The first big superhero fight of the year is here – three years after the reboot that was Man Of Steel, director Zack Snyder returns with the sequel Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, now featuring everybody’s favourite Man-Bat. This, as the title suggests, lays the groundwork for future Justice League movies, but is the future of the DC movie franchise on a firm foundation, or is it going to be a rocky start?
A movie review of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice with
Direcow, Kakita and Korgath
Man Of Steel was quite the divisive movie, with somewhat equal numbers both defending and disliking Snyder’s take on the mythos – it still ranks around 50% on Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic. Yet, it’s clear that Snyder is doubling down and continuing his tale – Batman v Superman continues right after the events in Metropolis, even addressing and continuing a lot of the themes/issue in Man Of Steel.
Yes, I agree that Batman v Superman is very, very much a sequel to Man of Steel, not apologising for any of the events that have gone before, but presenting what is hopefully a tale that has taken into account Man of Steel’s detractors. Is that an improvement? In a sense. Does that make it perfect? Not in the slightest. Does it do the hope fans have in a DC Extended Universe justice? We’ll see. Was that pun intended? Most definitely.
Well, let’s start with what the film did right, which I think it does pretty well. For starters, it’s clear that Ben Affleck relishes his role as Batman and Bruce Wayne, his take on the Dark Knight is possibly one of the most balanced yet in terms of man versus bat. Sure, he’s a little bit angry – but I think he really works in the grand scheme of things.
His anger is not really my cup of peach tea, but I see how it works, especially considering he occupies the same universe as Snyder’s Superman.
Sadly, I was very confused about this iteration of the Dark Knight. I felt there were inconsistencies in the way he was portrayed as a veteran crimefighter and at the same time, one that still seemed to be finding his way around this whole superhero business. That said, Direcow is right, you can’t fault Affleck for his enthusiasm, his energy and his clear desire to own this iconic role.
I think I’m giving him the pass because of what he’s managed to do with the role, and not so much the quality of the words spilling out of his mouth, and his actions. It’s very much a video-game Batman, in that sense, a lot of punching to get his way out of things, not so much being the detective.
Affleck isn’t the only proof that the casting is top notch, and Gal Gadot is also fabulous in her role as the mysterious Diana Prince, later revealed as Wonder Woman. Some may have earlier felt that her inclusion in the film was a bit of a wildcard, but fortunately she delivers in spades. While her origins aren’t discussed at all in the film (is this a spoiler?) what we see of her is undoubtedly iconic and a thrill for both new fans and old alike.
Gal Gadot is definitely one of the bright lights of the movie. She brought a certain regal poise to Batman V Superman, which I feel almost devolved into the superhero equivalent of the “bully at the playground” fight.
That said, I did like the big fight at the end, whether or not it made much sense (or that they conveniently decided to fight where buildings wouldn’t collapse on puny humans). And there is a nice nod for fans who know about her upcoming movie. That, and she is a bright spot in the movie – turns out when people said Wonder Woman would win Batman V Superman, well, it’s not that far from the truth.
But, you know, we have to talk about Superman himself.
The one thing that comic fans have to bear in mind is that there are always many versions of the same story. While there is the original story of Superman, and while many versions hew very closely to the heroic, Golden Age version created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, there are many versions out there. There is Red Son, the Superman found in Mother Russia rather than the American Midwest. There is Ultraman, the villainous Earth-3 Superman. There is Miller’s Superman, a tool of the American government. While they (and many more) are significantly different from the traditional heroic Superman many of us grew up with, these Supermen have their own stories to tell, have their own niche to fill.
Henry Cavill’s Superman is no different. He’s been established as being more arrogant, more willing to stoop to violence than Christopher Reeve’s take. While that is not to my liking, but that is a tonal decision made by Zack Snyder and DC in general. And you have to admit that there is a market for GrimDark, violence and explosions. The box office billings for Zack Snyder’s and Michael Bay’s work attest to that.
If you’ve come to appreciate Zack Snyder’s take on the Man of Steel, as I have, then you’ll be pleased to know it continues in this movie. Henry Cavill brings a dignity and a presence that is evident regardless of whether he’s decked in blue, or at the Daily Planet. But being a fan of Cavill’s Clark Kent is probably going to be a lonely experience, because there aren’t that many opportunities for his heart and his humanity to really show in Batman v Superman.
I have to agree with that – Snyder’s Superman continues to embody the other, and he’s also largely a victim of circumstance, being at the mercy of wherever Lois Lane might be, or the next exploding building. It continues in the same vein of Man Of Steel – there’s anger, and there’s also everybody around him that he loves telling him to watch out for himself first. I don’t think the world needs a selfish Superman as a hero, so I think in some ways the character evolves from the purely inward looking one to the one we see at the end of the film. For me, that’s a marked improvement from MoS.
Which brings me to what I feel is the greatest failing of the movie, and, it would seem, Zack Snyder’s direction in general. The sheer inability to tell a coherent story. It was bad enough in Man Of Steel, and it continues right along here. The thematic discourse seemed to lead in multiple different directions and each scene felt more like puzzle pieces of an unfinished jigsaw rather than the lovely blend of a tapestry.
