Due to my location, a holiday, and sheer laziness, I did not see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on opening day. I was also not in that much of a rush as the last DC movie was not something to write home about. But the trailer did a good job of creating hype. But that is also what happened with Man of Steel. Immediately following the movie’s release the bad reviews came out. Now, I didn’t read the reviews but could not avoid the review titles without boycotting all of the interwebs. All those titles indicated that the movie was simply horrible.
Now as a movie lover for me to go by the word of others without actually experiencing the art of a specific moving picture I cannot agree, disagree, or critique. I would have little or no frame of reference to base an argument upon. I do know a lot about the Superman, Batman, and Superman v Batman in the comicbook universe but this cinematic journey would be something completely new where my knowledge would lead me to certain conclusions about the story and the characters involved, the specifics, minutia, and the overall experience however would be lost on me. I still needed to see the movie.
I called/texted a couple of friends to go see the movie. They had already seen it. I became worried when no one would say a single word of what they thought. Usually I would have to tell people not to say anything, make noises to drown out their words, or overt my eyes from spoilery text whether the news was good or bad. But no, most people gave me a response that boils down to, let me know what you think. It was very ominous. But still I wanted to see the movie. I knew it was going to be bad before the reviews came out and my plan to hate watch it was not going to be ruined by bad timing and laziness. I finally made it out to the theatre 5 days after its release.
I have words but I have no words at the same time. Is that possible? There are so many things to say that I don’t know where to start or possibly that my vocabulary is not immense enough to properly describe the crapulous nature of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
I don’t even know where to start with this critique; chronologically, direction, script, acting, “plot” (trust me that needs to be in quotes), score, inconsistencies, continuity. All these things add up to the bloated nonsense that is Batman v Superman. I am not sure who to put the blame upon. My first instinct is Zack Snyder based on his previous outings as a director. But I would like to see the script for the film to see how much blame to put on that. Maybe it is the editors? A badly edited film can really destroy a story that is being told. Maybe it is the producers? They have final say in the overall look and feel of the film. I find blaming the actors is a little too easy but they are definitely not free of blame.
I think I will start with the characters.
Batman – Batman is Batman, as portrayed in the many movies that came before. He is scarred, brooding, and dark. He is what you would expect. For some reason they insisted on putting a mini origin story that at first seems unnecessary but comes back in the most ridiculous way at the climax of the movie. Ben Affleck does a good job. I was always torn with this casting choice. This may seen an odd point of view but I always thought he could play a good Bruce Wayne but not Batman. Yes they are the same “person” but their “persona” are very different. He can play the rich, handsome, billionaire, but a threatening power house beating up bad guys in a foreboding bat suit? I didn’t see him being able to span the gap between the two. But he does, in an acceptable fashion. Not in the Michael-Keaton-you-would-never-expect-to-blow-you-out-of-the-water way but in an ok-this-works kind of way.
Superman – Superman is no longer what he used to be. My problem with the Superman character in the curent DC cinematic universe is that they are trying way too hard to make him different. He is coming across as weird, creepy, foolish, irrational, and reckless. They are changing him, the fundamental character that has been developed over the last 8 decades, instead of the environment around him to make him make tough decisions, question his purpose and morality. This shift is making him ever less heroic and just a brute. I think this is basis of most people’s dislike of the last 2 Superman films, they no longer connect with the character and what is presented is truly alien. And sometimes this works but for this franchise it is failing spectacularly. Henry Cavill has the look and the stature for the role of Superman, his Clark Kent however is failing. One thing that all the actors in this role before him have been able to do it make that separation work. As Clark Kent they seem small, clumsy, a little goofy and as Superman they seem heroic, charming, a saviour. Whereas Cavill just looks like Superman with glasses on. That suspension of disbelief just doesn’t stand up when you can easily believe that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person. Their stature, mannerisms, and attitudes are the same so as soon as you see the resemblance that connection can be easily reached. Sure his disguise is ridiculous but if you can believe they are two different people you are less likely to make the connection.
