This Week In Movies & Reel Review Dude Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (Warner Bros.)

Dir. Zack Snyder, Script. Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot

Plot: Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Clark Kent (Cavill) grow hateful of each other’s superhero counterpart, while Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) has sinister intentions of his own.

Sometimes, cinema can just trundle along producing relatively average movies for a few weeks, just ticking over, but there are some movies that make the entire of Hollywood stop. Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice is just one of those must-see event movies, a quarter-of-a-billion dollar superhero showdown three years in the making, since Zack Snyder’s shock announcement at Comic-Con 2013. And with a must-see film like this, pitting two titans at war with each other, I decided to do the same (although I don’t think anyone has ever referred to us as titans). For this review, I decided to finally partner up with a good friend of mine, the Reel Review Dude (click on the link to give him a look, its definitely worth your time), to pick apart one of the biggest movies of the year. Sit back and watch the fireworks.
Batman v Superman 2

TWIM: So here we are. It only took three years of fervent anticipation, continual images and the promise of the biggest comic book movie the world has ever seen to get us to the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film that probably has more riding on it than any other ever released. Not only is it one of the most colossally expensive movies ever produced, its success (or lack thereof) is meant to be the spark of DC/Warner’s Cinematic Universe. On the basis of the egregious 151 minutes of grim, incoherent and illogical storytelling however, this universe is in jeopardy before its even begun.

RRD: I don’t think I hated it as much as you did, that being said I don’t think it’s a good film by any stretch of the imagination. I feel like on the internet there’s this tendency when reviewing comic book movies to either really love something or absolutely hate it. There’s also this crazy assumption that if you don’t like a film it’s because you didn’t “understand the source material” or that you “didn’t try hard enough”, which is just absurd. I started reviewing films simply as a way of talking about my love of cinema, I really don’t want to be the kind of person who just picks apart movies unnecessarily, so I’m going to try and keep this as level headed as possible. There were some parts I liked, but there were other parts that really didn’t do it for me. I didn’t HATE it, in fact I’d go so far as to praise it for its courage in trying to pull off some pretty big things, I just thought it was a bit messy and didn’t really work as a standalone film.

Batman v Superman 9

TWIM: I think your last point is probably the most important. It often seems like the script for Batman v Superman had to pause itself in order to shoehorn in multiple teasers and tie-ins to other, future movies. Not only did they feel completely out of place in the movie, they managed to completely ruin any momentum the movie already had, and due to an unbelievably jumbled first hour full of scenes involving our main characters that just didn’t seem to logically link, it didn’t really have much momentum to start with.

RRD: I felt in terms of storytelling it was absolutely all over the place. The film was 2 hours and 30 minutes long and if I’m perfectly honest it could have done with some major cuts or at least something to shape it into a coherent narrative. Structurally, it was just a complete mess! The first 45 minutes of the movie pretty much set the tone for the entire thing, spending ages cutting between the various characters, cities and plot threads, with various time jumps that just felt utterly out of place. The film also had a load of weird dream sequences and odd visions that added virtually nothing to the story (other than make the run time even more excessive). There were a few moments where you could clearly see they were trying to add a little bit of depth, but unfortunately depth has never been one of Zack Snyder’s best features. He’s alright when it comes to doing flash things that look good on face value but the moment something happens that needs to be treated with an ounce of sensitivity – he has no idea how to handle it. I completely agree with you in terms of the name-drops and future plans ruining the movie, I feel like DC have to be incredibly careful with how they proceed following this as I think audiences are finally beginning to grow tired of the superhero movie formula. Where I live there is this old church, a beautiful building with stain glass windows and statues. But they built it in the middle of a bog (great idea!) which means that most of the time it has scaffolding around it to stop it sinking in the mud. I can’t help but feel like the new DC shared universe is the same. They’re attempting to do so much but I feel like they are rushing it a bit. They haven’t spent enough time laying the ground work for the film, which means that no matter how great their plans are – they don’t have us invested yet. I don’t know how much longer audiences are going to put up with these multi-film franchises. If the film isn’t good enough to stand on its own – there’s no way you can add to it.

