Review: Batman v. Superman - Dawn of Justice -OR - The $500M Battle of the Butt-Chins
Fast Review for Short Attention Spans:
Batman v. Superman is a decent superhero movie which is getting a lot of hate from critics and decent reviews from fans. Is it great? No. But, it is above average. It is slow at times and prefers to focus on Batman than anything else. The movie is worth a watch for you to judge for yourself.
You can skip to the bottom to see my Final Grade - Based off the Girlfriend Scale
Batman v. Supeman - Dawn of Justice was a gorgeous looking movie which explores the consequences of Superman’s actions from 2013’s Man of Steel. The film is very heavy and cerebral as it wrestles with superheroes, their existence and whether or not mankind need them. In true DC cinematic universe fashion, the colors are muted, the characters are moody and levity is sparse. Bruce Wayne/Batman as well as Lex Luthor, grapple with the concept of Superman and what his godly power, alien existence and destructive potential, mean to world.
Batman v. Superman - Dawn of Justice took a couple of days for me to digest. My first reaction after watching it was...not for me. And, after 72 hours, I stand by that decision. The movie was not made for me. But I did not hate it and I think the movie has its merits.
**Now, before I go into this, I will not spoil any major plot points. But, I will discuss some things which people may not want to know ahead of time. I will go on record saying that while this is not a direct sequel to Man of Steel, it is directly tied to it.**
We open with yet another retelling of Batman’s origin where his parents are gunned down and young Bruce was forced to watch. We are gifted with a very beautiful and haunting way of seeing the Wayne’s deaths, with emphasis on Bruce’s mother, Martha. In fact, a lot of this movie hinges on how the heroes, Batman and Superman, relate to the women close to them. But that is not necessarily a good thing.
Following the events of Man of Steel, Bruce/Batman has a vendetta against Superman. Think of him as a man of the people and your window into this world. Simultaneously, Clark Kent is hell bent on investigating and stopping the violent vigilante justice of the Batman. So, naturally, our titular heroes are on a collision course.
Lex Luthor Jr., played by Jesse Eisenberg is a genius level intellect, gifted man with possible autistic like traits. He is not the Lex Luthor from classic DC, but that Lex’s son. He is his eccentric, fast-talking, rambling and burdened with too much knowledge. Lex is seeking access to the Kryptionian warship from Man of Steel which crash landed in Metropolis (and conveniently is still in the city after 2 years) and access to more of the strange material, kryptonite, from various alien wreckage sites. He wants the government to back him as he seeks to create a Superman deterrent.
Now, I’m going to be honest, Eisenberg’s performance, in my opinion, went for Heath Ledger’s Joker, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and David Tennant’s Kilgrave from Jessica Jones. And he missed. Rather than being a psycho who is charming, he is creepy, off-putting and bombastic. As the movie continues, his plan, if you can call it that, seemed to be whatever Zack Snyder, his army of writers and the plot needed. His character's arc goes from quirky, to crazy, to obsessed, to zealot. But, at least he wasn’t boring.
Which brings me to Amy Adam’s Lois Lane and Henry Cavil’s Superman. If you saw Man of Steel, then you saw the exact same, sad, joyless performances. Lois is used as little more than a damsel in distress constantly. Superman’s demeanor is once again portrayed as the last person to the party throughout the movie as he plays catch up to vastly smarter people. In almost every instance where Superman is on the screen, he is in reaction mode as opposed to proactive. Perhaps that is how he has always been portrayed, but it is somewhat dull on screen.
The breakout star of the movie is Ben Affleck. Yes, I said it. I will 100% admit to being one of the haters when he was announced as Batman. But, Ben brings it in a major way. This is the comic movie Batman I’ve been waiting for. He’s not perfect, but he’s the best we’ve seen. And yes, I place him above Bale in the Nolan trilogy. Affleck’s performance as Batman is raw, human power. This batman is unhinged, prone to violence, has psychotic breaks in reality and uses fear and darkness to his benefit. Now, he is not the detective we know him from comics. Some may argue this. But I feel this Batman is the proactive force while Superman is the reactive one. He deeply resents Superman to the point of obsession. But, that hatred turns on a dime as a the plot required it, leading them to act as allies.
Wonder Woman, as Diana Prince, has a few appearances in the movie. When she is revealed in the film as the Wonder Woman character, it is drowned out by an in-house musical arrangement that is part Led Zepplin synth and Xena, but not in a good way. However, her action scenes are top-notch and from what they show of her and her back story, I am excited for her stand alone movie.
The rest of the Justice League has minor cameo’s that some people did not like how it was presented. I did. I felt it was a better way to do it than shoehorn in too much which would detract from the overall narrative.
Now, with that said, the plot is razor thin. Some people don’t like Superman, his power and what happens in his wake. They go to great lengths to love or discredit him. Lex forces a confrontation between Batman and Superman. Then, yes, Doomsday appears as the trailers revealed. This thin plot is deeply flawed by an overly long, winding movie that takes it’s sweet time getting anywhere using a lot of exposition and many aimless side-plots.
Some defenders of this movie will claim the general populace is too accustomed (read: dumbed down by some blog sites) to Marvel’s way of telling a story. Maybe that is true. Maybe it isn’t. But, there was a 45-50 minute stretch following the opening to the middle where very little happened or plot was advanced. So, you watch it and judge for yourself.
I want to close on a couple last thoughts. First, I feel this was Batman’s movie above all else. The best lines, the best scenes, the best action and the best plot, revolves around him. He was the star of the movie and I feel Zack Snyder really wanted to direct a Batman film. Second, with how the movie’s third act progressed I am excited to see where the Justice League movies go. Third, the final plot-point of the film felt forced and unnecessary and serves to only answer the argument the opening of the movie presented of whether we need heroes or not.
My last point, and perhaps the reason this movie did not resonate with me, is because I am a fan of the Warner Bros./DC animated series of Batman, Superman and the Justice League. To me, these portrayals of DC’s heroes are THE BEST representations. Superman in these series was powerful and wise. Wonder Woman was powerful and complex. Batman was a detective first, warrior second and lived by a code. The Batman in Batman v. Superman kills. Yes, he kills people now. He literally shot a truck full of bad guys, blew them up and drove the batmobile through the burning wreckage and their corpses. I applaud Warner/DC for taking chances in this movie, but I feel they were the wrong chances.
Batman v. Superman - Dawn of Justice was, in many ways, Zack Snyder’s 2009 Watchmen all over again. Pretty, well constructed, slow, brooding and beating you over the head with morality and its own importance. Sadly, muted colors and frowning actors against a 9/11 backdrop does not give it gravitas. The movie was beautiful and presented on a grand scale. It gave us a definitive Batman, powerful Wonder Woman and a glimpse of the coming Justice League. The movie grapples with real world(ish) consequences of superheroes and for that alone, you should applaud what the movie attempts. The movie begs the question: Does the world want superheroes? But, who is it asking? The audience that paid money to see a superhero movie? Or was Zack Snyder, once again asking, “Who watches the Watchmen?” When Batman v. Superman works, it really works. When it drags, it really drags. Did I like it? No...and oddly, yes. Would I see it again? Yes.
Final Grade - Based off the Girlfriend Scale:
Your girlfriend comes out of the bedroom wearing a new outfit, her hair done up and dazzling make-up. She asks you how she looks and you respond “You look fine.”
Read into that what you will.