Movie Review – Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Let me preface this review with the fact that I have not been paid by Disney/Marvel (although I wouldn’t object to it), and that I am also a huge fan of both Marvel and DC universes. I also managed my expectations given the onslaught of poor critical reviews, sad Affleck memes, and reactionary push back from a fan base that hadn’t yet seen the film.

Here we go…. I have a lot to say.

In Batman V Superman, it’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

Really cool story, bro.

Despite some really great visuals in the trailer (the holy DC trinity!!), a lot of fans (including myself) expressed some concern at the studio jumping the gun on bringing together two separate franchises (one with a rebooted hero, no less), with no continual linking stories or timelines, into one massive film. It’s no secret that DC is running far behind Marvel in establishing its superhero teams. But with two such established characters, would the preamble of multiple lead in movies be necessary?

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The hype for this film has been astounding – and why not – two of the most legendary and best loved superheroes in comic book canon, finally facing off in an epic spectacle.

It was indeed, very epic – but also very messy.

The convoluted and sometimes absurd story and dialogue, and extremely heavy handed direction are the major problems with Batman Vs Superman.

I won’t shy away from the fact that I am not a fan of Zack Snyder’s directorial work – it confounds me that he’s been given the helm of DC’s most ambitious and large scale project (Justice League) without having proven himself in making a really good film. Snyder does have an eye for impressive visuals – his opening credits are always fantastic, although sometimes they’re more impressive and impactful than the film that follows.

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The movie shows little interest in explaining or justifying its knotted-up subplots. There are far too many storylines. I quite liked the “fallen from grace” judgement on Superman’s obliteration of Metropolis – however, the compounding factors of Superman’s guilt, Bruce Wayne/Batman’s mission to destroy Superman, Senate hearings (which I actually wish there was more of), Lex Luthor’s insane and rambling “god complex” theories, Doomsday, and the mysterious Amazonian beauty arriving in Metropolis muddle what could have been an interesting film. To add to the incoherent story, the audience is also treated to nonsensical “dream sequences” that earned quite a few confused laughs from my theatre (the bats?! the desert?!). Without them, the film could have easily knocked off 30 minutes from its 2.5 hour running time.

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The film is a lead in to a planned franchise, and isn’t shy in saying so. We detour into franchise-building just when the story starts building up a head of steam. Snyder pauses to introduce the DC heroes we can expect to see in the first full-on Justice League movie.

Batman V Superman really takes itself very seriously. The tone of the film is dark and dour, lending an air of impending doom and gloom on some really good action sequences. A serious story does not have to be full of angst.

It takes a really really REALLY long time for the confrontation between our heroes to actually happen – and in that time, the motives for the showdown become harder to define and increasingly nonsensical.

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The cast did a fine job with the material that they had. Ben Affleck was quite good as Bruce Wayne/Batman (dubbed “Batffleck”), however, his characterization (mostly the fault of the script) was not the “great detective” that we’re used to – relying mostly on brawn in combating his foes.

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Henry Cavill is also fine, if a little boring, as Superman – we’re not given a lot of insight into his internal struggle. He remains a beacon of good and innocence regardless of his actions (again, let’s remember that he levelled an entire City).

Jesse Eisenberg is silly in his portrayal as Superman’s foe Lex Luthor – jittery and almost cartoonish in his delivery of some really terrible lines. He lacks any real menace in his demeanor. I couldn’t tell if Eisenberg was really committed to the performance, or actually if he was committed to trolling the hell out of the audience.

Disappointingly, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) was an ineffectual damsel in distress for much of the film – serving as little more than an emotional distraction. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth is also used more as a cynical set piece than as Bruce Wayne’s trusted confidant.

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Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), when she finally and abruptly turns up (without backstory) becomes a real highlight for the audience. I’m looking forward to her standalone film, especially, if it isn’t directed by Zack Snyder. She shines simply by being less miserable and morally compromised than anyone else onscreen.

The action unfolds onscreen in a few brilliantly realized moments. There’s some really great fight choreography (specifically for Batman), and the acting is fine, despite the weak script. The writers seem to continually try to make amends for Man of Steel by repeatedly letting us know that the action is now taking place in uninhabited areas.  We get it.

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Batman V Superman is an overwrought, CGI-laden mess. Mind you, it’s not as tiresome as Man of Steel.  The film could have used much more heroism, and less of its grasping, sloppy, confused attempts to question what being a hero really means.

The mythos tied to Batman and Superman makes Batman V Superman seem like a gigantic and tiresome missed opportunity.

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