Batman v Superman 7

TWIM: I’m going to be honest here: I wanted to like this film. I love these characters – the Dark Knight trilogy might be my favourite all time trilogy (although I admit Rises does have a couple of flaws), and I really wanted this film to work. But it’s awful. The problem lies in what you said about director Zack Snyder, in that he struggles with adding depth to his films – while I’ve always known Snyder was more of a visual stylist than a nuanced filmmaker, I’ve given him a pass on films like 300 and Watchmen. But to me, Batman v Superman is proof Snyder does not know how to coherently tell a story, instead trying to spruce it up with ridiculously indulgent visuals worthy of a Michael Bay film. I genuinely think Snyder and Bay exchange notes, because Snyder’s direction here is up to par with a Michael Bay magnum opus. Because of his lack of depth, screenwriter Chris Terrio (writer of Argo, the Ben Affleck-directed Oscar winner, possibly explaining why Affleck is the only genuinely strong element of this picture) seems to feel he is obliged to force it in, and he writes dialogue that is completely up its own arse. I remember the criticism that Man of Steel got for its overuse of religious imagery, but Terrio takes it to another level, with every line seemingly indicating some form of God/Jesus hatred. Those lines mainly come out of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, whose performance I want to talk about – not since Eddie Redmayne’s work in Jupiter Ascending have I seen something so unbelievably hammed up, so insanely bad, in a major blockbuster.

RRD: You’re right mate! I think the best thing they can do is fire Zack Snyder as the showrunner and replace him with someone who actually knows what they’re doing. I’ll admit some of the fight scenes were pretty well done but other than that I really don’t think he’s the mastermind DC thought they hired. I honestly don’t even know where to start with the floppy haired mop-faced atrocity they called Lex Luthor. I’ll admit he had one vaguely tense scene involving granny’s peach tea (if you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I’m on about), other than that he was just plain laughable. I can see what they were trying to go for with his casting (the sort of brattish, unpredictable social networking billionaire) but I think it was one of the biggest missteps in the film. Whenever he tried to appear intimidating or in any way formidable he just came of as a pathetic. He had these weird ticks and stuff where he’d clap his hands or make some random squeal, which I’m sure they thought would make him appear unpredictable, but in actual fact made him resemble a puppy who just got his tail trapped in a lift. What next – Michael Cera as Macbeth? Jim Parsons in a Hitler biopic? It was just stupid.

Batman v Superman 4
TWIM: Eisenberg was an understandable bit of casting – based on his previous work, it was obvious where they wanted to take Luthor and I kind of respected that. But my god, Eisenberg comes off badly here. It may be the overblown dialogue he has, but Eisenberg’s performance is insanely bad, up there for me with some of the worst in comic book movie history. He twitches CONSTANTLY, and while those tics could be considered as idiosyncrasies to make Luthor more believable, he seems totally unbelievable. The other performances aren’t that good either: Cavill is totally wooden in the red cape, and Amy Adams’s almost-irrelevant Lois Lane bands together with Cavill to form a brilliant oak dinner set, complete with cutlery as blunt as the inconsistencies in the storytelling, all for just £199.
RRD: The Superman in this new DC universe pretty much has the personality of a wet towel. Now, that’s not entirely Henry Cavill’s fault, his acting is definitely wooden (I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a sofa by the name of Cavill sitting in an IKEA somewhere), but I feel he was doing the best he could with the character he was given. Superman himself is such a difficult character to put to screen, it’s just so hard to make him relatable and I think that might be why the majority of actors find it a difficult part to play. He feels so distant from everything and while they tried to flesh the character a bit by spewing out Jesus imagery – it just didn’t work. That being said there were definitely some casting choices that worked really well: Ben Affleck absolutely killed it as Batman/Bruce Wayne! When DC first announced that Ben Affleck would be the next actor to pick up the famed cowl and play the Dark Knight there was a huge backlash among fans spawning the joke #Batfleck. Affleck can be proud of this performance however, as he’s really one of the only things that stands out as being excellent in this entire movie. As someone who grew up on Batman comics I thought his portrayal had everything I want in an on-screen Batman. In Batman films It’s always been the case (particularly with the Nolan trilogy) that the world of Gotham and the villains were more interesting than the character itself. However, I really loved how they dealt with the character and focused on HIM as a person; his motives, his ideology and why he did what he did. He just had this raw brutality that I think took a lot of people by surprise and reminded me of Frank Miller’s grizzled Batman in The Dark Knight Returns. Watching Affleck run around the screen throwing scumbags through tables and breaking necks just felt so refreshing as it’s a take I never thought I’d live to see. I also liked how methodical the character was. One of Batman’s biggest strengths has always been his intellect and seeing him outsmart Superman just using his intelligence was pretty interesting. I also loved the albeit brief appearance of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She was equal parts mysterious, seductive, and an absolutely badass. Gadot had some really big boots to fill (playing arguably the greatest female superhero ever) but I think she did a really good job. I don’t think I saw enough of her to judge whether or not her solo film would work. But she defiantly appeared the most promising and I’m excited to see what they are planning to do with the character.
Batman v Superman 6

