Where does one even start to define what goes wrong with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice? It could be accurately described as a set-up towards the forthcoming Justice League films. It could also be described as another Batman starring vehicle that doesn’t successfully help you root for Batman. Or maybe it’s another misstep in Superman’s legacy in film. Personally, I would just call it a boring film. And that’s the last thing in a movie filled with iconic characters and a two and a half hour running time that we want.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice carries on from the less than successful Superman origin story, Man of Steel. Superman is still as dour and moody as ever. After the death of General Zod, the last being of his kind, Clark Kent lacks a sense of purpose in the world. With ongoing debates on the need for Superman in the world and the praise he receives in certain circles, he determines his worth throughout the film. Batman has little patience for the wreckage that Superman and his reckless encounter with Zod left in Metropolis. Witnessing the collapse of one of the many Wayne Enterprises buildings as well as the maiming of Scoot McNairy’s plot device of a character, Bruce Wayne decides to pick a fight with the Man of Steel to end the pain of the world at ease.
Don’t let this movie try to fool you, it has zero subtlety. The movie begins with another introduction to the beginnings of Batman/Bruce Wayne (played surprisingly well by Ben Affleck) eventually coming to a crescendo after falling into the cave as he rises out of it in an unintentionally hilarious Christ like pose. Batman is as tortured as ever. Killing bad guys and looking sad, Batman looks to horrify rather than protect. He leaves a group of captured kidnapped women in the basement of a rickety apartment as they say he is a “devil.” Affleck is able to pull off the moodiness of his character, but he’s not able to answer for the various missteps his character takes throughout the film.
Henry Cavill is still (somehow) charismatic and charming as Clark Kent/Superman. As much as the film attempts to tarnish the character, Cavill is able to carry his portion of the film and make him entirely believable. What’s even better (even more surprising than Affleck) is Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Watching her previous movies (you’ll find her in a few of the Fast and Furious films), you’d have a hard time seeing her as good as she is here. Despite the reveal of Wonder Woman in all her glory so late into the film, the effect is still incredibly powerful and adds a touch of fun to the film.
If there is anything to condemn here, it’s the rest of BVS. Director/Visionary/Hack Zack Snyder follows up the dour, silly, yet endearing, Man of Steel with this even more dour and even sillier sequel/launchpad for Justice League. I would be the last person to praise Marvel for their cinematic universe, but at least they have the common sense to expand the introduction to their full roster of characters for 5 or 6 films, not right into the second feature they made. Snyder and Co. are so preoccupied with setting up future films, co-writers David S. Goyer and recent Oscar winner Chris Terrio rush montages of The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman into a film that has no narrative purpose for them. Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of billionaire/supervillain Lex Luthor, worries more about how they can transform him into a Joker like character rather than work the characters fans are accustomed to. Comic book movies are allowed to veer off and create something new, but with zero understanding of how these characters tick, the movie runs off the rails very early on and never jumps back on the tracks.
Zack Snyder, along with longtime collaborator and cinematographer Larry Fong, know how to frame a gorgeous film. There is beautiful shot after beautiful shot, and it makes me even angrier that the narrative component can’t keep up with the visuals. Scenes of action are easy to follow and well shot, but that brings us to the editing. If I were to ask Snyder anything, I would ask him if he had a chimpanzee edit this. Without any understanding of how to edit a film, Snyder and the Oscar nominated David Brenner, mash a shot of someone talking to one person and jump to another person talking in another location without any form of establishing shot or establishment of anything intelligible.
Earlier this week, I wrote a review of A Brighter Summer Day, the 4 hour Taiwanese epic. I sincerely believe A Brighter Summer Day felt shorter than BVS did. At 151 minutes, the movie takes 90 of those minutes to finally get to a portion where Batman and Superman are within each others presence and another 30 for them to actually square off, it’s less Batman V Superman and more Snyder V Our Consciousness.
With a fatal misunderstanding of characterization and any sort of logic whatsoever, Snyder has created a Dawn of Disappointment. Any hope the critical and some of the general audiences have of any future DC comics film being any good has been squashed here and now. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a step in the wrong direction for nearly everyone involved and be forgotten as soon as possible. Unfortunately we get to look forward to Snyder’s two part Justice League adventure. Wake me up when there’s another reboot.
- Ben Affleck has done a great job with Batman/Bruce Wayne despite the script
- Gal Gadot is a highlight as Wonder Woman with a great theme to boot
- Larry Fong knows his way around a camera
- And Henry Cavill is still a solid Superman/Clark Kent
- The script is absolutely horrific
- The editing and pacing do not help the movie
- Nearly every character has no understandable motivation
- Zack Snyder's direction leaves no subtlety to the viewer
- Justice League will forever be tainted by Snyder's touch