It’s finally here, “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”. Quite honestly it felt like this movie was never going to come out. First announced at Comic Con of 2013, it was supposed to be released in 2015 but was then pushed back to 2016 (and then moved forward again). When it was announced I could not have been more excited. Going into the movie today I was still extremely excited. I am a big fan of director Zack Snyder and I really enjoyed “Man of Steel”. I loved most of the trailers (most of them), I had a lot of confidence in Ben Affleck in the role of Batman and I actually liked the idea of doing a team up movie before all the solo films. I was certainly among the supporters of this movie. I think it’s also worth noting that my two favorite superheroes of all time is Batman and Superman (with Batman being my number one).
This all being said was “Batman V Superman” the movie I was hoping it would be? Unfortunately no, “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” doesn’t live up to its potential. There is a lot of positive in this movie like a great performance from Ben Affleck; incredible action and some interesting topical themes that are reflective of our society. The problem with the movie is the script. It’s disjointed, lumbering, overly complicated and missed some major opportunities. At times this feels like a Frankenstein monster being stitched together of different elements that don’t always work.
What’s interesting about the story is how directly it takes place after “Man of Steel”. I always had a feeling the events of that movie would play into this one. But in many ways the “Batman V Superman” feels like an epilogue to that movie. The world is divided on how to view Superman due to the destruction of Metropolis. Some see him as hero, while others view him as a danger to the entire human race. Bruce Wayne was in the city of Metropolis during the battle (of “Man of Steel”) where one of his buildings comes crumbling down killing many inside, including a friend of his. Wayne doesn’t trust this god like superhero and begins a plan to take him down.
The first 30 minutes of this movie is superb. We get a brief overview of Batman’s origins and then we get to see the events of “Man of Steel” from the perspective of Bruce Wayne. This gives us a view of those events from a more human and personal view. There is a good deal of emotion and gravitas to these scenes. This perfectly sets up Bruce Wayne’s distain for Superman.
If only the rest of the movie had that type of focus. I’m okay with movies going off to some tangents in order to round out the world or characters but this movie it goes on far too many tangents. I was worried this movie would be too crowded with not just Batman and Superman but also Wonder Woman (and also setting up future DC characters). The movie is too crowded but not for those reasons. The problem is the over complicated nature of its plot. There are numinous subplots involving Lois Lane; Lex Luthor, a disgruntled employee, and Batman’s investigation into Lex. But that’s just the subplots we still have Batman versus Superman; the beginnings of the Justice League, Wonder Woman, Doomsday and some nightmare sequences. Holy narrative plot lines Batman!
I appreciate screenwriters Chris Terrio and David Goyer attempting to create an intricately plotted movie but they miss the mark. Some scenes feel too short (as if they have been cut), the editing is strange; some scenes don’t flow into the others well and the narrative needs to be reconstructed. Certain sequences interrupt the flow of the plot. These scenes (like the nightmare sequences or the Justice League setup) would work better later in the movie or as post credits scenes. I do get the feeling the already announced three hour cut might flow better (or maybe it’ll be more bloated you never know).
The biggest question marks going into this movie were the performances. Many of the casting announcements flooded the internet with great debate. Ben Affleck is the most famous amongst them. Affleck though is perhaps the best part of this movie. He perfectly inhabits the character and the action involving Batman is some of the best action sequences the character has been a part of it. I do take issue with some of the character’s action but Affleck’s performance itself is great. I’m not ready to put him ahead of Michael Keaton or Christian Bale just yet (I want to see a solo film before I do that).
The next casting that caused upheaval was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. The trailers sold me on the performance because I thought he had a bit of a sinister edge to him. His performance is going to be very divisive amongst fans. For me I thought he was just okay…well a bit annoying actually. The character is almost as eccentric as Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka and completely over the top. I don’t understand why the character has to be played that way. Gene Hackman was over the top but it was a different time period. Kevin Spacey was bringing that version of the character back because “Superman Returns” was an homage to the Richard Donner “Superman” era. But why does Eisenberg have to be as crazy in this version? Why not make Lex Luthor a more grounded and scary businessman?
I digress though. The rest of the performances work. Gal Gadot doesn’t have much to do but she plays her part very well as Wonder Woman. This movie makes me more excited to see her solo film. Jeremy Irons kills it as Alfred (and provides the movie’ s moments of levity), and Henry Cavil is still great as Superman. Meanwhile Amy Adams continues to grow on me as Lois Lane.
Now how about the fight itself? It is called “Batman V Superman” after all! Batman taking on Superman is a monumental moment in modern cinema history (at least in this comic book fan’s mind). The fight itself does not disappoint. It’s exciting, it’s intense, it’s gritty but there is a couple big misses with this fight. We understand Batman’s reason for wanting to fight but Superman’s reason isn’t really explored. The reason why he goes to fight him is rushed and lazy. This should have been a fight of ideologies not for the reason why Superman ultimately fights Batman (I’m purposely tip toeing around spoilers).
Speaking of things that are not explored motivation in this movie is paper thin. Lex Luthor is given no motivation for his actions and is only given very vague easy to miss reasons. His “pulling the strings” really feels like an unneeded addition to the plot. Why does he hate Superman? Why does he hate Batman? Because he is evil….I guess? Is he controlled? Luthor as a character is given very little depth.
I also have to say as awesome as the final action scene is, Doomsday was a wasted villain. Doomsday could occupy an entire film but (as the trailer suggests) he only appears at the very end. This feel very similar to Venom in “Spider-Man 3”. A villain that is just shoehorned in at the very end for our main heroes to fight. Both of which needed a different visual design and both will hopefully be reused in future installments.
To begin to wrap up this long review, there are parts of this movie I loved; the tone, Ben Affleck, the incredible action, the first 30 minutes, and Zack Snyder’s visuals. I don’t think however this movie lives up to its potential. There is little to no focus and doesn’t have enough interaction between our main players Batman and Superman. The script is a mess of too many different plotlines that don’t connect and Doomsday is wasted. This movie makes a lot of the same mistakes that “Iron Man 2” and “Avenger: Age of Ultron” did. I can applaud this movie for taking chances but unfortunately they don’t pay off. I wanted to love this movie more than anything. But, I can’t stick my head in the sand and pretend I liked it either. This movie will have its fans and I’ve still got faith in the DC Cinematic Universe and that even includes Snyder directing “Justice League”. “Suicide Squad” better work out.