Friday, April 8, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

So, Warner Brothers announced their latest superhero movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and the internet exploded. Certainly, this was a match that DC comics fans have been anticipating for years. I, however, like many others, objected to it as more information was released about it. I truly could not see this movie being any good. It seemed that Warner Brothers was making a foolhardy attempt to catch up with Disney Marvel Cinematic Universe in a short amount of time by throwing a bunch of DC heroes into one movie all at once. After seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I still hold that opinion. However, I didn't think the movie was nearly as bad as everyone is making it out to be.
Following his titanic struggle against General Zod, Metropolis has been razed to the ground and Superman (Henry Cavill) is the most controversial figure in the world. While for many he is still an emblem of hope, a growing number of people consider him a threat to humanity, seeking justice for the chaos he has brought to Earth. As far as Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is concerned, Superman is clearly a danger to society. He fears for the future of the world with such reckless power left ungoverned, and so he dons his mask and cape to right Superman's wrongs. The rivalry between them is furious, fueled by bitterness and vengeance, and nothing can dissuade them from waging this war. The tension between them is further fueled by the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who is launching his own crusade against the Man of Steel. However, a new dark threat arises in the form of a third man: one who has a power greater than either of them to endanger the world and cause total destruction!
There was just too much revealed about this movie in the trailer. It left virtually no surprises for the movie to show us. It showcased what was surely supposed to be a major reveal toward the end of the movie by having Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) show up in the trailer and have the three face off against something that looks remarkably like Doomsday. That ruined so many of the surprises that Batman v Superman had to offer. Really, if you know anything about the DC comic universe, you know that if Doomsday shows up anywhere, you can pretty accurately guess how the story is going to end. The trailer showed us too much and it weakened what the movie had to offer that was good. I want to meet the marketing team behind this movie and give each one of them a firm slap across the face.
Batman v Superman evens out to be a decent movie; it has a lot of bad in it, but it does deliver some great material as well. Let's start off with Batman. Affleck was publicly announced to play the part of Batman in this movie, and the internet exploded. So many people were enraged by this, and reasonably so, especially after that really, REALLY terrible Daredevil movie he starred in back in 2003. I understand that so many people were outraged by Affleck playing Batman that his agent advised him to stay off of Twitter for a few weeks. But, Affleck ended up being amazing! I thought it would be a good number of years before anyone would be brave enough to don the role after Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. This was a new take on Batman, one that was damaged, and had changed his moral code just enough to be new without changing what we all love about the character. This made him very hardcore and fascinating. If Warner Brothers plays their cards right, this would make for a strong center for a new solo film with Affleck as Batman.
The action and cinematography in general was fantastic. The story here may not be so good, but let no one say that director Zach Snyder doesn't know how to move a camera. The camera work was beautiful, the scenery and visual effects were stunning, and nearly everything looked pretty darn fantastic. Only once or twice did I ever get drawn out of the movie experience to go "eh, that could have been polished up a bit better" or have the cameras angels in post-editing change so fast as to leave me behind and wonder what just happened. The action scenes were intense, and looked incredible.
One of the concerns I had about The Avengers movie was that they were going to mash together a bunch of major characters, give one or two of them a bulk of the screen time, and leave everyone else as half-baked characters. This was my concern with Batman v Superman as well, more so because only Superman had one movie prior to this, Man of Steel. Any other characters being introduced for the first time could not possibly get the amount screen time to be fleshed out enough for their big screen debut. This was kind of what happened with Wonder Woman. By the end of the movie we still don't get a real sense of who she is or what she's about. However, this movie revolved mostly around Superman and Batman, so that's somewhat forgivable. She still played a significant part in the end, but she wound up as a token female superhero, which is really too bad. Given the small role she had, Wonder Woman was pretty good for what she was. I think that a more brief appearance of her would have been better. Don't misunderstand, I want to see Wonder Woman in a movie; I just think it would have been better to leave her as a hinted at cameo, as was done with other Justice League characters who make very brief appearances.
