Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Release Date: 3/25/2016
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 153 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer, Chris Terrio; based on the DC Comics characters
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy
Three years ago, director Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, Man of Steel, opened to a mixed response from fans. Now, Snyder has returned with a sequel to that movie, but with a twist: introducing a new Batman. Desperate to get all of their DC Comics characters in the movies so they can catch up with Marvel and their cinematic universe, Warner Bros. has decided to skip past a direct sequel to Man of Steel and expand his world. But they are not the only favorite DC Comics superheroes to appear: Wonder Woman also shows up to help save the day. But does the latest step in building up to the Justice League movie live up to the best comic book movies (especially coming in the wake of Christopher Nolan's beloved Batman trilogy), or make us more cautious about the future of DC on film than skeptical movie audiences were before?
After a prologue that includes the latest iteration of the family tragedy that would lead Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to grow up and become Batman, we jump to the current day following the aftermath of the Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) battle that left most of Metropolis destroyed at the end of Man of Steel. Superman's alter ego, bespectacled Daily Planet news reporter Clark Kent, is trying to get by along with his co-worker and girlfriend, Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Superman and Batman are brought together by one of the man of steel's most famous enemies: Lex Luthor (a twitchy Jesse Eisenberg), a young billionaire who wants the heroes to fight to the death. But there is much more to his dastardly plan than that. And what is the story with this mysterious woman (Gal Gadot)?
At 153 minutes, sitting through Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a laborious experience. Characters are motivated by vague storytelling decisions, the dialogue is lousy, and the action scenes clumsily filmed, making the exhaustively drawn out climax look like computer generated objects punching each other before turning to a CGI monster they must destroy. The parallels made trying to push the heroes as Christlike figures are pretentious. And the less said about the hundreds of dream sequences, the better. I was not a fan of Man of Steel, but it still felt like a self-contained movie instead of the storyboard of a Warner Bros. marketing team. I have no clue who thought Snyder, otherwise best known for the ultraviolent hit 300, would make a good fit to direct a comic book franchise, but they need to remove him from Justice League. For all the complaints Bryan Singer received for staying too faithful to the Richard Donner films in 2006's Superman Returns, at least his film had a heart. Snyder's noisy movie is soulless.
The actors bring whatever they can to the poorly written roles they are stuck with. Cavill and Adams go through the motions. Affleck's Bruce Wayne/Batman different from previous ones that could be interesting if he is treated properly. Eisenberg is the only one who steps up their game by giving Lex Luthor a Mark Zuckerberg spin. Gadot is only in the movie to show up in the climax and to remind us that her movie as well as the Justice League are on their way.
It is never clear why Batman and Superman must fight other than that the movie is called Batman v Superman, but that isn't going to stop the cash registers from ringing for at least the first couple of weeks at the box office. Fans of the DC Comics characters don't have to worry too much about the future. Warner Bros. already has some of their other popular characters in development for movies (Ezra Miller's The Flash and Jason Momoa's Aquaman appear in shoehorned cameos that recall the Avengers set up that many felt ruined Iron Man 2). The next two are August's Suicide Squad by David Ayer and Summer 2017's Wonder Woman from Patty Jenkins (which could be good if her brief appearances here are any indication). Until then, I can only hope that those movies will change the course of direction this rival to Marvel's cinematic universe is going in and that Snyder will never be allowed to make another comic book movie again.