Rating: – The not so super Superman movie that we neither deserve nor need, but we got anyway.
Spoilers ahead for the following: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman (1989), Man of Steel, Batman and Superman: World’s Finest, and the Dark Knight Returns.
Dawn of Justice (as we will be calling it from now on) pits the two most recognisable DC superheroes against each other in their first live action collaborative movie. It’s the dark, brooding caped crusader, versus the slightly less dark, and slightly less brooding, caped crusader. It’s almost like the executives over at Warner Bros. saw the immense success of the Dark Knight Trilogy and drew the simple conclusion: “Dark + Gritty = Monies”. That coupled with the train wreck of the ‘happy-go-lucky’ Green Lantern movie meant that all DC movies from now on must be dark. Dark, gritty, gloomy, greyish dark and more dark. It’s only once critics gave DoJ a good spanking for its excessive amounts of misery in a room full of bright, funny, superhero movies, that we get some seriously expensive backpedalling. In short, Dawn of Justice is about as joyful as a sack of dead rats.
The movie itself is a mixed bag. The ambitious storyline of the first 20 minutes centred around the accountability of heroes in the aftermath of these great superhero showdowns – similar to Marvel’s upcoming Civil War film – and the first scene with Bruce (definitely not Batman) Wayne speeding through Metropolis in the midst of the fire and smoke as Zod and Supes clashed was utterly incredible. You finally got a real perspective from the ground level of how it must be to live in a world of flying, laser blasting, superheroes, and the terror it must instil in onlookers. We get a few good scenes looking into the socio-political aspect concerning the consequences of Man of Steel, which has all the fingerprints of Chris Terrio (writer of Argo). However, we never really get a conclusion to this as the whole story is more or less dropped in favour of building up the Batman vs Superman fight – not to mention the WACKY antics of Jesse Eisenberg. Yet I simply can’t call this a ‘versus’ film, as the whole fight was about 5 minutes long, with any conflict feeling contrived, and the final resolution being so ridiculous you’d swear it was ripped straight from a low-budget B Movie. Instead the majority of your time will be spent sitting through lacklustre suspense building, shallow character development, shoe horning of the blatant variety, and David S Goyer’s hapless disregard for source material.
Note: To any potential writers out there, no one complains when you go against source material if what you make is actually any good (e.g. Tim Burton’s Batman).
Unfortunately, Jesse Eissenberg’s Lex Luthor only contributed to these issues. The man was more like a mad-cap Mark Zuckerberg/Joker hybrid, who strived to achieve…….something. I believe he wanted Superman dead because he’s too powerful and can’t be controlled, but then he created a monster that’s just as powerful that absolutely can’t be controlled. And I think Batman is in there somewhere, just for the giggles I presume. Quite frankly, the man was just a hot mess of power complexes and inconsistent motivations. Much unlike ‘Colonel Necksnap’ Clark Kent however, who seemed very happy to mope his way through the entire film. I quite liked Henry Caville’s performance in Man of Steel and I wish we had spent more time exploring that character in this sequel. Yet Zach Snyder’s penchant for Jesus imagery draws attention away from this character, creating a two dimensional ‘icon’ rather than a fleshed out person. Plus his ‘visual art’ goes from mildly distracting to obnoxiously transparent before you can even say “God-complex”.
Ben Affleck’s Batman, on the other hand, was surprisingly refreshing. We got some of the best choreographed fights we’ve ever seen in a Batman flick, and his relationship with Alfred (Jeremy Irons) was easily the best dynamic in the whole film. Unfortunately this elated feeling is quickly lost when Batman spends half his time slapping bat-merchandise on everything he even remotely touches, and the other half whimsically ‘manslaughtering’ criminals. And in a world where Batman kills, the Joker is obviously still alive because of……..reasons. And remember that response, because it’s going to be the answer to a lot of questions you will definitely find yourself with upon finishing the film.
Overall the film was lack lustre, too shallow to please adults, and too long and dark to please the kids. In fact a kid actually fell asleep during the film when I went to watch it in the cinema. It was over bloated, spent too much time on the wrong things, and set out to achieve more than it could deliver. Even now we’re having directors and writers retroactively explaining plot holes by pointed us toward the deleted scenes of a movie that was already pushing the three hour mark. The film score however was one of it’s saving graces, perfectly accentuating the gravitas of each of its accompanied scenes but this was not enough to legitimise the haphazard script or story. Regardless , the movie is going to make money. It was always going to, treading the line between popcorn movie and laughably bad, but given the source material it could have been so much better. There was no back and forth between the characters like in World’s Finest. Nor the true essence of conflict in the Dark Knight Returns. The movie had so much to draw from but failed to do so, literally breaking itself trying to set up the Justice League movie and the rest of the spin-offs. However, whether this film was just a sacrificial lamb for the greater cause or the first sign of an impending apocalypse has yet to be seen.