Let it be known that I was ecstatic leading up to the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This is a pairing of characters that I’ve been waiting to see on the big screen my entire life.
While seemingly everyone on the internet was up in arms about casting decisions, I was actually happy with Ben Affleck being cast as Batman, and a Lex Luthor played by Jesse Eisenberg sounded completely bat-shit insane in all the right ways. And, that third and final trailer for the film was incredibly well done. I was all in, but even I had my concessions about the film.
Director Zack Snyder is of course back to take the helm for Batman v Superman, and his recent work — including 2013’s predecessor Man of Steel — has been fairly disappointing to say the least. Critic reviews and early impressions started piling up a few days before release, and for the most part, they were bad. These weren’t middle of the road, take it or leave it kind of reviews. Plenty of the reviews painted the film as being incoherent, boring, unnecessary, and just plain awful.
For better or worse, a friend and I had already bought our tickets weeks in advance for a Thursday night preview screening, so there was no going back. With my initial excitement for the film almost all but extinguished, I walked into the theater hoping — praying — for a good film.
Although what I walked away from wasn’t necessarily a good film, it wasn’t terrible either. There was a lot of stuff I liked about Batman v Superman. Unfortunately, there was a lot of stuff I really disliked about it as well.
Batman v Superman comes off as being too many films clumsily rolled into one overly long, convoluted mess of a film. The film jumps back and forth between Bruce Wayne/Batman scenes and Clark Kent/Superman scenes like it’s nothing in a jarring manner, and all the while finds the time to interject too many (but still not enough) scenes starring Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, Alfred Pennyworth, and cameos for the future Justice League members. I feel that these side characters should have either gotten more screentime, or shouldn’t have been introduced here at all.
But that also feeds into my main problem with Batman v Superman, which is that it feels like a film that should have been made four or five films into DC’s movie universe. This isn’t the obvious next step for this universe; not directly following Man of Steel. We should have at least gotten Man of Steel 2 before this, not to mention solo films for both Wonder Woman and Batman in order to set the stage for their characters, instead of hastily throwing them all together in one film.
Now, maybe this wouldn’t be such a big deal if these characters were handled exactly as we already know them from their 75 years of comics history, but some of them are incredibly different here. Batman straight up murders people in this film. Like, dozens of “bad guys” are laid waste to by Gatling guns that rise up from within the Batmobile (which, yeah, I’ll admit that it’s pretty damn cool to watch). And hey, that’s fine if they want to take Batman in a fresh direction, but it’s odd to me that there’s no explanation for his bloodlust here.
Ben Affleck is great as the titular hero and his Bruce Wayne counterpart. The Batman scenes are the best parts of this film, with the absolute best scene featuring Batman infiltrating a building filled with 20 or so gun-toting baddies and taking them down one-by-one with increasing style and brutality. Simply put: it’s badass. Batman has seriously never looked as awesome on film as he does here.
Another highlight is a dream sequence in which Bruce imagines himself as a Batman in a post-apocalyptic world overtaken by a Superman regime. It’s a wonderfully weird scene. Really, I just wish that this had been a Batman film through and through. It’s too bad that half of the 150-minute running time is taken up by Superman’s side of the story, and other plot points that I didn’t much care about.
So let’s talk about the plot; let’s talk about why Batman and Superman are fighting. In the aftermath of the events of Man of Steel (which saw thousands of people in Metropolis dead, and half of the city being torn to shreds due to a fight involving Superman), Superman is less being seen as a hero, and more as a terrorist. So, a veteran Batman takes it upon himself to rid the world of Superman, as he thinks he’ll just bring with him more destruction.
I like the idea of Superman being put on trial to answer for the destruction he helped cause, and I’ll admit that what I’ve just written doesn’t sound like awful reasoning for these characters to butt heads. A Batman bearing witness to this incredible alien who is capable of having so much power — it makes sense for him to be afraid of what could come next.
I just feel that these characters would handle this situation with more intelligence, instead of just going at each other like they do here. These characters are too smart for this. And while the fight itself is fun and pretty to look at, the end of it is so painfully idiotic that it almost ruins everything that came before.
And so what about Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor? Well, he’s the main villain of the film, I suppose, but he’s not even in it all that much. I wish we would have gotten more Luthor, as Eisenberg’s performance is interesting and fun, even if it is nothing like the source material. Instead of a climax involving him, we get a terribly bland CGI monster which he creates.
Luthor’s creation acts as a formidable foe against a Batman and Superman who’ve just teamed up, and a Wonder Woman who has also joined the fray. It’s a fun fight for a moment (mostly due to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman), but again — just like the fight between Batman and Superman — the end of this fight is so dumb. Like, it’s incredibly dumb. And for the climax of the film, this is especially a bad thing.
Ugh. I don’t want to come off as being a total downer on Batman v Superman. I did very much enjoy my time with it, even if there were points where I was almost completely bored with it. Thankfully, there’s a lot of great, fun little scenes in here, and the cinematography is surprisingly really nice, too, making for a phenomenal looking film.
It’s just that the film is ultimately bogged down by having too much going on, and most of it coming with so little to no substance, thanks to the incredibly dumb actions from almost every character. But, if you’re not yet completely burnt out on superhero movies, or you have been waiting for this movie forever like I have, then I recommend at least giving it a shot.
But at the end of the day, I just want my Batfleck solo film already. And please…don’t fuck it up.
— Michael Lane, Blog Editor