WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD
(Also posted on Nerd Bastards)
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice…one of the most hyped movies of the year. After many long decades of waiting, we the audience get to see the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel duke it out on the big screen. That’s not all though; we’re gonna be getting our first look at Wonder Woman in all her bad ass glory. In an age of superhero movies being released up the wazoo, dedicated fans have been waiting on baited breath to see DC’s attempt at building its own cinematic universe. So how exactly did it turn out? Well…it did some things right…and some things VERY wrong.
Although her screen time is short, Gal Gadot is excellent as Wonder Woman, and the character is quite likable as well. Gadot brings enthusiasm and charm to the role that perfectly fits Wonder Woman’s character. Wonder Woman herself is a confident, sly and fiesty character that brings a much-needed sense of joy to the screen when she’s on it. There are reports of crowds cheering for the scene where she bursts into action, and the cheers are certainly deserved. Her role in the story may be minuscule, but Wonder Woman is a welcome character in this crowded film.
When Ben Affleck was first announced as Batman, the internet went insane. Some were hopeful while others were filled with rage. Many doubted that an actor like Affleck could give a performance that honors the caped crusader’s legacy. Fortunately, out of all of the problems that Batman V Superman ended up having, Ben Affleck was not one of them. He’s able to be the intimidating, dark and tough-as-nails hero that we all know and love. Even with weak dialogue, Affleck is able to make the most of his role, doing his best to give a deep, layered performance that really stands out. It certainly is a longshot from the trainwreck that a lot of people thought it would be.
Like Wonder Woman, Alfred’s role in this film is short but sweet. Jeremy Irons is perfectly cast, giving Alfred a gruff, intellectual and dryly humorous persona that plays nicely off of Batman. Even when he’s behind a computer guiding Batman through a mission, he is still quite likable, sipping whiskey and even cracking a few one-liners to lighten the mood. In some ways, Irons’ Alfred even tops Michael Caine’s. Alfred is truly memorable here, and one of the few highlights of the project.
One of the biggest complaints of Man of Steel was that Superman was an angry and unlikable character. However, this film brings his unlikability to a whole nother level. For a character that symbolizes truth, justice and the American way, he seemed much more like that jerk in high school that was always angry at you for no reason. Even worse is the way he reacts to innocent people (besides Lois Lane) being in danger. At the beginning of the film, Lois informs him that a jury found him responsible for wrecking a village in Africa (and inadvertently killing people in the process) just to save her. Superman’s reaction is basically rolling his eyes in annoyance and saying “I don’t care.” It’s like he feels that he can’t save people without destroying anything, and that people should just deal with it. Whatever happened to him caring about the people of Earth? He seemed to have no sympathy in this movie and was more interested in making out with Lois Lane. Hopefully he’ll have some kind of divine revelation in future DC films and actually become likable.
While Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor was occasionally fun t0 watch (sometimes unintentionally), it still felt like a terrible portrayal of Superman’s archenemy. Eisenberg feels as miscast in this movie as George Clooney was in Tomorrowland. Eisenberg’s Luthor never feels very threatening and just comes across as a strange, spoiled little precocious child. Whether he was feeding someone Jolly Ranchers or threatening someone with a jar of urine, he felt more like a crappy version of the Joker than Lex Luthor. The character also has so many silly, pretentious monologues, that you could actually make a drinking game out of it: one shot for every time he says “angels” “gods” or “demons.” Eisenberg is a fine actor, but he just wasn’t right to play such an iconic villain like Lex Luthor.
The Hilariously Humorless Tone.
