Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice charts a bold course for the DC universe, blending together Snyder's trademark visuals and action filmmaking with a soggy script that's trying to string together too much in far too little time, despite being almost three hours long. It's a complicated blockbuster.
Zack Snyder‘s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a whole mess of things. It’s an action-packed visual spectacle, done up in typical Snyder fashion. It’s also an overly long superhero flick that tries to both become a quick origin of a new Batman (played with cold bitterness by an aged Ben Affleck), while also a continuation of Superman’s (played with doubtful smiles by Henry Cavill) story from Man of Steel.
It also attempts to lay the groundwork for the upcoming DC shared cinematic universe, which is going to lead into The Justice League, among other character films.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a lot of things, but one thing I wouldn’t call it is a horrible movie.
It’s not exactly a great movie by any means, but it is a film that takes big and bold risks and it does so in a way that makes you excited to come back for more, even if the film itself might’ve left you a little disappointed or underwhelmed.
There’s just so many emotions to tackle when approaching the film. For starters, the film has lingering Man of Steel 2 issues that aren’t quite addressed. Man of Steel had its fair share of problems and I honestly feel that at one point Snyder and his team of writers were going to approach and correct some of the more obvious problems with the character and the overall effectiveness of the film in Man of Steel 2, but things didn’t pan out and DC realized that they needed to get going on a shared universe concept that Marvel has been knocking out of the park, which leaves us with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice aka Man of Steel 1.75.
There are complete scenes that feel like they were meant for an entirely different movie. Snyder tries his best to tie things into this new shared universe, but so many of Dawn of Justice‘s Superman moments are focused on those complains lodged at the previous film and Snyder isn’t given enough time or script to handle them.
Things get glossed over and you’re left hearing fragments of Hans Zimmer‘s excellent Man of Steel score, reminding you of these failed ideas that are never fully corrected.
And then things change gears completely as Dawn of Justice tries to become an all too brief introduction to The Justice League.
One of my biggest complains of the film is how it so poorly handles these moments. Things feel rushed and look like cheap afterthoughts, which have me thinking back to Marvel’s botched Iron Man 2.
Luckily Snyder wisely handles this over the span of two whole minutes, but the film feels like it’s trying a little too hard to cram in as much information as possible.
This leads us to the controversial casting of Ben Affleck as the grizzled and aged Bruce Wayne/Batman. Let me be the first to tell you that Affleck will change the way you think about Batman from now on. He brings a certain amount of unhinged menace to the character that totally sets him apart from the likes of Christian Bale‘s Batman and other previous versions of the character.
This Batman is a horror icon that lurks in the corners of the darkest rooms and preys on the cowards and scum of Gotham City. Batman definitely crosses over into the murderous bullying territory in Dawn of Justice and I applaud Snyder and Affleck for taking the character that far and for never retreading. I can totally understand why the film will be landing an R-rated cut on home video and I don’t think it has as much to do with Deadpool‘s success as one might think.
This is a dark movie.
Some will complain about its grim-dark approach and overly serious attitude, but it works and definitely helps set DC apart from Marvel. I’m not saying that being an adult-geared film means that it’s more mature or even better in quality, but it’s unique and its own thing.
I still feel like Snyder manages to be silly, bizarre and downright weird at times throughout the film (just watch any one of the film’s mind-boggling dream sequences), but he grounds his characters in a world that has more in common with Watchmen than Captain America.
Snyder has proved again and again that he’s one of the very best visual filmmakers working today, but he’s also proved again and again that he struggles stringing a story together unless it’s basically written with explicit instructions (see Watchmen).
Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer‘s script is a jumbled up mess, attempting to fuse Man of Steel 2 ideas with Justice League ideas, while also trying to become a Batman film.
It’s an overwhelming disaster at times and star Henry Cavill seems to feel and show it the most. Superman is basically a backseat character compared to Batman and various other characters in this film, which is a major bummer because the brief moments that Cavill do get tend to be some of the film’s strongest from an emotional standpoint. Cavill clearly understands the character and tries his best to humanize him and help us relate to him, but Terrio/Goyer’s script and Snyder’s direction are far too focused on The Batman and Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman and an endless amount of others.
Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman is a cool addition to the cast, but is mostly a giant tease for what’s to come. She’s not quite as brief as Hawkeye’s rare moment in Thor, but she doesn’t serve much of a point to the plot aside from directly connecting The Justice League to the events of Dawn of Justice. I think it’s unfair to judge her or even praise her for her role that she spends all of five minutes in.
Jesse Eisenberg does the best Jesse Eisenberg Lex Luthor impression. He was undoubtedly cast for his quick comebacks and witty and condescending tones and they give Luthor a modern update that feels appropriate for this specific universe, despite Eisenberg feeling slightly underutilized. Maybe that’s just because he’s written in a way that you’d expect and rarely packs a punch.
This again stems back to the film’s soggy script that tries to incorporate to many things into one film. Lots of good ideas aren’t given enough time to simmer, while the film’s core storyline is kind of dropped and picked up whenever it feels like an okay time to toss in some action and destruction.
I’m excited to see what Snyder does with the next film. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice leaves things in a very interesting place and I feel like most will be willing to dismiss the film’s clunkiness in exchange for a worthwhile follow-up. The cards have been dealt and now we want to see what’s next.
Will Dawn of Justice bring us a new era of shared universe superhero films, grounded in a grittier world or will the film’s bolder strokes go wasted as Snyder and DC struggle to play catch-up with Marvel? I hope things keep getting bigger and weirder and I also hope that DC’s director/artist-first approach brings forth a different kind of excitement and anticipation as we wait for the next Phase of the DC cinematic universe.