BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Director: Zach Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne, Scoot McNairy, Holly Hunter
It feels like we’ve been seeing trailers and teases for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for at least a year now. Well the time has finally come to see the two legendary DC Comics superheroes face one another for the ultimate showdown. Ben Affleck steps in as the latest actor to don the cape and cowl. His Bruce Wayne arrives in Metropolis as it’s currently under attack from General Zod. It’s the same sequence that ended 2013’s Man of Steel, but we’re now seeing it through the lens of his character. Wayne Enterprises is in Metropolis and many of Bruce’s employees perish or suffer traumatic injuries as a result. One of them is Scoot McNairy’s Wallace Keefe who is left with his legs amputated and now seeking revenge on Superman (Cavill). Bruce is left livid questioning the morality behind Superman’s actions as thousands of lives were taken in the process. Eighteen months pass and Superman continues to be a target for the people of Metropolis who debate the necessity of their superhero. Clark Kent’s girlfriend Lois Lane (Adams) is caught up in her own conspiracy theories as she tries to prove why he is a needed for the city. Bruce starts to investigate the inner secrets over at LexCorp, which is now being run by Alexander Luthor (Eisenberg), the son of Lex Luthor. He has more than one trick up his sleeve and gets his hands on a mineral that could kill Superman once and for all.
That’s the Reader’s Digest version of what goes on in director Zach Snyder’s follow-up to Man of Steel. There is no easing into the universe at hand for him. The first half hour of the movie consists of quick mini-scenes introducing the multitude of characters and conflicts at hand in Gotham and Metropolis. All of the main players from Man of Steel are back including Lois Lane, her Daily Planet boss Perry White (Fishburne) and Ma Kent (Lane). Plus Metropolis is given Holly Hunter playing a congresswoman and Lex Luthor, Jr as the film’s main villain. On the Gotham side, we have Jeremy Irons stepping into the role of Alfred the Butler. This film takes the easy way out by opening the film with the death of the Waynes. Do we really need to show Bruce as a child witnessing the death of his parents every time we get a new version of this character? Thanks to Ben Affleck’s gray temples, the film implies that we’re seeing Bruce/Batman at an older age than we usually see him. Wayne Manor has been burned to ruins and the Joker has left a mark, but we’re not shown how any of that happened. It’s all implied, but instead Snyder wastes time showing the death of his parents when we’ve seen that countless times before.
As you can tell, it’s overstuffed with far too many characters and subplots between the two cities and how they intersect. It needs a tighter focus all around as it’s hard to get invested into so many characters when we are rushed through the multitudes of storylines. There’s no emotional depth, and by the end, the stakes aren’t high enough to care about are two title characters. I don’t know if it’s Snyder to blame as producer and director or if it’s the script by Chris Terrio (Oscar winner for Argo) and David S. Goyer who also worked on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Maybe the editor was forced to cut scenes to keep the run time down. There’s already talk of a longer, uncut R-rated version that will appear on the Blu-Ray/DVD release.
I can’t necessarily fault the actors at hand given the material they are working with in regards to showing depth. Ben Affleck does a fairly commendable job at making the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman his own especially when he’s not given anything new to work with in terms of this character. It’s not easy to follow up the exceptional work done by Christian Bale or Michael Keaton. There are rumors of him having his own stand-alone films in conjunction with this Justice League universe, and I think Affleck will do a great job with the role. He’s playing a multi-millionaire playboy. It’s pretty smart casting when you think about it. One of the only smiles I had during the movie came with the first appearance of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Not her alter-ego Diane Prince, but WW herself. The story is shaped to keep Diana Pierce a mystery until we learn how her alter-ego plays a factor into this universe.
The actor that will cause the most chatter will be Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Jr. He approaches the character as completely sadistic and psychotic. Instead of feeling original, it just feels like he’s playing the Joker versus a brand new kind of character. I could be biased, as I’m not the biggest fan of the actor. He seemed like a perfect fit for Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, yet every role of his since then has seemed like a variation of that. It should have been perfect casting as Luthor is another wealthy and greedy individual, but there are no levels with Eisenberg’s performance. He acts like a drugged up whack job from very early on in the film.
The lack of levels is a problem with the overall execution of Batman v Superman. It takes itself way too seriously leaving no room for a cheeky, insider sense of humor. Snyder gets too caught up in the action and the copious cameos he wants to throw in there. The fast-paced, frantic speed is kept up for two and a half hours to the point where there is no clear build in the storytelling and no relief for the audience to care about what’s actually going on. It’s all go, go, go and represents everything I don’t like about recent action films. It relies too heavily on CGI to make the effects work. Now, I get that I’m probably being a bit hypocritical as many of the Marvel films use CGI in their execution. Hello, Incredible Hulk. It all comes down to balance. Snyder thinks the audience wants a whiz-bang blow ‘em brawl, but the action sequences are too fast, too loud, and the cinematography is far too dark with the lighting. The fights are so close up that I had a hard time seeing what was fully going on with any given battle, and there are plenty of them. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are both plagued by constant nightmares which result in more battles scenes. The brisk pace leads to a complete lack of attention to detail in almost every regard. The costumes are great, but there are very few cinematic pictures at hand. Christopher Nolan and his DP Wally Pfister have many memorable images in the Dark Knight trilogy, yet Snyder can’t reach that same vision.
Oddly enough, I want to see it again now that I know what to expect. I may have a better appreciation with a second viewing. The ending of the film comes with more heart and humanity than we saw throughout the rest of the movie which makes me excited to see what’s in store for DC’s cinematic universe. It might fare better with other directors and less characters. There was so much hype about what fellow superheroes would make cameos in this film that I kept anticipating their arrivals. Don’t worry, we do see them, albeit very briefly. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t an awful movie. There are some admirable qualities to it, but Snyder needs to take a page from the Nolan handbook.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? All bulk, no substance
RATING: 2 out of 5 TICKET STUBS