If you thought Man of Steel was dour and humorless, prepare to be blown away. Batman V Superman is so joyless that it starts and ends with a funeral (no kidding). This film tries so hard to be dark and gritty that it is actually hilarious at some points. For example, early on in the film there is a flashback to when Bruce Wayne witnesses the collateral damage of Superman’s battle with General Zod. One of his office buildings is destroyed in the battle and an employee of his has his legs crushed by the wreckage. This scene works in the context of the story, but somebody behind the camera figured that it wasn’t dark enough. For some odd reason, a traumatized little girl is conveniently standing in the wreckage of Wayne Enterprises, pointing out that her parents were in it. This is such an obvious attempt to make the film grittier that it is unintentionally hilarious. Other scenes of the movie involve a human trafficking dungeon, a tearful courtroom testimony, and Martha Kent being bound, gagged and threatened to be burned alive. Ironically, lightening up the super-serious tone would have helped us take the film more seriously. Throwing in a couple of random one liners simply just doesn’t cut it when the whole film feels like a slog.
Remember the car chase in The Dark Knight that was filmed with real vehicles and explosives? Remember how exciting that was to watch? Apparently Zack Snyder didn’t. Batman V Superman is so packed to the brim with unconvincing CGI that it is incredibly hard to get invested in the setpieces. In the Marvel movies, the colorful CGI works because the relatively light tone and vibrant colors suits the bombastic CG effects. In a serious film like this, stuffing the production with practically monochromatic CG just makes the production look unconvincing. Potentially exciting scenes like a car chase with the Batmobile and Superman saving an exploding rocket are ruined by the unconvincing effects, and even the final battle is dominated with dull, washed-out CGI. The only good thing about the obvious computer effects is that they provide some good unintended laughs during the overly-serious scenes.
Why was Doomsday even in this film? Was there not enough CG in it? His appearacne doesn’t even make sense within the context of the story. Up until Doomsday arrived, the story felt like a political drama. Once he shows up, it turns into a generic superhero movie with an unstoppable bad guy. It was like they tacked him onto the script at the last minute. Basically, Lex Luthor gets into Zod’s crash landed ship and somehow figures out how to use the technology to turn Zod’s corpse into Doomsday. Barely any explanation is given as to why Luthor would think to do this or why he knew how, but who cares, right? It’s Doomsday after all, and his appearance alone is bound to sell tickets and drum up hype; who said anything about it making sense?
This is arguably the most boring and incoherent superhero movie since Fant4stic. The first half of this film feels like a political drama with endless unsubtle discussions on Superman’s capabilities and the second half feels like forced Justice League build-up. Instead of an exciting movie where Batman and Superman engage in a thrilling conflict, this film settles for an incoherent story involving dream sequences and espionage.
Instead of diving into an interesting story where Superman faces his destructive potential head-on, this movie spends a lot of its time on scenes and characters that frankly should have been cut. One hysterical dream sequence involves Bruce Wayne being attacked at his parents’ mausoleum by a giant CGI bat. Another scene involves Wayne dreaming up a dystopia where Superman has destroyed the world and everyone who doesn’t worship him (also with giant CGI bats). Just for good measure, the filmmakers managed to throw in a ridiculous-looking Flash after the latter scene.
Moreover, there seemed to be a countless amount of scenes where characters make long-winded speeches. Lex Luthor makes several of them, and it feels like the script couldn’t go two minutes without a character droning on about various plot elements. Imagine if you took the witty dialogue of The Avengers and replaced it with tedious exposition. You’d get a disjointed mess of a movie, which is what Batman V Superman unfortunately ended up being.
So how are we going to end this grand, spectacular clash between two comic book icons? How about having Doomsday supposedly kill Superman and focus the last few minutes of the film on his funeral? There’s even a scene where Martha Kent reveals that he was going to propose to Lois Lane for some cheap drama. It just drags on and on, only to imply to the audience that Superman is alive by having the dirt on his coffin levitate. Yep, they actually decided to end this supposedly deep and gritty film with a bloody Disney Death trope.
Mr. Snyder, how on Earth are we supposed to take your “grown-up” version of Superman seriously when you end this movie with a trope that Disney has been doing since the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? At least when films like Pacific Rim run with this trope, they don’t spend the rest of the movie trying to be super-serious, so it works much better. In this case though, it just adds yet another flaw to this film, making almost the entire production look like a complete embarrassment.