to the viewer who can follow this because it’s busy as hell; there’s so much going on that you do not care what’s going on (I think I had better luck with Interstellar). Is it delightfully comic book-y? Yeah, at some points, but damned if that isn’t quickly negated by the drabness of all the proceedings.
Let’s back up to what I said in the beginning and start with the problems that this film inherited from the last Superman installment. Again, I’m really appalled by Warner Brothers’ refusal to reform its past blunders as this film suffers from almost all the same ails the CGI bombardment Man of Steel did; there are no stakes to the deafening action and there’s no investment in the characters we should know and love. Both are lifeless because the story refuses to breath anything into either, it instead invests in convoluted detours and (your favorite word from these superhero reviews) table setting.
This round cranks both those issues up to 11 and additionally boasts some slapdash editing and a suffocating runtime on top of those issues (which by themselves could tank a film). As for the actors, well, they’re trying but they don’t have all too much to work with. Cavill and Adams are passable. Eisenberg delivers a downright weird performance as a wunderkind (Oh, it’s as weird as it sounds) Lex Luthor and Gal Gadot makes a fine Wonder Woman (Though this movie was doing poor enough with just its two heroes). The only absolutely stellar one in the bunch is Ben Affleck and let’s just say this is not the Batman movie he deserves (Reference completely intended).
And yeah, there are some silver linings. Zack Snyder knows how to bring a comic page to life and the actual title fight does keep this film’s score from sinking a little. Yet, really, any shining moments are swiftly dragged down by the rest of this 18-wheeler. Maybe the box office dip this movie’s had these past few weeks will convince Warner Brothers to build its writing team instead of its Justice League. Or maybe (probably if this is any indicator) they’ll just keep on plugging away and making those same mistakes.