Film Review: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (★★)


batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justiceWorking through the early announcements to now, and finally seeing the result of Zack Snyder’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” has been like going through the seven stages of grief and loss.  With the film’s challenging flaws to overcome, there’s some exciting and pulse-pounding moments to admire greatly.  Let’s work through it:

Step 1 – “Shock and Denial”

Full disclosure.  I like superhero movies, and have been mostly entertained by the genre in general.  Marvel has perpetuated a formula that has worked immensely to their benefit and DC has been chasing the similar pattern for years now.  With “Man of Steel” and now, “Batman v. Superman,” they’ve crammed an entire Phase 1 into two movies.  How successful do they expect this to be?  Are they banking on enough character development to excite the world for an entire cinematic universe?  And then the announcement of casting:  Ben Affleck as Batman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons as Alfred?  They were moving in a new direction that was far removed from the iconic Christopher Nolan Batman films, and with Zack Snyder at the helm, what would the final result look like?  Snyder…the same guy behind “Watchmen” and “Sucker Punch.”  Keep that in mind.  I want someone to walk into this editing room and break his “slow mo” button immediately.

Step 2 – “Pain and Guilt”

The first hour of #BvS packs in so much and moves like freight train.  It’s so terrifically paced, capturing the tension and build up to en eventual match between the Caped Crusader and the Son of Krypton.  David Brenner‘s editing is staggeringly efficient while Larry Fong’s cinematography moves Snyder’s painful aesthetics, which he’s demonstrated in previous “superhero” films, to a more palpable and satisfying culture.  Towards the end of the first hour, I can recall saying to myself, this could be up there with “The Dark Knight.”  I couldn’t believe how far my expectations were being removed from the finished product.

Step 3 – “Anger and Bargaining”

Oscar-winning Chris Terrio, along with David S. Goyer get tremendous credit for building up the characters in a way that “introduces” them to a new generation without actively pleading to the audience, “please go see the rest of our movies.”  However, the blatant shoehorn of such characters as WonderWoman, into a fight that logically makes no sense for her to get into, is just plain lazy.  Her ambigious nature as she walks the earth as Diana, which if I’m correct, they never even say, keeps her on our minds.  Gal Gadot‘s portrayal is nothing revolutionary but she does bring a certain flare to the role that I’m unsure was originally discovered in the script.  All I wanted was a female superhero for my daughter to latch onto, in both alter ego and super persona.  Wonder Woman fails miserably in the latter.  She’s essentially wasted and in the sense that her build up is such a let down, that you can’t help but wonder (no pun intended), what the hell her own spin-off movie is going to look like.  And at this point, who cares if they’re going to use her in such a “matter of fact” kind of way.  To not spoil anything, but their “cease and desist” of the “fight” is as lazy as saying Curly has a twin and that’s why Jack Palance is in the new City Slickers sequel.

batman dawn of justiceStep 4 – “Depression, Reflection, Loneliness”

Once the film borders on extreme boredom for about twenty minutes, and they flagrantly attempt to capture an emotional reaction from the audience, the predictable and uninspiring ending bridges us to “Justice League” and many movies to come.    We spend a shocking twenty minutes dwelling on a supposed “outcome” that you can see coming from a mile away, with a twist that isn’t a twist at all.  How will all this play out down the line against Marvel?  Who knows?  I do believe general movie goers will enjoy the brunt of this, and find the darkness familiar and comforting, as we’ve all come to expect from DC.  Why am I not enjoying these as much as the rest of the world?  I adore “The Dark Knight” trilogy and have found love in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but it’s hard to get invested in the oversaturation of comic book films when they’re becoming so standard with [insert hero here] and [insert villain here].

Step 5 – “The Upward Turn”

One name…Jesse Eisenberg.  He dedicates himself to Lex Luthor in a new world that looks as if Mark Zuckerberg decided to end the world.  Though his “diabolical plan” is so complicated and at times, so mousy and inarticulate, Eisenberg elevates himself as one of the better superhero villains portrayed in the last few years.  He’s ambitious, with a flare for the theatrics, though on one or two occasions, he does go overboard.  In many ways, he’s the savior of the script.  From a technical standpoint, once again composer Junkie XL, teamed up with Hans Zimmer, demonstrate killer chords and music to become their own spotlight for the world to behold.  While the score is sensational, the sound work is another monster altogether and one that is great to experience on the biggest screen possible.

