Skip to content

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) review

March 24, 2016

batmanvsupermanbatmanposter

 

written by: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
produced by: Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder
directed by: Zack Snyder
rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality)
runtime: 153 min.
U.S. release date: March 25, 2016

 

Don’t let the subtitle of “Batman v Superman” fool you, justice has not dawned in this movie. There’s simply none to be found anywhere in the latest debacle from director Zack Snyder, in which he once again proves himself a master of destruction and little else. If you had no problem with the excessive collateral damage and the thousands that were killed in Snyder’s 2013 Superman reboot “Man of Steel“,  then you’ll have no problem seeing more of the same in this movie. Once again, Warner Bros. is squandering the potential of their DC characters. Instead of giving us the World’s Finest, we get two brooding costumed quandaries who are a shadow of the heroes they could should be and the impotent, stammering rich kid who manipulates them. Where is the justice?

You should know by now that anytime we get Batman in a movie, we have to have a flashback to that pivotal moment in Bruce Wayne’s childhood. Maybe it’s because this will be someone’s first Batman movie, but here we have Thomas (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Martha (Lauren Cohen) Wayne getting shot down again in front of their son in a dark alley after taking in Zorro at the movie theater (this time it’s back in 1981, because John Boorman’s “Excalibur” is on the marquee as well). All of this takes place during the opening credit sequence (much like the history lesson we received in the opening credits of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) to give those who know nothing about Bruce Wayne/Batman (gasp) both backstory and motivation for the later.

 

bvschaos

 

After that reminder, we return to the events at the end of “Man of Steel”, where Metropolis is decimated by the epic battle between Kryptonians, Kal-El/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill, wide-eyed and bland) and General Zod (Michael Shannon), only this time we see the catastrophic event through the perspective of billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who is seen rushing to the epicenter of destruction, hoping to alert the employees of Wayne Financial in time for them to evacuate his nearby building. That doesn’t happen and Bruce is left with the maimed, the dead and the survivors in the aftermath of the alien battle, leaving him with one person to blame for the senseless destruction – the being the press would eventually call Superman.

Eighteen months later, there is a palpable distrust of Superman around the globe even while some embrace him as a hero. Metropolis has erected a statue in his honor (for some reason), yet there’s something tugging at Kal-El’s cape. Despite a lack of journalism background, Clark Kent is still working at the Daily Planet, run by editor-in-chief, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and is now sharing an apartment with his co-worker and lover, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) – so why does he seem uncomfortable or unsure with who he is and how he’s perceived?

 

bvsloisluthor

 

Across the globe, we witness a giant glowing green rock being pulled out of the Indian Ocean, something that catches the interest of billionaire rich kid, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), back in Metropolis. At the same time, Luthor is catching the attention of a handful of others as well – Bruce Wayne/Batman is looking into Luthor’s possible link to terrorists and his interest in the green rock from Zod’s ship, there’s a mysterious woman (Gal Gadot) at one of Luthor’s parties who has her own ulterior motives, Lois Lane is working with General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) to determine what connection Luthor had to a terrorist attack she witnessed in Africa and Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) who has gives Luthor access to the downed Kryptonian spacecraft from the battle with Zod, that is resting in Metropolis harbor for some reason, albeit heavily guarded.

While all these plot points connected to Luthor are spinning, a seething Bruce Wayne has revenge in mind as his plan to take down Superman leads him down an obsessive and destructive path, much to his assistant Alfred’s (Jeremy Irons, far more than a butler) chagrin. As he readies his body and his body armor, Luthor turns on his mad scientist side and creates a living Doomsday weapon out of the Kryptonian technology he was given access to in order to take out Superman. In no time, Batman calls for a showdown against the Man of Steel across the harbor in Gotham City (in an area away from civilians this time!) and the two collide into the titular (and inevitable) clash.

Is that the end? Certainly not. Of course, like all “versus” comic books, there’s an even greater threat – a giant one, in fact (who looks like a CGI construct from Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” movies) – that forces the two heroes and a Wonder Woman (although Gadot’s character is never called that) to combine forces, save the city (the world?) and take care of puny Luthor.

 

bvstrinity

 

This is a movie that thinks it knows its own audience, from a studio that’s shooting itself in the foot. Forget comparing it to Marvel movies or any other superhero flick – how does it compare to the previous DC Comics movies? Well, this PG-13 rated sequel is the darkest, most violent (of course, we’ll be getting an R-rated Director’s Cut on blu-ray eventually) and frightening movie yet set in the DC Cinematic Universe. That’s the tone Warner Brothers, Snyder and his screenwriters are taking in a story that’s revolving around two brooding and bothered would-be superheroes – and it’s an unfortunate one at that. Who does it benefit? Kids scooping up toys off shelves shouldn’t see this movie. Of course, they will after much prodding of their parents – but, I reiterate there’s some scary and intense stuff in this movie that’s not suitable for a child under twelve.

