*Heavy sigh* Where…do I…begin? Well, I guess it’s good to start with the guy in charge, director Zack Snyder. He’s a guy with a mixed track record (what with films like 300 and Watchmen under his belt), and I didn’t think he was the right guy for this film. The same goes for co-writer David Goyer, who also helped write and/or conceive the stories for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Goyer hasn’t done too well when someone wasn’t there to hold him him back – Blade III, anyone? DC needed filmmakers with better track records creating the building blocks for its cinematic universe. While I was hesitant going in to Batman v Superman, I also was willing to give the director, the writer and the film the benefit of the doubt. I wanted the film to be good. *Heavier sigh* It wasn’t.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (or Yawn of Justice, as my wife likes to call it) takes place 18 months after the devastating events of Man of Steel. Metropolis is still shaken in the wake of the Zod vs. Superman fight that leveled half (or more) of the city. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) had office buildings in Metropolis and witnessed the destruction firsthand.
From that day forward, Bruce, who’s been secretly fighting Gotham crime for decades as Batman, has seen Superman (Henry Cavill) as an enemy who has the potential to rule or destroy the whole planet.
Superman’s situation isn’t made any better by a recent skirmish he had in Africa rescuing Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from some naughty men with guns. Innocent Africans die at the hands of these goons and Superman is blamed (because I guess people think a guy who can shoot lasers out of his eyes or blow over a building with a sneeze needs to hire normal guys with guns). Lois knows Superman is innocent and seeks to find out who is really behind the gunmen.
Meanwhile, some in the U.S. government and many who suffered during the attack on Metropolis want Superman to answer for deaths and injuries they think he’s responsible for. Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg), a rich, dastardly business man who needs to switch to decaf, gets a hold of a large chunk of Kryptonite that he intends to weaponize against Superman. He also gains access to Zod’s body and his half-destroyed Kryptonian ship. Luther starts performing experiments on both, which isn’t a good sign for our heroes.
With protests, suicide bombings and mass destruction occurring because of or in opposition of Superman, Batman is forming a plan to take out the Man of Steel for good. But will Batman and Superman be able to look past their differences and come together to stop an even greater foe that may be strong enough to destroy not only them but the whole world?…Oh, and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is also in the movie.
Now, did you get all that? I hope so because this movie is all over the place. Its plot has ADHD. Scenes come and they quickly go. This isn’t as jarring as the movie goes on, but the beginning of the movie seems especially chaotic, like it’s trying to jam in all these different elements into one movie that can’t possibly fit them all. To give credit where credit is due, the scenes are all relevant to the plot and it does all nicely come together in the end. Better editing, however, would’ve led to much needed order early on.
But enough about the plot. How are our characters? Let’s focus on the three big attractions: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman is on point and pretty awesome. She isn’t in the movie all that much, though, and while cool, she comes off as too little too late.
Superman is still acting all emo and is far from the bright, colorful and optimistic superhero he should be.
Batman…oh, boy. Where to start. As much as Snyder doesn’t understand Superman (what with that whole *SPOILER* killing Zod thing in Man of Steel), he REALLY doesn’t understand Batman. I would’ve thought the Caped Crusader would be right up Snyder’s alley. The character’s dark tone is closer to the other comic book movies Snyder has directed, such as 300 and Watchmen. I was wrong.
Snyder commits the Batman cardinal sin. He has the Dark Knight kill people…He has Batman kill A LOT of people. He might kill more people in this movie than the bad guys do.
In a recent interview, Snyder tries to worm his way out of this by saying he staged the deaths in a way that didn’t make Batman directly responsible. Snyder has also said Nolan’s films had a body count of around 42 and Tim Burton’s Batman movies also had a lot of dead bodies. So, from Snyder’s point of view, the superhero with one rule (no killing) hasn’t exactly abided by that rule in past films either.
One, no matter how Snyder tries to spin it, the deaths of the henchmen in this movie are completely Batman’s fault. Batman hurls enemy cars into other vehicles or shoots enemy equipment with the knowledge that those actions will cause explosions and death. If he doesn’t know that then he’s an absolute moron far below the pay grade of the World’s Greatest Detective. This isn’t even mentioning the few times Batman fires machine guns at criminals just willy-nilly.