I didn't like this portrayal of Superman. Superman is supposed to be a symbol of hope, but I was never convinced of that here. There was a montage that seemed to be trying to tell me that he is a symbol of hope, but I just couldn't buy it. The tone of this story is too dark, this depiction of Superman is controversial within his own storyline, and the brightness of hope didn't seem to have a place in this movie. It was more of a Batman movie that happened to have Superman in it. The two characters are thematically opposite and the two clashing themes don't fit together well in the same movie. It could have worked in the right hands, but it just didn't work out well here. Then the whole motivation for Superman to be fighting Batman was hard to swallow; Batman's motive was very clear and understandable, Superman's motive was that the poorly developed script said it would be neat to see them fight. The two were basically one short conversation away from understanding one another, but they duked it out instead.
The story in Batman v Superman was as messy as I feared it would be. During the opening credits we get a rehash of the all too familiar origin of Batman which was really well done and featured minimal dialogue. Then we go to the first scene, which tells us a little bit of story, then it switches to another scene to start another storyline, and it keeps switching back and forth every five minutes or so, making it frustrating to keep track, and not giving us enough information before switching back. On top of this, the overall story moves very quickly and it's easy to get lost if you aren't paying very close attention. Batman had some visions or dreams of what I assume were the future and took them as hard evidence. While some were kind of cool, they didn't make any kind of sense. Perhaps it's hinting at a bigger story arc that spans multiple movies? If so, they were made to appear much more significant to current events than what they were. It's too soon for that since we're just now introducing a bunch of characters. There are so many plot holes in this movie I'd like to discuss, but I want to avoid further spoilers that the trailer didn't already spoil for you. Suffice it to say, the story needed work.
Lex Luthor was a major disappointment. Jesse Eisenberg may be a good actor, but he's not a good Lex Luthor. Luthor is supposed to be an ordinary human, albeit one with a strong, commanding presence. This Lex Luthor was an energetic squirrelly little twerp that more closely resembled the socially inept Mark Zuckerberg (that Eisenberg played in The Social Network) who had finally snapped and went crazy. He just looked too young and silly to play a decent Luthor. Doomsday truly felt shoehorned in at the last minute; I could see studio executives insisting on including him to excite fans into wanting to see the movie. The origins of Doomsday in this movie were not canonical and in fact, made no sense at all. It could have been a great story arc, but as was the case with the inclusion of Wonder Woman, there was no real story around him and he mostly shows up to excite fans and destroy some property.
There are many hints dropped thoroughout the movie to tease at and suggest the upcoming superhero alliance of The Justice League. Yeah, those were exciting to see. But they're doing it all backwards. Marvel had the wherewithal to introduce characters individually in their own movies before putting them all together. That allowed us to know who each of The Avengers were right from the start and proceed with character and plot development for the story in which they were gathered together. For the DC movies here, many characters are thrown together, few are given enough screen time for us to care about, others are mere cameos, and we as movie goers are not given context for why we should be excited about them. We should see a Wonder Woman movie, an Aquaman movie, a Flash movie, and maybe some others before throwing them all together, or else the resulting story about their union will have to spend too much time explaining who they are and what they're about and not have enough time for a fleshed out, compelling narrative. I'm curious to see if these DC movies can prove me wrong and deliver something well done and interesting, or if I'm right and the series will fall apart from weak story and characters before it can get going. Batman v Superman has it's good points, but it's not a very good start to a series of movies.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was much better than I feared it would be. Ben Affleck as Batman was positively amazing! The visual effects were stunning, the action was riveting, and the cinematography was gorgeous. The villains were a considerable disappointment. The story and pacing was a bit of a mess, even if it was a fun mess. And the movie felt bloated with all the hints at things to come in future movies, about half of which could have been left out to avoid unnecessary confusion. Overall, I think the movie was good, just not great. It could have been better, but it could have been a whole lot worse and I am grateful that it wasn't. I urge you not to veto this movie because Ben Affleck played Batman, nor because Warner Brothers isn't going about their Superhero team up movies as well as Marvel did. Give it a shot; you may like it. I think this is worth seeing on the big screen if you're a DC comics fan; it's not a bad way to spend a couple hours. If you're not such a big fan of DC, maybe wait for this on home video.

What do you expect to see from future DC/Justice League movies? Do you have high hopes? Do you think they'll deliver a decent set of movies based on Man of Steel and Batman v Superman? Avoid spoilers, but tell me what you think!

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