Okay, I realize that this review is a year overdue, so I apologize for my tardiness. As it is common knowledge by now, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did not open to the best of reviews. However, I like to reserve my personal review until after I have seen the film myself (Okay, so I saw it opening night back in March 2016…hence the apology for the belated review, still, I wanted to wait until after I had seen the director’s cut released in July 2016. Yes, I know. This is still super late).
SPOILER ALERT – Before I begin, I must insert my usual SPOILER warning. This review will be full of them (SPOILERS, that is) so if you have not seen Batman v Superman yet and you don’t want any part of the plot ruined for you, stop reading now. Otherwise, continue on. You’ve been warned. That being said, let’s get to it.
Batman: I must say that I was extremely skeptical when I heard that Ben Affleck was going to portray one of my all-time favorite superheroes (Batman shares this distinction with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man). Let me be clear, I think that Ben Affleck has done some fine acting work and has proven himself to be a very capable director. I would even go so far as to say that his failed stint as the Man without Fear in 2003’s Daredevil was not entirely his fault (the writing had a lot to do with that cinematic debacle, in my opinion). The reason I doubted Mr. Affleck was because I wasn’t convinced he could pull off Bruce Wayne effectively. Let’s face it. Any decent actor can pull off Batman while he’s wearing the cowl. But the trick to playing Batman (especially) is pulling off Bruce Wayne. Why might I say that? Because with most superheroes, the mask goes on with the costume, and the mask allows them to hide who they truly are. Not so with Batman. Batman is his true self when the cowl is on, but Bruce Wayne is the one that’s hiding. Given that, I wasn’t convinced Ben had it in him. How wrong I was. In fact, I was so impressed with Ben’s portrayal of Batman and Bruce Wayne, that I’m going on record as saying that Affleck’s Batman is the closest we’ve come to the comics thus far. The fighting style was much more fluid than we’ve seen in prior films (including Nolan’s Batman whose fighting style I thought was choppy and more brawler-like, and less graceful martial artist like). The scene where Batman infiltrates the warehouse to rescue Martha Kent is fantastic. I loved the costume, also a much closer rendition to the one in the comics. Lastly, Affleck has the proper stature. Batman is 6’2″, 210 lbs. Affleck is 6’4″, approx. 200 lbs. ‘Nuff said. I do have a major issue with Batman in this movie, none of which have anything to do with Ben Affleck. I will discuss those in the Cons section.
Superman: What can I say? Henry Cavill is the best actor to portray Superman since Christopher Reeve. Somebody tell me why Hollywood can’t give this guy a Superman script that works? I’ve always said that Cavill was the perfect casting for Superman, unfortunately, the writing hasn’t completely supported this guy. The writers at DC better get it together before Cavill decides to ditch the cape. Still, I’m glad that Cavill will be returning for the Justice League films. I’ll discuss my issues with Superman in this film in the Cons section.
Wonder Woman: It was great to finally see Wonder Woman on the big screen. Gal Gadot brought a different essence to Wonder Woman, mainly, the non-American accent. I thought the choice to give the character an accent was a wise one; considering Wonder Woman is, in fact, a foreigner, this makes sense. Because I was unfamiliar with her work, I had nothing to base an assumption upon with regards to her being a good casting choice or not. After viewing the film, I was sold. Her fight scenes in BvS were some of the best ones in the film (not that there were many). And her accompanying music, excellent. The only thing I longed for was more of a back story, but I’m expecting to have those blanks filled in when Wonder Woman is released in June 2017.
Lois Lane: Kudos to Amy Adams. If it were my choice to cast an actress for this role, it wouldn’t have been Amy Adams. However, I love it when a good actress surprises me. She had me hooked half-way through Man of Steel.
In fact, I thought all of the casting choices were good for this film except Lex Luthor (more on that in the Cons section).
