Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v Superman isn’t a movie. It doesn’t tell us a story. It’s a conglomeration of product placements, advertisements for future installments in the DC Extended Universe, and mind-numbing CGI. Director Zack Snyder, who also lead 2013’s Man of Steel, hoped to create an entire cinematic universe as big as Marvel’s 12-parter in one fell swoop. He failed. Someone shine the bat signal – Snyder is DC’s greatest super villain since The Joker.
The thing about Snyder (who also directed 300, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen) is that he is not a good storyteller. Whatever he prioritizes instead, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s certainly not telling a story. Unless you’re a fan of actual DC comic books, which I’m not, much of the film will not make sense. To understand Ben Affleck’s Batman, for instance, you’ve almost had to have seen Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Very little context is provided as to who this Bruce Wayne is in this separated universe.
It’s not like the film’s plot makes it any easier to figure anything out. For the first hour and a half, all logical storytelling recedes faster than Henry Cavill’s hairline. As someone who is unfamiliar to the comics, here’s my best guess: Jesse Eisenberg, who plays the Joker except that his character isn’t supposed to be the Joker but rather some sort of billionaire, is trying to get Batman to fight Superman (Cavill). Not-Joker sees Superman as some sort of devil who threatens human existence, despite the fact he’s done nothing but good since accidentally wreaking havoc in Man of Steel. Bruce Wayne, seeing all the innocent people killed in that battle, trains to kill Superman.
It’s ironic that, despite Batman’s vow to never kill anyone, he kills anyone and everyone in his path to Superman. But wait, isn’t Batman’s entire motivation to kill Superman because Superman killed people, and Batman doesn’t like killing people? The plot makes about as much sense as that sentence.
Despite the film’s two and a half hour run time, the two titular heroes don’t even fight until the last hour. Preceding that, Snyder introduces subplots that come and go as they please. They include Diana Prince (Wonder Woman’s alter ego played by Gal Gadot) mysteriously wandering around in the background doing nothing significant, Superman’s journalist girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) taking up screen time to follow a useless terrorist story, and Bruce Wayne having multiple dream sequences about some sort of alien invading the planet. Sure, they all allude to future installments in the series. But for now, they’re sloppy and disjointed in the context of this singular movie.
Maybe Snyder attempts to tie all these ideas together with a monotonous moodiness that holds true to every scene. Or, more likely, he’s just a boring filmmaker who makes boring scenes. Props to Cavill for recognizing Snyder’s vision and delivering a flat, completely charmless performance as Superman. Much of the movie is centered around how to weaken a hero as strong as him, and Cavill still can’t muster any note of sympathy. His blandness is easily overshadowed by how outright bad Eisenberg is as Not-Joker, though (okay, the character’s real name is Lex Luthor). Every line from Eisenberg had some sort of gimmick behind it, whether he was bouncing his eyebrows, falsely twitching his eye, or forcing his voice into a high squeak. It didn’t help that the character spoke almost entirely in metaphors, making him completely inaccessible to the audience.
Affleck is a good Bruce Wayne and not a half-bad Batman, even if it takes us most of the movie to finally get a good look at him in action. His fighting style is more like a WWE fighter, even if Snyder’s sloppy camerawork makes it hard to notice sometimes. Even the action scenes are crippled by Snyder, whose camera seems to always be a beat behind the actual action. In a movie so long, I feel like I barely got a glimpse at what Batman and even Wonder Woman are capable of.
In fact, I feel that the entire movie is devoid of content yet packed at the same time. There’s so much screaming at you from the screen the entire time, but it’s not saying anything. This movie is definitely the dawn of something, because it teases at least five potential spinoffs. I just don’t think ‘justice’ is the right word.