Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is like a surgeon took an Olympics-level athlete and shuffled around their internal organs for kicks. Everything that is there should be there, but some of the organs are missing, nothing is in the place it’s supposed to be, and the parts are held together by a mass of silly string that is quickly dissolving.
Batman v Superman clocks in at two-and-a-half hours of footage. The first two hours, however, are completely absorbed by pseudo-intellectual grandstanding over the roles and responsibilities superheroes should have. The moral conflict between the two protagonists truly does have a lot of substance; There’s Superman (Henry Cavill), who’s supposed to be a beacon of hope for humanity, and Batman (Ben Affleck), who’s supposed to be the embodiment of sheer terror who makes sure no boy ever loses his parents again. The problem lays in the execution, which is like a rifle after the bullet casing is stuck in the chamber.
There are numerous opportunities throughout the film for Superman and Batman to morally challenge each other over the things they’ve done. Instead, Batman v Superman keeps creating new conflicts instead that make successively less and less sense. This is because the conflict in place that was already ripe for the picking needed to be tossed aside for some insane Kudzu Plot where more and more plot threads keep on being created only to be ignored for more plot threads.
Batman, as played by Ben Affleck, is probably the greatest portrayal he’s had on-screen to this date. You can see the toll that decades of fighting his war on crime have taken on Bruce, and from an emotional level his personal struggles are engaging. He’s engrossing to watch because despite his status as a “mere” mortal, director Zack Snyder makes sure everyone knows that Batman is always the most prepared man in the room. He feels like an actual superhuman, and it’s refreshing to see a Batman who punches with true heft and can believably take down an entire room of thugs.
Lex Luthor is played by Jesse Eisenberg, and he is completely insane. The portrayal is completely non-traditional, acts like no Luthor anyone has seen since the Golden Age of Comics, and it’s the greatest part of the movie. There’s no subdued nature to his character, and instead of unraveling, he just gets more and more outrageous throughout the film. By the end, he has the ability to stare down a god who despite his powers, is unable to stop Luthor or any of his machinations. He’s always five steps ahead of Superman, he’s the smartest man on the planet, and as a villain, he truly feels dangerous.
Wonder Woman is short on-screen time, because this isn’t her film. Yet the short amount of time she does have is used to near-perfect effectiveness by Gal Gadot. She feels ancient, she feels powerful, and she’s a mysterious character whose mystery is actually interesting. She’s a strong woman with a three-dimensional personality, reliant upon her own goals and not just the men around her. This Wonder Woman is so great to watch on the screen because it’s refreshing to see a woman actually be allowed to get dirty and kick some ass.
The truth is, seeing Gadot play Diana in next year’s Wonder Woman has me more excited than I felt coming out of Batman v Superman. Wonder Woman, at the least, has the potential to be an engaging film without having the burden of setting up an entire universe of characters. Aside from the above three characters and the things they do, everyone else in this film is unsatisfying and painful.
Superman is boring, not because he’s all-powerful, but because he’s not Superman. Superman is supposed to be an ideal for humanity to strive for; The idea that eventually, everybody will be able to join him in the sun, and create a better world. That’s the basis for Superman as a character, and that’s what any successful Superman story needs to hit upon. It’s clearly evident, however, that director Zack Snyder was much more interested in telling a Batman story, so instead Superman is a clueless pastiche who for two hours of set-up, breaks more things than he fixes.
It’s so frustrating because Henry Cavill can actually play an inspiring Superman. It’s not his fault as an actor that he’s stuck with dour and depressed Clark, it’s the fault of the studio who set up his arc in such a manner. The main problem with Batman v Superman is that despite two solid hours of building conflict between Batman and Superman over their methodologies, their ideals mean nothing in their final battle. It’s cool to watch them slug into each other, but that last half-hour means nothing because it ignores the entire film that was at least attempting to create some sort of meaningful debate.
To close, it’s pretty evident that Batman v Superman isn’t the movie that went into the editing room at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. Whatever connective tissue was filmed, the scenes that made events mean something and have emotional weight, were stripped out and put in the fridge for storage. This is clear because Warner Bros has a history of taking Snyder’s films and cutting them to pieces, and later releasing director’s cuts that restore his intentions and end up far superior. This is even more clear because the director’s cut for Batman v Superman was announced before the movie even went to theaters.
If all you care about is seeing Batman take on Superman, go spend your money at the nearest box office. If you wanted a real story that did justice to the heroes you grew up reading, Batman v Superman gets a pass. It doesn’t matter what universe or recuts we get down the road; Right now, Batman v Superman is a disappointment.