Movie Review: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Directed by Zack Snyder

Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

Starring: Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman

 

Warning: This is a film review and may or may not contain spoilers. I’m not very good on what does or doesn’t constitute a spoiler as I don’t review new films very often. You have been warned.

When it comes to the big two comic book publishers, I am a DC fan. For me, DC has always been much better in the writing department than Marvel. Their characters feel more three dimensional, and the story lines (for the most part) seem more well thought out. Contrast this with Marvel whose characters seem much more defined by their visual style than by their backstory, and whose story lines sacrifice depth and complexity for shallow convolution. When it comes to cinema, however, Marvel has fared much better. From Fox’s X-Men film franchise (barring, of course “X-Men Origins” and “The Last Stand”) to Marvel Studios’ own “Marvel Cinematic Universe” franchise, Marvel’s stable of shallow, overpowered, super guys just seem to translate better to the screen than DC’s cast of tortured vigilantes and “meta-humans.” Given the resounding critical and financial success of Marvel at the box office, DC decided to try and get in on the action. The first installment of the “DC Extended Universe” came in the form of 2013’s critically polarizing, but financially successful “Man of Steel,” a reboot of the “Superman” film series and an apology for 2011’s CG laced fiasco, “The Green Lantern.” While it wasn’t perfect, bearing the distinctly Zack Snyder trait of being dark for darkness’ sake, it was a decent first offering that actually left me with a little hope for a better sequel. That brings us to “Dawn of Justice.”

There was a lot of hype surrounding this movie, and right off the bat I have to say that it did not live up to it. The story kicks off roughly two years after the events of “Man of Steel.” Bruce Wayne witnesses the destruction of Metropolis at the hands of Superman and General Zod first hand. He sees the Wayne Financial building destroyed and several of his employees killed or maimed as collateral damage by the two warring aliens. He spends the next two years plotting to bring down the man of steel. Meanwhile, the public at large are coming to grips with their feelings toward Superman and his actions. Many have come to view him as a potential threat, including business magnate/psychopath Lex Luthor and a security obsessed senator from Kentucky. Meanwhile, some other stuff happens too. So much other stuff, in fact, that seems to have a barely tangential, if any at all, connection to the main story. It leaves the film having, despite it’s rather generous two and a half hour running time, a rather disjointed feel. Some of the characters’ motivations don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense either. While I can understand why Batman doesn’t like Superman, Superman’s disliking of Batman does not make a whole lot of sense. This is a guy who flies around the world and beats people to death’s door without due process of the law, but an average Joe who just happens to have a lot of money doing the same thing is somehow beyond the pale. It’s a bit like Joseph Stalin lecturing Adolf Hitler on the moral repugnance of mass murder. Why is Lex Luthor attempting to use Superman to kill Batman? Furthermore, why is Batman so suspicious of Lex Luthor in the first place? Surely it’s not due to Luthor’s attempting to gain access to kryptonite so he can kill Superman, because that seems like something they should ally on, am I right? Lois Lane’s presence seems unneeded in many parts of the film, particularly during the film’s four way climactic (and frankly forced) battle between Doomsday, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Doomsday’s presence also felt like a forced and pointless addition so they could build to a faux shocking conclusion. The circumstances of his creation in the DCEU are incredibly stupid. The CG on the character, and indeed the CG on the entire climactic fight looks absolutely dreadful. This is inexcusable in a film with a 250 million dollar budget. Marvel’s “Deadpool” boasts better CG on a budget one fifth the size of this film’s. Wonder Woman also seems out of place. Her presence in the film is completely irrelevant to any of the depicted events, save for when she is used as deus ex machina near the end.

While it may seem like I am heaping on the negatives (and there are a lot of them), there was some to like about this film. While Jesse Eisenberg is absolutly terrible as Lex Luthor, the other actors turn in pretty good performances. Henry Cavill is a good Clark Kent, despite his story line being a little boring. Gal Gadot is pretty memorable as Wonder Woman as well. While her presence was completely unneeded in the film, as she served little to no real function in any of the events she was shoehorned into, she plays the character convincingly. Of course, the real standout is Ben Affleck as Batman. While there was a lot of skepticism at the casting choice, including on the part of this writer, Affleck is one of the most comic book accurate live action depictions of Batman to date. The Batman solo sections of this picture were also some of the most memorable. That being said, there are some criticism to be leveled at these sections as well. Many of the dream sequences stupid and sort of out of character for Batman. The scene of him falling down the well and then being lifted up by the circling bats, the giant bat that bites his neck vampire style, it was just all very distracting and unwarranted. The Batbrand was also a little dumb. Seriously, why is he branding people?

In the future, DC would probably do well to choose a director other than Zack Snyder. Yes, the film was nice visually, aside from the Doomsday fight, but it seems like he doesn’t know how to keep the narrative focused. The actors, other than Eisenberg, played their parts very well, but a good performance in a confused movie doesn’t warrant parting with eight dollars. Rather than release this film, a solo Batfleck film and a proper sequel to “Man of Steel” would have also been preferable. Here’s hoping that “Suicide Squad” is better. If Marvel can recover from “Iron Man 3,” DC can come back from this.

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