Two, I can’t remember Batman ever directly killing anyone in the Nolan films with the possible exception of Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins. Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight does kill some people in the Burton films, though. That all being said, just because other filmmakers violated the one rule, Zack, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to do it. How about you be the first to rectify those past character mistakes instead of making them far, FAR worse.
I feel kind of bad for devoting so much of this review to ragging on Batman. He’s one of my favorite superheroes, he admittedly looks fan-fricken-tastic in this movie with the great Batsuit and (minus the machine guns) Batmobile, and Affleck does an admirable job in the role.
I was actually worried going into this movie that Affleck wouldn’t hack it. This wasn’t because I thought Affleck was a bad actor. He’s a fine actor. I just thought he was too well-known to play the part and that I wouldn’t be able to watch the movie without thinking, “That’s Ben Affleck pretending to be Batman.” Well, to his credit, I was able to see Affleck as a character. Sadly, that character is not Batman. It’s not Affleck’s fault. The writing is way off, and I’m not just talking about violating the no killing rule. It’s obvious Snyder doesn’t understand what makes the character who he is and what lessons Bruce learned from his parents’ deaths. (I don’t care if Batman quotes Frank Miller’s The Dark Returns. The lesson Batman espouses still doesn’t feel in character.)
There’s a greater problem than the all over the place plot and the the gross misunderstanding of Batman and Superman. This movie is hardly any fun at all. I admit that when he wasn’t shooting people or causing things to ‘explode real good,’ Batman’s fight scenes were cool. There’s an acknowledgement that he’s a skilled fighter able to take down 10-20 thugs without a problem. No other on-screen interpretation has been able to capture this so clearly and perfectly.
BUT the fight between Batman and Superman feels contrived and lasts 10 to (MAYBE) 15 minutes. That’s shockingly little time when the fight is the premise of the gosh darn movie. The lead up and tension building before the brawl isn’t even well-done. Hell, the whole scrap could be avoided if Batman would stop acting so rashly and actually listen to what Superman is trying to tell him at the beginning of the fight. But then we wouldn’t have a film.
Batman and Superman aren’t even featured in the film all that much. Bruce and Clark are, but they aren’t in their costumes a lot of the time. When they are, they spend most of their time talking about how much they dislike each other or how much their lives suck. (Oddly, enough for the amount of time spent on characters talking, they all felt very one dimensional.)
That’s part of the reason the film is no fun. Everything is so darn dark not only in cinematography but in tone. Seriously, it’s saying something when I’m wanting to tell Batman to lighten the heck up. It’s also wrong when a movie called Suicide Squad (DC’s followup film to Batman v Superman that features a team of villains/anti-heroes and the psychotic Joker) looks like it’ll be more fun and less of a downer than this.
The climax doesn’t fair much better than the rest of the film. When Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman finally come together to fight the movie’s ultimate bad guy, the ramifications of the enemy’s defeat seems like something that should’ve been saved for a later film when we got to know the characters more. Here it feels weak and cheep. The use of the villain also feels like a waste. Things aren’t helped by the movie’s ten thousand endings and its poorly handled hints at the future Justice League picture.
Batman v Superman is a jumbled, confused mess. Is it awful? No. There are good things about it, but it falls so very far short of its potential. I have to place most of the blame on Snyder. He doesn’t understand half of these characters nor does he know how to make a superhero film that isn’t dark and violent. He can’t make a movie that doesn’t have its heroes killing people even when the characters wouldn’t do such things. It forces him to come up with stupid reasons for them to do so. Most important of all, Snyder has forgotten that gritty realism, death and destruction don’t automatically make a film adult and they certainly don’t make them fun.
All of his flaws as a director not withstanding, I didn’t hate Snyder going into this film. For so badly hurting the future of these characters on the silver screen with two misfires in a row, however, I may start hating the man with a fiery passion.