BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
This is a review for the highly anticipated DC comic based, superhero film “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice”, Directed by Zack Synder (300, Dawn Of The Dead and Watchmen). With a script co-written by Chris Terrio and David Goyer (Writer of The Dark Knight), Dawn of Justice is a follow-up to Synder’s, 2013 “Man Of Steel”. This time it pits two gargantuan heavy weights against each other in an ultimate showdown (or at least that’s what they’d have you believe). In Batman vs Superman the world, or more appropriately “Metropolis”, is at a crossroads in regards to what kind of hero it needs protecting the city. After Superman’s (Henry Cavill) accused by the people of the city of being flippant with human life, things come to a head with Gotham’s savior Batman (being played for the first time by Ben Affleck). Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) of Luthorcorp uses secret technology to create an even bigger threat to humanity. With some help from Wonder Woman (the stunning Gal Gadot), Batman and Superman team up to save the world from total destruction. The film also stars Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter and Jeremy Irons. The film has a budget of $250 million and has managed to gross over $170 million in its first week.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I was never really a comic book reader. I know the basic history of some DC and Marvel characters but I don’t claim to possess the knowledge most hardcore fans have of the comics. So with that, I went into Batman Vs Superman with an open mind, eagerly anticipating what Ben Affleck might have bought to this iconic character that those who played him before didn’t. With Synder at the helm I figured the project was in good hands. I’ve enjoyed most of Zack’s films, in particular Watchmen and the superb 2004 remake of George Romero’s, Dawn Of The Dead. I didn’t look at any of the spoilers or go out of my way to read any early reviews for Batman vs Superman, regardless, I’d seen that word had got around that most, if not all the negative press surrounding the film was coming from critics with a proclivity toward Marvel. Of course DC is its own body, but rightly or wrongly these comparisons were always going to be drawn so I suggest you see the film for yourself and make up your own mind. Personally, I’m selective when it comes to “superhero” films because I think generally they’re a dime a dozen and it usually takes something special for it to stand out in my mind. With that being said here’s my review, it does contain some *spoilers*.
Synder approaches the drama of the opening act with a heavy amount of Steadicam work. Zack’s long time DP (Director of Photography) Larry Fong, opts to put the viewer in the middle of the chaos and some of that is conveyed through some nice early shot choices. The action takes place on such a huge scale that it’s difficult to keep the camera work feeling fresh and it loses some context. I think the technical side is much more fluent when there’s less commotion in the frame. Saying that, some of the fight sequences between Superman and Batman are pretty cool, after all that’s what most of us want to see isn’t it? Throughout the 150 minute running time the visuals range from impressive to lazy and generic. The messy design of the falling buildings and decaying city in the beginning didn’t do much for me, yet the simple and elegant cinematography of the small details in Act 1 were probably the highlight aesthetically. Hans Zimmer has composed some of the best scores over the years, including work on “Inception” and “Black Hawk Down”. Once again he creates a masterful and bass orientated soundtrack which really elevates the film.
Even though Goyer and Terrio’s script rehashes familiar history of the “Bat’s” origin and young Bruce Wayne in the aftermath of his parents murder, if it was omitted how would you write the introduction? Drop audiences straight into present day in the current state of the city? That would seem rushed, so I don’t mind the conventional character prologue. On the other hand, Superman doesn’t get much of a lead in at all. The first time we see him he’s mid free fall (well flying for him I suppose) way up in the sky amidst a battle with a fellow Kryptonion. There’s no context at all, an explanation about why he was fighting one of his kind (so to speak) would’ve been a welcomed addition, maybe that’s something in the comics I don’t know about. With all the talk and skepticism around the casting of Ben Affleck it was nice to see him bring his A game. He was strong as millionaire philanthropist, Bruce Wayne but equally as hulking and brutish in the heavier, modern cut of the bat suit. Dialogue wise he’s given very little to work with, as far as dramatic presence, that’s mostly left to Amy Adams who plays Lois Lane. She gives the standout performance, in part because her character is the singular cog grounded in reality allowing her to do so. Cavill, Irons and the rest are all serviceable and do what they can with their limited arcs.
From a technical point of view the only thing that bothered me was those inconsistencies in camera work that I previously mentioned. With a budget of $250 million those problems should’ve been ironed out, although I’m sure the reasons behind them fall to creative license. It’s not just that the film runs for 2 hours and 33 minutes, nor is it just the spotty pacing and completely fabricated environment, it’s plain and simply the script… the script is the number one problem here. Before I get to the crater sized, plot holes and incoherent narrative let’s talk about the decision to cast Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Now keep in mind I never watched Smallville but I know Actor, Michael Rosenbaum originally played the character and was loved by fans. I tried my darndest to put aside my disapproval and general dislike of Eisenberg as an Actor. It’s nothing against him personally, just everything I’ve seen him in he’s missed the mark. I can say he’s nothing if not consistent because he misses it again here. His portrayal of the slightly cooky, scientist and owner of Luthorcorp is incessantly annoying. From the second he appears on-screen with his over the top, Jim Carey’s Riddler inspired energy, spouting off with his so-called intuitive and smart ass quips, your patience will start wearing thin. He doesn’t get any better as his character starts a slippery slope to insanity and total world domination. The constant giggling and high on riddlin approach to line delivery, makes it an awkward time to say the least.
