Movie Review: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

Batman_v_Superman_poster

No matter what ends up happening, Warner Bros. only have themselves to blame. They took a good, hard look at the response to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013)—the underperforming box office results, the critical revulsion, the furious and heart-broken fan reaction—and said, “Yes, we’d like more of that, please!” So three years later we return to the clumsily titled DC Extended Universe for the even more clumsily titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the latest in Warner Bros’ ongoing mission to suck all the levity, fun and color from the superhero genre.

I joke, of course, but watching the film, one can’t help but be nearly suffocated by the production’s glowering sense of purpose. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems at times to be trapped in the Silver Age of Comics with their flashy palettes, expansive casts and enthusiastic embrace of all the silliness and absurdity that makes comic books so much fun, then the DCEU has its sights set on the late 80s when comic books “grew up” and became “important” with such revisionist masterpieces as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. It’s no surprise that a film so heavily informed by a period of comic books which helped popularize the term “grimdark” would itself bear upon its audience with the emotional weight of a gravitation slingshot around the sun. It’s not that BVS is serious or dark, it’s that the film isn’t interested in being anything but. The few moments of levity and humanity—best exemplified in a frankly touching scene near the beginning where Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) climbs into a bathtub with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) while fully clothed—ring hollow and superficial.

Perhaps this is why the third act introduction of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is easily the highlight of the film. When she appears onscreen in her Themysciran finest to the sound of a screeching heavy metal riff, it’s like the clouds parting and letting in a blessed ray of sunlight. Finally! A character who smiles in the thick of battle! Who seems like she’s having fun even in the throes of mortal combat! Her few minutes of screen-time outshine any number of preceding fights between Superman and Batman (Ben Affleck). Why are they fighting? Who cares? Their reasons are dumb, contrived and transparent: Batman is afraid of Superman being a power he can’t control, Superman needs Batman’s help to fight Lex Luthor and decides the only way he can get it is by rearranging his face.

Truthfully, despite all my grievances, I rather liked BVS. Unlike nearly all of the Marvel movies, it feels like the work of an actual filmmaker instead of a glorified television production. Many people might find the dialogue corny and overbearing, but I found it somewhat charming in a goofy Golden Age of Comics sense even at its most laughably contrived (“At a young age I learned that if God is all good he couldn’t be all-powerful and if God is all-powerful then he couldn’t be all good!”). I guess a steady diet of Jack Kirby/Stan Lee comics will do that to a guy.

I found Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor inspired. I’ve heard Eisenberg’s Luthor described as “the Riddler meets the Joker,” but that was kind of the point. I know I’m in the minority here, but I never liked Gene Hackman’s Luthor. Eisenberg I could buy as a narcissistic global megalomaniac who would be threatened by the presence of a benevolent sun god. Hackman always struck me as a particularly flamboyant stock broker.

But now for the million dollar question: is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice any good? Well, it certainly isn’t the train-wreck heralded by critics who attended advanced screenings. But it’s clumsy, overwrought and much too padded. There was no reason for the film to be two-and-a-half hours long: they could have easily lost 15-30 minutes by taking out the preposterous four dream/hallucination sequences, unneeded slow-motion and retelling of Batman’s back-story. Henry Cavill can be downright charming, but he spends the film in a perpetual woe-is-me funk, monotoning his grim and serious lines with short, clipped sentences. The action scenes could have been edited better, but they never devolve into shaky-cam hysterics.

Here’s my suggestion: ditch Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer and hire people who appreciate superheroes as four-colored marvels, not gloomy gods-among-men with the world on their shoulders. What the DCEU needs now more than anything is a shot of adrenaline and pure, unadulterated fun.

In short: in David Ayer we trust.

6/10

Nathanael Hood is a 27 year old film critic currently based out of South Florida with a passion for all things cinematic. He graduated from New York University - Tisch with a degree in Film Studies. He is currently a writer for the Turkish Journal of American Studies, TopTenz.net, and his personal film blog http://forgottenclassicsofyesteryear.blogspot.com/. You can contact him via email at nathanael@theyoungfolks.com. Follow him on Twitter: @natehood257 and Tumblr: filmsfoodandfandom.tumblr.com
  • Drogo

    “I rather liked BVS. Unlike nearly all of the Marvel movies, it feels like the work of an actual filmmaker instead of a glorified television production.”
    Well said.

