Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
First of all, I should thank all previous posters for your comments on this movie. If I hadn’t been prepared for the unbelievably idiotic “Martha moment”, I might have injured myself banging my head against the wall. Also, the largely negative reviews have lowered my already modest expectations for the unwieldily titled ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (BvS), so I didn’t actually find it all that bad. However, “not all that bad” doesn’t mean “good” at all and BvS should have simply been more fun. These are my three major problems with BvS:
Problem No. 1: The tone isn’t right. Zack Snyder obviously wanted BvS to have an epic feel. This much is obvious early on, just from the rather grandiose title card: “Mankind is introduced to the Superman” Snyder doesn’t seem to understand the difference between epic and pompous, though. The movie takes itself utterly seriously and is nearly devoid of humour. It is dour and downbeat at (nearly) all times. Just what you want when you watch a movie about a guy, who dresses up as a bat, and a guy, who puts his swimming trunks over his wetsuit. And don’t get me started on Hans Zimmer’s abominable score. It signals “big important moment” all the time, even Lex Luthor walking down a corridor is accompanied by a Wagnerian “Ta-Taaa TA-TAAA!” And just because Wonder Woman looks like she jumped off the cover of a 1980ies Manowar record doesn’t mean you have to give her a metal guitar solo as a theme.
Problem No. 2: The writers (and presumably Snyder) don’t get the essence of the characters, i.e. what they are about at their core. Batman is about overcoming childhood trauma and fighting criminals using their own methods against them - without becoming a murderer. The latter qualification is extremely important to distinguish the heroic Batman from a mere costumed vigilante like the Punisher. This Batman wreaks destruction regardless of the possible costs for innocent bystanders and plots the killing of Superman throughout the film. Superman is about being a stranger trying to fit in and about using his extraordinary powers to help others. We get this a little bit, but he is mostly shown in violent conflict – or having sex with Lois Lane in the bathtub. Both characters aren’t about how superheroes react when they aren’t cheered as heroes but feared for their powers. That’s the essence of the X-Men (“sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them” – as the tagline used to be). They are also not about susceptibility to become corrupted by their powers and essentially act as gods. That’s the essence of the Squadron Supreme. Batman and Superman are also not about the question who watches the watchmen? That’s the essence of ... well, you know.
Problem No. 3: The storytelling is borderline incoherent. Consider that the film starts with flashbacks inside a dream sequence. Later on, we also get an extended dream sequence foreshadowing a possible future, followed by a second vision(?) of the Flash travelling back in time and asking whether he’s to early. None of this makes any sense in the context of BvS. The introduction of future DC superhero characters is also very clumsy. Marvel studios put post-credit sequences at the end of their movies to bring the Avengers together, which isn’t particularly elegant, but better than Batman sending Wonder Woman the teaser trailer for the Aquaman movie. I also find it paradoxical that the movie starts with the destruction of Metropolis, which is rightly considered to be a bad thing by everyone involved and sets up the motivation of Batman, only to end the movie with major destruction in Gotham, which doesn’t bother anybody. Oh, we are told that the old harbor district is abandoned – a few times in fact. BvS falls short of blinking subtitles informing us that “no innocent bystanders were injured in the finale of this movie”, but only just. It also doesn’t make sense that the appearance of Batman is considered to be breaking news, when we are later informed that he has been batmanning for 20 years. These inconsistencies aren’t as problematic as the lack of narrative flow. BvS is basically just a lot of individual scenes cobbled together.
There’s more I didn’t like about BvS, such as Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, Ben Affleck hammering away at a tractor tire, the Kevin Costner cameo or heroes fighting yet another boring CGI creature at the end, but I don’t want to be too negative about the movie. After all, it has some good ideas and moments. The opening sequence, in which we revisit the final fight of ‘Man of Steel’ from a ground perspective, is pretty good and interesting. Jeremy Irons makes a very good Alfred and it’s a good idea to make him Batman’s partner in crime. I like this take on Batman anyway with Ben Affleck playing an older version of the character with a lot of history, which is mostly hinted at. The introduction of Batman is also well-handled. Gal Gadot looks the part of Wonder Woman, although that’s pretty much all she gets to do. Finally, Zack Snyder has a real knack for filming Superman in action, often from distances or unusual angles, such as when he saves Lois Lane from being thrown off LexCorp Tower.
So, yeah, BvS is a mess and a bit disappointing, but it isn’t a total failure and has some good ideas. I didn’t have a bad time watching it. All things considered, it is pretty average. 5/10