*** This review contains minor spoilers ***
If you’re going into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice expecting an epic fight between the world’s two biggest superheroes (as the trailers and promos would have you believe) you’re walking right into an epic disappointment. “The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world”? Hardly. Don’t let the film’s title fool you. Their fight is short, lopsided, and poorly conceived. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve already seen the bulk of it, as well as any other noteworthy parts of the film for that matter. Rather than being a legendary match-up between these two heroes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is instead an excruciating exercise in patience, without much of a payoff.
Maybe you’re okay with that. Sure, it’s disappointing, but far from being a deal-breaker considering we all knew full well they’d make up and become friends before the movie was over. Frankly, Batman v Superman has far bigger issues than its failed fight night. For starters, it’s a painfully slow-paced film without much in the way of entertainment. Where’s the action? Where’s the excitement? Where’s the edge-of-your-seat suspense? Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a superhero movie? What the Hell?
Okay, so Batman v Superman isn’t your traditional superhero movie. I’m fine with that too. I’m also certainly not opposed to a slow build-up or delayed gratification. It can work wonders when done right, but it’s a delicate procedure that requires precision and planning. Batman v Superman, though, is ham-fisted, sloppy, and disjointed. They’re cramming so much into the movie and jumping all over the place while so little of anything important actually happens. Heck, Batman has two nightmares thrown into the mix just so there’s some semblance of action in the film’s first two hours.
I have two big problems with those dream sequences, by the way. First of all, I refuse to believe a 40-year-old Batman is still that haunted by nightmares. Come on, he’s Batman! The guy gives other people nightmares for a living. Secondly, one of those nightmares would have surely been among the best parts of the movie if it would have actually happened. Instead we’re left with a frustrating and arguably pointless tease that makes this variation of Batman look fearful and weak.
You know, now that I think about it, there was also a Batmobile scene early on, but it’s so forgettable that just hours later I can’t seem to recollect anything about it other than how stupid the new Batmobile looked with its orange light reflectors. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but why in the world would you put light reflectors on a vehicle that’s not supposed to be seen? What? Batman couldn’t get his car registered at the Gotham DMV without them? I don't know, but regardless, when compared to the Tumbler from Batman Begins, the new Batmobile looks pretty mediocre.
For a movie that’s this ambitious, Batman v Superman wastes way too much time with unnecessary scenes and with director Zack Snyder’s trademark brand of excessive slow-mo. So much effort was put into getting everything on screen that it seems like no one ever took the time to see if any of it was actually good. The result is a weak and messy plot that’s juggling multiple different narratives. First and foremost, you have Bruce Wayne’s perspective on the ending of Man of Steel wherein Superman’s battle with General Zod destroys much of Metropolis, including a Wayne tower. Seeing that this happened outside of Gotham, I wonder if Batman would have done anything about it at all if not for his own building being collateral damage. Regardless, he’s pissed, and Superman’s going to have to pay for this.
Then you have Superman’s asinine plot in which he is wrongfully accused of killing African terrorists and must stand trial in America. Wait a minute, what? Superman kills terrorists and is being criminalized in AMERICA? Are we on Earth or Bizarro World here? Since the world is already anti-Superman after the Metropolis disaster, they’re going to attempt to hold him publically responsible for these deaths. Did I mention that these terrorists were killed with gunfire? Yes, gunfire! The obvious weapon of choice for an all-powerful God who can shoot laser beams from his eyeballs. Right!
Next up we have Lois Lane on her much-too-long quest to prove her boyfriend Superman’s innocence, by investigating the origins of an unusual bullet she found in the aftermath of the aforementioned gunfire. If she can trace its origin, she can find out who is responsible for these murders. #TerroristLivesMatter. By cornering and questioning military officials in the men’s room, Lois Lane attempts to clear Superman’s scandalized name. Ultimately, this whole tactless and contrived subplot seems like it was added just for the sake of giving Lois Lane some screen time and something to do. It adds nothing to the movie whatsoever.
Then there’s Lex Luthor and his absurdly elaborate plot to kill Superman that starts with retrieving and weaponizing kryptonite. His plan is a bit inconceivable but it wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that Lex Luthor is easily the most dreadful aspect of the film. He’s an obnoxious and annoying brat of questionable intelligence who flat out ruins every scene he’s in. To make matters worse, he’s the character that ends up linking all the pieces of the story together as he has his hands all over everything.
