‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ Review: Fire, Fury and Kryptonite

Posted in The Screening Room by - March 25, 2016

One of the year’s most anticipated releases, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is director Zack Snyder’s second foray into the world of the DC Cinematic Universe. Much like the MCU, Warner Brothers has decided they too need a strong superhero franchise to build their fortune on. The first of which, 2013’s Man of Steel was met with mostly negative reviews.

Its successor, Batman v Superman, has been a controversial topic, to say the least. Critics hate it; fans love it, an age old battle much like the one depicted on screen. Though I enjoyed the film, the flaws are glaring and unsightly, many times enough to turn one away from watching it all together. Snyder’s visual ecstasy once again cannot make up for his complete and utter lack of coherent storytelling.

To call it disjointed would be to have mercy; the film’s first half is an illogical, stuttering mess. It jumps from subplot to subplot with no intention of bringing the audience along. Didn’t you catch that bit? Oh well, here’s something about a dirty bomb. Snyder decides structure doesn’t look good enough on screen and disregards any underlying filmmaking logic. For example, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) asks where Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is, cracking a joke about his Kansas origins. You’d think the following scene would show where Clark is. Instead, it’s a shot of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) meeting a contact involving another ridiculous subplot about experimental bullets. Its uncoordinated plot dance feels so rushed and inexplicable that one might think Snyder shot a 3-hour fight scene and forgot to include any exposition. It’s rare to find a blockbuster release so intent on looking like a deleted scenes montage.

Though that may not be entirely director Snyder’s fault, it certainly is executive producer Snyder’s fault. The entire basis of this film doesn’t make sense from a storyboard standpoint. The inclusion of Doomsday, Darkseid, Wonder Woman, Batman and half a dozen other main characters in minor roles makes it impossible to craft a clear two-and-a-half-hour film. There’s simply too much to be told and not enough reel to tell it. This movie is a Man of Steel sequel, a Dark Knight Returns adaptation, a Justice League setup, political thriller and (failed) theocratic moral study all in one.

The Justice League bits are also handled with little care. Much like the Sinister Six tease at the end of Amazing Spiderman 2, each Leaguer gets a cameo in the form of secret videos Luthor’s collected about metahumans. He even went so far as to give them logos; what a sweetheart. Though indeed impressive, their heavy-handed execution destroys all the suspense of future entry. It feels as though Snyder, Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer wanted to appeal to the fanboys in hopes they’d see this movie a thousand times over just for the 30-second Flash clip. “See the lightning? Oh and there’s a mother box! Look, look, Aquaman has a trident!” To top it all off, before that we have a Flashpoint Paradox-esque message from the future given by none other than Flash himself to Batman. Keep in mind this all happens after the Darkseid dream sequence in which we see Parademons as part of Superman’s army. These things work for the comic book fans, people who love the franchises and live for these Easter eggs, but did any of the writers think that the casual fan or critic would understand it? Though not integral to the plotline, it’ll certainly leave many movie-goers with questions.

So yes, the first half of the film is a jumbled mess of a storyline. But, once all the lengthy exposition is finished, Snyder can do the one thing he’s talented at, fight scenes. The last half of the film includes not only the title grudge match of the movie but also the incredibly well-shot Doomsday fight. The fight between Batman and Superman plays like the title fight from Rocky with superpowers. Its emotional intensity drives both heroes to their physical limits and ends in – well I can’t say how it ends. Batman’s deep-seated hate and Superman’s lack of restraint give for a real show and one of the better parts of the film. For fans of the dark and gritty, it’s a treat; for fans of comic book levels of fantasy, keep watching. The Doomsday fight is another selling point, though uninspired in its resolution, the scene is a visual masterpiece. A fight straight out of its comic book origins, the battle is massive. What it lacks in plot logic, it almost makes up for in eye-candy.

Gal Gadot’s debut as Wonder Woman is again, one of the best parts of this film. She plays the Amazon warrior with a ferocity fans have waited decades for. Though indeed light on speaking parts, her initial appearance bodes well for her upcoming solo film. Ben Affleck’s Batman is, as many will tell you, near perfection. He seems to have studied The Dark Knight Returns so closely that he actually became the skeptical, seething Bruce Wayne penned so many years ago. His Batman is the smoldering one, the one tired with the law and traditional means. He seems to have forgotten his principles regarding murder, however. Although he doesn’t kill anyone with a bullet to the brain, he certainly doesn’t go out of his way to stop their deaths. He routinely mows down henchman with machine guns in the Batplane, but don’t worry, he only hit the cars they were in; the subsequent and violent explosions however, probably didn’t do them any favors.

With such titanic performances from Affleck and Gadot, it seems logical that Cavill’s character would falter. Superman is a bystander in his own sequel; he’s never given a voice to the words of God, the ethics of vigilantism and where the duties of a hero truly lie. He seeks advice from others but never once does he tell the audience what he thinks of the situation. For a film focused so heavily on Superman’s actions in Man of Steel, it oddly doesn’t care what he thinks about it at all. To top it off, his performance as Superman is nothing spectacular. He feels more at home as the Daily Planet reporter then as the boy in blue. As Superman he’s wooden and dour, never reaching Affleck’s level of visual communication. To be fair, Superman’s charisma has been all but stripped away in Snyder’s version of the character; making the job of emoting effectively even harder for Cavill.

A film meant to kick start a new style of superhero movies, Batman v Superman failed to deliver on its promise of mythical grandeur. The plot is always tripping over itself; the exposition is lengthy, and Snyder undeniably bit off more story than he could chew. But for all its mistakes and poor execution, it contains some of the biggest action in superhero film history. The battles are vicious, unapologetic and at the same time beautifully rendered. It’s obvious that Snyder and his writers were attempting a comic book retelling of the Odyssey but instead fell victim to the burdens of coherent storytelling. The film is undoubtedly worth a watch, even if it’s simply to see two of the greatest heroes in history duke it out in spectacular, orotund fashion.

Final Verdict: Watch It

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When not drowning in school work or ignoring social obligations he enjoys watching movies on just about anything. Currently making his way through the cinema classics he hopes to one day write a novel, but he’ll probably end up playing The Witcher 3 instead.
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