It finally happened. After practically three years of intense hype, fanboy rage at a certain casting, four trailers that ranged from pretty good to really, really bad, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS for short) is finally out for the world to see (and the reception has been…mixed, to put it in the nicest terms). This was perhaps the most highly anticipated movie of 2016. The first cinematic meeting of Batman and Superman, the first cinematic appearance of Wonder Woman and several other DC heroes, and the foundation of the larger DC Extended Universe—it’s safe to say that there was considerable excitement over its release. Everything about this movie was big—when it succeeded, it soared, but it ultimately collapsed under its own weight, and head idiot in charge Zack Snyder squanders what could be a truly compelling, unforgettable experience with choppy storytelling, grave mischaracterization, and an annoyingly depressing atmosphere. Also, before I dive in: no worries to those who haven’t seen the film yet, I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum!
I’ll start off with the bad. And there’s quite a bit, so bear with me. As I stated in a previous article I wrote, I’m not a fan of Man of Steel or the DCEU’s portrayal of Superman. Unfortunately, it became abundantly clear to me during one of the opening scenes of the movie that this Superman was still someone who I was not going to be a fan of—when Lois is being held hostage by a warlord, Superman has a myriad of options at hand to dispose of the criminal: melt the gun, move at super-speed and take the gun out of his hand, or simply just pick the guy up off of Lois before he can blink. Instead he finds it prudent to blast the poor guy through three sets of concrete walls. Because a regular human being can take a beating just as well as an invulnerable alien, right? (Miraculously, he wasn’t killed…which, let’s be honest, is a load of crap).
Henry Cavill definitely looks the part, but he isn’t given any good material to work with; his face is perpetually warped in a tortured, depressed grimace, and this extends to his crusading counterpart Clark Kent, who at least seems happy living with Lois. Poor Superman is faced with a world that flip flops on its opinion of him the way politicians are apt to do, and he is faced with a crisis of conscience as he laments that the world always finds reasons to complain about his selfless acts of heroism. At some point, Superman becomes akin to a selfish, whiny child, and if a movie manages to turn the most iconic superhero in the world into something like that, then you know something has gone wrong. And while the debates are certainly interesting, as the movie raises many good points about how our modern, cynical world would view this “god” who seems to act out of a deep desire to help others, Superman is still portrayed as an individual who should rightly be feared (the harrowing opening sequence drives this home), instead of someone who gives us no reason to fear him. Ultimately, I was displeased with this portrayal of Superman, as he continued to be a gross misrepresentation of the true character, despite the compelling issues raised about him.
Another bad part of the movie was the plot. Sure, as a whole it wasn’t that bad, but there is just too much trying to be accomplished in one already overlong movie for any of it to be coherent (perhaps, in the hands of a better director it might’ve worked, but Zack Snyder is too preoccupied with creating painting-esque images to care about whether or not the audience understands what the hell is going on). Bruce Wayne’s dream sequences only make sense to DC comics fans (like yours truly), and even then, just barely. They were not dreams so much as almost prophetic visions of the future. I guess, in this new movie universe, Batman has the incredible superhero power of premonition. Intriguing, surprisingly deep debates about power are brought up and then dropped before they can have any lasting impact. And the various cameos of future Justice League members Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg, are for the most part forced and a bit absurd (although I will admit, Aquaman’s was very cool.) And when it came to the titular fight, the reason (while it made sense in the plot) actually was a bit of a disappointment—if you were hoping that Batman and Superman’s titanic clash was the result of conflicting ideologies finally coming to blows, you’ll be a bit disappointed. There was also an over-reliance on CGI throughout the entire movie, which ranged from just seeming lazy to being downright overwhelming, namely the final battle with Doomsday, when the monster unleashed an explosion of energy as it evolved into more dangerous forms.
No worries, however—the dismal Rotten Tomatoes score of 29% does not take into account that this movie definitely had some awesome moments. I’ll start with my definite favorite—Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I was most excited to see Wonder Woman’s cinematic debut going into this movie, and needless to say, I was not disappointed. Gadot owns the role and displays great confidence despite limited screen-time. The highlight of the final battle was Wonder Woman’s thrilling smile in the heat of her battle with Doomsday—her elation is infectious (the biggest takeaway from this movie is that I cannot wait for her solo outing in June 2017). The supporting cast is excellent. Jeremy Irons plays a perfectly snarky Alfred, Laurence Fishburne and Amy Adams are both excellent in their roles as Perry White and Lois Lane (who sadly is really nothing more than bait for Superman or a device to move the plot along), as are Holly Hunter as Senator Finch and Diane Lane as Mrs. Kent (the similarity between all of these characters is that they are criminally underused). My only casting complaint is Jesse Eisenberg, who portrays the classically imposing Lex Luthor as a mousy, tic prone, psychotic weirdo with no discernible motivation other than he’s mad at God for letting his dad beat him. Ben Affleck makes for an excellent Batman; he is great at portraying Bruce Wayne as an older, weary man who is clearly unable to cope with the changing reality of the world. Batman himself is a treat to watch on screen. My only turn off to him was that he was a tad too brutal in hand-to-hand combat, and a tad too prone to lethal force (“manslaughter” as Snyder put it) when driving the sleek new Batmobile. The fight sequence teased in the final trailer did not disappoint, and topped anything that Christopher Nolan did in the Dark Knight Trilogy. However, Batman was also portrayed partly as a meathead who is unable to recognize when he’s being played for a fool, and unable to get over his newfound inferiority complex. Also, the whole branding thing? Yeah, I could’ve done without that.
Overview: Batman v Superman is an muddled yet visually entertaining affair with some really great moments that ultimately buckles under its own weight and the hype it built up for itself. 6/10
The good: Batfleck, WONDER WOMAN, the score, the cast, surprising emotion, some captivating visuals, Aquaman’s cameo, and some really unexpected, heart-pounding twists.
The bad: Snyder’s continued mishandling of Superman, Jesse Eisenberg, CGI overkill, clunky plot, lazy setup of DC Extended Universe, the dream sequences, Batman being a little too violent, the unnecessarily dark tone, heroism is a burden to our protagonists.
The ugly: Young Bruce Wayne falling down yet another well and being attacked by some more bats (didn’t I see this in 2005?), Grandma’s Peach Tea, and bonding over Martha (see the movie—you’ll get what I mean).