I agree. There’s art direction and style which works great (in general), but when it comes down to it, well, I think it’s clear that if Snyder sticks around for Justice League the DC movieverse is going to suffer. He obviously has a lot of ideas that he’s tried to stuff into the movie, but a lot of it could have been left on the cutting room floor, especially a huge chunk of the first part as well as the gajillion dream sequences. As a director and creator, it’s almost as if it’s Zack v Snyder, where philosophies just mishmash between whatever he feels like telling right in the middle of the movie.
At 152 minutes, it’s not that much longer than Man of Steel’s 143 minutes, but you’d never think that while watching the film. I personally enjoyed each scene on its own, but there were times when I caught myself wondering, after the fact, if that scene was really necessary. As Direcow put it, it’s almost painfully clear that there was probably a whole lot more which didn’t make it to the film, and it’s depressing to think that what Snyder chose to include didn’t seem to do much to move the story along.
And yet, what he chose to leave inside feels like a sledgehammer to the proverbial tire, and the proverbial kitchen sink. It’s like the nod to the rest of the Justice League on Lex’s servers, but just in case you didn’t notice or guess who they were, Snyder was more than happy to make sure you knew the Justice League was coming. If you’re not a fan of the universe, well, let’s just say all that would have been lost on you.
Oh my God. Zack Snyder can choreograph a decent fight scene, but his thematic overtures have all the subtlety of a semi-truck bearing down on you. I appreciate subtlety and subtext when it comes to certain discussions, but there is no subtext in this movie. Maybe not even text. It’s probably all Super-Text at this moment. Kneel before Zod.
The curse of the superhero movie franchise – half the time you’re spending your movie setting up the next movie. The question is, was this the studio’s fault? Or was it the director himself who couldn’t resist engorging the film with foreshadowing?
True – it’s hard to tell, which means that if Snyder leads Justice League, will he have the power to make decisions true to his vision? Not to say that I’m loving his vision, of course. After all, this is the guy who loves throwing obvious nods (or big HELLO WINK WINK NUDGE) into the movie, yet hides other things, like the fact that Jimmy Olsen got shot in the head. Yep, he did.
A lot of it is the grimdark that seems to be the DC movieverse’s modus operandi – it’s not a wrong choice if executed well, but it just seems very nihilist in nature. Sure, it might reflect the world we live in – a moment at the end is the #JeSuis movements right on the nose – but on the other hand there’s sometimes just a need for some escapism.
That said, I want to give credit where it is due. Clearly someone felt like they’ve had it with the two main criticisms in Man of Steel. Firstly, if it wasn’t obvious that Lois Lane is a pivotal character in this franchise, Batman v Superman really drives that point home this time around. Lois is in the thick of everything, she’s a capable partner for Clark, and her dogged tenacity both as a journalist and as a lover is often a foil for Superman’s dilemma of whether to be a hero or not. Any critic that comes out of the movie claiming Lois is still a damsel in distress has clearly ignored the overt attempt to showcase her as a driving force.
Secondly, Batman v Superman acknowledges the destruction in the first movie, makes an entire plot point out of it (for better or for worse) and then makes it a point, before every major fight, to point out that there’s no one in the buildings, or that a port is vacant, so that no one can accuse them of an unspeakable death toll. It worked for the Avengers franchise, it worked for Pacific Rim, I’m glad it worked here.
Which, while a little on the nose, shows that they’re trying. And you know what? In the end I actually prefer this over Man Of Steel. Sure, there are issues, and I don’t think it’s going to be a cult classic in future or something, but there are just some moments there, if just given a bit more shine, would have made a much better, coherent movie. Incoherence is bad.
I think what summed it up for me was when someone behind me whispered “stupid” very, very loudly right after the climatic fight. I won’t go quite as far to say the film was dumb – despite the multiple puzzling moments, and the fact that the whole fight between the two main heroes seems, at best, childish. Add to that odd choices by the director, weird plot moments, Perry White oddly speaking only in headlines when you first meet him, Lex teetering a bit too close to insane, the grimdark first half of the movie might ruin quite a bit of joy of superhero adventures. It’s the introduction of Wonder Woman (and the first real laugh of the movie quite late on) that makes me hopeful that they might have a little more fun making the Justice League.
I hope that, when viewed as an entire epic, the multiple unresolved plotlines in these first two movies find the closure they set us up for. That said, my biggest concern while leaving the theatre was that this movie seemed to be leading to a New 52 inspired Justice League throwdown with Darkseid, followed by a possible road towards Injustice. If you liked either of those storylines, good for you. But personally, that’s a direction I don’t want to see beloved superheroes go down. And no matter how great the casting and the characterisation is, I don’t know if I’d be willing to follow Snyder down that rabbit hole. 6/10. I wish I could go higher, but I can’t bring myself to.
And should you watch it in IMAX 3D? Only if you can get great seats. The 3D conversion is honestly not great, but I think there’s something to be said for enjoying Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s dramatic soundtrack in IMAX.
There’s a lot more to nitpick – and praise – but I think we’re mostly in agreement about the movie. Maybe my expectations were so low after Man Of Steel that I actually enjoyed myself despite how much groan-worthy scenes there were (and there were plenty). Here’s hoping that DC goes with another director for Justice League? 3/6 stars.