Disclaimer: While I try to avoid going into major spoiler territory, particular issues I have with the film concern some parts which can be considered spoilers. So you have been warned.
I have a confession to make. Before going into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I honestly didn’t care if the film was going to be as bad as everyone said it was, or if it was good in spite of getting critically panned. I just didn’t give a damn. In fact, this was a movie that I forgot I even had tickets to until it came up in conversation once all the reviews were coming out. My personal trainer (the same one who will be nerd out with me over Star Wars), even brought up that it was finally coming out, and I had completely forgotten. I mean, it looks bad on my part considering that the film’s marketing is being shoved down our throats wherever you go, even at the airport (what kind of film has an official airline sponsor?).
In any case, Friday rolled around, and I went with a rather large group of friends to see a film that, at the time I saw it, had already been given a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. In spite of my state of intense apathy, I sat down to view a movie that I would write a review independent of whatever they might say. What I saw was a film that was not the worst by any means, but an example of what a director with a bad track record and terrible writing can do to a movie that has the potential to be somewhat decent but turns into a mess that goes on for far too long.
Let’s start with the premise, which even the film makes more complicated than it needed to be. In a nutshell, the film is about Batman wanting to destroy Superman for what he views as his complete disregard for humanity and his ability to destroy a city even unintentionally (see Man of Steel, or as I like to call it “collateral damage the movie”). All the while, Lex Luthor is pulling strings behind the scenes to get these two to kill each other while achieving some supposed master plan? I put a question mark there because while you get the motive of Lex wanting to be rid of Superman, it’s the most convoluted and pointless part of the plot that goes on for way too long. As I mentioned earlier, one issue I have is the length of the film. Supposedly, director Zack Snyder cut out a lot of footage from the final cut as it would have made the already long film ridiculous in length. Well bad news for Snyder, he clearly didn’t finish the job. In discussing the film afterward with my friends, we agreed anywhere from 15 mins to almost an hour of scenes could probably have been removed or tweaked and it would have made no difference to the plot. Which might highlight the movie’s biggest issue: the script.
From plotlines that ultimately have no payoff to lines of dialogue that feel forced and awkward, it’s clear that the writers didn’t give these biggest names of the DC universe due diligence when writing a story about them fighting to the death. In the first 15 minutes alone, we’re treated to a bizarre dream sequence, a poorly executed flashback to the last movie, and then about 5 minutes of exposition in about four different locations. You know your film has story problems if it feels the need to start four different plotlines simultaneously. The worst part is that while all these plotlines eventually intertwine into the main narrative, it takes way too long to feel justified. Batman v Superman is perhaps the most recent movie where I’ve thought “Is it over yet?” And without going into too many spoilers, the ending is hardly the satisfying payoff that I feel Zack Snyder thinks we should be experiencing. What we get is a conclusion that makes you worry about the future of the DC film universe rather than feel excited. At least, if they continue to have the same director at the helm.
I feel in turn that the slightly lackluster performances given by the cast aren’t really their fault given the material they have to work with. Well, mostly. Henry Cavill still despite his best intentions comes off as quite wooden. That said, I’ve always felt Superman as a character never had that much depth even with the destruction of his homeworld. Perhaps that’s true about his emotional range as well. The two performances I was the most interested (read: not very) were Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. One of my friends said that Ben Affleck would make a fantastic Batman if he was in a better film, and I’m inclined to agree. While his character’s motivations make zero sense most of the time, he still does a good job portraying this universe’s version of the Dark Knight. Eisenberg’s Lex is perhaps the best performance of the whole film. It’s just a shame that he’s not playing “Lex Luthor”, but rather a Joker clone who calls himself Lex Luthor. Gone are calm and collected decisions, the focus is on unhinged insanity and mad genius. Still, it’s fun to watch and a break from the doldrum of the rest of the film. That and the fight scenes.
Perhaps the only reason anyone will see the film in the first place is the action scenes, and they are (thankfully) very well done. If you have to say one thing that Zack Snyder is good at, it is the fight scenes in his films. They’re tight, well shot, and are hands down the best bits of the movie. In fact, if the film had replaced some of the useless scenes with more fighting I wouldn’t feel like the film was so boring.
Even with all the films issues, I still recommend people go see it if they want to or were going to in the first place. It’s certainly a film that you should form your own opinion about even with all the bad press that it’s receiving. Just don’t be surprised if you feel as bored as I did at the end of it.
Cue sad Affleck.