Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the film that launches DC's larger film universe and introduces audiences to a new Batman, yet does it succeed?
With a 29% on the Rotten Tomatoes and many mixed reviews, Batman V Superman is a divisive film. The question is whether or not it deserves such a harsh rating, and by the end of the review, the question will be answered. But admittedly, I feel like I need to say, "I told you so" because BvS is exactly the disjointed and pretentious narrative mess than the trailers implied, yet that does not mean it is all bad.
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Genre: Action, Comic Book, Sci-Fi,
Release Date: March 25, 2016
Running Time: 151 minutes
MMPA rating: PG-13
The Good: Ben Affleck is great, Batman looks awesome, Jeremy Irons is brilliantly cast, Wonder Woman is cool, Fun teases for Justice League, One incredible Batman action sequence, Stunning visuals at times, Entertaining action set pieces, Batman parts are excellent, Superb Zimmer OST,
The Bad: Batman kills!? WHAT THE HECK, Jesse Eisenberg is painful to watch, Henry Cavill is wooden, Zero character development, Too many plot threads for one movie, Doomsday is terribly shoehorned in, Disjointed and convoluted narrative, Lacking character motivations, Lazy Justice League setup, Lex's plan?, Laughable dialogue at times,
Plot: 5.2/10- BvS's plot is all over the place. The first two Acts are serious and heavy with drama, with the Batman parts being brilliant, and the Superman parts falling flat. There are discussions of Superman as an almost religious figure, and while some may say that adds thematic depth, it boils down to about ten minutes of news reports blatantly discussing the topic with zero subtly. The theme is essentially dropped as a theme towards the end as soon as the action begins, so it feels hollow.
Many plot points and mature tone of the first half are just dropped as soon as the action starts, and the poor execution across the board does not help either. There are so many missed opportunities throughout the film. However, there are hints of greatness, yet nothing comes to fruition with the final Act being a big throwdown with rushed narrative elements. As for the film as a whole, there are far too many narrative aspects, setup for future films, and general lack of cohesion between the various aspects to really feel like a competent narrative. Additionally, certain plot elements are far too convenient, especially with Lex's plan. However, the film address Man of Steel's largest criticism of pointless destruction with a well executed scene of Bruce Wayne running through the carnage.
Characterization: 5.0/10- Batman V Superman's characters are a big mixed bag. Batman, essentially the star of the film, is mostly brilliant. This Batman is old and seasoned, having fought crime for over 20 years at this point. Affleck's Batman is the most comic book accurate one in live-action yet, except for one very important thing: HE KILLS PEOPLE! With no explanation, Batman fires his machine guns on the Batwing and blows vehicles up with people in them. You never see any specific death scenes, but it is obvious that people are dying. The strange part is that there are no mentions the fact that he kills people. I literally threw my hands up in the air in the theater when he did for the first few times. A one-off line by Alfred, who is great in the film, could have explained everything, but nope, nothing, as if he isn't killing people. So the problem isn't that Batman is killing people, but rather there is no acknowledgement of why or even confirmation that he is killing. Regardless of this strange aspect, Batman is easily the best part of the film as he is a bad*ss and does a little detective/espionage work. Even the Bruce Wayne aspect of the character is arguably better than Bale's portrayal, and Batman's motivations are the only character motivations that make sense. If anything, BvS made me wish this Batman had his own solo film with more of this gritty bad*ss detective version of the character.
Superman is even more poorly portrayed than in Man of Steel. Clark Kent and Lois have one good scene together towards the beginning, but everything else about Superman's character is flat and lacking in character development. Nothing about Superman is particularly well done. He is just boring and void of character development. Superman is basically a plot device in that his mere existence creates the conflict, yet not his on-screen actions. Overall, Superman is awfully dull, lacks motivation, and Lois struggles to remain relevant throughout the film.
Lex Luthor is a joke, maybe even more so than Gene Hackman's Lex in the original Superman. His motivations are weak, his character trait of being insane is lazy, and he only serves to drag the film down. As expected, Doomsday is literally just a creature for the heroes to fight for visual spectacle with a shoehorned in creation.
Wonder Woman is the only other character with any significance, and she is definitely an afterthought. However, the hints at her backstory and her scenes towards the end make me more excited for her solo film than even the Justice League. She doesn't do a lot, but what he does do is cool.
