Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Going all the way back to 2004, when he was responsible for a gratuitous, near-blasphemous remake of a classic zombie movie (‘Dawn of the Dead’)…that turned out FAR better than it really had ANY right to, I’ve been a full-blown fan (and apologist) of (and for) director Zack Snyder and his filmography of visually slick ‘popcorn flicks with an edge’ titles. In one way or another, I’ve like all of his movies. Yes…even ‘Sucker Punch’ (perverted geek that I am). It was when he took on 2013’s Superman remake / reboot ‘Man of Steel’ that my faith began to slide. In some respects, it was VERY much a ‘Zack Snyder’ movie…in others, not so much. I initially chalked this up to the heavy finger-print of Co-Writer / Producer Christopher Nolan, just coming off his own highly successful, ‘grounded’ Dark Knight Trilogy. ‘Man of Steel’ felt like a film caught between two very different styles and sensibilities, and I think the end result suffered for it. It also suffered from a gratuitous dose of on-screen collateral damage (ei heavily implied mass murder) that, at times, came close to some of that horrifying 9/11 imagery that we all remember and loathe. You’d think that all us geeks out there would be rock hard for some huge-scale urban destruction, but somehow…I was left with a ‘bad taste in my mouth’. Also, the narrative could’ve benefited from a tightening. I don’t hate ‘Man of Steel’, I now accept it as an entertaining high-budget ‘curiosity’ of sorts. Then came word of the inevitable follow-up and the inclusion of DC’s darling ‘Batman’. I wasn’t wild about yet ANOTHER incarnation of ‘The Batman’, as we had JUST come off ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012) and the decent conclusion of that particular version. Then word came of the casting of Ben Affleck (‘The Town’) in the iconic role of ‘Bruce Wayne’ / ‘The Batman’…and the InterWebz went ape-shit!! I may be a geek and proud of it, but Fanboy Nerd Rage always cracks me up. Some idiotic morons out there get pissed and mouthy about the dumbest shit, and this was yet another example. Personally, I thought his casting was somewhat inspired, and was genuinely curious to see his take on the character. It was not long after that piece of news that we started hearing rumors, especially regarding the ever expanding cast and the hushed words about multiple cameos from characters who would go on to populate DC Comics obvious imitation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Marketing Campaign ramped up (for what seemed like FOREVER!) and the promo material it spewed forth was something of a ‘mixed bag’. Especially the trailers. There was one trailer ( #2, I believe) that just shit the bed and tainted the impressions of MANY people out there by giving us what appeared to be the WHOLE MOVIE in a nutshell, and definitely spoiled at least one major plot point (*cough cough*…’Doomsday’…*cough*). Apparently this move supremely backfired on the Marketing Department and resulted in the Head of Operations ‘moving on’ (ei, was shit-canned). They came back into the fray with Trailer #3, which gave us a genuinely cool look at ‘Batman’ and roped a good number of us back in on that merit alone. I was curious. I wanted to see if it would live up to the hype that SEEMED to be building for its release. “Well, did it?” you ask. I wish I could say that it did…but it didn’t. Nowhere near as much as I wanted it to.
Picking up right where we left off at the end of ‘Man of Steel’ (after yet ANOTHER ‘Batman origin ‘flashback’ scene), with Metropolis being decimated at high-speed by the aerial fisticuffs of ‘Superman’ (Henry Cavill) and ‘General Zod’ (Michael Shannon). We now see The Battle of Metropolis from the perspective of multi-millionaire businessman ‘Bruce Wayne’ (Ben Affleck), just arrived from Gotham City (which is apparently ‘just across the water’ from Metropolis). As he watches in horror, his corporate tower is blown in half by ‘Supes’ and ‘Zod’, resulting in the building smashing down into the streets (once again in a VERY 9/11-type depiction), and the deaths of numerous ‘Wayne Enterprises’ staff members. This sparks a deep suspicion and hatred for the violent alien from Krypton which fuels ‘Wayne’s quest for a deterrent in the event that ‘Superman’ turns against us some day.While this is going on, ‘Superman’ aka ‘Clark Kent’ (Henry Cavill) struggles with maintaining his secret identity and coming to terms with the divisive public opinions of ‘Superman’ and his past actions, all the while pursuing his relationship with ‘Lois Lane’ (Amy Adams). Then we meet ‘Lex Luthor’ (Jesse Eisenberg); a supposedly genius technology tycoon, with bad style and nervous twitches, who also seems to have questions about the validity of ‘Superman’ and his messiah-like presence. And thus begins the violent and often confusing journey of these three freaks and their jockeying for positions of power over one another. Oh, and some exotic and shady chick named ‘Diana Prince’ (Gal Gadot) has popped on the scene with her own ‘Wonder Woman’ agenda. And ‘Lois’ stumbles around in a dumb ‘filler’ plot about some bullet she found after being caught in a shoot-out / Superman Rescue in North Africa. And other characters do other things and…blah blah blah.
What I’ve mentioned here are just the main plot lines…there’s still more shit at work in this script…and that’s a HUGE part of this movie’s problem. Just to get it out of the way…I’m not sure I liked this one too much. I went in wanting to love it..and wanting to have it make ‘Man of Steel’ somehow better, but in many respects, I found ‘Batman v Superman’ to be a tedious, repetitive and often boring slog with awful pacing and too many obvious attempts at laying ground-work for the inevitable ‘Justice League’ movie (at the expense of just giving us a solid piece of entertainment). Before I start with The Bad, let’s hit up some Good first.