Step 6 – “Reconstruction and Working Through”

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman worked very well.  Pleasantly surprised and happy with what he brought to the role.  Though the cheesy dialogue can impede him beyond recognition at times, Affleck mostly falls into the role with ease.  Henry Cavill‘s Superman/Clark Kent is as standard as they come.  Nothing overtly atrocious but nothing particularly engaging.  Amy Adams as Lois Lane is on Rachel Dawes-type annoyance at this point.  There’s no reason for her to be so involved in the plot/set pieces, and it’s now in a way that is very distracting.  And putting her in a bathtub naked doesn’t get us “more invested” in her poorly written arc either Zack Snyder!  Our villain Doomsday is as one note as they come while his fight sequences with one half of the Justice League is slightly more invigorating.

Step 7 – “Acceptance and Hope”

Rumors have flown around for months that there is a more acceptable and pleasing three-hour cut that is Rated R.  Likely many of the gaps are filled in for us there but with what was shown, and will be shown to audiences, is not something that is satisfying enough to power through.  The “new additions” and “surprises” are a beacon of hope in the DC Universe and something that the whole fanboy community can anxiously await.  “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” will have its admirers, others will relinquish in the fact that yet again, the superhero genre is not challenging itself to be better than what is expected of them.  Either go full grit or no grit at all.  The in-between will give you #BvS.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” opens in theaters on Friday.

  • Steve

    Not surprised. My favorite Batman have always been Tim Burton’s. I still haven’t seen this, but I figured this wouldn’t be as enjoyable as those or the Nolan trilogy. My favorite Batman has always been and will always be Michael Keaton. I figured Affleck wouldn’t be as great as Keaton, but I still think he can’t be worse than Kilmer. I’m still going to at least try it.

  • Tee

    Wow, this is brutal. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of strong writing, but it wasn’t even entertaining?!

    • Entertaining in a very juvenile sense, at least that’s how I feel overall. I thought the first hour was pretty great and it literally came down like a game of Jenga.

      • Tee

        I must say I feel the opposite way. I thought the first hour or so was definitely well-written, but you could also tell that there were parts of the script that were completely out of place and could be removed. This applies to almost the entire movie, but it’s particularly during the beginning.

        Don’t get me wrong- I want a film that engages as much as entertains, but like you said, trying to do both let both aspects down. It just so happens the engaging part got the short end of that bad deal for everyone.

        I actually liked Gadot as Wonder Woman- she’s interesting because she isn’t that well-known or understood in the film, as she was supposed to be. I also agree with what you say about Eisenburg- his performance is good, just poorly written. As for Adams, the same thing- she gives a good performance in a badly written character.

        Overall, I guess this is just how we butt heads. I tried to go into this film as a critical person…but it’s Batman and Superman, two childhood icons. It’s damn near impossible.

  • Joey Magidson

    I liked it better than Clayton did, but it’s definitely a bit disappointing.

  • Ryancritic

    At this point, I’m really dreading having to watch this movie. I hated Man of Steel and in general I’m really tired of most of the superhero films. But the thing I hate the most about this movie is the fact that it’s going to be two hours and 30 minutes. Some movies can pull off a big running time but when a three hour movie is done poorly, it’s unwatchable. The Lone Ranger, Man of Steel and The Revenant (sorry) are three good examples of how a self indulgent running time can turn your movie from just plain bad into excruciatingly boring. Deadpool was only an hour and 40 minutes and that was a huge hit that everyone enjoyed. Not every comic book film needs to be 9 hours long because it’s super serious and inspired by Christopher Nolan.

  • James Hart

    So your take on Jessie Eisenberg is a thumbs up?

    • I guess. He was definitely dedicated and the shortcomings of the performance don’t feel necessarily his fault. It seems mostly due to the writing.

  • This review is spot-on. This movie deserves all the poor reviews it’s getting. Not only is it a colossal disappointment to fans, it’s simply not a very good movie.

  • Tee

    I actually enjoyed this film. Despite several narrative hiccups, the film’s performances and effects still make it an entertaining and all-around decent film.

  • James Hart

    Finally saw it. 2.5/4. The cast was effective, even the underused characters, except for Henry Cavill and (sadly) Amy Adams (no real chemistry, poor writing hampers them too), and I really liked Jesse Eisenberg the most. His interpretation was different, and he pulled it off really well. Camerawork, sound, editing, and music were all pluses and the visual effects were mostly good, but went into CGI overkill in the last act. The last hourish was great…it just sucks that it took that long to get the movie going.