Unless you’ve been sleeping in a bat infested cave for the past three years, you know that Batman v Superman is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. To the shock of some , it was met with poor reviews. The reviews slam this movie so bad, they’re hilarious. Are these reviews fair? Well I’ve enlisted someone who knows a lot more about the DC universe than I do to share his opinion. The first half of the review is done by me and will be spoiler free. The second half of this review is down by @AJ_Phx and does contain spoilers.
For the sake of comparison. Let’s say the world of superhero cinema one is one big history class. We’ve already seen Joss Whedon presentation (The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron). We’ve already seen The Russo Brothers’ presentation (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). We’ve seen other presentations from Peyton Reed (Ant-Man) and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). We will soon see presentations from David Ayer (Suicide Squad). But the presentation everyone is anticipating is from Zack Snyder.
Zack Snyder has the hardest topic by far, but in all fairness he chose it himself. Zack is very knowledgeable on the subject. He works through the night, tirelessly, researching this topic. For his presentation, he overloads it with information. He intends to make sure the audience is well informed when he’s done. However, his presentation isn’t very engaging. He doesn’t break his points into bullets, he uses long run on paragraphs. His transitions don’t flow well. There’s no color to his presentation. He doesn’t connect with the audience. Peyton Reed passed out candy. James Gunn had a cool soundtrack. The Russo Brothers took a few risks during their presentation. By the end of Zack Snyder’s presentation, you felt like it was decent but was relieved it was finally over.
In short, while I do admit that some reviews of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice were harsh, I do agree with one point echoed through many of them: It’s simply no fun (I know I made someone’s head explode just now). Yes, fun. Isn’t that why we go to the movies? At the end of the day, it’s supposed to be entertaining, right?
When we leave the movies made by the directors listed above, we feel euphoric. That thing in our brain that makes us feel like a kid again is triggered. We’re overjoyed, we can’t wait to share this experience with others. When I left Batman v. Superman, I just felt like sleeping.
By no means am I saying this movie is bad, it’s a good movie. I just think it’s poorly made in some places. I had my issues with Man of Steel but ultimately I felt like it was still a pretty good origin movie. I thought it would set up perfectly for a Man of Steel sequel. To my surprise, Warner Bros. and DC decided to forego the sequel and do Batman v Superman which would serve as a prequel for the Justice League movie.
This movie draws inspiration from three renowned titles in the DC World: The Dark Knight Returns, The Death of Superman, and Injustice: Gods Amongst Us. After negative reviews began rolling in, the fans boys began saying “This movie isn’t for the casual fan or the critic, it’s for comic lovers”. Well that’s my issue. It’s an issue in so many ways, I don’t know where to start.
I guess we can start with this: This movie was nothing more than an attempt to catch up with Marvel’s universe, if we’re being serious. And in that attempt, the experience feels cheapened. The fans of those great graphic novels deserve better than this rushed movie. Hell, the first hour and a half of the movie feels like three different movies anyway. The movie lacked direction overall and took a long time to find its footing. And once it did make a point, I’m not sure if the point it was making was strong enough.
The other problem I have with the statement “This movie isn’t for the casual fan…” is that we’ve already been there and done that. Zack Snyder also took The Watchmen to task and once upon a time this movie was labeled as a graphic novel to difficult to adapt. It came out in 2009 when there wasn’t the same hype for superhero movies. Not to mention, the source material of The Watchmen is so different from anything the world has ever seen before when it comes to superheroes. So yes, if you weren’t familiar with the source material, you would easily hate the movie.
But we aren’t discussing Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan now, we’re talking about two of the most historic characters ever: Batman and Superman. If this director was skilled enough, he would have been able to take all of these different ideas and mesh them into one cohesive movie. Which leads to problem of all problems, this movie wasn’t a great idea to begin with. As previously stated, this movie felt like three movies jammed together and I feel like that’s how far away we should have been from this movie even happening. I do like the older Batman but we jumped a huge timeline. I think it would have been better to get into the psyche of this Batman with a feature film rather than having him split time with Superman. This Superman also deserved another movie of his own. We don’t know enough about him yet. So while Zack Snyder drew inspiration from great graphic novels, I can’t award him bonus points for doing his homework if the output was sloppy.