Which again, posits the question: who is this movie for? Maybe it’s for the comic book fan like myself, who was a teen when DC released Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in the 80s and who also read The Death of Superman which introduced Doomsday in the early 90s. There’s certainly a resemblance and imagery from both iconic storylines, but absent in the truncated versions of those stories are key elements that make them resonate with emotional and thematic heft. Well, even with that in mind, I wasn’t feeling this movie was for me. I guess the main reason centers on this “versus” gimmick, which basically takes the final fight between Batman and Superman from Miller’s story, strips the characters of their legitimate and believable motivations and gives them uncharacteristic and easy/lazy (I won’t get in to spoilers here) reasons to fight.

Affleck’s paranoid Bruce Wayne has the strongest arc of the film and the most obvious motivation for Batman to hate Superman. The actor, now playing his third superhero (if you include George Reeves in “Hollywoodland”) offers the more interesting character of the two leads. He portrays a 20-year crime-fighting vigilante who’s tired and frustrated – which is interesting – yet he’s also the most forceful and brutal Batman we’ve ever seen on-screen. He brands the flesh of criminals with a bat symbol which makes them targets in prison. (That doesn’t sit well with Superman, who was responsible for the death of thousands in “Man of Steel”). This Batman also kills criminals – that’s right – mowing them down with heavily artillery from his batmobile or batwing. Why does he have such a problem with Superman’s high death toll, when that’s his MO as well? He’s more Frank Castle than he is the World’s Greatest Detective who’s compelled by his parent’s death to take a no-guns stance.

 

bvsalfred

 

You may think, so what? What’s wrong with a different kind of Batman? Well, it’s wrong when it strips away who he is and what ideals he stands for. What effect does such behavior have on kids, who again, will no doubt be seeing this regardless of its rating. After the screening I attended, I saw two excited little boys having a discussion and then my heart sank when I overheard, “….man, he coulda killed him Superman right there!” See, that’s unfortunate, considering what a movie like this could’ve should’ve inspired: hope. Isn’t that what the “S” stands for? But neither hero instills hope in this movie.

Oh there are some heroics here and there, but deep-down these superheroes are too conflicted to be motivated by hope. It took “Man of Steel” and this movie to confirm that part of the reason Clark Kent/Superman is so messed up is due to bad parenting from Jonathan Kent (in the last movie) and Martha Kent in this movie. For example, when a confused Superman seeks comfort from his mother in Smallville, she tells him, “Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be… or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.” Translation: Be this and that, but I don’t care. Do what ya want. No wonder he’s messed up. You’re only the most powerful being on the planet, yet you owe the human race nothing. Wow. It’s really sad and frustrating when the audience knows how a hero should act yet the actual hero (or those he confides in) is without a clue.

“Dawn of Justice” was written by two different screenwriters and it feels like they were writing for two different movies. New to the superhero realm is Chris Terrio, the Oscar-winning writer of “Argo”, who was hired to re-write the script superhero veteran David S. Goyer (the Blade trilogy, the Dark Knight trilogy and “Man of Steel”) had written. I really wonder what Goyer’s script was like and what Terrio re-wrote, because the whole thing really feels quite disjointed, unfulfilling and frustrating. It’s ludicrous how they try to establish ideological differences between Batman and Superman, when they’re more alike here than either would ever admit.

Their handling of Luthor is a big problem in the movie as well. Here’s a character who should’ve publicly expressed Superman as an alien menace, but instead they transferred that stance to Bruce Wayne and left the socially inept Luthor with a flimsy motivation to take down a “devil from the sky”. There was a chance for the character of Luthor to be cool, charismatic and a diabolical genius. Instead, we get Eisenberg regurgitating his Zuckerberg character from “The Social Network” (like everyone feared), giving us a petulant Luthor which comes across like he’s hopped up on Red Bull.

 

bvsluthor

 

In another wrong turn, we have Luthor to thank for the pre-Justice League cameos of The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) and Cyborg (Sam Fisher), which feels forced and shoe-horned as a prelude to the upcoming Justice League two-parter. The connection to Luthor is that he’s been studying a metahuman theory, which falls flat as a throw-away fan-service element.

Snyder is reunited with cinematographer, Larry Fong, who worked with the director on “300” and “Watchmen” as well as composer Hans Zimmer (“Man of Steel”), who is joined by Junkie XL, Zimmer’s partner on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” score. Some of the action is filmed with IMAX cameras, but much of the climactic fight (taking place at night) is jolting to the senses and hard to follow. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend 3D on this one at all. The sound of the film was problematic – from the often pounding and blaring score to the mumbling of lines that made them all but indecipherable.

Going into the movie, I was really only looking forward to two things: seeing what Affleck would bring to the role and Wonder Woman on the big-screen for the first time. Both of them were good (despite the way Batman was characterized, I appreciated where he was at in life), but Gal Gadot’s stood apart from the boys, thankfully – imbuing a grace, strength and sense of fun to her mysterious character that served as a welcome wedge between these the two dour men.

IMAX-size Zack Snyder appearing in a pre-recorded plea before the screening I attended, asking that viewers (critics and non-critics, we’re all equal here) to not spoil the movie for others, which is the equivalent to telling your child not to touch a hot skillet – guess what’s gonna happen? Unfortunately, his wrong tone has already spoiled it for us, especially for the younger fans. It’s certainly not the World’s Finest I’ve always wanted to see on the big-screen.

 

bvsbros

 

RATING: **

 

 

batmanvsupermansupermanposter

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: