Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
This movie poses a fundamental question for viewers and it is one that is likely to divide. Should we be asking for more? Can we reasonably expect these comic book franchises to deliver more? And by more, I do not mean more CGI fueled spectacles and more grandiose stunts. I mean can we, as an audience, ask for more of what makes movies great. Can we ask for more heart, commentary and depth? Can we ask for a movie that does more than puts forth events and images and actually tells a story that connects?
Batman (played by Ben Affleck), wealthy vigilante fighting for good. Superman (played by Henry Cavill), extra-terrestrial savior fighting for good. Not exactly natural enemies, but the film conjures forced plotlines to put them on a collision course. That collision course is the most interesting tension and the film manages to lose sight of it in a sea of whatever else they are trying to accomplish.
Batman sees Superman as an 'other' that must be brought down to ensure mankind's safety. Superman views Batman as a lawless actor, but however deeply held these feelings are, they essentially don't matter as Superman's hand is eventually forced by Lex Luthor (played by Jesse Eisenberg, who we will discuss further in). This makes the much-hyped confrontation feel hollow.
The most effective moments in the entire film may come from a montage of commentators who give context to how the world views Superman and how the audience should think about him from a philosophical standpoint. To lose sight of that in favor of these other far less compelling stories is a shame. The bullet Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) is fixated on? The drive Batman and Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) go back and forth about? These things turn into long elements when a much more succinct treatment would have done. Did someone tell Zac Snyder this had to be 2.5 hours plus?
That said, there were elements of the film that worked. This is in large part due to the strength of the cast. Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne all increase the acting heft even if none of them were really given much to do. On the other hand, Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is a disaster. He is miscast, miswritten, misdirected and misacted. The character's almost funny and almost clever tone are not a good fit for this the dark world Snyder has created. And yet they aren't different enough to offer much needed comic relief. Instead, he repeatedly produces awkward moments that made me want Batman and Superman to eliminate him from the rest of the movie. That bad.
Mercifully for fans, the best part of the cast might be Affleck's Batman. The role seems to be in sure hands as everything from his demeanor to the voice works. With a coherent script and able directing, there is no reason this reboot can't work. It would be a shame to waste more performances on mediocre material.
The choices they made here are largely driven by economics. This expansion of the DC Universe is meant to be a pre-cursor for Justice League and Wonder Woman films and it shows. Instead of making a complete picture, with nuanced characters and genuine tension, they have instead made an over-bloated mess. The final hour of the film carries no themes forward. It is a CGI-laden affair that essentially serves as a trailer for their future movies. They used what must be one of the most expensive sequences in movie history to sell tickets to a future movie instead of properly rounding out this one.
The vast majority of this movie is overly-complicated nonsense. I kept hoping I would see something worth hyping, but it wasn't there. If you are someone who cannot easily imagine how a story about Batman and Superman would not deliver, then perhaps this movie is still for you. But given the convoluted plot and lack of clear purpose, I sincerely hope that is a small minority. Hopefully most will agree that we can and should be asking for more.
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