And boy, was it sloppy.
I make it no secret that I’m no fan of Zack Snyder’s filmmaking style. First off, he must be a damn vampire because his movies are always really dark. Apparently it’s always 48 degrees and cloudy in Gotham and Metropolis. It’s like he shoots his movie with the cap still on the lense. This visual style is better suited for Batman than Superman. I know for sure it won’t be a great fit for an entire Justice League movie. Also, with many of his movies, I feel like the action is an entree presented to you with no appetizer. You’re sitting back rubbing your belly saying “No more action, please” yet Snyder is the waiter who brings you more and more. There’s no build up to these pivotal moments, so the pay-off isn’t rewarding. By the time the huge fight happened, I felt like we had to sit through hours of information and the end product wasn’t great enough. The Superman fight scenes look bad to me, almost laughable even. The actions zips by so quickly that you really don’t know what the hell is going on. So this is my please to DC to let someone other than Zack Snyder handle the Superman/Justice League aspect of this universe.
[Unrelated note: Before I move on, who in hell though Jesse Eisenberg would be a better Lex Luthor than Bryan Cranston! This guy gave us like 6 or 7 years of audition tape for it! I’m really not feeling the choice to take liberties with Lex’s character and basically make him a maniacal Mark Zuckerberg–then go out to get the actor who played Mark Zuckerberg. What’s next? The Winklevoss twins in the Legoin of Doom? Look, I love Jesse Eisenberg as an actor but he was really out of place on this one.]
Anyway, now let me change direction and talk about what I actually liked about this movie. Even though I think this movie was a horrible idea, they did try their damn best to bring all these big ideas together. Placing Batman at the scene of the General Zod battle builds purpose for this movie. We get to know what motivates Batman. Speaking of Batman, Ben Affleck knocks this role out the park. We all had our doubts about Affleck when it was announced but he was the perfect person to portray Frank Miller’s Batman. He comes as close as anyone has ever come to having Bruce Wayne’s physique and he’s one of the only actors to be both a great Bruce Wayne and Batman. Gal Gadot also shines as Wonder Woman. I look forward to her movie in the future.
My score for this movie is ⅗, which would be a 60 if this were Rotten Tomatoes. Which is decent for a movie score, but no so great for a class presentation, Mr. Snyder.
So, before I start this, I feel like I should say SPOILER ALERT! For those of you who dislike that sort of thing…
Now that we have that out of the way: Batman v Superman well surpassed my, admittedly low, expectations. While I agree with the thoughts Ronnie expressed above, I’m a bit higher on the movie and the main reason for that is: Batfleck. Look, I groaned like the rest of humanity when they announced his casting, as images of Daredevil filled my brain. However, after I read what iteration they were basing him on, I had a feeling he was going to own this role, and boy, did he ever. From the outset of the film, his presence is felt and he is everything Batman should be: dark, calculating and obsessive in his mission. The only person I’ve seen portray Batman better, outside of Kevin Conroy in the animated series, is Stephen Amell…..(yes, the guy playing a Green Arrow heavily inspired by Batman).
Now, outside of Affleck, the movie gets a bit hairy. The movie starts out slow, retelling the end of Man of Steel from Bruce’s perspective, setting up his motivation as well as an interesting side story. While I get that this part of the film was needed to set up the titular confrontation, it’s one of those that felt kind of shoehorned. Bruce driving a jeep through the crumbling streets of metropolis, frantically trying to get his employees out of harm’s way is touching, but begs one question: WHERE IS BATMAN? At first, I figured this would be explained in the movie, but it never was. Batman’s biggest hallmark is that he is ALWAYS prepared. So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that as soon as General Zod made his broadcast, that Bruce would’ve started putting together a plan? I mean, I get that MOS was made before the idea of a shared universe but that, to me, felt forced (sense a trend here?).