Towards the beginning of the film, there are small little glimpses of each hero in action. Batman gave a dark little scene when he eluded the cops who were shooting at him (nice Batman intro), and Superman not only looked great saving the child from the fire, but the opening scene where he saved Lois Lane was a decent reintroduction to Cavill’s Superman. However, in order to effectively build the necessary tension that would support the final (and only) battle between Batman and Superman (after all, the title of the film is Batman v Superman), there should have been one or two confrontations between them in addition to the flat “Do you bleed?” scene. If the writers of this film don’t see what I mean, then maybe they should review successful hero films like Captain America: Winter Soldier. How many confrontations does Cap have with the Winter Soldier before their final battle on the heli-carrier? Two; two good ones. One little taste after the Winter Soldier shoots Fury, and then the epic as all get out fight on the freeway. The point is, the viewer wants to see that tension grow throughout the film so when the final battle occurs, they’re so excited for it, they might just accept the garbage we were given at the end of BvS. Oh, and don’t let me get started on the corny line, “Well, here I am,” delivered by Batman when Superman shows up to fight him, as if Superman had been looking for him all along. I mean, the dialogue was painful to listen to. And the pace of that fight…horribly slow. I mean, Batman takes his sweet time loading a kryptonite smoke bomb before launching it at Superman. And of course, Superman, you know, the guy with the super speed, stands there and watches him. So bad. Again, I refer to Captain America: Winter Soldier. The pacing of that freeway fight scene says it all. Now, I’m not suggesting that DC copy what Marvel does frame for frame, but I do think it’s a good idea to take a look so you can see what makes the Marvel films so successful…you know, take the good, throw out the bad. Then, of course, there’s the Martha thing. It was like Batman was saying, “Hey, Superman, you need to die, but wait, your mother’s name is Martha, too? My bad.” And then Superman was like, “It’s all good. Hey, can you go save her for me?” Again, so bad. I would love to meet the guy who gave this script the green light so I can ask him if he actually read it beforehand.
With that said, let’s move to the fight with Doomsday. My first comment is in the form of a question. Why did the writers feel that Doomsday needed an additional power (the energy field he generated) to be formidable in this film? Trust me, I’m certain true comic book fans, especially Superman fans, were cringing in their seats asking, “Since when could Doomsday do that?” The addition of this power was completely unnecessary and, in case the writers didn’t notice, made Batman rather useless. Also, the portrayal of Doomsday in this film was akin to Bane’s first big screen appearance in 1997’s Batman & Robin; no substance, no intelligence, no back story , and no real reason to be in the film except to give Superman and Batman, and of course Wonder Woman, someone whom they can team-up against. There’s a word for that. Boring.
The Story: Okay. Get comfortable because this might take a while. Trust me. I doubt I’ll be able to get it all out in one sitting.
As you may have guessed already, I was not happy with the writing, which in my opinion was sophomoric. Let me begin with the whole reason Batman and Superman end up fighting. Wait. What was it again? You don’t know either? Exactly. The writers failed to make the reason clear. You know why? Because there were no scenes between Batman and Superman during the film that allowed the story tension to build. Not one. There was a dismal attempt to weave Lex Luthor into the mix and have him be the puppet master that brings the fight together, but even Luthor’s involvement in the film had me scratching my head. First of all, though it is clear that Luthor wants to orchestrate Superman’s demise, there is no reason given in this film as to why. Were the viewers supposed to accept that Lex Luthor hated Superman without anything in the film that pointed to the source or cause of his hate? I mean, even though people don’t generally root for the villain in a film, it lends credibility to the villain (and the film) if the viewer understands what drives him. This film attempts to suggest that Luthor hates Superman because he feels that no man (except Luthor himself) should have that much power. Jealousy? That’s it? Really? For that, I could have simply watched an 80’s teen slasher film. What’s that you say? Batman believed Superman to be a threat? Maybe so, but Superman wasn’t out there killing people, and any moron who watched news footage on Superman would have been able to see that; especially Bruce Wayne. Yes, Bruce was pissed at Superman because his employees were killed when Superman was fighting off Zod. Like Batman could have done better. “Hey, Bruce! Superman was protecting the planet, not just Metropolis or Gotham…the actual planet. I’m sorry that the death of your employees made you blind to the big picture.” This older version of Batman was supposed to be more jaded and cynical; but certainly not stupid. Again, sophomoric.
