BvS: Dawn of Justice Review: How to ruin Superheroes without really trying

1 Out Of 5 Reels

Hey, Everybody! Welcome to another movie review from Flickmuncher.com. I had planned to do a review on The Divergent Series: Allegiant but unfortunately I was out of town last weekend and I wasn’t able to go see it to give it a review. I might review it at a later date but for right now there will not be an Allegiant review on Flickmuncher.com

With that out of the way, some of you might have heard about a little comic book movie that happened to be coming out this weekend called Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The hype behind this movie was staggering; easily outstripping any movie that didn’t have the words Star Wars in its title. Movie pundits and comic book geeks(with whom I proudly identify myself) were practically climbing the walls with excitement. Even people with zero interest in comic book movies found themselves curious to see these two icons sharing the silver screen for the first time; to see the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight together in a medium where twenty years ago such a thing would have been considered, not impossible but highly unlikely. So now that it’s been released, does it live up to the incredible hype that it generated?

Warning – For those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS, so if you care about such things and want to see the movie first then stop reading here.

For those of you who are still reading, I will assume that either you’ve already seen the movie or that spoilers don’t matter.

So let’s look at the premise. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is directed by Zach Snyder (300 and Watchmen) and picks up immediately after the events detailed in the 2013 film Man of Steel (also directed by Snyder) where a Kryptonian invasion and Superman’s (Henry Cavill) efforts to stop it leaves much of the city of Metropolis in ruins and hundreds dead. Among those to witness the destruction is billionaire businessman Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who watches as a battle between Superman and the evil General Zod obliterates one of his office buildings and many of the people inside it. In the aftermath of the Battle of Metropolis, Superman has become a figure of much controversy and distrust, especially that of the government and Wayne’s alter-ego Batman who is coming up with a solution to the Superman problem using weaponized Kryptonite. Meanwhile, shady businessman Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is at work on his own plan to remove Superman from the picture using technology from a downed Kryptonian ship while also attempting to secretly turn public opinion against the man of steel. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is constantly dogged in his efforts to procure Kryptonite by a mysterious woman who has her own agenda.

Are you still with me? Good. So, yeah, this movie has a plot with more holes in it than a block of swiss cheese after a shotgun blast. It is pretty paper-thin and what’s worse is that it wastes the premise that it starts out with, namely Superman facing consequences of his actions when they cause damage, injury, and even death to people that he is supposed to be protecting, even if he had the best intentions in mind. Continued recklessness on Superman’s part would give Batman a solid reason for developing a way to deal with him and it would solidify Bruce’s motivation.

But, in a weird twist of irony, Superman isn’t shown as destructively reckless in this movie. Really, for the better part of the first half, this movie shows Superman doing what Superman does, which is saving people, albeit a bit over-dramatically at times. Admittedly, he doesn’t do much at all beyond that in this movie except play punching bag for Batman but that’s a whole other story. The one point of violence he does enact directly on a human being is against a terrorist who is holding Lois Lane at gunpoint. A terrorist whose purpose I am honestly still confused by.

In point of fact, it seemed to me like Batman showed a more cavalier disregard for human life in this film. One sequence has him blowing up several SUV’s (that still have people in them) by opening up with the .50 caliber machine guns fixed to the hood of the Batmobile and then crashing through a boatyard with a devil-may-care attitude that would shock a Monster Truck driver. In another scene, he takes the Batwing on a strafing run of some more SUV’s (also with people still in them) in an effort to rescue Superman’s mother. Then, during that same rescue, he ends up in a stand-off with a man holding a flamethrower at Ma Kent. How does he handle the situation? He shoots the guy’s gas pack turning him into a living bomb, almost killing Ma Kent in the process.

Why do I bring all this up? Because Batman is the person that the movie expects us to root for and relate to. He is the main character, despite being only one half of the title. He doesn’t trust Superman and the power that Superman wields, which is understandable. After all “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. But given his actions in the film next to Superman’s, Batman has absolutely no moral grounds for fighting Superman beyond his own guilt and paranoia. And I’m sorry, that’s a huge problem in a film where both heroes need to be likeable and understandable. I didn’t feel I got to know the characters enough to understand them, and neither of them felt likeable. And that’s not against the performers. Henry Cavill is perfectly fine as Superman and Ben Affleck is a wonder to behold as Batman, giving both him and Bruce Wayne an edge that we’ve not seen since Michael Keaton played the role. It’s just the way the characters are written makes it difficult to connect with them in any way. For this I lay the blame at the feet of screenwriter David Goyer, a man who once asked if people who liked Martian Manhunter (a lesser-known DC hero) “have ever been laid?”.And DC chose this man to write their flagship characters. Classy.

So, now that I’ve talked at length about the main characters and the story, what about the rest of the movie? Well, there are some real bright spots in this movie. I’ve already mentioned Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill but Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman also are deserving of a mention. Irons provides most of the lighter moments in the film with his dry wit while also providing a voice of reason and support to Affleck’s Batman. Gadot likewise is fun as Wonder Woman. She isn’t given much to do but the moments she is in, especially the small ones with Bruce Wayne, are a lot of fun to watch.

The action beats are also a lot of fun to watch at least, if not for their narrative significance. Watching the special effects was like watching moving art. It’s just gorgeous to look at and whatever I might or might not have against Zach Snyder, his movies always look good. The visuals are almost impossible to describe while doing justice to the scene. This is why it’s so frustrating for me that these visuals are not paired with a narrative and characters of equal quality. Zach Snyder, as a director, has always had this problem and it keeps this from being a movie that could have been truly great.

