Last week, Josh weighed in on the all-internet-consuming issue of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But since he refuses to actually pay money and see the movie, we were still missing a review. Until now.
Zack Snyder has a knack for high energy action scenes and great combat choreography, so even after all the poor press it got, I was willing to give Batman v Superman a try. But this movie has problems. It’s messy, long, poorly characterized, and tries to have several plots going on at the same time. I’ll try to keep this as vague as possible from here, in an effort not to spoil any of the movie, but continue at your own risk.
If the Marvel movies sandwich in references to other pieces of their universe, DC decided to go big with multiple loaves of bread. There’s an entire 10-15 minute segment that exists solely to set up for future Justice League films. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave much space for the actual movie – which might be why the plot is so thin. Angry Batman has a mad on for Supes, Lex is poking at both of them, proceed to the fights. But there’s so much extra noise, in the form of Justice League tie-ins and irrelevant details, that it’s somehow hard to follow.
Now, like I said, Snyder has a knack for action and combat. There are two scenes that are especially well shot and done, featuring Batman and Wonder Woman respectively. But you could replace those characters with any other action hero, and it wouldn’t have made a difference. Who they are as characters, and thus as fighters, didn’t factor in. And sure, it was nice to see someone fighting as Batman, but that’s to be expected from a movie with batman in it. (Except for Batman 1989. Michael Keaton could barely move in that suit.)
Unlike Man of Steel, Batman v Superman doesn’t overuse flashbacks in an effort to maximize Kevin Costner’s screen time – which is great, because those flashbacks were some of the worst parts of the first movie, and also because Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent was the most infuriating character ever committed to film. Unfortunately, the flashbacks are replaced by a narrative that jumps everywhere. I couldn’t grab onto any one character to like, even though there were fewer characters than most super hero crossover movies, because the movie itself couldn’t decide which characters to focus on.
What little focus exists centers on Bruce Wayne. And honestly, Ben Affleck isn’t a bad Batman or a bad Bruce Wayne. He could have actually been a good one in a better movie. But this was such a poorly written Bruce/Bats that he didn’t have the chance. Batman, in the comics and other media, is cool and collected. He’s also usually presented as a fairly young man. This Batman is older, so I can see them changing his style a bit to allow for age and experience, but I don’t think this is the way he’d go. Instead of an experienced Batman, this one feels hot-headed and inexperienced. Driven by revenge, obsessed with the events that occurred in Man of Steel, he’s constantly angry. Hell, he’s shown carrying a GUN in promotional material. And he’s not the only character who feels strangely conflicted with his core concept.
Superman, like Batman, is a slightly more experienced version than we usually see, and as the last movie made pretty obvious, he’s a walking, talking, man-as-god metaphor. He’s saving the day, but still making mistakes. And I don’t think Snyder cares. I get the feeling that Snyder never wanted to make a Superman movie at all. It feels like he has a disdain for the character, like the only way he can be bothered with him is to change him completely. “Yeah yeah, Superman is cool, but what about this, SUPERMAN WHO KILLS!” He’s the guy at the pitch meeting who only sees the surface of a character, whose contributions are all variations on, “how about that, but with CHAINSAWS FOR FEET!”
Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, is one of the better characters in the film, possibly because the character doesn’t have enough screen time to get fully Snyderized. Amy Adams as Lois Lane isn’t as lucky. She was bland in Man of Steel, but it’s even worse in Batman v Superman because she’s more of a plot device now than a character. She had a bit of personality in the last movie; now she’s just Superman’s Girlfriend.
Actually, every single one of the actors playing these characters are pretty good, which just makes this more annoying. With weak or confused motivations and almost no plot, they have nothing to work with, and their actions and reactions make no sense. If nothing else, a mature Batman and Superman might have a rivalry, but they’d know it’s better to work together than literally fight.
Apparently, they want to release a version of this movie that’s 30 minutes longer. PASS. It should have been 30 minutes shorter, at least. Then it would have been forced to move at a brisker pace and drop the many plot points that are of no importance to the movie. Heck, the first five or so minutes of the film is a very uninteresting Batman origin story; I’m pretty sure people know Batman’s parents are deaaaaaad!!!
I sincerely hope Suicide Squad is better, but I’m not expecting much.