Lex Luthor – Known for his megalomania, spectacular antics, and bravado, while coming across as a viable threat, Lex Luthor seems more petulant and ridiculous than anything else. I am not sure if to blame this on the writing, direction, or the actor. He seems too animated lacking the refinement of a calculated mind. He does a lot of talking, gesticulation, and twitching. I understand this is supposed to point to his unstable nature but it just doesn’t work. He is much too manic with unclear motives.
Wonder Woman – I can’t say much about Wonder Woman because she really doesn’t do anything. Sure she gets into the fight at the end but there is no character development, very little screen time, and barely any dialogue. Based on what was present I will say she was fine, satisfactory. Gal Gadot is better than I thought but because she does very little I cant really critique her performance. She looks good in the pretty dresses they have her in and she does look good in the Wonder Woman costume. She says only about 40 words in the whole movie and then randomly she is in the fight and that is about it.
Lois Lane – I like Amy Adams but she is horrible as Lois Lane. She just does not fit the role and it irks me to no end. She is also a relatively useless character in the movie. She doesn’t make an kind of sensible choices which continuously puts her in danger.
Everyone else – The are all just there. Some used as a catalyst to move the story forward others as useless filler or reminders that the still exist.
When it comes to the story and plot I don’t know what the were thinking. As we know while fighting Zod, Superman recklessly destroyed part of Metropolis. In doing so one of Wayne Enterprises buildings was destroyed. Bruce Wayne rushed to the scene but was too late to do anything about it. This is where Bruce/Batman’s mistrust/dislike of the man of steel develops. Jump to a year and a half later, the cit is being rebuilt and monuments to Superman are erected. Superman goes to save Lois who has gotten herself into trouble in the middle east and in doing so destabilizes a country. This brings into question Superman’s motives. Then there is Lex Luthor who has spent a great deal of money to find some Kryptonite so he can see Superman and Batman fight each other. Also he gets access to Zod’s body (from Man of Steel) so he can create a monster. Bruce Wayne meets a hot chick at a party and it turns out to be Wonder Woman.
I mean in writing that doesn’t sound too bad but the execution is horrible. It is disjointed, clumsy, and frustrating. It is like the writers had specific scenes the wanted in the film and everything else was filler and they treated it just like that. The story presented was completely secondary to the action and effects. This has been the problem with Zack Snyder, his movies all have the same problem. Lots of beautiful images and cool action but there is nothing bringing it all together. The wow factor subsides very quickly. This is not acceptable when you are trying to build a cinematic universe on the backs of your 2 most famous and profitable characters. Ruining those characters does not bode well for future developments. Right now the movies are making money, no where near what it should though, but that will fade soon. Half the money is coming from hopeful fans thinking that DC movies would turn around (I think a lot of this has to do with the popularity of the TV shows) and the other half is from people like me who actively hate watch the movies knowing full well it is going to be bad. But soon I, and they, will get so tired of the nonsense that they will have a colossal flop.
There are also problems with decisions, continuity, and plot holes that make it clear that either the writers weren’t doing their job or the editors. There are points where there is something missing that would bring an understanding to a situation. In the climactic scene in the movie, Lois Lane is in the ruins of a fight with no knowledge of this monster that just showed up. The development that the monster can be destroyed by Kryptonite is made completely separate from her and she has no means of contact with anyone who would have the knowledge. Yet somehow she divines that she should get the Kryptonite spear to stop it. It makes no sense. Also Batman would not get the monster to follow him back to the city to get the spear. It would have made more sense for him to go get it then comeback. That would contain and reduce collateral damage. These are simple things that could have been fixed if someone was paying attention.
Then there is the whole nonsense of how Batman and Superman stop being enemies and work together. It is such bullshit that it blows my mind. It is so stupid and convoluted that it incited laughter and heavy sighs from me and others in the audience. Then there are Batman’s psychic dreams. They are completely out of left field and a lame graceless way of trying to set a mysterious thread between this and rest of the DC movie slate. Because the boring unimaginative thread found in a file was not enough.
There is more I can say but what is the point? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice goes a long way to show that the people making DC films do not care. Not about fans, or the story, or these icons of pop culture. If they did, even if the story was not the best, the characters would still be enjoyable and intact. If there is someone on their team that does care that person is being ignored or shouted down. They need to stop, rethink what they are doing, and iron out a story before they think of the punchy bits.