Batman V Superman - Not good but, Better than expected...
Originally Posted March 27, 2016
I just got back from watching Batman V. Superman Dawn of Justice. This was not a movie I was looking forward to watching in theaters. A couple years prior I walked out of Man of Steel feeling empty, and slightly disturbed. The movie didn't do Superman any favors. It was a deconstruction of the character but too generic and could have had any of the archetypal "Superman" type character in the title role role and even maintained the same plot Sentry (Hancock, Gladiator, Blue Marvel etc). We knew the hero was Superman because writers and directors told us it was Superman. The the lead didn't feel like Superman but it was the Superman we were gonna get, dammit! Everything else about Man of Steel you either loved, hated, or felt meh about. I fell into the meh category.
Walking into Dawn of Justice I marked out immediately because the opening scene was shot in Downtown Detroit (My Home town). My day job is across the street from where the scenes were shot. It was cool seeing downtown Fort St. get destroyed during the Zod assault. Everything about BVS is beautiful. The opening scenes give Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) reason to want to take Superman down. As a comic book fan I recognize that this is the closest we've come to comic Batman. We're not there yet but we are moving in the direction.
The downside of this Batman is that he kills....
Batman isn't Punisher bad but he will make the decision to kill if it comes to it. This is not necessarily a negative. Michael Keaton's Batman killed in 89. The main problem with the murderous Batman is that by not abiding by his "one rule" there is no moral contrast to he and Superman. There are tons of storylines or philosophical analogues that are now completely off the table going forward simply by giving Batman a fluid morality system. Batman kills, Superman kills. I'm pretty sure Wonder Woman kills. No one holds the moral high ground in this movie. This may come from one of the other support characters as the franchise continues to grow but in this movie I feel like an opportunity was missed by the writing team. Especially after seeing the philosophical debate between Punisher and Daredevil so recently on Netflix.
Superman is about as bland as Karen's potato salad. The biggest problem with this version of clark is that he doesn't feel human. Many of the scenes put him in the role of either a vengeful god man out of touch with humanity or just too dark. In multiple scenes we get dialogue from Superman that is the anthesis of the Superman character. He tells Batman that if he wanted it, he'd be dead already. The line is itself isn't too far fetched but it just feels wrong and its like that the entire movie. There is a scene in which an entire room full of people die in front of Superman and he just stands there looking disappointed like someone farted in an elevator. I literally laughed out loud and I'm pretty sure the scene wasn't supposed to be funny.
Alfred is interesting is functional. Jeremy Irons is getting a lot of praise for the role but at this point we've seen so many variations on Alfred I'm not really impressed. Looks like easy money for an actor of his caliber.
Lex Luthor is horrible. This version is probably one of the worse screen villain's we've ever seen. I think Jesse Eisenberg could have played a great villain. There are slight flashes of what could have been but the version that Snyder and his team landed on is ultimately a failure. The characters motivations aren't really fleshed out and I don't buy some of the decisions he makes during the film. No one that smart is also that dumb. There was about 30 seconds spent on giving Lex some sort of backstory but it was superficial and didn't work to establish a reason to see him as anything other than a Madman. Its 2016 we need better villain motivation and not just...oh that guys crazy and a bad guy. Why doe's he hate Superman? What is he like when he's not shoving jolly ranchers in a guys mouth?
Lois Lane is just as bad here as in Man of Steel. Amy Adams is a good Lois Lane but the character needs to be more than a plot device. She exists to get Clark from point A to point B of the plot. There are times in the movie that she's shoehorned into just to to keep things moving. This is the exact same role she played in Man of Steel. I know there is a strong character somewhere in Lois. Its just not being developed properly and is a waste of talent right now.
Wonder Woman is easily our breakout character. She kicks ass and is the most interesting superhero of the bunch. This is pretty incredible considering she gets the least amount of screen time. She has few lines but her charm and charisma really comes across whenever she appears on screen. I know everything I need from her character in her brief appears and wanted more as the credits rolled. I almost wish that the DC cinematic universe just started with a Wonder Woman film and left Batman and Superman to the Justice League. The only downside to Diana is that her theme is really of grating and seems to linger much longer then it should whenever she shows up. Also, if you watched the second trailer for this movie you've seen practically the extent of her role in this movie. Other then the minor gripes above she's easily the best part of the film.
The Cameos from the other DC characters really didn't do anything for me. Its established that they exist in this world but aside from that we really didn't need them in this movie at all. I'm all for world building and sometimes you need the background stories to fill in holes in the narrative but the cameos didn't add anything. Ultimately the scenes should have probably been cut. Easter eggs and cameos just for the sake of don't do much for me and are kind of pointless.
An easy example of a cameo character making an impression is Black Widow from Iron Man II. She is established and immediately fleshed out as a character. She's then thrown in as a support role in the Avengers. In this film Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman all kinda just appear in the movie and drop out. The cameos were lazy and completely unnecessary.
Doomsday, a lot better then expected but should not have been in the trailer. Imagine you're watching the Civil War trailer and you see Iron Man and Captain America team up to fight...The Red Skull in the third act of the movie. You've spoiled a significant plot in the movie. The Doomsday reveal didn't ruin the movie but I kept thinking they should have held that reveal for the movie.
Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice is not a bad movie and I'm not sure why its being reamed by the critics. Its not perfect by any means. Some of the direction and cuts are sloppy but its nowhere near a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The action is gorgeous. This is easily one of the best looking superhero movies ever. The biggest chink in this movies armor is that visuals aren't everything. The fight between Superman and Batman is well shot but doesn't really make logical sense and really makes superman look like a chump in the end. The film feels really heavy and foreboding. Its not as preachy as Man of Steel, but its close. My kids enjoyed the movie but at times I just wished the movie would have lightened up. This is the tonal opposite of a Marvel film
I feel like the director thinks that the story being told is complicated deep & sophisticated but at the end of the day this is an average movie propped up by stunning visuals. There is a A+ cut of this movie somewhere, I'm sure of it. Once the fat is trimmed I'm sure BVS is better then the sum of its parts. The movie is more entertaining than Man of Steel and is a step in the positive direction for the DCU as a whole, but they need more creators in the mix then the Snyder/Goyer team.