Direction: 7.9/10- Visually, Zack Snyder is at his best with a fairly solid balance of artistic style and realism. The dark and washed out colors are not nearly as bad as Man of Steel, and honestly, this is what I have come to expect from Snyder. Some scenes are simply stunning. Unfortunately, the visuals are often undermined by disjointed editing between scenes. The Batman scenes are great, and Affleck's input is clearly seen by the superior performances and camera framing, whereas the Superman scenes are more dull and uninteresting, much like Man of Steel.
However, Snyder does not disappoint in the action, well, at least for the most part. When the action does start, it never really stops as it moves from action set piece to the next, which mostly works. Any scene with Batman is exactly what I have been waiting for since the Batman: Arkham Asylum video games, particularly the scene towards the end. This Batman is brutal, fast, strong, and uses all his gadgets to the fullest. The big throwdown between Batman and Superman is fun, yet felt lacking. It is essentially two guys punching each other and throwing each other through walls, nothing original. Lastly, the big battle at the end is mostly CGI, and it is fine I suppose; nothing special or exciting, but a decent spectacle. As a whole, the action is all fun, entertaining, and well directed. However, in this age of Marvel movies, Mad Max, and Kingsman, many action flicks lack the X-Factor in their action sequences and BvS is no exception. Fellow critic and guest author, Jordan Rath, makes a brilliant in his review with "Almost every Marvel movie I've ever been to has something where I go 'Hmm! I've never seen that before!' BvS has titans locking horns, yes, but the actual fight isn't all that innovative." And Jordan is right. There is nothing that matches the originality of Marvel's action sequences, except for that one aforementioned Batman scene.
Acting: 5.1/10- BvS is a massive mixed bag of brilliant, decent, and atrocious performances from the cast. Ben Affleck is undoubtedly brilliant. He is one of the best live-action portrayals of Batman. Henry Cavill is wooden, and his laughable dialogue and delivery doesn't help. He is horribly dull with no charm or depth. Cavill says his lines in the most mundane way possible. Come on Snyder, when are you going to learn how to direct actors!? Jesse Eisenberg is awful. You might hear the term "Cringe-worthy" thrown around, but Eisenberg's performance is the embodiment of the term. It was painful and uncomfortable to watch Eisenberg's take on Lex. Later in the film, he improves a bit, but still, he is the worst part of the film and drags it down a few notches. Sure, Eisenberg always plays a spastic, out-of-control character, which sometimes works, but this a whole new level of awfulness, except for a few decent scenes. Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman give performances that make me excited for their future portrayals. Amy Adams is average at best, and the rest of the cast do their jobs and nothing more.
Special effects: 7.8/10- Until the final big fight, the special effects are consistent, even when certain scenes are obviously CGI. Nothing amazed me, yet nothing looked awful. Doomsday looked decent, but not nearly as well done as other recent CGI characters, like the Hulk, Gollum, or Groot.
Soundtrack: 8.6/10- Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL's score is quite strong. There are points in the film where it was noticeably brilliant, specifically the track "Is She With You?," and the rest is fitting for the film.
Humor: N/A- BvS balances the lack of humor better than Man of Steel, yet is still mostly humorless, so my expectations were essentially matched.
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10- Despite the two and a half hour runtime, Dawn of Justice is an entertaining watch. Batman's parts are a lot of fun, and the novelty of the DC's Big Three on screen for the first time is great. Oddly enough, critiquing such a flawed, yet decently entertaining, film is a joy itself as a writer. However, if you did not grow up watching DC cartoons or reading comics and have not been excited for Batman and Superman to finally meet on the big screen, then BvS is likely underwhelming.
Overall: 7.0/10- Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is an enjoyable watch for some viewers, myself included. However, the plot is all over the place, the characters, aside from Batman, are flat, and the action, while entertaining, is nothing mind blowing. In fact, my score is much higher than my individual category scores indicate because this is not a "great" movie, just a decent one with tons of missed potential. But there is something about the novelty and mostly brilliant portrayal of Batman that makes the movie more enjoyable and memorable than it ever should be. More objectively, BvS deserves a 6.2/10, but personal factors push it up to a 7.0/10.
Closing comments: Batman V Superman is basically a guilty pleasure at times. If you adamantly hate the film, by all means do so, because there is plenty aspects of the film that are worthy of the 29% Tomatoe rating. However, if you managed to find certain parts enjoyable, that's great too. But I'm sure most can agree that this is not the type of start that the DC Cinematic Universe needed to convince everyone that DC can make great movies. Well, at least they can make decent ones. And lastly, if you did not already plan to see the film in theaters, just wait for the Blu-Ray/DVD because you aren't missing much.
Recommended for: DC fans, Batman fans,
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