So I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice…
I was incredibly excited to see this movie; in fact, I’d say I was giddy. Batman is my favourite superhero and I think people often don’t give him the respect he deserves. Plus I’ve always found Superman to be a bit annoying and thought he needed a thorough ass-kicking. In case you were wondering, I went into this fight with more than a little bias.
Okay, basic plot: After seeing the destruction that Superman (Henry Cavill) is capable of, Batman (Ben Affleck) decides that a contingency plan needs to be created to destroy Superman should he ever go rogue. This sentiment is shared by eccentric billionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who has discovered a green meteorite that is poisonous to Kryptonians; but Lex’s intentions are not as altruistic as Batman’s. With the world teetering back and forth on whether to call Superman a threat or saviour, Batman prepares for what could be the greatest challenge of his life – defeating The Man of Steel.
This movie was released today with an 11am screening in my part of the world. As I write this, it’s currently 6pm and I’ve already watched the movie twice. Not twice because I enjoyed it so much but twice because after I watched it the first time I was convinced that the version I had just seen had scenes missing. So I drove across town, went to a different cinema and…I’m still convinced this movie has scenes missing. Did Warner Brothers distribute a draft copy instead of the final cut? Or even worse, did Zack Snyder put together a half-thought-out, poorly constructed piece of shit? Unfortunately it seems like the latter is true.
This movie actually starts off quite well. It introduces Bruce Wayne and sets up the origin of this particular Batman. It isn’t too much of a variation from what we saw in The Dark Knight Trilogy or in the comics. We get to see Alfred – who I was a bit worried about. Jeremy Irons is a fantastic actor but Michael Caine is the definitive Alfred in my mind and anyone stepping into those shoes would struggle. Luckily, Irons steps up to the plate and delivers a homerun. His version of Alfred has a lot more humour and is far more willing to take shots at Bruce and his alter ego Batman. I also have to say that Ben Affleck blew me away as Gotham’s Caped Crusader. One of the best things about this movie is its awareness of The Dark Knight Trilogy. It realises that these characters are still very fresh in our minds and that they all need to be as distinctive as possible in order for us to distinguish them from the previous Batman movies.
This is a vastly different Bruce Wayne/Batman from what we’ve seen in previous years. It feels like since Bruce Wayne has been putting on the persona of billionaire playboy for so long that he’s actually started to buy into the fantasy. Affleck’s Batman is also far more brutal than we’ve ever seen. His ferocity in hand-to-hand combat is breathtaking and he lives up to what I imagine Batman would fight like in the real world. Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince is also introduced early on in the film, and her and Bruce Wayne have a few fun moments with sharp, sexy dialogue. Gal Gadot was brilliant as Wonder Woman, probably the standout performance of this film next to Ben Affleck. The first act of this movie was quite well done because it introduces all the relevant players and creates links between several of them, unfortunately it doesn’t utilise these links until the very end of the film.
The second act of this movie is where it fails. The title of this film is Batman v Superman but Batman and Superman hardly interact, in this act, save for a brief non-sensical exchange. It’s quite clear why Batman wants to fight Superman; but you never get a sense of why Superman wants to take down Batman. Yes, there’s vague allusion to the fact that Superman doesn’t agree with Batman’s methods but there are never any out-and-out confrontations. The film lacks a sense of cohesion – the two heroes spend seventy percent of the movie on separate ends of a spectrum and then suddenly come together thirsting for each other’s blood and it makes no sense.
That’s this film’s biggest problem (and why I’m still convinced that scenes are missing) – it doesn’t make sense. Events don’t occur in a logical order and you find yourself questioning the film’s logic far too often. You’re in a perpetual state between asking ‘why?’ and ‘how?’. Why are characters doing that? How do characters know these things? It feels like discussions were had off screen that the audience wasn’t privy to but we’re just supposed to accept their resolutions. This leaves the entire story feeling hollow.
Speaking of hollow – this film doesn’t earn any of its cool moments. The idea of Batman fighting Superman is only cool because they’re the two most recognisable heroes on Earth and not because the movie makes the characters cool. So even that great money shot with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman standing side by side feels undercut because we haven’t had an opportunity to bond with these characters and see them come together. In essence, the film feels rushed and overstuffed. There isn’t enough time for us to both soak up the characters individually and establish the conflict between them. DC is playing catch up to Marvel and it’s clearly evident that they’re trying to do too much, too soon.
The one thing that this film mastered was the battle between Batman and Superman. The circumstances surrounding the battle were poorly defined but the actual physical fight was brilliant. It was a perfect showcase of the contrast between the two heroes’ fighting style. Superman with his overwhelming strength and astronomical powers and Batman with his sound strategy and mastery of combat. I think both heroes showed off their best moves and the conclusion of the fight can’t be argued with. In fact, it should never be argued with! (Okay, that’s a slight spoiler)
I can’t believe that I almost forgot to mention the brilliance that was Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. It’s such an eccentric and flamboyant performance but also one with a great deal of control. He never becomes campy or annoying and perfectly rides that line between ridiculous clown and mastermind. Actually I was wrong, Affleck’s acting isn’t the standout in this film, Eisenberg’s is. He perfectly portrays the unbridled insanity that I’ve always associated with Lex Luthor. Of all the villains in comic book history, he has to be the one who hates his hero the most. The character could have been better written but that’s true of all the characters in this film. The only problem I had with Eisenberg is that his head wasn’t shaved.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie a lot more the second time of asking. I think it comes down to the fact that the second time I watched it with a few friends and by the end we were all making fun of how stupid the movie was. It was fun in that respect but I don’t think any of the filmmakers intended on us enjoying it in that way. A beautiful fight scene and great acting can’t save this film from being a disaster. If this was just any other superhero movie I’d recommend skipping it but this is a battle of Titans and it deserves viewing – so go see it with a few friends and make fun of it. 3/10