I’m not going to lie, I had my misgivings about this film and even after watching it, most of those were not changed. However there are gems in this film that shouldn’t be ignored. While this film does deserve the bad rap that it’s getting, I’m not sure it’s worthy of the rating I gave Fantastic Four last summer. So, let’s get into it….how bad is this Snyderdough production?
(I wasn’t going to warn you….but since I did find some positives in this film, spoilers will ensue)
Let’s start with the weak parts:
The first 30 minutes of clunky storytelling clued you in that it wasn’t going to get much better. Here are a few examples: Lois Lane asks Clark an important question, he shrugs it off with a smile, hands her a flower and jumps into her bathtub. I’m not taking that out of context because he didn’t actually answer her question and she didn’t hold his feet to the fire on it. Their relationship was weak in Man of Steel and the thread gets even weaker here.
Speaking of weak threads getting weaker, Snyder’s understanding of Superman continues to shine through and not in a good way. He doesn’t grasp why we need a beacon of hope or a Superman who has it together. This is the second film with Snyder’s Superman and he still gives us the annoying, but needed boy scout. Supes being critical of Batman’s methods in Gotham would be acceptable if he were trying to be a character of high moral fiber. Since we know that’s not the case, it’s a hard pill for me to swallow that Superman has any business telling Batman what to do. So much of the film is based off of that argument, that it simply doesn’t work because they aree essentially the same.
Lex Luthor’s scheme doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the beginning. And it really won’t be any better by the end of it. Look, you can call Gene Hackman’s Luthor campy all you want, but at least it made sense. He was obsessed with power and killing Superman ensured that his overall plan would work. Kevin Spacey’s Luthor wanted revenge but it also served him well that it accomplished his plan to build the Kryptonian island. Eisenburg’s Luthor could have been a really fresh and new interpretation, but he was lacking the true motive to drive his scheming. Why would Luthor, who at this point actually has no reason to kill either of them, purposely set up their demise? It always has to serve a grander scheme or idea and BvS failed in that regard.
In a span of about 10 mins, Batman has a dream sequence and meets a time traveler. It’s visually confusing and stresses the narrative because you have a hard time distinguishing them, what the time traveler says is rather muted, and now Bruce’s motivations are even more muddled than before.
Look, I know we can point to moments in the comics were Batman actually killed people. His moral code and conviction to refrain from killing developed over his 75 year history. However, it’s now a firmly established fact that makes him stand apart from the criminals. Even a retired Bruce Wayne should have a bit more regard for human life than he did in this film. He starts off just like the Batman we would expect, it just doesn’t hold when he’s firing his Bat Jet machine gun and exploding cars….with humans in them
Holy crap Wonder Woman can fight her way out of anything. It’s just a shame there wasn’t much dialogue for Gal Gadot to work with. Her banter with Bruce felt very familiar and reminded me of the old school Justice League animated series on Toonami. But after that, her purpose is primarily to playfully interfere with Batman, show her relevance, skills, fight, and that’s about it. I know this film wasn’t about her….but if you are going to put her into the film, give her something more to do. By comparison, it wasn’t Black Widow in Age of Ultron bad, but it’s not that far off.
The pacing is terrible; like the aforementioned dream sequence with Batman, there are many moments that just happen. Sometimes you’ll have to dig to remember why we moved to a new scene or how we got to this part. This movie could have easily jumped up in the ratings if they had just fixed the pace and re-examined a few narrative choices.
Where The Movie Shines:
These are few and far between, but it should currently be noted since they made an effort in these areas.
Ben Affleck is a superb Batman and probably one of the best Bruce Wayne’s we have ever seen. He gets weighed down by much of the silliness around him though. Affleck wears the burden of Batman well; he looks like a man who fought criminals for decades, lost comrades, and been made into something else because of it. His banter with Jeremy Irons as Alfred is on par with Christian Bale and Michael Caine. Their relationship is the only one that gets fleshed out well in this entire film. Being a huge Batman fan, it was great to give a sigh of relief in this area even if the rest of the film suffers.
While it may have happened in a awkward moment in the film, I actually had no problem with how the rest of the Justice League was introduced. They were simply other meta-humans that Luthor had encountered or researched. Batman stole his files and Wonder Woman watches clips of them for the benefit of the audience. When it happened they disrupted the pace, but the actual use of them wasn’t jarring for me.
The fights, with the exception of the final one involving Doomsday, were very well choreographed. All the heroes have their moments to shine and Snyder does excel in this area even if it’s bit too loud or brash for the film’s feel. It never matches the feel of an Avengers final fight though. Didn’t mean to plug a negative, but you will have more fun in each heroes individual moments rather than the final fight as a whole.
Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer actually produce a potent combination for the score. The Batman and Superman portions woven together, along with their highlights are superb. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it, even the cue up moments for Wonder Woman worked well.
The Bottom Line:
Snyder doesn’t know what’s he doing; adding an even bigger ensemble cast for the first Justice League installment will probably be even worse. There are some excellent pieces that could have made a better film, but unfortunately, it’s not just a matter of simmering. One of our primary heroes, Superman, has been given very little to do and doesn’t match the proper tone for his character. Batman has reverted back to a moral gray killer like the Tim Burton days. The female characters have little to zero impact on the story. The overall flow is abysmal, the plot is weaker than a 3rd grade essay (And I’ve met wonderful 3rd graders with better writing skills), and almost equals Michael Bay’s penchant for loud explosions to cover up poor execution. However, for films with similar such shortcomings, it never matches that level of sourness. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bad. It doesn’t deserve, however, the high level of ire the internet is currently giving it. This review probably won’t stop you from watching it, but go in knowing you’re only going to enjoy about 40% of it.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 4 out of 10