    • manx

      So you state this:
      “I rather liked BVS. Unlike nearly all of the Marvel movies, it feels like the work of an actual filmmaker instead of a glorified television production.”

      Then end with this:
      “Here’s my suggestion: ditch Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer and hire people who appreciate superheroes as four-colored marvels, not gloomy gods-among-men with the world on their shoulders. What the DCEU needs now more than anything is a shot of adrenaline and pure, unadulterated fun.”

      And you have goobers actually saying well said???

      Maybe you need to quantify what makes a “glorified television production” for me and people who are not pseudo intellectuals??? This movie is trash, and your recommendation for fixing it can essentially be summed up as, and please lets be god damn honest, “make the movie more like marvel’s movies”…. you know… entertaining? fun to watch? maybe a superhero movie with “a shot of adrenaline and pure, unadulterated fun.”??

      • neodymium

        this movie is not trash. Seriously? You wouldnt know trash if you lived in a landfill

        • Therealeverton

          And yet, like the majority of critics, despite his claim to stand apart from them, he qualified the film as Rotten.

      • Starkiller

        He said actual filmmaker, not GOOD filmmaker.

      • Yes Indeed

        exactly lol. this movie sucked and had too much going on, too many pointless side characters that had no impact on anything.

    • Arunabha Goswami

      I’ll take a great movie from “a glorified television production” (whatever that means) over crap from “an actual filmmaker” any day.

      • Avian flew

        I think he’s taking jabs at Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and The Russo Bros. (Community). It’s actually hilarious when you think about it since The Avengers was the most successful film and The Winter Soldier was a successful crossover film (action and political thriller).

    • paul1991

      As much as I liked the dark and serious tone of Batman v Superman, that “actual filmmaker” is the one who had mediocre-at-best results from both of his two directed films (MoS and Bvs), based from Rottentomatoes and Metacritic alone. Not hating on both movies, fyi. The only concern I have is with Zack Synder himself. But that’s a different story. ;)

  • FatBastard

    Both Hackman and Eisenberg’s performances can suck independently; comparing the latter favorably to the former doesn’t make it good. Not to say that it isn’t (haven’t seen the movie, only have the trailer to go by), just that I don’t understand the thought process behind this line of reasoning. I mention this mostly because people use this exact same excuse to justify Man of Steel being “good” by reminding people that the Christopher Reeve ones sucked (and again, they can all suck independently).

    • Yes Indeed

      mental gymnastics. aside from the first 2 superman movies they have all been shit. the portrayals of every overlapping character almost without exception was far better done in the first two movies.

  • Baxtersbay

    I enjoyed it…a lot. Affleck and Gadot won me over and I appreciated being able to sit in a super hero movie that wasn’t designed only for 10-year-olds. These characters have been around for over 75 years and have been reinterpreted so much that there’s no way you can create a version of them that will please everyone. It worked for me on many levels and I would definitely go see it again.

    • Therealeverton

      Then you don’t watch many super hero films. Also this thinks it wasn’t designed for 10 year olds, but it wasn’t designed for adults either.

      • Baxtersbay

        Don’t make assumptions about what I watch. That’s the problem with these conversations. People are too quick to make things personal when you know nothing about the person you’re talking to. Aside from The Fantastic Four and Deadpool, there aren’t many superhero films I haven’t seen. If you want to interject your two cents, keep it about the films and the comments made about them and don’t presume to know me when you don’t.

  • Bendy

    Another reviewer that doent know a real comicbook movie , because he thinks marvel is making those and saw the numbers on RT and decided to join on the rape parade , i would read another review by this guy for sure

    • Therealeverton

      Another person that can’t takes films as they are without dragging the non-existent Marvel v WB/DC thing into it. Marvel Studios ARE making real comic book films, as are WB/DC, as have WB and ~Fox and Sony & New Line and Canon.

      Some are good, some are great, some are bad. From X-Men Days of Future Past and X2 to rubbish like X3 and Origins Wolverine. From Spider-Man 2 to Magazining Spider-Man 2 and Ghost Rider. From Blade 2 to ~Blade 3. From Batman Returns and The Dark Knight to Batman & Robin and Green Lantern. They’re ALL real, just some are great and some aren’t, No studio or comic book house has a monopoly on good, bad, adult, family or kids. Neither is making ANY of those, or ALL of them your target for a film, or group of films, more, or less, worthy than anything other choice. Good, entertaining films matter. Everything else is just noise.