This brings me to the last and most irritating part of this movie: Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. I’ll sum up Lex Luthor in one sentence: imagine the Dark Knight’s Joker, mixed with a drunk Captain Jack Sparrow. Imagine that and you will have this Lex Luthor. This is a character that exists entirely to be the villain, to the point of being cartoonish. He has no solid motivation for hating Superman other than he’s Lex Luthor; he has to hate Superman. The entire movie is dependent on his motivation and by the end when he’s put away you’re still not sure why he does everything he does. Beyond that, the movie simply dispenses with him having any fallibility whatsoever. He knows everything about Batman and Superman. Their secret identities, their loved ones, their weaknesses; all with no explanation for how he knows that. Although I suppose it makes sense for this Superman given how little interest he seems to have in protecting his identity or his loved ones, but Batman? Batman is all about protecting his secret identity. How in the world could Lex have figured this out? And wouldn’t it do more damage given all the criminals Batman has put away to simply put a bounty out on his head in Gotham? You might say, “it’s because Lex wanted Batman and Superman to take each other out by having them fight.” If so, why would he kidnap Lois and Ma Kent to get Superman to fight? Why wouldn’t he try to make Superman believe that Batman was the real evil that needed to be dealt with? Because, whether they succeeded or not in taking each other out, one of them was likely to survive and the one that survived was going to probably come for him. What did he plan on doing then? To quote Val Kilmer, “It just raises too many questions.” Ugghhh.

And finally there’s Lex’s constant and self-important pontificating about the roles of god and man. Which could have been interesting if the story had made more effort to support it, but it doesn’t seek to answer any of the philosophical questions that it raises and thus his speeches amount to nothing more than verbal diarrhea that’s just set-up for the future Justice League movie.

Speaking of which, the tie-ins for the future justice league are so mistimed that it actually took me out of the movie for a second, and I knew what was going on because I’m familiar with the comics. I can’t imagine how it must be for someone who doesn’t know who all these characters are and what their roles are in the comics. The set-ups themselves are not bad but they come right before the climax. This disrupts any tension that the movie had been building as it moved up to Doomsday in the Kryptonian ship.

This leads me to the biggest spoiler of the movie, the “death” of Superman at Doomsday’s hand. How well this works for you is dependent on what you think of Superman as a character and where you think he’s at in his development in this movie. For me, I was genuinely shocked when Superman was killed and I applaud Zach Snyder for what he was trying to do—emphasis on ‘trying’–when he made that decision. The problem I have with it is that there’s no suspense. Death in movies works best when it actually sticks. I personally knew when they killed him that he’d be back(after all you can’t have a Justice League movie without Superman) but I was shocked when the grains of dirt began rising off the coffin in the last shot of the movie. I didn’t think they’d do it so soon and it made me as an audience member question the point of killing him in the first place.

Conclusion:

I think I need to wrap this up before I pop a blood vessel or something equally unhealthy.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a dark film. A very dark film. I think part of this is that they are still trying to do with superheroes what Christopher Nolan did with Batman in the Dark Knight Trilogy where he applied superheroes to a real world scenario. The other part is I think a reaction to their primary competition at Marvel which are known for giving their heroes a light and playful tone more often than not. Neither of these are wrong in and of themselves. It’s good that DC wants to do something different with its movies and the The Dark Knight Trilogy, while still having problems, are a terrific set of movies to emulate. I don’t even mind these movies having a darker tone if it suits them. But there needs to be a point to the darkness. You can’t just have a movie, especially a superhero movie, be dark without giving the audience a reason for that tone beyond being dark and gritty for its own sake. This movie doesn’t have that reason and so it lacks a sense of purpose, almost having a nihilism to it that it doesn’t need to accomplish its goals. Worse, the filmmakers disrespect their audience by assuming they know what the audience wants better than they do. They think they want Batman and Superman, the two of the most iconic characters in history. It doesn’t matter how they’re shown, just put the names “Batman” and “Superman” into the title and people will pile into the seats to see it no matter what. And the sad thing is that they’re not wrong. This movie will make lots of money. Heck, it already has. But I’ve heard several movie pundits say about this movie that its not for kids. And that makes me sad. Because a movie about two icons like Batman and Superman should be for kids.

Remember my mention of David Goyer and him mocking fans of Martian Manhunter? You might be wondering what that had to do with Batman and Superman. Well, here’s the thing about this movie: This is not solely a movie for comic book geeks, but I think it underestimates how much people know about these characters, beyond their origin stories. We all know Batman and Superman because they have such an established presence in our lives. We learned about them when we were kids because we wanted to be like them. By talking down to the audience, the film alienates us from the experience, treating us like four-year-olds to wave candy in front of. Worse, it makes us wonder why these guys were so meaningful to us in the first place. For me, as a filmgoer, that makes me question why I’m sitting in the theater at all. That’s the last thing I want to think while watching a film called Batman v Superman. In fact, before the movie, there was a trailer for Lego Batman and I looking back that I found that two minute long trailer far more enjoyable than the two-and-a-half hour long movie I watched. And I don’t think I was alone in that feeling.

This is the movie we got, and the fact it was made at all is a remarkable feat. A lot of people worked very hard to bring it to us. But for a film with two figures like these, shouldn’t we expect more? For that reason I can only recommend watching it if you are insatiably curious. Or perhaps you just want to watch a mindless action flick with superheroes in it. If so, more power to you. Enjoy yourself. But for me, this was a movie that definitely flew too near the sun.

What did you guys think of the movie? Do you agree with my thoughts? Where do you disagree? What did you like so much about it? Is there something that you’d like me to review? Let me know in the comments below or share this review with your friends and talk to them about it.

You can find me on twitter @Lightwielder524. Until next time, have a great week and May the Flick be with You!

Citations:

(2014, May 21). Retrieved March 28, 2016, from http://www.themarysue.com/david-goyer-calls-she-hulk-sex-fantasy/

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