Movie Review: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (Second Opinion)


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Plot:  Almost two years after the events of Man of Steel, Superman (Henry Cavill) has become a global fact of life.  However, despite his altruistic intentions and acts of heroism, there’s been quite a bit of collateral damage.  People have begun to examine the ramifications of letting an alien with God-like powers act with no oversight.  Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) also shares this sentiment.  He’s seen the collateral damage firsthand, having been present during Zod and Superman’s fight in Metropolis.  Batman has also become jaded.   After two decades in Gotham, he’s seen plenty of good people die and some that were good turn to the darkness.  Amidst the two iconic superheroes combative relationship emerges Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), an enchanting woman with her own agenda.  Meanwhile Lex Luthor Jr. (Jesse Eisenberg) sees the prospect of Superman’s downfall as a possible path to his own glory and power.  As such he manipulates the two into an ultimate climactic battle…

***PLEASE NOTE THAT AT THE END OF THIS REVIEW THERE ARE SOME EDITIONS TO MY RATING SYSTEM I’VE IMPLEMENTED***

 ***WARNING SOME SPOILERS BELOW***

Review:  Let me start with the good news.  Batman V Superman:  Dawn of Justice is nowhere near the titanic disaster that critics and fans are making it out to be.  I recently had a discussion with Gfunk regarding the hate towards this movie and his comment, “It’s like people came to this movie with their knives out” is dead on.  Lots of people went into this movie WANTING to hate it.

The bad news is that BvS isn’t a great film.  In fact it’s not even a good film.  It’s an average film.  The fact that BvS is mediocre is almost worse than if it was an epic disaster.

Convoluted, messy, and edited poorly, BvS comes across as bombastic and aspires to heights it sometimes approaches but never reaches.  Zack Snyder is unquestionably a brilliant visual director, however he often struggles with character development and plot, and it shows here.  After a fantastic opening sequence in Metropolis that follows the exploits of Bruce Wayne during Superman’s fight with Zod, Snyder cuts from Gotham City, to the Indian Ocean, to Africa.  This sets the tone for the rest of the film which is often all over the place.  The audience is passed around so much that it’s hard to keep up.

While I revere the brilliance of David S. Goyer’s script for The Dark Knight, he and co-writer Chris Terrio fail miserably with BvS.  The dialogue is often clunky and forced.  In fact at the start of Batman and Superman’s fight at the end of the movie, there’s an exchange between the two characters that is downright cringe worthy.  Secondary characters lack nuance and growth, especially Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Perry White (Lawrence Fishburne).  Even Oscar winner Holly Hunter serves only as a stereotypical politician.

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In addition to character and dialogue issues, Goyer and Snyder made the odd choice to include these constant dreams/premonitions/visions by both characters, especially Batman.  There’s an apocalyptic sequence that’s one of the biggest WTF moments of the film.  It just didn’t work.  They are clearly setting up the Justice League film and the villain Darkseid.  Further evidence of this includes the blatant nods to the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, characters all set to have their own films.  In fact there’s a quick time traveling sequence between Batman and the Flash that even took me a moment to figure out.  Those not versed with the DC Universe are going to have a difficult time understanding what’s going on.  Concurrently, Snyder and Goyer incorporate a lot of pseudo-science especially involving the creation of Doomsday.  I mean it’s a comicbook film and I don’t expect characters to create a Grand Unified Theory, but let’s at least have a modicum of plausibility here.  Also there’s a LOT of cameos in this film, everyone from Neil deGrasse Tyson to Nancy Grace.  It’s as if the people behind BvS were trying to create some verisimilitude for the film.

Speaking of cringe worthy, I absolutely LOATHED Jesse Eisenberg in this film as Lex Luthor-ahem-Lex Luthor Jr.  (I wonder if DC was hedging their bets in case Eisenberg ended up sucking, although the implication is that Luthor Senior is dead.  However, you never know because…well…comics.) Granted Luthor in this film is a sociopath that’s manipulative, lacking in empathy, possesses a weird fetish for Jolly Ranchers, and a pathological liar, however the way Goyer, Terrio, and Snyder present Luthor disappoints on almost every level.  To be crude, Eisenberg’s Luthor is a whiny bitch.  Eisenberg plays Luthor like a brilliant scientist with Daddy Issues, who apparently has Asperger’s Syndrome and totally lacks social skills.  It boggles the mind that Eisenberg was able to essentially trick Superman and Batman into fighting each other.  It’s very frustrating that audiences have never seen the true Lex Luthor character on the big screen.  Gene Hackman was too hokey, Kevin Spacey felt like a slimy ex-husband, and Eisenberg is like Sheldon Cooper combined with the power machinations of Donald Trump.  The closest we’ve had is Clancy Brown in the Superman animated series and Michael Rosenbaum in Smallville.  Oh how great it would have been to have Bryan Cranston in this role, assuming it was a better written character.  Sigh.

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Additionally, the score was very disappointing.  I love Hans Zimmer and hopefully someday he’ll win the Oscar.  However, the parts that were clearly his were direct rip-offs of his score from Man of Steel.  That’s just lazy.  Junkie XL’s contribution is just as bad with their portion of the score often coming across as either jarring, discordant, bombastic, or all three.  I’ve always been of the opinion that you only notice the score if it’s awful or brilliant.  Zimmer and Junkie XL’s is sadly the former.

