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Film Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
In 2016, Zack Snyder released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, based on characters published by DC Comics. Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Tao Okamoto, Scoot McNairy, Patrick Wilson, Callan Mulvey, Michael Cassidy, the film has grossed $420 million as of March 28 making it the biggest opening for a superhero film.
Two years after the events of Man of Steel, Superman continues to be a divisive topic, with some finding that he’s a hero who makes the planet a safer place to live and others distrusting him following the battle with General Zod. In the latter camp is Bruce Wayne who comes out of a self-imposed retirement in his fear of the destruction a being with Superman’s powers can bring. Donning the cowl as Batman once more, his goal is to destroy Superman and whatever schemes he may be concocting. However, corporate mogul Lex Luthor is planning to benefit from the oncoming war between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight.
A film that garnered a massive amount of hype since its announcement, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a spectacularly abysmal film and is precisely what happens when attempting to cram three films worth of content into one. There’s so much going on and so many moving parts that try too hard to not only keep this film rolling but to set up a cinematic universe of films similar to what Marvel has going on as well. This film could have been much better as the second in a trilogy where the first one completely sets up the tension between Batman and Superman, this one where the two of them spend the entire film fighting and eventually coming to terms with each other and then a third film where Luthor spends the whole film learning about what’s eventually coming to earth as well as his unleashing of Doomsday. With so much going on in this one film, nothing felt properly set up or executed. Further, the inclusion of Wonder Woman and the teasing of Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash felt forced in so much so that they practically interrupted the flow of the film. The dream sequences did too, especially the one in the middle where Bruce is dreaming about a possible future and suddenly cutting to a warning from the future that’s so out of nowhere that it makes no sense as to the overall story. Granted, it’s most likely setting up for a future film, but its inclusion feels so misplaced. What’s more is that none of that is even going into the predictableness of nearly every aspect in the film with the two biggest offenders being Wonder Woman and Batman’s kryptonite staff. For the former, this woman just so happens to be at Luthor’s gathering, just so happens to catch Bruce’s eye and eventually steal the spike he’s using to steal all of Luthor’s data. The two of them have another scene together later on in the film and it’s painfully obvious from her first appearance that she’s not only going to be an important character, but that she’s Wonder Woman. As for the staff, too much time is given to showing Lois throwing it in a pool of water following the fight between Batman and Superman that the film is practically shouting at the audience that this is going to be used again and someone’s going to have a hard time getting it.
The film’s editing is also horrendous as it’s all abrupt cuts. This can work to wonderful effect in many films provided it’s not overused. However, here, that’s all that’s used and it’s used quite badly. The film is edited and paced so poorly that no scene feels like it’s given a proper length with it having the feeling of just going and going and going and going until it ends. There isn’t any scene that feels properly fleshed out and given the weight it deserves. Take the scene where Superman is talking to his mother on the farm. It’s a scene that deserves poignancy, with Superman having a meaningful conversation with his mother about his place in the world. However, no sooner does the conversation end, a point where the audience should be dealing with what was said within, does the next scene immediately start with Superman going to the Capitol Building which explodes and immediately after that it goes to the fallout and how Superman deals with it. All of this happens so fast with such abrupt editing that the audience just feels overwhelmed and can’t help but just sit and silently give up on making sense of anything happening in the film.
As for the characters and their interactions, the film doesn’t even do that right. For one, there’s the climactic fight between Batman and Superman. Or it should be a climactic fight and ends up just being what amounts to two children going at it in the schoolyard. On one side, there’s Batman who doesn’t even give Superman time to make his case and get more than a few words out before he’s springing the traps he’s laid out. One the other side, there’s Superman who only dispatches of what Batman has for him twice before he decides it’s not worth trying to make a case anymore and just decides to fight Batman. Then there’s the end of the fight where Superman just saying the name “Martha” is enough for Batman to put his guard down and stop the fight after Lois explains that it’s his mother. It’s mean to convey that Batman’s realizing that Superman has a human mother, which humanizes Superman in his eyes, but the way the film is just so rushed doesn’t allow it to come off that way. Rather, it feels like the two of them just suddenly stopped all animosity and became buddies because of how their mothers have the same name.
By himself, Batman’s also characterized pretty badly too. It’s supposed to be a world where he hung up the cape and decided it wasn’t worth it anymore, presumably after the death of Robin and the forced retirement of Batgirl, making it so that when he does get back into the fray, he’s so morally defeated that he drops the rule he gave himself: no killing. That would explain why he’s so cavalier about using a gun on multiple henchmen and has no qualms about squishing many others during his chase of the truck with the kryptonite. Again though, that’s not properly conveyed in the film and drastically does a disservice to Batman as a character.
Usage of the gun notwithstanding, the scene where Batman is dispatching the thugs in his rescue of Martha Kent is still pretty decent, evoking the feeling of coming straight out of a fight scene that would be found in one of the Arkham games.
Now, while the film doesn’t’ have much going for it, the acting is still great. Jeremy Irons is able to make Alfred his own with the great conveyance of the character’s sarcasm and general attitude of having no grievances with how much trouble Bruce is getting himself into as Batman, purely because he hasn’t killed himself yet. Also, it seems to have been worth giving Ben Affleck a shot, seeing as he does pretty well at being both Bruce Wayne and Batman, able to give a good sense of aloofness that Wayne needs as well as provide the gruffness that Batman needs. Jesse Eisenberg does unhinged very well too, but that level of crazy would have been more suited towards a Joker or Riddler character.
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