RW Review: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Rating: PG-13| Runtime: 115 min| Release Date: March 25, 2016
Director: Zack Snyder | Writers: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Cast: Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Gal Gadot (Dianna Prince/Wonder Woman), Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), Amy Adams ( Lois Lane), Jeremy Irons (Alfred)
My inner comic fan was excited at the premise of seeing DC's Trinity on the big screen, but sadly that excitement slowly faded as the film went on and instead was replaced with frustration and a lot of questions. Now, of course, it would be easy to sit here and say that the film was a pile of shit but honestly, it wasn't that bad to me and had a few high spots. But much like Man of Steel, I feel that with repeated viewing those high spots will be acknowledged less because it is easier to initially point out flaws versus digging deep and seeing where the film shined. Now you're probably saying to yourself what exactly were the flaws that stuck out. To me, the biggest flaw out of the gate was the direction of the story and how certain elements either made minimal sense or fell into the vortex of plot holes that became way too apparent as the film progressed. Batman v Superman borrowed so many iconic moments and major story arcs from the books but they forgot to apply what made the books great in the first place and that was the story. The overall story was hollow and honestly felt like an afterthought in certain places including the highly debated “Knightmare” sequence which delivered from a teasing perspective but left us with a ton of questions, most of which concerned plot development.
When it came to the actors in their respective roles I felt that Ben Affleck had a commanding presence that definitely outshined both Henry Cavill's Superman and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman. His portrayal of Batman as a grizzled and emotionally scarred Dark Knight was powerful in a few scenes but at times felt forced as well. Affleck shines as Bruce Wayne in many scenes especially when having exchanges with Alfred (played masterfully by Jeremy Irons), but he stumbled as Batman because the director decided to eliminate all the powers of deduction that made Batman “The Dark Knight Detective” and instead focus on the more physical aspects of the character and less on the more cerebral side of things – which with a layered character like Batman becomes a big no-no. Superman lost all of his happy go lucky, do-gooder qualities which instead were replaced with the brooding you would expect from Batman and while it adds to the “darker” tone, it loses a vital piece of what make Superman work. Wonder Woman was honestly the most legitimate representation of the characters and Gal Gadot added a healthy mix of grace and strength to both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman. (We can only hope the trend continues in her solo film.)
When it comes to the villains, I felt Lex Luthor started off solid and by the time the film ended, he was a shadow of the man who has challenged the Man of Steel so effectively in the books. Doomsday, while good as a superhero punching bag, was something that screamed “video game boss battle” and did not have the same impact as Zod which brought emotion out of Superman. I would have preferred the DC Trinity fight Luthor in the power suit and may be a secondary villain like Metallo versus going for the over-the-top Doomsday, which I felt was a character that was rushed to the big screen and could have been built over a few films.
I wanted to love Batman v Superman as it was the first DC film of 2016 and is the foundation of the DC Cinematic Universe, but unfortunately, any good that DC built with the Man of Steel movie was undone as Zack Snyder hid behind effects and comic imagery instead of reading the books and crafting a better story. What good is a “pretty” film when the plot was so poorly executed and disjointed? I really want to see the full director's cut to see if it improves the film or just reinforces the poor execution we've already seen. I admire DC for trying to compete with Marvel head to head, but is it worth rushing and sacrificing storytelling for the sake of getting the Justice League on screen faster? Think of the road Marvel built towards The Avengers and every other film and how effectively they are woven together. DC needs to rely on their stories and focus on that first like they have done with their animated films. It is a shame that DC's animation division can craft a better story than a big budget director and writing team. DC has a shot at redemption with Suicide Squad this August. We'll see if they fare better.
Have you seen Batman v Superman? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? I'd love to hear your thoughts so feel free to share them in the comments section.