I debated with myself for a while over whether or not I wanted to write this. It’s hard for me to really look at this film objectively. See, I often tell people I’ve been a fan of Batman my entire life. I don’t think they fully understand that. I have literally loved Batman for as long as I can remember. The first toy I remember having is a giant Batman figure from the 1989 film. Hell, I still have that figure standing on a stack of wrestling DVDs in my room. So yeah, the character means a lot to me. I’ve been with him at his highest highs and his lowest lows. Where does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice rank? Well, not that bad actually.
Yeah. Right off the bat, I want to say that I do like this movie. I will buy the extended edition when it comes out without any hesitation, but this is not really a good movie. At all. I went to see it in 2D on Thursday and 3D on Friday (don’t go see it in 3D—it’s so not worth it) just to settle in how I feel about it. I’m still conflicted. I like this movie, and I know I shouldn’t. Let’s get into that.
This part is spoiler-free. Also, I’m going to try and separate my praises and gripes into a normal perspective and a comics fan perspective. Don’t know how that’s gonna work out, but we’ll see. Okay, this movie is a mess. As you’ve all heard or seen by now, there’s not much coherent about the plot. The reason Batman hates Superman is kinda good (destroyed a nice chunk of Metropolis fighting Zod), but it’s not enough to want to kill him. The reason Superman hates Batman is kinda good (Batman apparently brands people now), but it never feels like it’s enough to straight up fight him. The reason Lex Luthor hates both of them is kinda bad, and it never really clicks. There are some things that imply why they do what they do, but it’s all so vague and just leaves people scratching their heads.
Lois Lane is also in the movie because Superman. That’s it. She’s somewhat important early on, but her relevance fades quickly. She’s one of four characters we’re forced to follow in this movie. Yeah. In a movie called Batman v Superman, they are only half the movie. At best. I can deal with seeing as much of Lex as we do, but Lois was unnecessary in the worst way. The movie just jumps between these four at a breakneck speed. Scenes don’t really end. They just stop. You’re waiting for the scene to get to a point, but nope! On to the next one! Wait, what?
Another big gripe about this movie is the amount of dream sequences. There are four…or five (that’s a bit uncertain). Honestly, I could see maybe keeping one or two of them in, but that’s a tough argument. The very first one sees Bruce Wayne as a child levitating as he’s surrounded by bats. My friend and I just looked at each other and started laughing. The movie hadn’t really started yet, and we were already laughing at the decisions made by the crew. That’s kinda par for the course for the other dream scenes, too. The crypt was odd, but I could possibly defend it to establish Bruce’s sleep is plagued by nightmares. Then there’s the one referred to as the “knightmare.” I’m conflicted on that one, as well. It does nothing for the plot at all, but it shows that something is calling out to Bruce to let him know some major shit’s gonna go down (Darkseid…because Justice League). There’s a maybe dream bit after that that I’ll get into in the spoilers bit, and the final dream sequence sees Kevin Costner return as Jonathan Kent to give Clark some advice. It was dumb. Shouldn’t have been a dream. Maybe a flashback, if they really wanted it. But yeah, it was a waste.
I’m iffy on the soundtrack. Wonder Woman’s theme is catchy, but it comes off to me as an odd mix of the The Batman theme and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” I know that sounds awesome, and it kinda is, but it is weird. Lex’s theme is also pretty cool. It’s really menacing. It does get a little cartoonish at points, though. The rest…I’m not so sure. The only other piece of music that stuck out to me is Batman’s theme. I’m used to his themes being iconic and chill-inducing. This was…bombastic? That might be the word I’m looking for. It seemed off.
Going from sounds to looks, the movie looks great. Zack Snyder has proven time and time again he has an eye for a great shot, and BvS is no different. The action especially is awesome. Batman chasing KGBeast’s (yes, KGBeast is in this movie) goons through Gotham, the knightmare sequence, the titular fight, the battle taken straight from an Arkham game, and the final throwdown with Doomsday (that’s not a spoiler thanks to that one stupid trailer) are entertaining as hell. The problem with them is that the movie’s two-and-a-half hours long. The chase is short and has other problems I’ll get into, the knightmare was woefully short and honestly unnecessary, the titular fight was short as well, the Arkham battle was mostly satisfying, and the final throwdown could’ve been handled better. Basically, this movie doesn’t give as much action as it should’ve. I’m not saying movies need nonstop action to be good, but with a plot as unwieldly as it had, it really needed longer action scenes to divert the audience’s attention. Hell, there was a fight that happened off-screen that I really wanted to see, but nope.
