Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2016.
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Scoot McNairy, Tao Okamoto, Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Callan Mulvey.
Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.
Successfully rounding up three iconic superheroes such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, and cramming them into a money-shot frame is most definitely enough to stimulate a nerd-gasm overload, but far more important than the moment itself is the narrative framework leading up to, and after, that brief euphoric experience. If everything else falls flat, then so do these hyped up cinematic images. Yes, they are all in the same movie and in the same scene for the very first time, but it’s impossible to muster up a reason to care considering that the rest of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (helmed by Man of Steel director Zack Snyder, who has basically been given the keys to the kingdom for establishing the building blocks of DC’s Extended Universe, subsequently setting up his Justice League movie) is a slapped together, disastrous mess.
Now, before you take out the pitchforks and rev up the accusations of Flickering Myth again acting with a pro-Marvel/anti-DC agenda, you’re wrong, and more-so than usual. Watchmen and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy are bar none my favorite superhero films of all time. The failures of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice don’t stem from a dark and brooding tone, or a deep-seated hatred for director Zack Snyder (I quite literally defend the man almost every chance I get), but rather a piss poor, far too ambitious script by Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer (numerous superhero projects) that is tasked with including everything and the kitchen sink. I mean that literally too, as there is a scene where Batman crushes a kitchen sink over Superman’s head.
The biggest shock and most startlingly inept development, is that for a 150 minute blockbuster extravaganza titled Batman v Superman, god and man only do battle for roughly 5 minutes, while the rest of the film is filled with our key players either moping around darkly lit environments or scheming. Logically, you would think that this would benefit the script and make for a more emotional story at the center of two of pop-culture’s biggest creations duking it out, to the point where those five minutes knock your ass off and blow you through the back wall of the cinema, but even during the tussle marketed as the greatest gladiator match in history, it’s still rough finding a reason to care. The resolution of the battle… well I’ll just leave the stupidity of that revelation for you to experience for yourself.
Structurally, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is out of control, constantly jumping from scene to scene with no grace or flow. At times it seriously feels like the film is playing out in some random, non-chronological order; you could play around with the positioning of many scenes – either moving them around or removing them completely – and there would be no effect. I’m almost horrified to know what the 3+ hour version on Blu-ray will be like, although to be fair some of the storytelling issues could come from the fact that so many scenes quickly come and go without having any bearing on the plot. It does most definitely feel like there is information cut from many of the movie’s first-half scenes. If not, the pacing and structure truly are an ungodly disaster.
Watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is reminiscent to the Simpsons gag where Homer builds a grill), looks at his pamphlet instructions thinking to himself out loud “this is awesome”, only to turn back looking at his abomination and wondering why his doesn’t look like that; I’ll leave you to figure out which is Marvel and which is DC in this situation.
Again, I deeply admire the core decision by Warner Bros. to target a different demographic and audience by making their cinematic universe a bit darker in tone, more serious, and grounded in a realistic world inhabited by superheroes and mythological beings. No one wants a carbon copy of something that has so far, already been executed to perfection. Their universe needed to go this route to stand apart and feel fresh. However, lost in the shuffle is an astonishing amount of excitement and (I can’t believe I’m going to say this after dismissing every other critic on the planet using it as a negative talking point), fun. As out-of-place as the cameos from movies to come are, they actually might be the best part of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; a promise of far more unique and interesting adventures to come. Keyword: adventure.
Wonder Woman is assuredly one of those superheroes. Despite not really knowing exactly what she was after in this movie (although that’s the least of the character motive issues here, considering there were seriously times I had no idea why Lex Luthor even wanted to pit Batman and Superman against each other), the short glimpses of her from 100 years ago seemed to invite a much more fun entry into the DC Extended Universe down the road that will hopefully deliver.
To be honest, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is probably the only major character I didn’t hate. Batman is most certainly a tortured soul here, and definitely fights hand-to-hand properly with the great fierce and skill that defines his darker side, and Ben Affleck even gets the portrayal right, but the character is so shockingly stupid it’s unbearable. The World’s Greatest Detective is essentially The World’s Greatest Dumbass, taking the fight to Superman for reasons that are only half-heartedly convincing, only to resolve his beef with logic so facepalm worthy it is actually mind-blowing the resolution made it into the script.
The majority of the plot has characters thinking Superman is a threat for some isolated incident in a desert area surrounded by enemies that got a few civilians killed, nevermind the fact that he absolutely leveled Metropolis while battling General Zod in Man of Steel, with many casualties in the process. One of the very few genius creative decisions by Zack Snyder is to actually re-create some of this mayhem from the point of view of Bruce Wayne, except most of it eventually feels dropped from the narrative in favor of this new storyline. It’s just another area where the narrative fails to cohesively come together.
Some are also going to have an axe to grind with Snyder’s creative decision to have Batman physically branding criminals with his Bat iconography and getting a little gun crazy, even going as far as killing criminals, but when the rest of the character is so bullish and stubborn it’s hard to fret for long about such gripes. Besides, one of the only scenes where he actively uses firearms is during the much-anticipated Knightmare sequence, which like most everything else is staggeringly out-of-place in the rest of the movie.
As far as the acting goes, what’s really frustrating is how forced and awkward some of the delivery is. Those that had a ball poking fun at Christian Bale’s supercharged rendition of the Caped Crusader can’t really tout Ben Affleck as much better; his voice is overly gruff making remarks that are occasionally unintentionally hilarious. The bit where he tells Superman he will bleed plays out much better in the trailer than the final product, where Batman now mutters the line to himself after Superman flies away…
The true miscasting however comes from Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, who I don’t even know where to begin ripping apart. I don’t really care that there are no qualities of his comic book version counterpart on display, because there is nothing wrong with a fresh take. The problem is that he just comes across as a psychotic Mark Zuckerberg hopped up on Mountain Dew that loves waxing philosophical and dropping Greek mythology references. Again, it has to be mentioned that his motivations make little sense (the writers essentially go the route of daddy issues with him), and that he is overall a completely underwhelming villain. Doomsday isn’t necessarily much better, but at least the movie becomes fun when he is introduced, and finally begins to indulge in Snyder’s directorial trademarks of mass destruction.
Also, absolutely no one can take away from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that it looks visually spectacular, whether it comes from watching Batman storm a room of criminals and taking them down one by one with his fists and gadgets, Superman lifting Doomsday all the way into orbit, Wonder Woman lunging across a burning battlefield, and more. Unfortunately, some of the vehicular chases fail to entertain, along with the anticipated showdown itself not lasting very long and coming across underwhelming, but once all the cards finally do fall into place, the movie is undeniably entertaining on an epic scale. The final battle is exhausting and yields some surprising emotional consequences that shape an interesting upcoming future for the next few installments in the DCEU.
Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL also give it their all in trying to mitigate some of the emotional dissonance with a pounding symphony of destruction, that if nothing else, gives a false sense of importance and grandeur. Their collaborative score is one of the few areas of the film successfully able to walk away unscathed.
Don’t feel to dissuaded to no longer purchase a ticket for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; instead just temper your expectations. The movie is a colossal letdown on almost every front, but in some ways it was to be expected considering the magnitude of what DC and Warner Bros. wanted to accomplish only two films into their shared universe. Once Snyder gains his bearings after an extremely rocky set-up, the bombastic action is unleashed paving the way for a bright future. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t a very good movie, but it also halfway gets the job done. Maybe that three-hour Blu-ray will flesh things out even more. For now, I maintain excitement for Suicide Squad.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
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