Here is your warning, dear reader: I can only give a very biased opinion of the new DC Comics film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There are too many parts of the film that I feel very strongly about but for none of the reasons you may think.
You see, I did not grow up reading comics. I did not have the money as a kid to keep up with such a relatively expensive hobby, nor did my small town offer much in the way of comic book shops. I did, however, have friends who happily told me about everything, including one who was one of the kids that actually stood in line for hours back in 1993 just to get his hands on what was at the time the biggest comic book story ever.
Buuuut, I really got into the DC universe over the last few years. That’s what happens when you spend a few years married to someone who thinks Batman is the greatest anything ever. I also really got into the animated series’ and still maintain that DC does animation WAY better than Marvel does.
I love the animated shows and movies that DC has put out, and I’ve watched and re-watched several of them, including whole series like Young Justice and Justice League Unlimited. So yes, I am biased. I love the sly wit and bright tones of the Justice League stuff, and I love the darker Batman animated films. I’m okay with the dark stuff because they have such great characters and plots. Because even the really dark animated films still have heart and amazing storytelling.
Oh, and I also hate Zack Snyder as a filmmaker.
So there you have it. A few hundred words on why this review is going to be all over the place.
With that said, let me begin by saying that Batman v Superman is by far not the worst superhero movie ever. But it is still a hot mess. Any movie that starts with a bat vortex is going to be a weird one.
That’s right, the film starts off by showing us Batman’s origin by way of flashback/dream sequence. Then we move to ‘18 months ago’ to witness the Superman/Zod fight from Bruce Wayne’s point of view. This sets things in motion by showing Bruce (Ben Affleck) dealing with the tragic loss of life in Metropolis.
After that the film spends some time jumping between Batman and Superman (Henry Cavill) as they deal with the world around them and people’s very drastic reactions to them. The world still mostly thinks of Superman as a literal god among men--going so far as to build a ridiculous monument to him--while also treating Batman like a crazed, dangerous vigilante.
But of course we need to find a reason for these two to want to fight each other, so enter Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Superman is accused of murdering dozens of rebels somewhere in Africa while saving Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Batman is, well, a crazed, dangerous vigilante. Lex takes advantage of all this to sow mistrust and fear into the minds of America while also teasing out information to both Batman and Superman about how dangerous the other is.
PLUS, there’s the mysterious Diana (Gal Gadot) who appears at several points in the movie to act as a foil to Bruce Wayne’s attempts at gaining information on Luthor’s dirty deeds. ALSO there are suggestions that there are other metahumans on Earth, but they’re still in hiding.
Also also, Lex uses his status to gain access to the crashed Kryptonian ship and General Zod’s body. Also also also, there are a lot of dream sequences throughout the film. Most of them are blatantly used to help the main characters make up their minds, but there is one that makes damn near no sense and is obviously a set-up for the Justice League films.
So how does all that fit together into a 151 minute film? Very poorly, actually. Batman v Superman is overstuffed but at the same time you could take 30 minutes out and nobody would notice.
Which leads me to Zack Snyder. I’ve often said the man can do two things decently: fight scenes and music videos. Just look at Sucker Punch. I would have enjoyed if it were just 6 music videos but absolutely hated it as a movie. I do not believe the man can tell a coherent story nor can he put aside his own very strong beliefs in how source material should be worked into his film adaptations, so a lot of his personality leaks into his films. This would be fine if I liked his personality, but I always end up hating his interpretations. (See: the Night Owl/Silk Spectre sex scene on film as compared to the comic version.)
Which is a shame, because there is a good movie hidden inside all the janky camera and endless frowning. Ben Affleck is my new favorite Bruce Wayne. He plays up the playboy angle and the dark tone of the film actually helps. Gal Gadot was fine as Wonder Woman and I look forward to her standalone film. Jesse Eisenberg did a great young Lex Luthor and I loved seeing his interpretation of the young version of our favorite power-crazed mad genius, one who is still coming to terms with his own narcissism and hunger for power.
But holy crap the fight scenes were messy. Zack, I trusted you to do one thing right and you screwed that up! Too much shaky-cam and an abuse of slow-motion shots. Yeah, slo-mo was still cool when you did 300, but everyone’s been using it lately. Maybe here or there would have been fine but I’m pretty sure it was in every single fight.
Then there’s Doomsday. I know every newcomer to the comic book world gets to put their own spin on it but having a 30 foot monster made it seem silly. Maybe that’s just me, but I was hoping for a creature just a little bigger than Superman going toe-to-toe with all these heroes and holding his own. Not a beast that could rip Godzilla in half.
I also really don’t like how Batman kills people. No, I’m not upset THAT he kills people, I was just hoping for some sort of remorse or justification. Or maybe if he was going to kill he would do it because it was a last resort. Nope, this Batman has machine guns installed on all his vehicles and doesn’t mind using guns.
So there you have it. Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice. A bloated, confusing film that tries to tell a story while also setting up for the Justice League films and fails at both. It’s not a terrible movie and I still look forward to see what DC will do in the future. I just think it could have been a good film if it were handled by someone who understood plot structure or levity. But this is the future, folks. Your DC heroes are going to be murderers and scowlers and there will be nary a smile in sight.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer
Running time: 151 minutes