Now then, how did the actors do? Well, I’m happy to say the vast majority of them did a splendid job. The movie was at its absolute best when Ben Affleck as Batman and Jeremy Irons as Alfred were on screen. You really get the sense these two have been through war together. And, I’m gonna give the man some high praise here: Ben Affleck may damn well be the best live-action Batman we’ve ever seen. I’m not kidding. I’m not saying it’s a definite because I love Christian Bale’s tenure, but Affleck could dethrone him. Henry Cavill as Superman has sorta grown on me. It’s a shame he’s been saddled with two turns as Superman in underwhelming films, but the man has potential to be one of the best Supermen. The guy looks like he was taken straight out of the comics. Amy Adams as Lois Lane was fine. Like I said earlier, she was just kinda there. Gal Gadot hopefully quieted the haters with her few minutes as Wonder Woman. She looks like a mythical beauty and fights with Amazonian ferocity. Now to the bad acting/characters part.
I like Jesse Eisenberg. I do. But, dear God, I hate him as Lex Luthor. When he was first announced as the big bad bald man, I figured I’d hold off on judgment. Then I saw that trailer with him in it, and oh boy. I was afraid he’d be the fast-talking semi-awkward guy he plays in everything else I’ve seen him in. And I was right. It’s like he saw Batman Forever and decided he wanted to play Riddler, not Lex Luthor. It was painful. He came off as such an afterthought of a main villain, too. He kinda winds up being the reason for the conflict between the heroes, but he’s not? It’s like the movie wants to make him a bigger threat than he really is. Lex is supposed to be the manipulator. He’s the cold, calm man behind everything, but you can never prove it. He just smiles at you and shakes your hand for a photo-op even though he almost killed you. It’s like he was supposed to be that in the movie, but Eisenberg played him as so unhinged and fidgety, you felt more pity than respect and fear.
I guess this is as good a place as any to delve into spoiler territory. If you’re still reading, you’ve been warned.
Batman kills people with guns. Like, a lot. I’m not kidding. The car chase I mentioned? Machine guns pop out of the Batmobile and he shoots up a truck with criminals in it. It explodes. He also destroys one or two other occupied cars in this scene. The Arkham fight? Starts with him shooting and blowing up some more bad guys from the Batplane (or Batwing—whatever). I’m also pretty sure he kills quite a few people in that brawl. That, I can kinda forgive since the mother of the most powerful being on Earth needs to be saved, and this is a much older, jaded Batman who needs to get to her as quickly as possible. He winds up probably killing KGBeast, though, which saddens me (KGBeast showed up early in this movie, so he technically entered the DC Cinematic Universe before every major hero and villain other than Bats and Supes). The guns, though…. Batman. Doesn’t. Use. Guns.
Sure, he’s used projectiles for distraction and to destroy obstacles, but never to kill. The worst thing is, this is supposed to be a Batman inspired by The Dark Knight Returns—arguably the darkest Batman there is—who breaks a gun at one point and proclaims, “This is the weapon of the enemy. We do not need it. We will not use it.” The only time that immediately comes to mind of Batman ever using a gun with the intent to kill was in Final Crisis. Know why? Because there really was no other way of defeating Darkseid—a god—and saving all of existence. That’s a situation where you break your cardinal rule. Not beating up mooks.
I said I could kinda forgive the possible killings of the Arkham fight, though. That’s because they show Jason Todd’s Robin suit at one point—left in tatters and vandalized by the Joker when he presumably murdered the boy. I wish they would’ve given us a conversation between Bruce and Alfred about Bruce’s brutal escalation, but I assume that’s why they showed Jason’s costume. Still wanted something a little more, though.
Now, I know I’ve been talking an awful lot about Batman in this. There’re a few reasons for that. As I’ve stated, I’m a lifelong Batman fan, and the Gotham stuff is the best part about BvS. This is basically a backdoor pilot for a Batman movie. Yeah. Superman really doesn’t do all that much. He saves people, gets blamed for horrific deaths he had nothing to do with, picks a fight with Batman, finds himself (again), gets his ass kicked (again), and dies. Yeah, Superman dies. In a movie where Superman is supposed to come off as the greatest of us all but instead seems more of a petulant, unattached god-figure, he dies. I don’t…. Sigh.
They didn’t earn this. Snyder didn’t, DC didn’t, WB didn’t, whoever came up with that did not f**king earn it. At no point has Superman come off as the one who will inspire the Justice League—which, I’m assuming, is what his death does—in this movie. Yes, after the destruction he’s quite responsible for in Man of Steel, it was great seeing him concentrate all his efforts on saving people, but he seems so lost while he’s doing it. Like he’s still learning to care for humans even though he was raised as one. Which is fine since he’s only been doing the hero shtick for two years at best, but that’s what I mean when I say they didn’t earn the death of Superman. He has no legacy. You can’t shotgun something like that. It takes time and effort—not two years and collateral damage. Go take a look at the Superman post I made on his “birthday.” I love Superman. I really do. And The Death of Superman is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read. I should’ve been tearing up as he drove the kryptonite spear into Doomsday only to be run through by the monster’s spikes, dying in one final epic clash. I should’ve been openly weeping at the funeral with Amazing Grace playing on the bagpipes. I should’ve been, but I didn’t. Because they didn’t earn it. There was no weight to it.