On to those dream sequences; both of which were unnecessary and left unexplained by the end of the film. That, in the world of storytelling, is a big, fat no-no; especially in a film. Comic book films have a built- in fan base and it is common practice to toss in little Easter eggs that only the true comic fans will notice. However, the key to success with comic book films is that the story must satisfy two audiences; the comic book reader, and the everyday viewer. These films must be written in such a way that even someone who has never read a comic book in their entire life will be able to understand what’s happening in the film. And what if they don’t? Then, as a writer, you are obligated to, at the very least, provide an explanation somewhere in the film. And by in the film, I mean the film that is being watched; not the next film; not the Flash film, or the Justice League film, or a possible sequel; no, the film in which the dream sequence occurs. Yes, I read comic books so I knew that the dream sequence where the Flash comes out of the computer screen at Bruce was a reference to Crisis on Infinite Earths, but do you think the everyday viewer knew that? Not a chance. To the everyday viewer, that scene was a random, unexplained occurrence that had no resolution or further mention in the rest of the film. In regards to the Darkseid Minions dream sequence, the same issue applies…too random with no explanation later. The everyday viewer may be familiar with the Flash, especially since the airing of the CW’s version of the character, but Darkseid’s Minions are nowhere on their radar. If viewers don’t understand your film, they tend not to like your film. ‘Nuff said.
Lastly, I had hoped that by viewing the extended director’s cut, I would see something that filled in the blanks and formed a more cohesive story. Alas, the director’s cut did nothing of the sort in the way of making it a better film, it simply made it a longer film.
Batman: I don’t care which version of Batman is on the screen. Batman doesn’t kill people. Murder is the antithesis of why Bruce Wayne became Batman in the first place. Deaths in the form of collateral damage are one thing, blatant murder is another. It’s not Batman.
Superman: Batman films are supposed to be dark. Superman, however, is the lighter counterpoint to that darkness. Unfortunately, the writers of BvS seemed to forget that. I understand that Superman was dealing with the issues of whether or not he has the right to fly around with no accountability for his actions, however, the Superman that we love always rises to that occasion with a level of optimism and never-ceasing hope. That is the heart and bright light to this character that we’ve grown to love. Does this mean that Superman doesn’t get upset? No. But in a film where Batman brings enough darkness to overshadow a lunar eclipse, it would have been nice for the writers to give us a Superman that represents the light that BvS needed. Unfortunately, the writers missed the importance of that symbolism, which is the crux of Bats’ and Supes’ relationship, and would have translated quite nicely on film. Sorry, fans. No such luck.
Lex Luthor: I wasn’t thrilled with Lex Luthor in this film; not because of his acting but because of his age. I would have preferred to see a slighter older actor in the Luthor role, not one that made me want to troll my friends on Facebook (his stint as Mark Zuckerberg was fantastic, though). Also, I do have to say I wasn’t too fond of this version of the character. I like my Lex Luthor to be a little more serious. But that’s just me. Finally, what’s the deal with Luthor knowing everyone’s secret identity? He knew Superman’s identity, and the small video clips of Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg suggests that he knows their secret ID’s, as well. In the extended cut, Luthor reveals to Batman that he knows he’s Bruce Wayne. Um, what? In case I haven’t said it already, the writing in this film was pretty poor.
Final Comments: Overall, on a scale of 1 to10, I gave this film a four, or a 1.6 out of 4 stars. The cast saved this film for me, mainly Affleck, Cavill, Gadot, and Adams. Still, regardless of my brutal review, there were parts of this film (those I mentioned earlier), that I liked. Unfortunately, those likeable moments were too few and far between. This film lacked momentum, and could have used a touch of humor (just a touch). I’m sure I’ll find reasons to edit this review for years to come. Despite my written assault, however, this film did earn $855M worldwide, so what do I know? That’s all for now. Feel free to comment. Until next time…