Warner Brothers and DC has doubled down on tone for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice bringing us perhaps the bleakest superhero movie of all time.
Zack Snyder returns to helm this film after his divisive take on Man of Steel and he brought Argo writer Chris Terrio along with him. Terrio’s involvement fixes a lot of the clunky dialog found in Snyder’s previous film but the characterization is still all over the place. This Batman will be about as unfamiliar in this as Superman was in Man of Steel. The film takes a lot of faith on you knowing who these characters are to varying levels of success. Wonder Woman walks around the film knowing that YOU KNOW who she is and it’s great, but other characters like Lex Luthor don’t really have much of a reason for doing anything aside from seeming psychosis. Batman the detective is nowhere to be found in this movie which is all the more glaring considering his immediate xenophobia. Dawn of Justice makes a good attempt at explaining why Bruce would think like this but considering this is Batman we are talking about here, it comes off as mischaracterization.
The movie clocks in at over two and a half hours and it still feels like there’s not nearly enough time for what Snyder is trying to fit in here. The first half of the film is a meandering mess with serious pacing issues where we go from Clark Kent taking on Bruce Wayne, Lex discussing trade embargo of radioactive rocks, Lois Lane following up on a possible cover up, nightmare visions of the future, mysterious women and guest appearances. If you are one of the people who feel like Marvel movies are only elongated commercials for the next movie then I have some bad news for you. It’s only until we get to the third act where the film feels refined, and at that point it is just two dudes fighting so how complicated can it get?
Action wise, this is definitely a step up from the white noise destruction porn of the previous film. We see Batman take on Superman which should warm even the coldest of fans. We see Batman taking on bad guys in the Batmobile and Batplane, we see the trinity take on Doomsday, on paper this is all aces. In execution, things are a bit mixed. This is easily the most vicious Batman we have ever seen on screen and watching the dude take on a warehouse full of goons is a sight to behold. Sadly the titular battle ends up being kind of a dud, it’s slow, clunky and while it certainly has its moments, it’s just two guys punching each other. There’s no real characterization going on, these guys don’t know each other, there’s no friendship it. Funny enough I found the Doomsday battle infinitely more entertaining even though it devolves into a CGI fest at some points, it’s still hard to watch Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman taking on a greater threat and not feel your fanboy heart grow three sizes.
The principle actors all do solid to above average jobs. Henry Cavill is fine as a dude who looks like Superman and I’m not going to crucify the guy for not being able to portray a character that the film clearly doesn’t want him to be. Ben Affleck is fine and one of the only actors allowed to work with the specific “take” on his character. He devours most of the movie but more so because of his screen time than any sort of dynamic performance. Gal Gadot is perfectly inoffensive as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman but is purposefully held back until she bursts onto the screen as Wonder Woman. Jesse Eisenberg is probably the standout here mainly due to his manic take on Lex Luthor. This isn’t the kooky real estate bad guy, but he’s not the ruthless business man either. It is certainly a fresh way to look at the character but mileage may vary due to his similarities of another major DC villain.
It almost seems hacky to say this at this point but if you didn’t like Man of Steel there’s no way in hell you are going to like Batman v Superman. If you thought Superman was kind of a sad jerk in the first one, he’s this a thousand fold here. Explosions and death happen all around this guy and the only expression he can muster up is a mix of disappointment and annoyance. We have a Batman who has given up on the fundamentals of being Batman and just seems like a guy who likes to hurt people. The only ones who seems like they are having a good time here are Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor both of whom stand out as a result. Bleakness is overwhelming in this film, we are treated to destitute war veteran imagery, sad ghost stories, border disputes, bummer characterizations of your favorite heroes and so much more.
There are surprises and twists that I honestly was not expecting to see in a DC film especially ones this early and I will just leave it at that because anything else would be entering serious spoiler territory but walking out of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has fully confirmed that this DC cinematic universe was not made for me and I will have to accept that fact. This doesn’t mean I have to like it though. The movie still has serious problems in terms of pacing, characterization, motivation and stakes. The film barely tries to earn any connection these characters may have, one minute they are this and the other they are that. This guy knew your secret identity the whole time. Clark Kent is barely a character, Alfred is reduced to set dressing that complains from time to time but has no real impact on anyone or anything. Why does Lex hate Superman? Is he just crazy? What was his actual goal and plan with Doomsday? Why is everything so god damned depressing? Those poor HORSES.
I cannot think of a single movie this year that has more riding on it than how audiences will react to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This is the jumping on point for the way the rest of the DC cinematic universe is going to play out, if it doesn’t work here, then Warner Brothers has some serious decisions to make.
ANTiFanboy Rating – In our own very special grading system of MFK. I’d Kill this movie
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice releases March 25, 2016