Batman fights Superman and the audience loses
Two and a half years. That is how long we've all waited for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This weekend, we finally got to see the manifestation of all that anticipation. I was well aware of the critical dark clouds being cast over the second installment in the DC Cinematic Universe before seeing the film, but I needed to leave all those preconceived notions at the ticket counter, get my large popcorn and soda, and take my seat with an open mind. Can Zack Snyder deliver? How is Ben Affleck as the new Bruce Wayne/Batman, or Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman? Have the stakes been raised since Man of Steel? I had too many questions and not enough answers. The lights turned dim and the music started. 150 minutes later, when the lights awoke, I was not disappointed.
Following the battle that nearly destroyed Metropolis, the world must decide what is to come of a seemingly all-powerful alien from Krypton. While the Senate Congressional Superman Committee holds hearings in Washington, seasoned billionaire Bruce Wayne re-cowls as the vigilante Batman to destroy Superman and protect the planet. But there is a larger threat brewing in the city that will put these comic book gods to the test.
There is a lot to digest in this movie so let’s take it piece by piece. I’ll begin by moving past Superman quite quickly by saying this: no more, no less. Henry Cavill delivers a similar performance as Superman to the one we get in Man of Steel. In fact, this movie presents a more mature Superman, not in age but in attitude. Kal-el has experienced the conflicting feelings the human race has toward him, and Cavill does a fine job presenting Superman’s mental anguish over the issue. Nothing new or special from the Last Son of Krypton, but the Dark Knight presents some interesting surprises.
Let us not forget we have a new cinematic Batman played by the controversially casted Ben Affleck. This iteration of Bruce Wayne is not a lengthy departure from what we are used to. He is a billionaire, tycoon, and philanthropist who cares about his city and is tortured by his past. Batman, on the other hand, is not the same Batman we are accustomed to. This Batman is old, retired, and angry. Superman’s battle with General Zod destroyed Metropolis and a Wayne Financial tower along with it, killing Bruce’s colleagues. “That’s how it starts. The fever. The rage. That turns good men… cruel,” said Alfred. Played impeccably by Jeremy Irons, Alfred delivers the line that defines why Bruce dons the cowl again and declares war on Superman. In his pursuit, Batman is a more brutal fighter than we have ever seen, most notably abandoning one of his core principles (No spoilers here, so I will let you fill in the blanks). This is my favorite iteration of any cinematic Batman. His more violent fighting style, his increased detective skills, and his snarky, as opposed to reclusive, attitude make this Bruce Wayne/Batman the most interesting we have ever seen. Granted the character does not experience much emotional range in this movie, Affleck plays Bruce’s grit and resentment without flaw.
Another hotly contested casting choice was Jesse Eisenberg’s Alexander “Lex” Luthor. The trailers shed some light on what looked to be a rather two-faced character, but after seeing the movie, Lex seems a bit more like the Joker. Lex’s role in the DC Cinematic Universe is much deeper than anticipated and this movie makes that clear. Instead of the dark, conniving, industrious billionaire we are used to seeing, this Lex Luthor is a paranoid, nervous, almost-afraid, dark, conniving, industrious billionaire. I did not mind Eisenberg’s performance and am not unhappy with the decisions made for the character.
Now let’s talk about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I was optimistic. I trusted Warner Bros. must have seen something special in her audition for the character and she had been working hard to become a better actor. I do not know if all that is true, but Snyder used the character perfectly. Gadot is not required to do any highbrow acting, is not required to speak any long monologues, and is not given much dialogue with other actors. On the other hand, she is presented as a badass warrior who possesses extraordinary power, a deep history, and well-founded morals. Additionally, Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL provide the music for the film and Wonder Woman’s theme gave me chills up and down my arms. That is quality you cannot teach.
Last, but certainly not least, are the visuals. Zack Snyder’s films have always set the bar for having dynamic visuals, especially in battle. BvS does not disappoint. The fight(s) are beautiful to watch. The sound rumbles your chair. Batman has new gadgets. Wonder Woman is stronger than everyone except Superman. It is a pure thrill every time one character attacks another.
If all these things are so great, why is the movie getting such bad reviews? A very good question with a very simple answer: the writing and editing are sub-par. That is the foundation of a movie and what critics use to base their scores on Rotten Tomatoes. I can count on one hand the number of effective lines of dialogue in Batman v Superman. Throughout the movie, I found myself saying “Really? Come on. Really?” The script attempted to cover far too many bases making each important base less and less relevant. Unfortunately, the script is what a movie hinges on and is the difference between a good movie and a sloppy one. It is truly unfortunate and devastatingly disappointing to be taken out of a movie every time I feel like I have just started to connect. Never more so than for a movie that had such potential and years of anticipation.
Is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a great movie? By no means. Good movie? Maybe. Worth seeing at all? Absolutely. It will not please every viewer, but you will not leave the theater asking for your money back. I definitely recommend seeing it. Much like a few of the movie’s characters, audiences anticipated one film and got another. The resulting whiplash, combined with sloppy writing and technical strategies, make Batman v Superman an action packed slideshow of clues hinting at what is to come in the DC Cinematic Universe. Audiences’ high hopes for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are not dashed, only postponed.
This movie is not a failure. It is an intermediary, a set-up, a sacrifice fly to right field moving the runner to third so we can score on the next batter. Though I find that a waste of a grand opportunity, I anticipate Justice League Part One will swing a big bat when it opens on Nov. 17, 2017.