Movie Review: Batman V Superman – Dawn of Justice

(Source: Warner Bros.)

(Source: Warner Bros.)

Some spoilers ahead. If you’re looking for a recap of the movie, this is not going to be it, though.

The expectations for this movie were huge. When it started getting mixed reviews, with a lot tending to the negative, I really thought I was in for some CGI headache fest. As it turns out, having my expectations low was for the best. There’s a lot of nudge-nudge-wink-wink moments in which the movie seems to ask you “know what I mean? Uh? Uh?” which do not qualify at all as easter eggs since they’re blatantly put in front of you. There’s way too much iconography in which Supes is setup in a messianic role of sorts. Too many saviour-like scenes are set up for him to appear at.

The plot is basically a very exhausting number of ideas trying to be one story. The movie has really watchable moments, but the brilliance it pursuits seems to elude it. It’s that moment in which you realize we’re basically aiming to condense way too many things to the point that the plot becomes a little too light.

It’s definitely dark in atmosphere though. Everything is heavy. It’s all weighted down. Batman seems tired all the time. I know Ben Affleck is playing him as a veteran crime fighter. Still, the only levity comes from snark commentary from Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Bruce, in all honesty, seems perpetually depressed here.

Clark on the other hand, is supposed to bring some light into this equation. He doesn’t. Honestly, nobody seems happy to do what they do in this movie except for one exception, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Henry Cavill plays a very stoic Superman. The colour pallet of his costume feels almost darker than Batman’s at times. When he walks into a place such as the Supreme Court with that huge cape, I almost heard the Imperial March in the background. It’s a little too much Vader to be a Superman scene. When he flies instead, he’s got a Christ thing going. The God thing actually is a bit too much.

That’s precisely the weaker point of this movie. There’s no hints. Easter eggs are punches in the face. You can’t really ignore anything, it’s shouted at you. Well, not everything. Humor is kind of absent.

So that takes us to Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. The casting took a weird turn here, because he looks like a kid jumping around while Clark and Bruce just stare at him in disbelief. I know that some people were annoyed by him, but at least he breaks the stoic status quo and brings something different in. He’s not a funny Lex, but rather the crazy spastic media genius dialled-up-to-11. My first thought when I saw him was “the password is Ritalin” for some reason. Still, I kinda welcomed the crazy demeanor.

The surprise of the movie is how much screen presence does Gal Gadot commands. She literally seems like the most adjusted character, a person who does not hate her life or what she does. She comes off more like an experienced veteran than Batman and someone a lot more in control of her powers than Superman. In other words, she seemed like the one superhero with a clear head and a charismatic presence. She is Wonder Woman. Sorry for Supes and Bats, but she’s the one leading the battle when the big battle comes.

Unfortunately, the final battle literally looks and sounds like a bunch of nerve endings getting electrified and it feels that way too. Yes, eventually Batboy and Superscout do stop fighting each other. The actual way that they both put their differences aside is… lame. You know the coincidence that both Clark’s mother and Bruce’s mother have the same first name? Imagine the most ridiculous situation in which that could come up and then apply it here. Remember that scene in Attack of the Clones where R2-D2 suddenly flies? Yeah I had the same reaction to that scene than this one. It just felt cheap.

So, spoiler alert, Lex Luthor creates Doomsday. You probably already pieced it together from the trailers. And Doomsday is… just a CGI headache that lasts WAY too long. Also, seems Zack Snyder just dreamed up a lot of scenes that he wanted to use and made them into nightmares for Bruce. The rest are setups for climatic scenarios that it seems he considered as the closing shot, the problem is that he used all of them. All. Of. Them. You literally are left expecting the screen to fade to black at any moment.

The movie is not a complete loss. It has enough action and comic book references to bring in both crowds of newcomers and fans both casual and hardcore. The most accurate description that I can come with is that this is a blockbuster movie with comic superhero inspirations. The comic book references however, are only skin deep.

Let’s go to the highs and lows. Fair warning, lots of spoilers are implied here.

Highs/Lows/Spoilers:

  • Remember all those little tidbits we know about Bruce? He won’t use a gun. He won’t kill. In the comics, he’s known to break those but supposedly it’s always a big thing when he does. Well, that goes out the window here.
  • There’s a lot of stories to draw inspiration from. You’re going to recognize a couple here that really didn’t need to be used. At all. Not so early. Not the very first time that these characters meet. But I guess we went with throwing everything and the kitchen sink here. The problem is not that the movie uses too much comic book material. It is that it doesn’t use enough.
  • Let’s disregard the source material for a moment. Despite the inaccuracies, did we get a good film? We got an action film that ties some of its scenes better than others. However, it’s a story that seems unnecessarily convoluted. Not by the actual source material, but by the shifting focus. We get a story first from Lois Lane’s perspective that later switches to the other characters. Her original story becomes irrelevant since it was just used as an introduction to the main narrative which is…
  • … A good question. Bruce’s narrative was supposedly manipulated by Lex. Something questionable given that Batman is supposed to be the world’s greatest detective. Superman’s story seems to be coming to terms of whether he’s a mortal or a god. I guess he becomes a mortal, given that Lex toys with his human emotion. So the main story seems to be underneath it all… Lex Luthor’s? Do we care if there was a main plot at all? I felt that Amy Adams’ Lois Lane and Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White were severely underused. One would say almost unfairly so.
  • Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman / Diana Prince has the exception of being the only well-adjusted character. She doesn’t have any ghosts or demons from her past haunting her and she has managed to remain free of manipulation by lying low and just observing. She’s literally the only breath of fresh air in a world where everyone else seems like they need therapy.
  • The movie’s main concern after all is to setup the DC motion picture universe. It probably could’ve done that in a less stressful fashion, but what we see is told almost outside the narrative. When the credits rolled, I wasn’t left with anticipation for the Justice League movie. I was left with anticipation with the Wonder Woman one.

That will do for now.

 

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