Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

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This is not a good film. I needed to start by stating that because that’s all I feel needs to be stated about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I don’t really think this film deserves much more analysis and discussion, because it was honestly a very dull film, and one that I can safely confirm was not good enough to discuss all of its merits, nor was it bad enough to discuss all the ways it went wrong. It was simply a mediocre and middling film that was disappointing, but certainly not terrible, but far from being a good film, or the film the audiences desired, the filmmakers wanted to make and most importantly the film that these characters deserved.

I will not deny that I was active in seeing how this film did critically – I was more shocked than anyone to see that this film was getting absolutely trashed. I was never one to believe this film would be the second coming, and that it would be the greatest superhero film of all time – but never did I imagine that it would do this badly. Arguably, this film is not as bad as many people think, but it is certainly not nearly as good as others think (in my opinion, of course) – and as I said above, it is just purely bland and mediocre, and while I don’t think it deserves the critical destruction it is receiving, it isn’t entirely unwarranted, for many reasons which will be discussed throughout this review. In short, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is so dull, it is actually frustrating.

First of all, the performances in this film were an absolute mixed bag. Henry Cavill continues to be a pretty weak Superman, but to be perfectly honest, not even the iconic Christopher Reeves gave an amazing performance in the role, and he is best known for it. Cavill is quite simply just a pretty boring actor overall, and here he really doesn’t develop the character very much, nor does he try anything other than walking around or flying around in the suit. I am not quite sure what an actor playing the role needs to do to actually do a good job of it, but I’m not quite sure Cavill does it here. Ben Affleck looks the part of Batman, and I think he is a much better Bruce Wayne than Christian Bale was. However, I do think his performance was still very stiff and lifeless most of the time, but I think of the entire cast, his performance was the one that truly had the potential to be far more than it ended up being. Hopefully Affleck, who will be writing and directing a standalone Batman film, will be able to bring some of his talents to the role and to actually develop the character in a way that is more satisfying and substantial than was presented to us here. He was the highlight of this film, but that really isn’t saying much.

The supporting cast was something really to behold, honestly. Amy Adams tries her best in the limited and bland role of Lois Lane, with an almost complete absence of characterization. She is still very good, and probably gives the best performance of the film, which is unfortunate considering she was given nearly nothing to do. Gal Gadot makes her DC Universe debut as Wonder Woman, and honestly…I thought she was fine. She didn’t get a whole lot to do, and her entrance in the third act was welcome, but not as inspiring as the film thinks it is. I can see her improving with time, and hopefully her character doesn’t fall victim to the bland and lifeless characterization that plagued all the other performances. Finally, Jesse Eisenberg. It is not a secret that actors watch various genres and performances to get into the mind of their characters. I fully believe that Eisenberg spent months binge-watching soap operas and melodramas, because that is almost exactly the kind of performance he gives here. Hammy, over-the-top and dreadfully artificial, he seems to be having fun being bad (not bad in the villain way, but bad in the way that his performance is really bad). It has come out that Bryan Cranston was considered for the role of Lex Luthor – and in an amusing connection, Eisenberg’s performance here makes Cranston’s performance in Trumbo look nuanced and subtle (and I’ll tell you one thing, if there was ever a hammy performance, it came from Bryan Cranston in Trumbo). It is a pity, because Eisenberg has started to become a better actor as time as gone on (The Double is still a fantastic performance from him), but to see this kind of performance from an actor who actually has experience in Hollywood is really disheartening and quite frankly not very pleasant to endure. The rest of the performances are truly forgettable, so I won’t waste time mentioning them (Poor Jeremy Irons – can someone please give him some better work? He really deserves it)

Some will tell you that the villain of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is Lex Luthor. I will dispel that notion right this minute – as evil as Luthor was, and how malicious his plans for destroying Superman (and Batman, to an extent) were, there are far worse and much more malicious villains at play here, who wants to destroy the heroic duo that appear in the title of the film. Those villains are David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio, who wrote the film. Never before did I ever expect to mention these two as being bad screenwriters, but they truly did a terrible job here. Considering that Goyer wrote Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (say what you want about them, they were good films), and Terrio won an Academy Award for writing Argo – it is a huge disappointment that they did such a poor job here. First of all, they did not have any concept of plot development. This film was just so long, and all over the place. I am still not quite sure exactly what the plot of this film was – perhaps the storyline of an upcoming DCU film could see the Justice League set out to find the plot of this film, which I assume is being kept in some tyrannical studio executive’s office, because for a film that runs this long, there certainly has to be some form of story…somewhere.

The worst part about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is that I felt like I was watching three films (it certainly was long enough to be three films – I will continue to complain about the length, because a film like this just shouldn’t be so long, especially if it is so muddled). I will start out with some positive criticism – the third act was pretty thrilling and very well-made, and it was actually entertaining. But the first two acts were not quite as impressive. The first act was so muddled and scattered all over the place, with random pieces of plot being thrown all around, with very little attempt to be coherent. The second act was just dreadful. It was honestly the most bored I’ve been in a film in years. Just bland, dull and lifeless, and ultimately made me begin to nod off. It was just so disappointing, and considering that the third act showed some coherence and at least served to be somewhat entertaining, the fact that the first two acts were so mediocre is not an excuse, but rather just laziness. I also blame Zack Snyder – he just has lost the plot (and hopefully they can find it before he makes Justice League, because I’m not quite sure I can sit through a film like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice again).

A final note – this film is going to make money either way, so the bad reviews don’t really hurt it. However, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is just another reason why Hollywood tentpole films are a flawed concept, and the dismal reception of this film is testament to that. Of course, many people love this film, and that’s perfectly understandable. Take into account that the vast majority of fans of this film are big fans of comic books, and by the positive reaction from many fans, it seems to have achieved its purpose of being a faithful comic book film (even though I’ve encountered some fans that are brutally angry at this film for ruining characters they adore) – but honestly, this isn’t a good film, overall. It is overlong, dull and convoluted. I thought it had a slight shimmer of potential in many places, but Snyder squandered that in an attempt to make Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a flurry of action and special effects (I won’t even begin to discuss the disaster that was the dramatic moments, or the few and far-between attempts at humour), and thus he sacrificed plot and any form of coherence to make a film that he knew would make money either way. In a way, the studios knew that this film would make money, regardless of negative press, and didn’t attempt to try and make it an accessible and interesting film. If that isn’t complete Hollywood greed and corruption, I don’t know what is.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a great film. But its not a terrible film – instead, it is just dull (I don’t believe I’ve ever used the word “dull” in a review before, but it just seems to fit this film so perfectly). I really hope that the subsequent films in the DCU are improvements on this, because if they continue to be this bland and contrived, I will surely not be showing up for them, as I am sure many others won’t. Its a pity, because I really wanted to love this film, but it left me cold. I am well aware that many will see this as me being another one of the many voices that disregard this film, but I just didn’t find myself enjoying it as much as I wanted to. Kudos for the great music though – the only legitimately great part of this film (yet Hans Zimmer is retiring from scoring superhero films – a wise choice, because I’d hate for him to get stuck as a cog in the DCU machine, that clearly needs many repairs, or perhaps a complete replacement). Hopefully the DCU films of the future will learn from these mistakes – and hopefully none of them feel the need to be so long, or to be so void of story. I am still waiting for the announcement that the plot of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been found, probably in a basement somewhere.

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