This one feels much more like a ‘Zack Snyder’ movie than it’s predecessor. The visuals are more dynamic and the color scheme feels richer, a bit closer to the ‘look’ of 2009’s ‘Watchmen’ (one of my favorite Snyder films). There’s a lot of superficial details that I found intriguing and several of the action scenes, especially those involving ‘Batman’, were slick…when we weren’t pummeled with ‘shaky cam’ and ‘chop-edits’! The sound design was pitch-perfect with the over-the-top visuals, and I liked a lot of the music score. Ben Affleck as ‘Batman’ was the perfect “Fuck you!” to the Doubters and the Haters, as he made a kick-ass Dark Knight. The man’s chin alone spoke volumes!
The real problems lie in the script, the editing and some of the casting. Starting with the script, there was WAY too much going on, with not enough handed to individual plot-lines as ‘meat’. It also drags it’s feet for the first half of the story. There’s an overabundance of expository scenes taking place in offices, senate hearings, and news floors, and the scenes are edited back-to-back in a horrid, clunky fashion with virtually no finesse. ‘We’re Here…then we’re Here…now we’re suddenly Over Here’, was the structure and it made me physically tense as I took it in. This flick also seemed to show its ass to the traditional 3 Act structure and I can’t decide if the writers and Snyder were trying to be unconventional and edgy…or just plain lazy and unprofessional. It very much came off as Act One (People talk about and plan against ‘Superman’) and Act Two (‘Batman’ v ‘Superman’ v ‘Lex Luthor’ v ‘Doomsday’). This flick, despite it’s ridiculous 2 hour 31 minute run-time, felt like it was missing a long middle section, which’ll probably turn up in Snyder’s upcoming Extended, R-Rated cut of the flick (ok, yes…I’m intrigued by this). Actually, I bloody well hope it does! For me, Snyder needs to have a solid version of this out there, as this flick just didn’t cut for me and, unfortunately, it gave some validity to the haters out there who LOVE comparing Snyder to that master douchebag Michael Bay. This did have some ‘Bay’ness to it, especially when it came to hectic and confusing ‘chop edited’ sequences of massive CG action that overloaded the climax. Which brings me to something I said to my girlfriend as we left the theatre: “Zack Snyder did NOT learn anything from ‘Man of Steel’ and what the critics had to say about it”. If you thought that perhaps he would’ve read all the blistering critiques about the over-blown action and destruction coated in a CG veneer that somehow cheapened his film, and thought he’d try a new, more subtle approach this time around…you would be mistaken ALL to hell!! The end of this is just more CG destruction that comes at you at a mind-searing rate with no real narrative heft. Coming up to the casting issues, it really lands squarely on one choice and it’s the one you think it is…Jesse Eisenberg (‘Zombieland’). I had immediate suspicions and doubts when they first announced his casting as ‘Superman’s arch-nemesis ‘Lex Luthor’. Generally, I don’t mind Eisenberg as an actor. In certain roles, he’s actually rather riveting. IN. CERTAIN. ROLES. Not here…nope. Here, he’s just a Jesse Eisenbergish shrill twitchy douchebag creep who’s brimming evil is always visible just below the surface. I hoped I would be wrong about my gut-feeling on him (like I was when they announced Heath Ledger as ‘The Joker’…crazy talk!) and he’d emerge as this formidable and unique take on the classic villain…but nope. He’s exactly the annoying dip-shit we were all afraid he’d be. Sorry, Jesse.
There’s a LOT more that I can drone on about, when it comes to this flick, so I’ll just sum this up like so: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is not a straight-up bad movie…it’s just not all that remarkable (with the exception of a couple key aspects). The script is way too top-heavy, there’s too much needless emphasis on laying the foundation for ‘The Justice League’, there are too many characters that we have to try and follow, and it’s all fed to us with choppy editing and piss-poor pacing. And dream sequences. Zack…we all love a good dream sequence, buddy…but show some mercy! You don’t need 4 or 5 elaborate dreams to let us know a character is fucked in the head. One good one’ll do! On the flip side, Affleck’s ‘Batman’ was a kick-ass version and I’d love to see a new ‘Batman’ trilogy in this style. Gal Gadot’s ‘Wonder Woman’ had a decent intro here and I liked the connections to her own now-filming ‘stand alone’. Got me curious. Being a Zack Snyder movie, it does have a lot of sweet visuals and compositions…in many respects, it’s a very pretty movie. It just sucks that he seemed to have lost his mind toward the end and again went batshit crazy on the mass structural destruction and overly trigger-happy on all the distracting ‘flashy flashy’…again. I’d like to see if my opinion changes once I see this rumored R-Rated cut of the flick when it drops on Blu Ray. I walked out of the theatre today kinda bummed out and frustrated with what I had just seen. Honestly, for all the hype…I expected more and I expected better. If you’re a fan of comic book adaptations, or specifically liked ‘Man of Steel’, odds are good that you’ll get something out of this. But this doesn’t need to be seen in a theatre. In fact, you’ll probably follow the hectic, Michael Bay-like action better on a smaller screen. ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice = Decent, not Great.


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