Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

 photo batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_ver8_zpsgpnkvncd.jpg photo starrating-2andahalfstars.jpgSuperhero movie are serious business. Just ask director Zack Snyder who apparently doesn’t have a humorous bone in his entire body given his latest opus.  The awkwardly titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is dark. Like really really really really really really really DARK. This is entry #2 in the DC Extended Universe and it arrives three years after 2013’s Man of Steel, a deplorable waste of time and talent that I hated as much as anything I saw that year. The good news is that Batman v Superman is an improvement, The bad news is that it still isn’t very good.

DC Comics is clearly on a mission to create this grand epic. This is their bid to outdo the franchise empire created by Marvel Studios. And let me tell you, there’s a veritable onslaught of releases planned by the DC machine in the next few years. There’s two movies centered around the Justice League with the individual meta-humans Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, Shazam! Cyborg and Green Lantern all getting their own pictures. We’re introduced to some of them via a computer screen in this movie. Bruce Wayne is seen opening their files on a drive from LexCorp by clicking on their icons. It’s the cinematic equivalent of observing someone watch a coming attractions trailer.

We also get a ton of supplementary characters that needlessly complicate matters. Ok so both Lex Luthor and Lois Lane are required. I’ll allow for them, but neither adds much to the proceedings. On the plus side, Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) does make an appearance all dressed up in a muted uniform that doesn’t stray too far from what we associate with that character. Her reveal got applause so that’s good. Girl Power! and all that. But elsewhere the news isn’t so rosy. Central antagonist Lex Luthor (Jr.) is portrayed by a woefully miscast Jesse Eisenberg. Superman’s arch rival is an iconic villain, a brilliant manipulator, but here he comes across as just a bratty millennial. Lex Luthor is anti-Superman right from the beginning. The superhero has become this controversial figure in the media after all the death and destruction he caused during his battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) in Man of Steel.

Luthor’s objective is kind of ambiguous at first.  Initially it appears he wants to make people dislike Superman even more but he develops into this puppeteer of people who aims to pit the two crime fighters against each other. He partners with U.S. Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter). She is contacted by Wallace Keefe (Scoot McNairy), an employee of Wayne enterprises injured in the previous installment’s Zod vs. Superman combat. Luthor has tapped wanted criminal Anatoli Knyazev (Callum Mulvey) as well to get him some kryptonite. There’s a lot of people involved.  However Luthor’s grand master scheme is ridiculously inefficient when you ultimately realize how it depends on so many arbitrary things potentially falling into place.  When his plan doesn’t work, Luthor has a back-up that involves creating yet another super-villain, sort of a cross between the Thing and the Incredible Hulk. It’s a CGI mess of technology that is about as thoughtful as witnessing two explosions have an argument.

Batman v Superman should have been an engaging character study, but it’s overstuffed – crowded with actors, jammed with plot, packed with mayhem. Look at the title. It promises a one-on-one showdown between two titans of the superhero world. Granted we do get that. If two physical specimens throwing each other around sounds exciting, then you will be pleased. But there’s so much excess fat in this almost three hour film. Too many extraneous plot threads muddle a crowded adventure. Was it really necessary to present the Batman origin story yet another time? I got it, Zack Snyder. Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered. Sheesh! That scene has had more performances than Phantom of the Opera. Cameos from Charlie Rose, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anderson Cooper are superfluous padding.

We’re talking about two guys that dress up in tights and run around fighting crime. The very idea is inherently silly, but you’d think we were detailing the most horrific chapters of World War II given this movie’s utterly bleak tone. There’s little room for “fun” when grim, depressing self-importance is the thrust of the DC agenda. The strident inability to “lighten up” must also afflict writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer who penned this ponderous screenplay. Batman v Superman isn’t horrible. It’s intermittently involving as it unfolds, but all these issues weigh it down upon reflection. One of those “I was mildly entertained while I sat in the theater, but days later I couldn’t care less” type films.

03-24-16

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23 Responses to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

  1. I’m going to see this tomorrow because my husband is really excited about it but I’m dreading it a bit. For me to sit still for 3 hours I’m expecting a film to have the dramatic resonance of The Revenant and this sounds like a complete mess.

    • Agreed with the dramatic resonance part. 3 hours of Lawrence of Arabia or Gone with the Wind, I’m there, but a special effects popcorn film need not be more than 2 hours max. It’s a test of patience to be sure.

  2. Nice review Mark, I was generally pleased with BvS (blame it on being such a huge comic book geek) but some good points.

    • You’re not alone. It’s a huge hit with a $170.1 million opening weekend in the U.S. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays in the coming weeks. Word of mouth is a little tepid. However, I’m still predicting a final tally of at least $400M.

  3. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I thought it started strong but I hated the ending or endings. I felt like Snyder was trying to wring phony emotion out of us because we know it isn’t real.

    • The protracted ending was a waste of time. Like we have no idea what’s in store and who is involved.

      So many things didn’t make sense either. For example, Why did Lois Lane just carelessly throw that spear into the water when she knew how dangerous it was to Superman. How about hiding it until they could destroy it?

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Agreed and how does Superman save her from drowning in the midst of all that Doomsday fighting. That’s some powerful ESP nonsense…

  4. Hey Mark – great review! Since our exchange of messages on twitter – the more time I’ve had to think about it, the more i despise it. There is too much to detail without writing an opus here in your comments section…the central theme to my dismay lies in the complete and utter waste of the source material. Character tenets changed, iconic storylines wasted….never mind the storytelling and terrible script!
    This would have made for an epic MGCTv rant!

  5. Sorry – double post – did you read this? It turns out that others share you criticism for the dark tone of Snyder’s films…or could be early attempts to break rank!!

    http://www.comicbookmovie.com/aquaman/james-wan-promises-a-fun-aquaman-very-different-in-tone-to-batman-v-a132677

    • I trace it all back to the success of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Granted the comic book is a classic but did it have to forever change the tone of all superhero movies? I miss the days when not every superhero was so conflicted or depressing.

  6. After seeing this, do you have any interest in watching the R-rated cut coming to Blu-Ray? Do you think this can “salvage” the bad taste (you and I’s taste is mild) a lot of people have on this?

  7. martin1250 Says:

    Not a memorable movie but a reasonably good superhero movie. I thought this was better than Avengers Age of Ultron.

  8. The problem is that DC wants this to be a franchise rather then just be a stand alone good movie. Iron Man is a good stand alone movie and that is what this should be. A director’s cut is not needed either

    • Very true. It feels like DC is playing catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe rather than set their own path. Very similar to how SONY failed with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014 – a franchise that ended after only 2 films.

  9. 3stars. Enjoyed some of it. Very long and a little boring. Didn’t understand a lot of it, but that was fine. Wonder Woman was great.

  10. I agree that Snyder doesn’t seem to have a humorous bone in his body. Way to lay the smack down with your comments on Man of Steel. I also thought that Bruce Wayne seeing files on the computer was the equivalent to mini movie trailers. You’re right that Luthor comes across as a bratty millennial. The movie is overstuffed and filled with excess fat. You give it more credit than I think it deserves even when you say that you were mildly entertained. I was miserable the entire time and couldn’t wait to leave the theater once it was over. One of the worst movies (if not the worst) I’ve seen in 2016.

  11. So overall, didn’t think it was THAT good but didn’t think it was THAT bad, either…the low Rotten Tomatoes score was probably a bit harsh…any thoughts on the “Martha” scene?

    • That a showdown between Batman and Superman would be resolved by Bruce Wayne’s realization that Clark Kent also had a mother named “Martha” growing up is anti-climactic to say the least, and senseless at worst.

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