Review – Batman V. Superman the Dawn of Justice – Marvel has nothing to worry about

“I’m more brooding than you Clark!”

Spoilers exist in this – though I have tried to keep them limited to my rantings about this multitude of faults baked into this steaming loaf of a film.  Like many self-anointed geeks, I have been waiting for this movie most of my life. As a generation that saw comic books as a story-telling artistic medium, nothing could be more iconic than Batman and Superman together on the screen.

I ran it through my flow diagram before writing the review

The anticipation of this movie left me disappointed with the final product.

This is a movie that could have and should have been so much more than what was delivered.  Oh, it had some moments that were good, but most of it felt forced, overly contrived.  Watching this movie was like looking up the ass of a dead dog with fleas.  Like a car wreck alongside the road, you are drawn in to look at it, even if the scenes are horrific.

For this movie to work, you had to accomplish some cinematic feats.  Included with this:

  • You had to give us the two characters on the screen so we could see their contrast (The ever-brooding world’s greatest detective vs. the boy scout in blue.)  We want the characters to be true to their established backgrounds.
  • You had to demonstrate that their friendship made both men better.
  • You need to give us a villain worthy of these two heroes.
  • Based on the title, we needed a battle worthy of the two heroes.

Warner/DC…how could you have possibly missed that mark with some of these?

First off, we have Superman who’s more brooding than the Dark Knight.  Yes, he’s plucking cats from trees, but he wears a furrowed brow through most of the film.  What makes comic book Superman identifiable is that his parents instilled in him that he has a higher obligation to the people of Earth.  In this film, Martha Kent tells him, “You don’t owe this planet anything…” (I’m paraphrasing, but close enough.)  Um, Ma Kent, that’s actually a big part of who that character is.

I get it – Zack Snyder wants a darker, grittier DC universe. It makes it much more difficult to swallow for the viewers. The reason that the Marvel films do well is they are true to their comic book roots. Snyder wallows in darkness like a pig in mud.

I know it’s going to be popular to take shots at Ben Afflick as Batman but I won’t go there.  I actually thought the actor was good as Batman.  It was no Daredevil role, for which we are all thankful.  He certainly brought more to the role than George Clooney did.  I think his Bruce Wayne is actually pretty solid, especially his coy smile.  The harm to this character was the script, not the acting.  Batman, who has always stayed away from guns as part of his character, uses them a lot in this film.  We don’t get The World’s Greatest Detective.  We get a marginal data thief.  Zack Snyder felt it necessary to show us Batman’s origins, which was a waste of time.  We all know Batman’s origin story better than any of the Presidential candidates.  Cutting that stuff would have saved the film and those of us watching a few precious minutes.

Alfred (Jeremy Irons) isn’t a butler – there’s no Wayne Manor to attend to.  He’s a mechanic for Batman, a remote co-pilot, with some good one-liners aimed at his employer during the film.  It’s a new take on Alfred, which seems to work for me.

The movie taps two of DC’s best storylines for its “plot” – The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman.  Based on the material, you would have thought that the producers would have had a huge hit on their hands. Instead there’s a deliberate fumble that plays out on the screen for us.  It’s as if the writer’s skimmed the books without actually reading them, and plucked a handful of scenes to recreate as opposed to relying on good story telling.  As a result, you get a jumble of storylines stitched together with a plot that seems implausible.

We’re denied seeing the characters become true friends.  Forced allies, yes, but not really close.  Lex Luthor is both insane and a genius, well played by Jesse Eisenberg.  It’s not our traditional Lex, but a solid (if not creepy) character.  Like Alfred, it was okay to see a new twist on the character.  I just never really felt that Lex was worthy of the two character he squared off with.

The film is all build-up and little delivery.  That climatic battle between Batman and Superman is sort of boring when it’s just the two of them.  Once more Metropolis insurance rates are going to spike because Superman lives in town.  The special effects are over the top and border-line Green Lantern-ish when it comes to Doomsday.  (I know it’s wrong to pick at that GL scab, but I had to go there.)

The dream sequences should have ended up on the cutting room floor – they didn’t add squat to the film and in fact made it seem too long.  Likewise too much time is spent laying foundation work for The Justice League movie – which, based on this film, is likely to suck.  All of this bogs down a long movie.  There are scenes like one with Pa Kent that are wastes of time and downright confusing.  Even if these scenes were chopped (as they should have been) it wouldn’t be enough to get this dog to hunt.

Gal Gadot almost saves the movie as Wonder Woman.  She fought better than both of her male counterparts in the quasi-climatic battle.  Her accent made her sound exotic.  We weren’t bogged down with her origins which was also a plus.  Frankly, she battles Zod v2.0 better than her male counterparts.  Thanks to scenes we didn’t need in this movie, we know that DC/Warner will ruin WWI in its upcoming Wonder Woman film.  (Yes, DC can ruin an entire war.)

The Dawn of Justice has more plot potholes than a stretch of Michigan road, and many are so deep and obvious that you’re better off hitting them than mentally trying to swerve around them.  Example:  Wonder Woman gets off a plane with two light carryon items to rush off to the battle.  She shows up with a big honking shield and sword.  Where did those come from?  Certainly not from her luggage.   The whole manipulation of the characters into a battle has so many over-complicated failings that it is a pathetic joke at times.  Also, Gotham is apparently ten blocks away from Metropolis.  It’s like Hoboken NJ in relation to Manhattan.  What in the hell Zack Snyder…you can see the bat signal from Metropolis?  Lois Lane helicoptered over to Gotham in five minutes.  The entire US Capitol scene was just bizarre in terms of how it was painfully set up and what it actually accomplished in terms of plot.

There were scenes that made the audience cheer but even some of these were awkward.  Lex Luthor losing his hair for example.  It wasn’t even entertaining, but it stressed how the audience wanted some of that good old fashioned comic book story elements.  When you have people cheering baldness, you know the movie is limping to a conclusion.

Despite all of this there were things that I enjoyed in the movie.  The new Batmobile rocks as does the Bat Cave.  Some of the redone scenes of Zod fighting Superman from Man of Steel are quite good.  Batman going to save Martha Kent was one of the coolest fight scenes I’ve seen in a while.  I actually liked the fact that there were consequences to Superman’s trashing of Metropolis.  Batman had the best line in the movie:  “Oh shit.” (Yeah – this isn’t going to win any Academy Awards for best screenplay.)

The folks at Marvel/Disney have to be chuckling with the release of this movie.  The figured out that what makes a good comic hero movies is great characters and solid storytelling.  This is something that the Warner/DC team has tried to drive over as if it were a speed-bump to their evil marketing intentions.

The movie didn’t deliver on my laundry list of things I needed for it to.  We never see Bruce and Clark become friends.  The plot suffered to lay a foundation for a Justice League film.

I give this a low three out of five stars and I’m being generous.  If you’re a fan, you’re going to go no matter what.  Oh, there’s no after credits scene – so don’t hang around ‘cause DC doesn’t want you to compare this to a Marvel film in any way; and with good reason.  Also, do NOT take your kids to this.  I saw parents there with little kids and that was just wrong.


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