Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens in theatres this weekend and the early response is lukewarm at best. Already, the movie is becoming something of a morbid curiosity, one you have to see to believe, rather than anything resembling a film intended to ramp up our excitement for the many planned sequels of the DC Extended Universe.
Yesterday, before attending a screening of Batman V Superman, I wrote of my sincere wish for this film to be good. Man of Steel was, in my opinion, a train wreck, but the possibility that BvS could steer the franchise in a better direction remained. That was until roughly an hour or so into BvS, at which point it became abundantly clear this movie wasn’t a course correction, but a film that is determined to suck as much fun from the superhero genre as possible.
However, where Man of Steel was a boring, long mess, Batman V Superman is a boring, long mess with the occasional bright spot. This by no means makes up for BvS being a terrible movie. A good casting choice here and an interesting scene there cannot fix a plot that meanders from one inconsequential moment to another. Events transpire because the plot demands it, characters’ actions have seemingly little to no motivation, and by the end of its bloated two and half hour runtime many in my theater couldn’t even muster the energy stay for a post-credit scene. (There isn’t one, by the way.)
Batman V Superman is a bad movie, of that there’s little doubt. Sure, the film will have its fans, and to them I say, ‘Have at it.’ If Batman V Superman is your cup of tea, I’m not going to waste your time or mine trying to convince anyone otherwise. Instead, I’m going to focus on those occasional bright spots, the few moments within in Batman V Superman that to me showed promise. (Very minor spoilers to follow.)
Wonder Woman – Let’s get right to it with what many are already calling the highlight of the film – and she’s on screen for maybe five minutes! (In costume anyway.) Otherwise, Gal Gadot does make the occasional appearance throughout the movie as Diana Prince, evoking the serenity and certainty of a (demi-) goddess. Perhaps it’s even because she appears so briefly that Wonder Woman feels like such a win? Either way, the little we see of her in action is excellent, even when much of her cool fight scene is obscured in a haze of CGI smoke and ash. 2017’s Wonder Woman cannot come soon enough.
Batfleck & Alfred – For all the hubbub made over Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman, he actually turns in one of the film’s better performances. He’s all brooding and suspicion, but in the case of an older Batman faced with a threat unlike anything he’s ever imagined, it all sort of makes sense. Unsurprisingly, Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is one of the best portrayals of the character, conveying smugness and charm equally. And as I expected, Jeremy Irons is fantastic as Alfred if criminally underused. Affleck and Irons have a good chemistry, too, though they’re on screen together only a handful of times. (The one big downside to Batman’s character comes from the same fundamental misunderstanding that ruined Superman in Man of Steel. These heroes shouldn’t be killing people. Period.)
Basically the whole supporting cast – From Laurence Fishbourne as Perry White to Holly Hunter as Senator Finch to even Diane Lane’s return as Martha Kent, all of these actors do their best with the material given, and somehow, they manage to make it mostly work. These aren’t the best performances these celebrated actors have ever given, not by any stretch, but whenever a member of the supporting cast is on screen you want them to hang around – the same cannot be said for the leads.
The Batcave – So Batman V Superman‘s story is big, lumbering, and dumb, but for some of its production design the movie deserves top marks. The Batcave in particular looks awesome as do Batman’s many accoutrements. The Batmobile kicks so much ass, and though the way in which it enters the cave may be a tad ridiculous, it’s still cooler than much of what else is in the film. The costumes, too, look pretty great, even Superman’s shiny blue ensemble.
The score – Some may not enjoy how bombastic and operatic Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score for Batman V Superman is at times, especially since the film never reaches the same levels, but it’s a good soundtrack regardless. Zimmer’s Superman theme has grown on me since Man of Steel, and what Junkie XL brings to Batman is unique but fits the weariness of Affleck’s depiction.
Everything else – Seriously. I wish there as a nicer way to phrase it, but besides those few bright spots mentioned above there is nothing left of Batman V Superman that could be considered “good.” Henry Cavill is a bore, never mustering enough energy to bring any spark to either Clark or Superman. Amy Adams was a fine Lois Lane in Man of Steel, but here she’s relegated to largely delivering exposition and advancing the plot. She’s also an unfortunate accessory to what may be plot’s biggest grievance. Jesse Eisenberg is a riot as Lex Luthor but not in a good way. Honestly, at one point I thought the character was meant to be having a stroke, instead it was just a super weird line delivery. And of all the lack of motivation given to characters, Luthor receives the least. As far as I can tell you, his whole reason for hating Superman is that his dad beat him. That’s it. I’m not even kidding.
The title match that Batman V Superman promises is underwhelming and that’s a major sin given how its the film’s selling point. It also takes too long to reach that point and once it does there’s little reason to even care. I won’t spoil how it ends, but it’s obviously meant to be the film’s big emotional moment and it falls flat. Almost laughably so. The allusions to the other Justice Leaguers are so painfully forced it’s as if they were pasted in as an afterthought, and these ridiculous “visions” Batman has of the future have zero effect on the film’s plot and can barely even be considered teases. I’m fairly fluent in DC Comics lore and it wasn’t until well after the film ended that I deciphered just what these glimpses were suggesting.
Doomsday appears as the film’s final boss, which isn’t a spoiler at all since the ugly schmuck is in the trailers, but he’s easily the worst CGI monster since The Incredible Hulk‘s Abomination. In fact, there basically indistinguishable. There’s little reason for his existence beyond the heroes needing a big bad guy to fight, and as if just to prove that movie knows this, there’s hardly a throwaway line of explanation.
Let’s not belabor the point any longer – Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a bad movie, shoddily made from a poorly conceived concept. While watching it there are momentary flashes which suggest what this film might have been, but they’re never nearly enough to rescue it.