And that’s the biggest flaw of the movie. There’s no weight to anything. How does Lex know who Batman is? No clue. None whatsoever. But he does know, and he must’ve known for years judging by a statement he makes later in the movie. He only knows who Superman is because a Kryptonian ship told him for some reason. Yeah, he actually goes into a machine that’s pretty much like, “I must now tell you the plot so that we may move forward.” Why does he want them to fight? Great question. Wish it would’ve been answered. It’s hinted that he’s angry at God because he was abused as a child, and Superman is the closest thing to God…and he wants man to kill God…but he can’t do it, so he gets someone else…but then he wants the devil/Doomsday to do it…. I dunno. Also, Doomsday. The ship apparently tells him how to create Doomsday using Zod’s body and Lex’s blood. I say “apparently” because he just does it. Somehow. Again, it’s weak. And Doomsday looks bad. Really, really bad.
It’s a real shame this movie is so weak since it’s supposed to be the launching pad for the DCCU. Yeah, even the Justice League cameos are weak. Like, they were forced as hell. Batman finds out Lex has been keeping tabs on meta-humans, one of which is the mysterious woman Batman’s met a couple times. He finds out she’s really much older than she seems, and he decides to send her the files in a show of good faith. Thus, Wonder Woman opens the email Batman sent her. Yep. That’s how we get our Justice League setups. Diana opens and email and looks at surveillance footage of Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. Aquaman’s looked dumb. He’s just floating there. Yeah, it was cool when we swam off at supersonic speed, but there’s a good bit of him just floating and staring into the camera. Cyborg’s was okay. Shows his dad, Silas Stone (played by Joe Morton—a great casting gag), putting him back together after some horrific accident. Didn’t care for Flash’s two scenes. He doesn’t look like Flash. Sure, we see him save a store at superspeed, but I wouldn’t have known it was Flash without the helpful logo. Yeah, all the files have logos. Someone at LexCorp was tasked with creating iconic symbols to represent each of these characters. That’s not contrived at all. But I mentioned another Flash scene.
After the knightmare, Bruce is visited by someone who I think is the Flash. Again, I couldn’t really tell because he doesn’t look like any of the four Flashes. He says some vague time travel-y stuff and vanishes. I think it was supposed to be a real event but also a dream. It’s odd. Kinda weak, too. It does sorta give Batman a reason to start keeping tabs on meta-humans, though, so that’s a plus. It ties in to the end when he tells Wonder Woman they have to find the rest like her because justice. Well, mainly because he’s afraid of whatever was in his knightmare, and because he doesn’t want to fail Superman in death even though he did in life. Yeah, Batman tried to kill Superman—and got extremely close to doing so—on the day Superman later died. But they’re besties now, and Batman has to live up to Superman’s legacy or something. I think they want to use this as the reason for Batman no longer killing criminals, but it’s weak. I also hope these events coupled with Lex’s imprisonment are going to lead into Lex becoming who he’s supposed to be, but I doubt that’ll happen.
So, all in all, this is a weak movie. The heroes’ motivations to fight each other, the villain’s motivation to have them fight, the Justice League setups, the plot, Superman’s involvement in his own movie, Doomsday being there, Lois Lane being there. It’s all weak. Painfully so. But, why did I say I like this movie?
Because, at the end of the day, it’s the first time the DC Trinity have been together on the big screen. Something I never thought I’d see happen. The first time the three are together, and they stare down Doomsday…chills. It truly was epic. And that’s what this movie was aiming for. It’s a clusterf**k of a film to be sure because it had too much riding on it. This one movie was supposed to launch a legacy and a franchise, and it was unfair for those in charge to put that burden on it. The Marvel Cinematic Universe mostly works because it grew organically. WB opted to shotgun their own DCCU with this movie, and the recklessness really shows. It’s hard for me to separate the fanboy from the critic here since I’m so attached to these characters and their world. Even though I think I did a mostly good job of it. The movie is actually entertaining. It looks great, the fights are awesome, and almost everyone was well cast. But this is a horrifically flawed movie. I’m hoping, though, that now that the awful first step is out of the way, the rest of the DCCU can breathe on their own whenever they show up on the big-screen. Maybe the extended edition will be able to tie together the seemingly random scenes of the first half of the movie. Hopefully maybe. It’s darkest just before dawn, my friends, and I’m praying the night is over.
Plus, it has KGBeast. Deserves at least five Oscars for that.