Despite the poor execution, underdeveloped characters, and asinine dialogue, BvS does have several redeeming qualities to it.

Let’s start with Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne.  Plenty of fanboys who bitched and moaned about Affleck’s casting are eating crow after this weekend.  He’s excellent here.   This is the dark Batman of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns fans have been waiting for.  While he wasn’t the best Bruce Wayne in the world (that still goes to Christian Bale) I put him third behind Bale and Keaton as the best Batman.  Also we finally, finally, FINALLY get to see Batman’s detective skills fully realized.  It’s something that’s been lacking before and this will no doubt please fans of the Caped Crusader.   As I stated earlier, he’s jaded and brutal.  He feels nothing he’s done in Gotham has made a damn bit of difference.  The takedown of Superman may be his best shot at doing something meaningful.  However, Affleck’s Batman’s rage and impotence knows no bounds.  So much so (and I know this will irritate Batman purists) he’s killing criminals—mostly by proxy in a way I won’t spoil here.  To be fair though Batman has killed in film before:

Affleck’s exchanges with Alfred (Oscar winner Jeremy Irons) are some of the most well written parts of the film, and the chemistry between the two is excellent.  Ben Affleck as Batman makes me hopeful for the solo Batman film that he and Geoff Johns are working on.  (Honestly, how awesome is that?)

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As excellent as Affleck’s Batman portrayal was, Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman is just as good.  I was very much against Gal Godot’s casting at the outset (https://houseofgeekery.com/2013/12/07/wtf-hollywood-why-casting-gal-gadot-as-wonder-woman-is-a-horrible-idea/) but I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong.  And I was dead wrong.  Godot kicks major ass in BvS, especially in the last half hour.  I could not help but burst into a big goofy grin when I watched Godot sport her sword, shield, gauntlets, and lasso.  Simply awesome.  I’m very excited for the Wonder Woman film.  Say what you want about DC, they are going to be the ones, not Marvel, with the first female driven superhero film and one directed by a female to boot.

Cavill is again good as Superman, although admittedly not as great as he was in Man of Steel.  He’s still somewhat of a conflicted character.  Superman still wants to help humanity (and he does) but people who question his actions cause him to question himself.  The issue of collateral damage is addressed and how one good act can cause adverse effects elsewhere.  This is exemplified by a daydream interaction between Clark and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner), one of the few dream sequences in the film that actually work.   (Side note:  Costner’s voice sounds like he smokes six packs of cigarettes a day, not sure what’s up with that.)  For those critics saying Snyder has created an objectivist film and turned Superman into an objectivist character—GTFO with that garbage.  Objectivism at its core is essentially a “watch out for number one” ideology.  There’s several instances where Superman could have pursued his own self-interests but chose not to.  The concept (Objectivism) is also inherently atheist and if anything, there’s too much Christian symbolism in this film.  Objectivism is a morally bankrupt philosophy created by a hack writer and a complete insult to Snyder, Cavill, and Superman as a character.

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Visually, this movie crushes it.  Snyder proves once again why he’s a great visual director.  I know many criticize Snyder for not utilizing brighter colors, but I actually like the darker color palettes he uses.  It very much fits with the tone of the movie as well.  This is the best Batcave we’ve ever gotten on film and there’s a sequence where the Batmobile enters the Batcave that was cool as Hell.  The last forty minutes of this film are a feast for the eyes.  Batman and Superman’s fight is as good as advertised and surprisingly there’s a clear cut winner.  Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman’s clash with Doomsday succeeds just as well if not better than Batman and Superman’s battle.  For those of you who thought Doomsday was being wasted, I assure you he is not.  In addition, there’s an emotional resonance after the battle involving a monument to one of the three main superheroes.  The scene was poignant and damn near brought me to tears.

As a whole I left Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice with mixed emotions.  I really wanted to like this movie a lot more than I did.  In fact I almost feel like I need to see this movie again down the road in order to fully wrap my head around it.  I’m wondering if the R-rated director’s cut that’s coming out will bring some cohesiveness as well.

Somewhere amidst BvS is a great Superman movie or a great Batman movie, I’m not sure which.  Regrettably, the movie is too much of a mess to be either.   Having said that I’m actually pleased that BvS did so well financially opening weekend ($170 million domestic) if for no other reason than I want the cinematic DCEU to continue.  (Don’t believe the conspiracy theory crap you’ve been reading on the Internet either.  There’s no cabal of critics intent on destroying this film in order to perpetuate Marvel’s dominance.  That’s tin foil hat fantasy right there.)  Suicide Squad looks great and I’m looking forward to the Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern films.  You can’t fault Zack Snyder or DC for trying to be ambitious and doing something different than Marvel.  That takes brass testicles and I’d rather the producers take a risk and fail miserably, than give us more of the same old same old.  Admittedly, I wish they’d establish the secondary characters before Justice League but that’s not what they are going for.

While Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice didn’t succeed like it should have, I’m still hopeful for future films.  The symbol of the House of El remains at the forefront of my mind.

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My rating: 5/10

 Q: Would I buy this movie, accept as a gift, or burn on sight?  A:  Accept as a gift.

REMEMBER THIS REVIEW, LIKE ALL MY REVIEWS, ARE MERELY OPINION.  ULTIMATELY THE ONLY OPINION THAT MATTERS ON A FILM IS YOUR OWN.

You can follow me on Twitter as DarthGandalf at @DarthGandalf1

 

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