Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Star 2.5

What should audiences expect from a blockbuster superhero film? What should I (a big batman nerd) expect from a film promising an epic showdown between two of the most beloved comic book characters of all time? What should we (movie-going population as a whole) expect from a gigantic movie that’s main objective is setting up a larger shared universe to rival Marvel’s highly successful hit-machine? Those are questions that have many different answers, but for me it comes down to two questions, “Is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a good movie?” and “Was it entertaining?” Which the answers are no, not really and well kind of – it has its moments.

First, the bad news. Batman v Superman is an uneven hot mess for the first 90 minutes of its run time. Not only is it all over the place with subplots galore involving uninteresting twists and turns seemingly headed absolutely nowhere, the first two acts are pretty boring. How can a movie with Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) squaring off on the big screen be so bland? The script is a no fun, predictable, trudge of junk that paces this behemoth of spectacle inching along at a snail’s pace. The film keeps reminding us that Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down in front of him as a child and that Kal-El came from another planet and has trouble coming to grips as an alien living on earth despite being raised by the wholesome and loving Kents. As if anybody in the world needs to get caught up on the origins of Bats and Supes. These are all overplayed superhero trappings that you would think director Zack Snyder and company would’ve stayed away from in order to a deliver a fresh energy to an old story. Unfortunately the filmmakers do the exact opposite. Not only are the tired origin stories wedged throughout, almost every big reveal or advance in plot can be seen coming from a mile away. A very exciting premise for this iteration of Batman and Superman was that Snyder and the writing team were going to be drawing inspiration from Frank Miller’s classic graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns”. But besides some visual aspects and a few clumsy political undertones, this is not at all in the vein of Frank Miller. That’s the strange thing about the film, for somebody who has went to great lengths to duplicate imagery from comics in his film adaptations, Snyder ends up with very little of that here.

I don’t go to superhero movies searching for plot holes and dumb logic, but if that is what you’re into Batman v Superman is full of them. It would be a painfully funny exercise in futility to go into detail about all of them, but the one that stood out the most is: Why don’t Batman and Superman just talk to each other about what’s going on? This whole feud could’ve been alleviated had they just had a cup of Joe to shoot the breeze. It’s such a nonsensical, uneven screenplay. There are times where you just want to grab the reigns of the movie and steer it in a logical direction that you absolutely know would work better.

The two worst aspects of the film involve Snyder’s hypocrisy. Bats gets a body count? That is lame on so many levels. That’s what that character is built on. That rule. The last of a dying breed keeping the torch of humanity lit. Why does Snyder find it necessary to turn Batman in to an urban Rambo with a thirst for blood? A new brand of justice? No, just lame. I’ll give Snyder his no apologies approach to a new “vision” of Batman, but the pandering in regards to online gripes of Man of Steel is pathetic. The critical backlash of Supes’ disregard for human life, battling it out with Zod in heavily populated areas leaving Metropolis looking like ground zero, gets addressed with kid gloves here as it’s apparent throughout that an effort was made to have all of the major fight sequences take place away from innocent bystanders. One scene even has a CNN reporter’s voice off-camera commenting about the fact that most of the downtown commuters had already went home for the day. Good thing Doomsday was released on a downtown rampage just after happy hour! Although the cast is the bright spot, a couple of characters just didn’t work for me. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is reduced to a hollow place holder in BvS. Adams has nothing to work with and the love story between Clark/Superman and Lois gets no development here. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) ends up being a dud as Eisenberg gets caught trying to do a cheap knockoff of Heath Ledger’s Joker at times and never really feels like an authentic Lex to me. And don’t even get me started on the gratuitous dream sequences. As if Snyder’s death toll wasn’t scaring the younger audience enough, we have these wild departures of tone that look like trailers for sci-fi movies having nothing to do with the “story” that abruptly end with Bruce Wayne waking up. You cut that 15 minutes out of the movie and it would’ve been much more fluid and watchable.

The most disappointing aspect of BvS is that the movie is no fun. I like many of Zack Snyder’s films including two of his previous comic adaptations Watchmen and Man of Steel, two films that are far superior to this one. But, instead of being inspired by the comics and embracing fan feedback from MOS, Snyder seems sadistic in giving fans the opposite of that in BvS, a departure from the mythology that shows he is set on poking the bear that is the fan boy base. In a lot of ways I don’t know how this movie got made the way it did. A lot of wtf moments for me.

But, there’s some good stuff too. If you can get past the mostly bonkers happenings of a weak story and script, BvS does have nice pieces. First off, the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is excellent. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are together on the big screen for the first time, and it’s a very cool moment. The only thing is that it takes over two hours to get to that point. Batfleck is the biggest surprise of the entire thing. He is a surprisingly good Bruce Wayne/Batman and I look forward to seeing his solo Batman movies in the years to come. Wonder Woman was near perfect. Gadot brings the heat and shows that she’s ready to start a revolution and pave the way for female heroes on the big screen. I was truly blown away by Wonder Woman. Everything about her screen time was just great. I was starting to dig the back and forth that we see between Bruce Wayne and Alfred (Jeremy Irons). I think their dynamic shows promise, it’s too bad that this disjointed script has Alfred talking to a computer screen for the majority of his part. I felt like Cavill’s talent gets squandered in BvS too, as he’s a great as the Man of Steel and seems to be sulking or snarling throughout the whole movie. Not to say that Cavill is bad though, he still makes the best of it. The last hour really saved the entire thing from being a disaster for me. There were pieces of the third act that gave me chills. Once the heroes started teaming up and introducing Wonder Woman into the mix I actually started enjoying myself.

In the end though, so much of the bad from BvS could’ve been saved with making the movie about forty minutes shorter. Why do big releases from the genre have a prerequisite to be so epic? Do we really need a 153 minute superhero movie? Nolan’s The Dark Knight was almost the same run time, but you would never notice it. And that’s a big problem with expectations. Nolan’s trilogy spoiled us. Maybe, forever.

-JB