TWIM: I’m actually really glad you bought up Gal Gadot, because she’s actually quite a solid bit of casting (despite the fact we get to see sparingly little of her) – she has that mystery to her, as well as this steeliness that I noticed throughout. If the movie did anything, it did make me a little more intrigued about how they’re going to play the Wonder Woman solo film. And everything you say about Affleck I agree with – he’s totally convincing, a Batman that absolutely typifies what he’s about. While his electronically-distorted Batgrowl is a tiny bit cringy, the method and ideology of Batman are clearly fleshed out here, and Affleck really is a terrific Batman. In a way that makes me even more annoyed the film he was in let him down. I also think that Jeremy Irons deserves a mention, because his Alfred has this real wit and bite that I loved. Irons and Affleck on screen together is a superb duo and probably the best thing in the movie – I really hope we do get a solo movie with these two front and centre.

RRD: You weren’t a fan of the robo-bat-voice? I thought it was okay – I kind of preferred it to the growly Nolan voice which sounded like a person with throat cancer gargled marbles. I have to admit I thought Jeremy Irons gave a pretty solid performance as Alfred. I thought he was a little bit lost in the film with the massive run time and the sheer number of characters; I’d totally love to see a solo Batman film with an Affleck/Irons pairing though.

Batman v Superman 1

TWIM: It wasn’t bad, I could definitely accept it as Batfleck’s Batgrowl, but even though the Bale voice was an effective way of showing the dangers of smoking, I still kind of preferred it as you could tell that voice wasn’t altered, it’s just the real, raw thing. Irons isn’t the only one lost in Batman v Superman, it seems like everybody gets lost, even Superman at times as he blends into the beautiful wooden interiors of Metropolis apartments.

RRD: What do you think about the plans for the DCCU? Are you still optimistic? Were you ever optimistic?

Batman v Superman 5

TWIM: Looking at the DCCU right now, I couldn’t say that I was pumped as a reviewer. As a fan, I’m willing to hold out hope that the films preceding the double part Justice League extravaganza (directed by Snyder, ensuring a complete lack of subtlety throughout) will be alright. Suicide Squad looks like it has something going for it, I’m relatively interested to see what the Wonder Woman movie tries, although the way in which they tried to tease The Flash and Aquaman didn’t really do much at all.

RRD: I think I’m pretty much in the same boat as you on the whole DCU in general. Judging by the two films we’ve seen so far I’m a little bit unsure on a critical front, but as a lifelong DC fan I’m pretty excited to see what their endgame is. I felt like Batman v Superman in many ways functions as a messy prelude or an overture for later things to come. I’m still pretty hopeful that Suicide Squad will be good and although I have doubts about the Justice League it could still be interesting. I feel like a lot of people are going to write off all of DC’s plans based solely on this movie but I think it still has the potential for great things.

FINAL THOUGHTS
 Batman v Superman 8

TWIM: The last thing I would probably say is that I wouldn’t judge the entire Universe on this movie. Some franchises take a while to get going, and while those ones probably didn’t start off with an absolute atrocity of an action movie, that doesn’t mean to say that future instalments can’t be good. I always go into a movie knowing that any of them could be the next Citizen Kane, and I’m still going to have that hope when I plough on through the rest of the DC Universe. And besides, the accountants at Warner Bros. won’t mind, as a $172m (estimated, at time of writing) opening weekend is nothing to pull your nose up at. I’m going to give Batman v Superman: Dawn of Jumble a 1/4. I really didn’t like this thing, and besides the quality of Affleck, Irons, and some solid cinematography at times from Larry Fong, the whole thing is a hot mess. Performances are forgettable and in Eisenberg’s case, unfathomable. Direction isn’t focused, and is about as subtle as a nail bomb in your postbox. The writing is simultaneously lazy and overworked, self-important and irrelevant. Overall, this was a misfire on DC’s part.

RRD: I completely agree, I feel as though no matter what happens this movie will be a success and make a lot of money for Warner Bros. regardless. I really wanted this movie to be good (I feel as though there is this misconception that reviewers purely exist to nit-pick and destroy movies but for me that couldn’t be further from the truth. I go into the cinema with the same expectations as everyone else and when I love a movie I can’t help but praise it). But unfortunately I was left with a sour taste in my mouth upon leaving. The film neglects even the basics of filmmaking and just feels overwrought, messy and dare I say it boring. It saddens me to do this but I have to give Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice a 3.8/10.

 Batman v Superman 3
And there you have it: unfortunately, Batman v Superman just doesn’t cut the mustard. Massive thanks to the Reel Review Dude for taking the time out to come and see the movie with me, and of course for having this discussion. If you liked what he had to say about Batman v Superman and you want to here him talk about a whole bunch of other stuff, then you can find him here: https://reelreviewdude.wordpress.com

James Stephenson

 

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