Published on March 28th, 2016 | by Ian Goodwillie1
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a murky, messy, CGI porn extravaganza, but it’s nowhere near as bad as some critics and fans think.
The hype leading up to this movie was lacking, especially in comparison to Deadpool or Captain America: Civil War. Except for sponsored content or pieces posted by online pundits, social media newsfeeds were all but bereft of Batman v. Superman chatter. People were nervous leading up to this one. DC’s film history in the past few years has not been the best, barring a couple notable exceptions. Combine that with a lackluster marketing campaign and this movie had bomb written all over it.
And depending on who you ask, that is the case. Critics are panning it. A significant portion of fans seem to love it. But when fans and are critics are divided, who is wrong? When it comes to Batman v. Superman, the answer is simple.
Wait. Or is everyone right?
That might just be a perspective thing.
Lowered expectations can play mind games on you. Most people going into this one were not expecting great things, particularly after an at best mediocre Man of Steel. The bar was not high for Batman v. Superman. But you have to give credit where credit is due in that it did at least clear that bar.
First and foremost, let’s talk about the casting elephant in the room. Ben Affleck made a great Batman for this movie. The Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale version was pretty much just a ninja dressed as a bat. He lacked the intelligence and strategy the Batman should bring to a situation. He’s more than a fighter with some cool toys; he’s a thinker. Affleck’s Batman is the strategist and thinker he should be without losing the intensity, gadgets, or combat skills. And Jeremy Irons plays Alfred to Affleck’s Bruce Wayne brilliantly.
After Affleck, casting Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman earned the film’s producers almost as much ire from fans. But like Affleck, Gadot killed it. She was tough, intense, bad ass, and regal, everything you should expect from Wonder Woman. And this film successfully put me in full anticipation mode for her upcoming movies.
And then there’s Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor, one of the movie’s biggest conundrums. Jesse plays the part he is given to perfection but this version of Luthor strays too far into Joker territory with his scheming. He is less an imposing and devious figure lusting for power, and more of a violent lunatic burdened by his own genius. This Luthor is annoying at best. The issue here is that it’s hard to condemn Eisenberg for this as he didn’t create this iteration of Luthor but he did at least do it well.
One of the biggest fears going in was that like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron before it, Batman v. Superman was just going to be a series of trailers for all the movies they plan on making while being bereft of its own plot. While there is some of that going on, Batman v. Superman does it in a more organic fashion that fits the story of this movie. The act of introducing Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman was far less intrusive and distraction than expected.
That being said, this movie still just barely has a plot.
Batman v. Superman, like too many superhero flicks, is unnecessarily long. There is at least 30 to 45 minutes of tedious filler that could easily be cut out without detrimentally impacting the film. Things don’t really get going until the fight kicks into high gear. A prime example of this is Batman’s CrossFit training montage. We know he’s tough and in great shape. Why do we need to see this? No amount of beating a tractor tire with a sledgehammer is going to make you as strong as Superman or more effective in the fight.
Another odd choice was to go without scenes in the credits or after them. This is a holdover from a previous DC movie director who did not look too kindly on the practice. But there are two scenes that stick out like sore thumbs that would have been better used in this capacity; Batman’s “Knightmare” and his final confrontation with Luthor.
To be honest, the Knightmare scene in particular has proven to be quite confusing for people who don’t know DC Comics well.
All these two scenes really do is set the stage for future movies, adding little to the plot of this one. They would have served both the film they are a part of and the future of this big screen universe better in the credits. Doing so would have been less distracting when engrossed in this movie. There is a place in film storytelling to for mid-credit and post-credit scenes. Having these scenes where they are just muddies the plot.
Batman v. Superman is a typical Zack Snyder film in many ways. It’s a loose collection of scenes that look amazing but just barely hang together on what you could charitably call a plot. It drags along for a while, then suddenly kicks into high gear with frenetic action combined with liberal doses of slow motion. There is just barely a beginning and end to this story, and the ultimate goal of characters involved is convoluted if there at all. Luthor, in particular, seems to be piecing his “master plan” together as he goes, hoping that the players involved don’t look too closely until it’s too late.
Ultimately, Batman v. Superman is a really long first act for the upcoming Justice League film. But it’s reasonably well-executed first act with some amazing action sequences and great performances that sets the stage for the next wave of DC films. If you’re going see it, do so in theaters otherwise a lot of what makes it work with be lost.
Batman v. Superman is not a bomb and it’s not the best movie you’re going to see in 2016. Just go see it and enjoy it exactly as it is.