Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the dawn of DC Comics. This is the film that’s starting off a legacy in comic book film lore. It is the inevitable rise of the sun coming over the horizon, the light in darkest night.

That amazing, soul-wrenching and emphatic fist pump you’re expecting to come over the distant landscape of the film strip never comes. Batman v Superman, to sum it up in one word, is disappointing. I feel like a parent who has given his child chance after chance and can’t help but feel disappointment as I continue to watch him fall on his face again and again. I don’t want to feel it, no parent does, but after a never-ending cycle of atrophy, there’s no other emotion to feel.

Batman v Superman is the firstborn child of the universe that is supposed to rival Marvel and this child feels like it came out of the womb and promptly ran out the hospital doors, failing all the expectations set before it. It feels like it didn’t even try.

I think everyone was skeptical from the very beginning, from the idea of the film to the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. It’s also true that redemption is a powerful emotion, one that people are more than willing to feed into. No one likes to be proven wrong, but sometimes you’re praying you are. Amazement is just as powerful an emotion. Suddenly all ill content you once had towards a person or thing can be dashed into the deep recesses of your memory as you prioritize all your thoughts on the matter of how you could have ever doubted said person or thing. Batman v Superman was granted a pedestal, a chance to leap over the wall of denial, doubt and discouragement. It had the chance to subjugate the masses and make DC feel like a juggernaut that could compete with Marvel. Batman v Superman squandered that opportunity.

Its greatest fault is its writing. The film’s kryptonite is that it wants to talk about everything in a two-and-a-half hour movie. There is no true artery in this movie, no true heart. Snyder’s work is a colony of veins with no artery to latch onto. The veins have nothing directing them where to pump the blood and rather than go to the heart of the piece, the veins branch in a vast web of subplots that take up so much space it’s hard to see through the lens of the camera. Batman v Superman is a kid going crazy with a large supply of silly string in a matter of hours or a Halloween enthusiast who’s really overdone it with the fog machines. At first you pity him, then you get bored with him and then he’s just plain annoying and you want him to leave for wasting your time.

There are a few strong story lines in Snyder’s blockbuster here but none get enough screen time. Snyder gives his audience a 2-by-4 with a bunch of nails hanging in it. They’re not nailed in because he never took the time to fully develop his points.

Snyder and his writers don’t fully convey anything in this movie until the action sequences finally arrive in the final third and even then we have some problems. 2016’s first major blockbuster feels like a live look-in at a brainstorm session. Everyone has some great ideas, but none were developed beyond that. It was like a professional thought of a truly grand concept but wasn’t driven enough to see it through. The aftermath reveals a film with so much promise and yet so little evidence of said promise, the means but not the results.

There’s also the story’s incessant need to market itself again, again and again like a toddler who doesn’t understand that when daddy’s on the phone, you leave him alone. Warner Bros. takes time out of its master thesis in film to advertise its future movie slate. There is a two-minute commercial in the film saying, “Hey guys, don’t forget that Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are coming!” This segment should have been cut after the first draft. It does nothing, absolutely nothing, except advertise. If President Obama took a two-minute break from his State of the Union address to advertise his future endeavors, such as purchasing a brewery and becoming a part-owner of the Chicago Bulls, you’d be pretty pissed.

This is laziness at its finest and in my opinion, it’s disrespectful to the audiences that have paid and will end up paying for this shenanigan. To quote a Marvel movie, it felt like Warner Bros. was saying, “I’m distracting ya, ya big turdblossom” to which my response was, “Considering all your box-office bombs and superhero flops, I’m surprised you still have a sense of humor. Please, continue to defecate on all of our hopes and dreams as you continue to stuff your fat cat wallets.”

The nerve of DC has enraged more than a few critics. Browse the internet for a few minutes and you’ll find them.

Despite DC’s fatal failings, Batman v Superman isn’t a complete waste of time and one can find some small solace in that fact. Ben Affleck makes a good Batman, albeit a far darker one then any we’ve seen before. Batman’s moral dilemmas are wiped from existence in this installment, which while I applaud a new angle to the character, I question how far Warner Bros. can take this new version. Cavill continues to shine as Superman and offers some questions that are thought-provoking but never expanded upon.

Thanks to the writing, however, the philosophical conflict between Batman and Superman is never completely served and we’re left with some small portions but nothing that can be described as a full-fledged meal. While each actor feels right in their respective roles, neither is given the opportunity to expand on their characters. Even Jesse Eisenberg, who has some of the film’s best dialogue, can’t put together a complete Lex Luthor. The writing of the character, as I saw one critic put it, feels like they mashed the Joker and Lex Luthor into one person. Eisenberg does all he can with the role and makes a fair villain but nothing more. Both Wonder Woman and Doomsday have short appearances and don’t make anywhere near the impact that one would expect.

The things that really make this film watchable are Snyder’s tone and aesthetic focus. Batman v Superman‘s darkness serves as a sharp contract to the general brightness to the Marvel legacies and leads to some original themes. Snyder, who has proved himself a director obsessed with the eye, directs action scenes like few others and if you can make it through the moribund first two hours, you’ll find some entertainment.

The fight that comic book aficionados have been waiting decades for is intense, but not life-changing like it should have be.

Dawn of Justice delivers the best Batman fight scene you’ll ever see, but beyond that, nothing life-altering. It’s fun to look at and critically productive, but comes nowhere close to righting all the wrongs it commits during its first two hours.

The true dagger of Warner Bros. attempted masterpiece is when you leave the theater. It’s when you realize the question you’re asking isn’t, “What superhero films is Dawn of Justice better than?” but “What superhero films are better than Dawn of Justice?” Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is untouchable. The Avengers would win a game of baseball with Dawn of Justice by mercy rule in the first inning. All the Iron Man films, both Captain America films, Ant-Man, Deadpool, Man of Steel and yes, even Spider-Man 3, the last and only other film I’ve ever seen on opening night, is better than this.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (DeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellar)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (CreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson PeakThe MartianBlack Mass)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Beasts of No NationTerminator: GenisysBlack Sheep)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (RaceEverestHerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury Road)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (War, The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeaversCrank)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (CatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next Door)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: 64.

Snyder’s work should explode off the screen like a cascade of fireworks, like a volcanic explosion of awesomeness. It should be monumental in size and stature. It should have silenced the critics and stunned audiences. Instead, Batman v Superman feels like an average action film that doesn’t leave the impact crater that it most certainly should have.

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