      • Bendy

        so a lot of flying words from your little write up, I will pay attention only to the crap that you smeared over my monitor. First off i am not saying BVS>TDK , TDK has one purpose and it made it, BVS was a DCEU movie, if it had to only do BATMAN no meta humans i think then we could have argued a bit more. BVS is not a 10/10 movie make no mistake, but the raper fest on RT 30 % is bias to say the least. Marvel are praised for making the best comicbook movies, and i just dont see it , 3 Iron Man movie we dont get the best Iron Man villain, because he us green and has pointy ears,,,they are staying away. Whenever they cant justify a character , they just do comedy…villains are corporate douche bags every 3rd movie, villains are nether bad neither good – TWS and Loki…they cause chaos and death and still get to be pals after wrecking New York and DC…no excuses. Joss Whedon is the Zack Snyder of Marvel both Avengers movies were over hyped to say the least, they rely mostly on what up next and not on what is now…many people watched Ant-Man just to get a tease for something new, not because it had outstanding qualities …they aim at the GA with some comicbook elements so nerds and geeks dont attack them, but if you open a comicbook 50 % of that shit is not done justice…boxoffice and trends , fun and jokes, disney family movies, thats not what i want to see sorry !!!

        • Therealeverton

          Read my post again, actually read it and take the words I have used, not what you want me to mean. (For example don’t talk nonsense about you not saying you think BvS is better than The Dark Knight. Why say that>? I never said you did, so by saying this you are showing that you haven’t read my post with a clear mind at all.

          Do so and I’ll read yours and reply with the respect that people on debate are due. As it stands, you didn’t read my post and actually pay attention to what I was saying, so why should I read your reply at all?

          • Bendy

            o believe me i read what you wrote, but what you dont understand is that a movie like the ones you mentioned might end up getting a 75 % score and the only difference it has with BVS is that it has 12 jokes more in it. So what i am saying is that the movie is not a 100 % RT fresh movie , but its sure not a 29 % movie. Your saying Fox have been dark, yes they have been but they were never 100 % comic book accurate, they have yet to put Wolverine in his costume over the span of 6 X Men movies and 2 solo Wolverine movies…., nerds bash it because Wolverine isnt wearing yellow spandex , well i kind of see why he isnt right now ….General audiences do not want to see far-fetched comicbook, they want to see FUNNY superheroes, as for TDK trilogy it worked because it had a great story that involved the mob and it worked in the real world tone it exist, thats it. Its probably the last superhero trilogy that doesnt live in a shared universe because of Marvel like shitty movies that gets scores on the fact that they are funny, who said comicbooks need to be funny 24/7 ???

          • Therealeverton

            Can’t believe you. If you read it then why come out with the garbage about not saying BvS is better than The Dark Knight,which has nothing to with what I said?

  • Yes Indeed

    lol at the fanboys in the comments. this is the best review with the most positive things to say, and still because the movie truly isn’t good and they are honest

    “Another reviewer that doent know a real comicbook movie , because he thinks marvel is making those and saw the numbers on RT and decided to join on the rape parade , i would read another review by this guy for sure”

    haha grow up. this movie is like a 12 year old’s idea of maturity. the last two paragraphs of this review sum it up perfectly. bunch of crap that should not have been in there, Superman is played by a talentless “beefcake” and Lois is a walking contrived nonsense factory.

    • FatBastard

      I wouldn’t say Henry Caville is talentless. He was good in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, or so I hear (and considering that was from someone who hated Man of Steel, so it doesn’t seem to be biased). I’d sooner blame Snyder for shitty direction, since it’s not like anyone else in Man of Steel was particularly compelling (except Michael Shannon, but he had to chew the scenery for everything he’s worth).

      • Yes Indeed

        I thought Cavill looked better in that from brief snipets I saw and his dialog was certainly better. I may watch the full movie just to see. but Snyder’s directing is some of the most limited range in the history of hollywood. and the movies have too many side characters that are 100% unimportant with too much screen time.