Zack Snyder’s visual construction of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (which shall henceforth be called “Batman v Superman”) is like walking into an art museum filled with paintings of religious imagery presented as parallels to Superman and his power. The question looms: Should Superman answer to any higher form of power or just continue to do as he pleases? Snyder presents an interesting case for the question, but since there is no clear-cut answer and the screenplay is all over the place, the film quickly dissolves its stance and instead turns itself into a big brawl that serves as more of a setup for the “Justice League” movie and less of a solid standalone.
The film opens with a prologue of Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) past history. It plays out like a beautiful moving picture version of a comic book and it’s intense, even though everyone and their mother knows Batman’s origin story by now. Yes, his parents were murdered, we get it. Regardless, it was a wonderful new take on a story well known by now. Then, the film plunges into the events during Superman’s (Henry Cavill) fight with Zod (Michael Shannon) from “Man of Steel.” Only this time, it’s from the perspective of Bruce Wayne. This is an older, more estranged, more brutal version of Batman than we’ve ever seen in the films. And he is not happy with the destruction and arrival of Superman.
Two years later and the psychologically disturbed Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is convinced that Superman must be stopped (he and Batman should meet to discuss it over coffee since they have this in common) and Luthor, with all of his own economical power exchanges kryptonite found at the bottom of the Indian Ocean with Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) for access to Zod’s body and alien ship. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is concerned with the growing hatred toward Clark, Lex orchestrates a big bad plan, and Doomsday makes a grand, but underwhelming appearance to take on the legendary comic book heroes.
One of the film’s primary issues is that it spends too much time discussing everything that’s happening in the world around them (and by “world,” I mean Metropolis and Gotham City). For instance, Superman is clearly very powerful, his fight against Zod from the last film clearly destroying most of his city. Superman’s show of said power is relegated to montages of rescues and an image of being practically worshiped after saving a woman from death.
Snyder’s vision of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is brutally dark. Dark and bleak and a plethora of other words that aren’t at all positive. And since this film’s version of Batman is very reflective of his character’s more bitter, edgier, despondent state in the graphic novel, “The Dark Knight Returns,” I understand why the film is the way it is. But these are superheroes and when there’s too much darkness, like there is in this film, it’s just screaming for the audience to take it more seriously than it should. Essentially, there’s no levity by way of any lighter moments or humor when compared to the extremely serious and heightened-by-dramatic-music plot and this makes it no fun.
There is a lot going on in this movie, and yet sometimes it feels like nothing at all seems to be happening due to the large amounts of exposition we’re subjected to for most of the first half of the film. Lex Luthor is essentially the brains behind most of the operation being played out onscreen, but the lack of character development makes his actions less menacing and, given the way Eisenberg plays this version of Lex, makes him simply borderline crazy. Lex’s actions are too public and not in the least bit sly. The entire film is a bit anti-climactic and as much as I love the fact that there will be a Justice League movie, “Batman v Superman” takes up too much time giving us brief cameo introductions to the eventual team’s members (Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg).
This is Snyder we’re talking about, so if you go in with your expectations low, you may like it. However, if the entire movie can be summed up in a few words, they’re these: “Batman v Superman” isn’t that much fun. It’s chock-full of good themes about unprecedented and uncontrolled powers going unchecked, but as it unfolds, the argument never builds into anything relevant.
Ben Affleck, to the surprise of many, I’m sure, is a good Batman and his interactions with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) have a lot of tension, even though she doesn’t have a lot to do. However, “Batman v Superman” goes really big and tries really hard to be edgy and gritty, but it doesn’t work overly well. Ultimately, its entertainment value is tainted by the fact that it tries its hardest to be so brutal and heavy thematically. It can be argued that it’s a movie made specifically for comic book fans. But as a comic book fan myself, “Batman v Superman” has its moments, but is underwhelming as a film and lacks any fully realized characters.
It can be argued that it's a movie made specifically for comic book fans. But as a comic book fan myself, "Batman v Superman" has its moments, but is underwhelming as a film and lacks any fully realized characters.