The structure of the storytelling is all over the place. Not to mention the amount of important information that’s never divulged between characters, at crucial times throughout the film. In one instance, Lois Lane gains possession of a never before-seen, new technology, high-grade bullet retrieved from one of her field cases in Africa (I think it was). After some investigating she finds out it’s been manufactured by Luthorcorp of which Lex Luthor is head of. So logically the next time you see Superman what’s the first thing you tell him about? That crucial piece of information, Right? Considering he’s in the process of becoming this evil mastermind and all but alas, Lois does not. After the second or third time Superman rescues her from an impending death, she still doesn’t clue the poor guy in. My inner Jessie Pinkman inevitably found his way to the surface with a Serious, Like Seriously?? It’s a crucial piece of information that’s never told and that’s just one example of poor writing. I’ll move along to the totally pointless inclusion of Wonder Woman. Sure, Gadot is gorgeous and does her best with what’s on the page but what purpose does she actually serve? Is this DC’s way of putting a touch of that Marvel, Avengers spin on things (let’s bring everybody together yet again)? Why? it’s totally unnecessary.
Writers, Chris and David don’t even have enough respect for the audience to make Wonder Woman a smart or well-rounded inclusion. Picture an inkblot, where if they are going to include her you’d prefer seeing a portrait. Bruce initially meets Diana (as she’s going by) at a party for one of Luthor’s humanitarian causes, or something to that effect. Neither really knows what to make of each other and anyway, somewhere along the line Bruce discovers a picture of her dressed in battle attire from many years before (centuries). So he does a little digging and finds a bunch of random, CC TV footage of her in different disguises doing her superhero thing, Right? He then goes ahead and sends her the footage to let her know he knows. Upon her next encounter with Bruce, she shares information about Lex and his plans. I thought this was all going to lead to something bigger and better but then the very next time we see her she’s on a plane, ready to leave Gotham or Metropolis or wherever the hell the film is at this point in time. How on earth is that a logical plot point? Not to mention, the last time I checked, Wonder Woman could fly why would she go coach? It makes no sense and is yet another example of poor writing.
As the film chaotically stumbles into the third act, Lex’s newly dawned juggernaut “Doomsday” rises to battle Superman, Batman and apparently Wonder Woman, who decided to just calmly remove her carry on and exit the plane. Now granted I don’t know the origins of Doomsday or how he came to be but I assume he was from Krypton, the same planet Superman is from. So that begs the question what’s his motivation for destroying Superman? If they’re from the same planet you’d think he’d be working with Superman. If you need to have read the comics to understand the motive or reasoning here than that’s a flaw in the film. Not only did the battle make little sense, other than as a catalyst to bring the trio of “good” together, a moronic Batman realizes he only has one bullet left with kryptonite in it. He leaves the kryptonite covered sword he used against Superman behind earlier in the piece. This is the duo that are supposed to be saving the world, seems legit. If we rewind to when Batman squares off against Superman, they realize they’re essentially connected because their mothers share the same first name (another prime piece of writing). The bat spares Superman and instead of holding onto the sword to potentially use later, he just throws it down. When push comes to shove and the government and military get involved they decide the wisest course of action to kill Doomsday is a nuclear bomb… Ah wait, what about the radiation? That’s going to make him stronger, isn’t it? Oh yeah.
Superman then comes at his speed of light and takes Doomsday out into space so the nuke can be safely launched (well as safely as possible I suppose) without the loss of human life. Of course it does exactly what we know it’s going to do and makes Doomsday stronger and more pissed off. The Batman side of this story remains the better half but fans will be disappointed that rather than delivering justice for the city he seems more hellbent on revenge, which is not a previous force that drove him. On top of the countless issues in the writing, there’s also some odd dialogue and dead-end conversations that drag out the story. So much of the fat on this script could have been trimmed, it should have been cut by at least 30 minutes. The human drama element is tacked on and formulaic like a Hallmark channel movie. It’s made worse because the story takes place in an entirely digitally created universe, so the threat to human life never looms large like it would in a real scenario. If the cast can’t see anything then they can’t feel anything and they’ve got nothing to gauge their emotions on, How can they do their best work? and more importantly, How can it possibly resonate with the viewer? These guys repeatedly hit you over the head with an attempted social commentary on terrorism in today’s society, by including the whole “guilty by association” for not seeing the warning signs etc and it feels totally unwarranted. This is comic book based, story telling that doesn’t need to be dissecting deeper or more impactful themes. Instead, give us something other than the cliché “We will live to fight another day, we must unite” spill and aim to tell a much clearer story.
In the end it’s clear to me that the critics were onto something here. It’s not that they were hypercritical of the film just because it isn’t a Marvel release, nor is it because they were paid to drag this name through the mud for RT (Rotten Tomato the movie site), which is apparently the be all and end all for accurate reviews. Simply put, they called a spade a spade. This is an extremely disappointing and clustered film for many reasons, few of which have anything to do with the whole “It’s not Marvel” argument. Eisenberg is totally miscast, Wonder Woman has no business even being there (not because she’s a woman like some of you may be thinking) just because the story doesn’t warrant it. On top of all that, the ultimate showdown runs less than 30 minutes out of 153. With the endless plot holes and idiotic decisions made by most, if not all the characters, is it any wonder forward thinking critics have picked it apart. If not for Zimmer’s fantastic score, some impressive visuals throughout, and some engaging action this would’ve been a total waste of time. Even with Ben’s stalwart approach to his role and Amy Adams honest performance it barely warrants a single viewing. Other than Christopher Nolan’s mind-numbingly dull and long Interstellar, this is probably the most disappointed I’ve been in a film for a while and to think they spent $250 million on it.
My rating for “Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice” is 3.5/10