BATMAN V SUPERMAN Movie Review
After Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, I knew going into Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice that the characters were going to be mishandled, poorly defined, and more than a little insulting to the fans. So I decided that I wouldn’t focus on how completely the film fails to understand what makes these characters worthwhile, interesting, or iconic, and instead take the film as its own thing. To not compare it to the stories and pieces of work that get the characters right, but to judge it on its own merits. To simply watch it as I would any other film.
And by that criteria, it still fails. Spectacularly. Batman V Superman is one of the worst tent-pole movies I’ve seen in a long time. It is irritating, nonsensical, overlong and yet paper thin, and soul sapping-ly dull. This is the movie meant to kick start a whole new universe of superhero stories? Then count me out.
This is usually the point where I would do a brief synopsis, but the plot is such total mess that I’ll just say after two hours of nothing happening Batman and Superman fight, because they have to, it’s right there in the title, and then Doomsday, the big grey thing from the trailers, turns up and they fight it. Wonder Woman is also there for some reason. It is about as exciting as an enema, only instead of shit coming out of you, you are instead forced to eat it for two hours and thirty three minutes.
And that’s that.
The first hour of the film is a nothing more than a collection of scenes with no connective tissue. We see the Waynes murdered whilst Ben Affleck gives a meaningless, hackneyed voice over, then we cut to the end of Man of Steel, seeing things from Bruce’s perspective and really hammering home that Superman is a dangerous, aloof asshole (which the film never challenges, Superman never gets a moment to give his perspective, completely robbing the title character of a point of view). Then we are in the desert somewhere with Louis Lane (Amy Adams, once again having nothing to do but be rescued). Then the film jumps to another scene, and another scene, without building towards anything organically. Things are happening but not because one thing would logically follow on from another but simply because.
The characters have no sense of direction, no purpose, and no motivation. Batman sort of does, he doesn’t like Superman and wants him dead (this is a Batman that is pretty cool with murder, going so far as to straight up gun down criminals), but even this doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny further into the film. Superman continues to question why he should do good, which is such a misunderstanding of the character that it blows my mind, and spends most of the movie just pouting. He doesn’t do a single heroic thing in the film, only helping when it suits him.
And then there is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. The worst Lex Luthor… nay, the worst villain yet seen in a superhero movie. When Eisenberg was cast I was intrigued, as there was the possibility of something interesting happening by having the two older “heroes” (not really the word for this version of these characters) go up against the much younger villain. But nothing is done with it. Instead Eisenberg hams it up, as though twitches and tics and terrible line readings can make up for a lack of a defined personality. And going back to motivation, what the hell is Luthor trying to achieve here? He has a master plan (which is total bullshit), but no clear end game. Why is he doing all this? Why is any character doing anything? At no point did I know any of the characters wants or needs, so at no point did I care about any of the characters.
Eisenberg is a travesty in this movie. Cavil is a dead weight, failing to emote even the slightest of feelings, further enforcing the view that he is an emotionless alien. It’s a joke that Superman’s name is in the title because he does nothing. Amy Adams is wasted. Gal Gadot looks fine in Wonder Woman’s costume, which is all she really gets to do. The only actors who don’t embarrass themselves are Affleck and Jeremy Irons as Alfred. If Batman wasn’t branding criminals, marking them for death once they reach jail we are told, and shooting people, I would be actually pretty interested in seeing an Affleck Batman film (as long as Snyder was nowhere near the directing chair). He and Irons have an easy chemistry, and he convinces as both Bruce and the Bat. It’s unfortunate that this is the film that launches his turn as the character, because he is fine in the role, and any fan backlash that comes his way is undeserved.
So the plot is a convoluted mess, the characters are so misunderstood that it’d be laughable if it wasn’t so frustrating, and the performances range from passable to wooden to atrocious. But what about the direction? At least the action sequences are entertaining right, even if they are dumb? Unfortunately, no, the action is flat and uninspired, and it all takes place in a monotone world of drab grey. Nothing pops. This is just a deeply dull movie. Snyder doesn’t put together one arresting sequence. The titular fight is a complete non event, and not just because the characters elicit no empathy from us, but because it is poorly staged and choreographed, and like everything else in this film way too on the nose (Batman literally hits Superman with a kitchen sink… ugh). This heavy handedness also applies to Snyder’s use of religious imagery which only ever comes across as creepy and cringe worthy.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a misfire on every level. It has left me with literally no hope for any of the upcoming DC movies. The people behind this just don’t understand what makes these characters tick, or what makes superhero movies fun. And what is worse is they don’t care. This is a film where Batman tells Superman he isn’t brave… and he’s right.
That says it all.