From there, the film jumps 18 months into the future and seems to keep jumping around without much rhyme or reason. Some kids find Kryptonite in the Indian Ocean, Lois and CIA Agent, Jimmy Olsen (huh?) get captured by security for a terrorist, hired by Lex Luthor, Jimmy gets shot, the security flees, Supes saves Lois, the senate holds him responsible for the deaths of the surrounding villagers. Yes, there’s a senate sub-committee dedicated to telling the most powerful being on Earth, he shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. Which brings me to one of the things I hated about this movie: it spent too much time apologizing for the mess at the end of MOS. I mean, yes, a lot of people died, but what action could he have taken besides try to fight Zod somewhere unoccupied? Somehow, superhero films are now apologizing for the deaths of fictional bystanders, Age of Ultron did it too. As if a film with a billionaire dressed as a bat fighting crime is realistic.
The film then jumps to Gotham where we start seeing the seeds of the dispute between Superman and Batman. Bruce is terrified of Superman going rogue and Superman feels like Batman takes things too far. All of this, while Lex Luthor, who is portrayed more as a hybrid of Joker and the Riddler, is manipulating both of them, as well as the government, into doing his bidding. Wonder Woman’s role felt under utilized as well. She shows up at a party for Lex, steals from Batman and winds up giving him back what she stole, all while her name is never given. She flirts with Bruce and mostly, just appears on screen with no real purpose until the final act.
My favorite part of this film, outside of Batfleck, comes when we get to the Knightmare sequence, shown a lot in the trailers. The scene itself isn’t all that great but what comes after it is for a variety of reasons. When Bruce thinks he’s snapped out of the vision, he is greeted by the Flash who gives him a warning. Flash tells him he was right about Superman, to save Lois and to find them (the other metahumans). Not only is this a dope reference to InJustice: Gods Among Us, it’s also a call back to the DC comic event Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The fight between Bats and Supes is a tad underwhelming. Batman, as you’d expect, is prepared with all sorts of traps and gadgets, including kryptonite ones, and beats Superman to a pulp, before he is saved by Lois and screaming his mother’s name (who happens to have the same name as Batman’s mother, go figure).
The most shocking part of the film, is the fight with Doomsday. It’s not that Wonder Woman put much foot in ass, or that Batman took selfies while Superman got his ass handed to him, it’s that they actually kill Superman….well, sort of. Superman sacrifices himself and kills Doomsday. Even though you learn, at the end, he’s not really dead (through levitating dirt of all things), I’m shocked DC had the stones to go through with that. Of course, this leads to Bruce setting out to form the League as a response to his death and a cryptic warning from Lex that Darkseid is coming. All that said, they wasted one of the best Superman storylines by deciding to use his death, here. Now we will probably never get Superboy, Steel and those other 2 Superman knockoffs and that is a great film concept in its own right.
All in all, it’s not a terrible prelude to the Justice League and, for all intents and purposes, a first installment for the DCEU. My biggest beef is that they tried to, essentially, force The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America 1, into one film so they could make a Justice League film as quick as possible. Say what you want about how stringent Kevin Feige and the brains behind the MCU are, they make sure every film has a purpose and it fits the puzzle. DC is trying to copy Marvel’s success without taking the time that Marvel took to get there. There were 4 years and 5 films before we got the Avengers. Never had more than 2 Avengers onscreen together at once prior to the movie coming out. We got 6 Leaguers in one this one film (Aquaman’s cameo was extremely underwhelming).
Needless to say, DC has work to do. Critics are panning this movie and fans aren’t highly impressed either. This isn’t the Fantastic Four reboot flop, but it’s not Winter Soldier either. This can be salvaged but Snyder isn’t the guy to do it. My choice? Joss Whedon. He helped shepherd the first two phases of the MCU and would provide a steady hand, as well as character balance, to the most massive team up in film history. The Avengers are great but there’s only one Justice League.
If you made it this far, know we aren’t critics. We’re just two people giving our opinions on something we spent our money on.
If there’s any feedback (especially negative), please direct it to @Aj_Phx