Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [Review]

Film Info:

  • Genre: Superhero / Action
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot
  • Running Time: 151 Minutes
  • Release Date: March 25, 2016

Despite all the negative press it was getting on release, I was able to bite the bullet and see this movie due to a friend’s invitation. I can say that while it’s not exactly the flat bomb that most were expecting (especially when people heard that the Batmobile had machineguns), it’s not that much of a pleasant surprise either. There’s quite a bit that must be sifted through in order to properly judge it, or at least my subjective experience of it.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice created quite a bit of hype, although I’m not sure if it’s more than Captain America: Civil War since that one gets more memes on social media. In this case, perhaps you can indeed measure the hype by meme volume. Most of the press I was able to catch from this movie is from all the bitching with the casting choices.

NOTE: As this is intended as a full review of this title, there may be some spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Story

I was going to lay out the gist of the whole story of Batman v Superman in an outline, simplifying each plot point as much as I can. However, I failed as it got too long anyway and I had to scrap the idea. What I learned there is that there’s no way to simplify it without chopping off a big chunk of what went on. But that’s not the real problem here.

It reminded me just how jumbled it was. As if it wasn’t already a mess with how I ordered it, it also had gaping holes in between each scene and plot line, thus making the audience fill in the blanks by themselves. That makes the film only truly understandable by those who are familiar with the DC Comics pantheon.

That’s why a lot of idiots out there started going, “It’s only for those smart enough to understand.” What they meant by that is whoever is nerdy enough to either be really into DC Comics or actually care enough to read wikis in their spare time (like myself, I admit). Despite that, I’m not that big of a Marvel fanboy to not give it some due credit.

The effort in trying to bridge the gaps and screw them tight here is admirable, although Zack Snyder and the writers ultimately failed. Only time can tell whether it’ll be any good as a prelude to the Justice League films, but it can’t be completely faulted for a lack of trying; it’s just that it did fail in the end.

Casting

Perhaps this is where Batman v Superman has done a pretty good job at. If there’s one thing people seem to like doing, it’s bitching about casting even before the movie gets made. They did it to Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight, and the same was done to Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. They were perhaps the only saving graces in this film; they did great in their roles.

Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet’s editor-in-chief was interesting, but at least he did play an overbearing boss quite well. Tao Okamoto made the film even more bearable for me (then again, she can make anything bearable for me). Amy Adams and Jesse Eisenberg are perhaps the ones I find odd the most.

She is indeed carried over from Man of Steel, but it can still be said that the multiple-time Academy Award nominee’s talents may be a bit wasted in this role, which hadn’t been rounded out as well as she should have been in the writing. But perhaps that’s mostly the fault of the comics.

She really does need Superman to keep saving her as it’s part of her function. Her other functions of being fairly competent at her job as a reporter and being Clark Kent’s voice of reason and source of strength does get fulfilled. However, I do think that could’ve been fulfilled by any other good actress out there.

As for Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, it’s an interesting choice to say the least. He plays a rather mentally unstable Lex, and he does it to the point of being painfully awkward in a good way. However, it’s too comical and hits too close to Heath Ledger’s Joker without the requisite depth and complexity that kept this Lex Luthor from being completely detestable. The said lack of substance is due to how bad his schemes were written, as well as the explanations for his successes.

Other than that, it’s just about being able to stomach Henry Cavill’s Superman well enough. I was able to since I’m not that big of a Superman fan, but I can only imagine how loyalists out there must be feeling.

Direction

There are tons of things in this film that were placed either forcefully or with a lack of due diligence. As good as the action and visual effects are, there’s a lot of elements strewn throughout the movie that seem like “they’ll just do.” Moments like that “photographer-slash-CIA-operative” using a film camera and whatever Laurence Fishburne was shouting at Clark Kent to do (which doesn’t seem like how real newspaper reporting works). These are immersion-breakers that mess with what should be a semi-realistic setting that just so happened to have superheroes in it.

It does seem like all of that was merely shoddily put in place to lead up to the ending. It makes sense that Zack Snyder only had that ending in mind and just put the pieces in place just to lead up to it. There’s also that “Martha” thing that definitely had been brewing in the backburner for quite a while now. Maybe you can put in Wonder Woman’s reveal and/or entry here as well, as well as every single time Lex gets extra creepy with his semi-clever statements regarding the Devil and America.

Mind you, that’s how a lot of films get made anyway, with certain bright spots that are then written around to form a story, which isn’t bad at all. However, there was too much stuff put around those spots, enough to fetter with the overall narrative to get the audience lost. That definitely has a lot to do with the direction of the movie; so much fat could’ve been trimmed to fit in the parts that could’ve actually maintained the integrity of the finished product.

Perhaps the gist of it is the lack of refinement in the writing. Everything else, including the cinematography, visual effects, and fight choreography are quite nice. Out of all those other elements, the soundtrack is what really stands out. What made Wonder Woman’s appearance such a hit here is the music; it does send chills every single time. In my case, it’s almost enough for me to rewatch the movie just for that, although I’m not willing enough to sit through all the other parts. (I’ll just watch those scenes on YouTube.)

Final Score

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
5 out of 10
Pros
  • Good depiction of Batman
  • Passable humanization of Superman
  • Wonder Woman reveal and entrance are highlights
  • Psycho Lex Luthor is kind of interesting
  • Very good soundtrack
  • Nice reveals of other meta-humans
  • Tao Okamoto
Cons
  • 2.5 hours of jumping gaps and holes
  • Inconsistent pacing can be jarring
  • Juggles too many details at once
  • Not meant for non-fans of DC comics
  • Batman's nightmares of the future are out of place
  • Psycho Lex Luthor is cringeworthy
  • Lois Lane made mostly helpless
  • Kryptonian ship-cum-Pandora's Box
  • Unintelligent version of Doomsday
  • Various other things that break immersion and believability
Summary
While it had its bright spots, this is not an experience most would fondly remember. Maybe some would recall certain bits, but this is a mostly forgettable movie that will only get mentioned in footnotes and side margins once the Justice League movies come out. Those will take the brunt of criticism if they end up being bad, or maybe they'll get universal acclaim if they're good. There shall be no in-between when DC superheroes are involved.
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