Even then, with all that said, this is just a basic outline for the heavy-handed but paper-thin plot. There’s also the introduction of several new heroes who will comprise the Justice League in their own film a few years down the road. Wonder Woman is the most prevalent hero among them, but she seems to be thrown into the mix here just for the sake of bringing together the trinity of Batman, Superman, and herself. Though I’ll admit the uniting of the trinity was an undeniably cool moment, and Wonder Woman, despite little screen-time, ends up stealing the show as the biggest highlight of the film. I just wish we would have gotten to know her a little better, but at least now I’m excited to see her standalone movie due out next year. As for the other three Justice League additions, it’s abundantly clear that they were just lazily inserted into the film in post-production. Not only are these characters being sold short, but they’re simultaneously being used to clutter an already congested film.
Now I’m going to switch gears for a moment to talk about what I think worked in the film. For the most part, director Zack Snyder does a remarkable job with the film’s visuals. Anyone who’s seen any of his previous work knows he has a great eye behind the camera, and he excels at bringing comic book pages to life. Sure, the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents is a redundant inclusion, but I don’t blame a visionary director like Snyder for wanting to try his hand at it, and he actually does it really well. The special effects are solid, though given that they’re so excessive, there were occasionally noticeable drops in quality. As I mentioned previously, Wonder Woman is great. I love the superhero costumes, especially Batman’s. Lastly, the final battle with Doomsday is far better than anticipated, and offers some much needed redemption for the abysmal beginning and middle of the film.
Beyond those few things, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one big-budgeted mess of mediocrity. Perhaps that’s largely due to DC rushing their cinematic universe to compete with Marvel’s, but seriously, what’s the hurry? They’ve got the world’s two biggest superheroes under their sleeve, and with that advantage they should have very little to worry about. Instead of building up to an Avengers-like culmination, DC foolishly tackles it all head-on at once, and they ultimately screw up the groundwork for their future films. To call Batman v Superman ambitious would be an absolute understatement. It’s trying to catch up to Marvel in the present while skipping over almost a decade of the trials and tribulations it took for them to get there. It’s no wonder this movie is a failure.
In terms of the acting, the only characters that really stood out to me were Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Affleck was better than most people probably expected when he was controversially cast in the coveted role of the Caped Crusader. However, anyone who tells you that he’s a better Batman than Christian Bale is completely out of their element. Yes, he gives an adequate performance (which could have been better with a stronger script), but he’s not even half the actor Bale is. Meanwhile Gadot doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but still manages to establish herself as a strong female presence who is deserving of your full attention.
Henry Cavill appears to have bulked up his physique quite a lot since Man of Steel, but the same can’t be said about his acting talents. He’s still as flat as ever. The rest of the characters, played by a strong array of actors including Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, and Holly Hunter just never get all that much to work with. It’s hard to really make a statement when you’re sharing almost the same amount of screen-time as a jar of pee. Hopefully they’ll be better utilized in the upcoming sequels.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor is a different story entirely, and as far as I’m concerned, he is just awful. He has the meatiest role in the entire film, and yet he’s nothing if not annoying. He’s appears to be trying so hard to give a performance of equal caliber to Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he ends up failing miserably. Though I can’t disparage his performance too much without acknowledging that most of this could likely be attributed to having a poorly written character. He does demonstrate at least a modicum of acting talent, but his quirky, bratty character leans far more towards the side of being obnoxious than interesting. Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame was originally cast for this role and I can’t help but think that in his hands, Batman v Superman’s Lex Luthor could have actually been amazing.
In the end, we’re left with a sloppy movie that has pacing issues, underdeveloped characters, a poorly-devised plot and piss-poor dialogue (pun intended). In three years the dialogue has gone from tinkling in a metal bucket to tinkling in a glass jar and calling it “Granny’s Peach Tea”. What kind of a sick pee fetish do these writers have? Stop it already, you’re embarrassing yourselves! Oh gosh, and don’t even get me started on the “Martha, Martha, Martha!” nonsense. That was another painfully low point for the movie. What we have here is a movie that’s all flash and no substance, with Zack Snyder emerging as the second coming of Michael Bay. There are plot holes aplenty, there’s no sense of humor, and the entire film is severely lacking in any depth. There is nothing to sink your teeth into in this sad, shell of a movie other than the ways in which it all went wrong.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film that let me down tremendously. It was poorly marketed and even more poorly planned out. It doesn’t deliver on its title bout, and it wastes so much time and energy on cramming in unnecessary elements. Time that could have been much better redirected into fleshing out the film’s characters and giving us a proper Batman versus Superman showdown. I’m certainly not calling Batman v Superman the worst movie ever, but when it comes to superhero movies, it is unmistakably one of the worst big-budget ones I’ve seen.