Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★

Why did I at any point think that Zack Snyder, the guy who thinks
prison rape would be good character development for Batman, was capable of making a great DC superhero crossover film? Maybe it's because I didn't actually hate Man of Steel, as most people seemed to do, since I, as flawed as it was, found it a breath of fresh air in terms of making Superman a more human character (no, I don't buy the crap about him being overpowered. The Flash can punch with megatons of force, while Green Lantern can conjure up anything his imagination allows him to, and Shazam's magic powers can actually harm Superman. Who's overpowered now?!), and I didn't mind the amounts of collateral damage, as I've come to expect it in superhero stories. Also, almost every major Letterboxd user I know seem to praise this as some kind of superhero art movie, so maybe there was hope for Zack Snyder after all?

Off with the positives first, since this review will probably turn very sour on my behalf. I liked Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and I really don't understand why everyone, myself included, ever doubted that she would capable of playing her. She was tough, but vulnerable, if we take her past into account, and it was great to see a female superhero who's capable of standing her ground against big foes like Doomsday, something which gives me hope for Patty Jenkins' upcoming Wonder Woman film. Best of all, she seemed to actually have fun playing the character, which makes me sad that she did not have more screentime (apparently DC/Warner still thinks she's a "complicated" character to put on screen). The score was actually okay for the most part, even if it got rather sappy towards the end, and I actually had moments during this where I enjoyed the atmosphere. It's also great to see that Zack Snyder had learned from his previous endeavors and made action scenes that weren't completely shaky all the time, as it did show us what was going on during these scenes. Too bad they didn't last longer, especially the let down that was the titular battle, which was almost over as soon as it started, when it should have been the battle of Gods.

Then to the negatives, and I'll start with the technical aspects of the film before I move on to the characters. The reason for this is that, despite how much I like the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, I am more of a DC fan when it comes to the comics and animated shows, with the latter primarily shaping my admiration for superheroes in general. If I start rambling on those aspects now, this review will not have a semblance of critical fairness. Even with films I don't like, I want to give a fair and not too biased response to them, even if bias cannot be avoided as all reviews are subjective (for the most part).

The opening scenes of this film are horrendously edited and shot. Not only are they EXTREMELY!!! and unnecessarily dark, like in Suicide Squad, the fucking picture cuts to black every other second during the introductory/obligatory origin scene for Batman, it also shows us more footage of the battle we already saw in Man of Steel, now from Bruce Wayne's angle. I don't mind establishing Bruce Wayne's connection to the events of the previous film, but it could have been done way quicker and way more effectively. For one, the film could have just started with Bruce visiting his parents' graves, and then move on to him holding a speech in remembrance of the employees of Wayne Enterprises who were killed during the events of Man of Steel. There, a lot of minutes could have been saved for the climax, but no, we have to show this world as being as dark as an emo-kid's wet dream. Ugh. Thankfully, it is mostly the oversaturation of dark colors that becomes a problem for this film, as the editing got better, outside of those awful shoehorned dream-sequences (how the hell was Batman already aware of Darkseid's presence?) and the awful trailer for the other Justice League heroes that came before the climax.

Now on to the characters. I feel sorry for Amy Adams. As much as she tries, she gives a good performance in spite of her material, which lets the character down immensely. Lois Lane tries to act like an independent woman, but she always ends up in situations where Superman, with his apparent instinct to detect wherever in the world she is (they seriously should have just cut to his boner), has to save her, thus earning her the status of "woman in a refrigerator". She earns that title, because the creators of this film always make her come off as incapable of handling herself without Supes in the vicinity, best shown in the scene where Jimmy Olsen was shot in the head (Zack Snyder shot that scene because he wanted to do a fun scene with him), a scene they lazily cut back to, in order to show Luthor orchestrating all this, because DC/Warner has no faith in its audience. Also, gratuitous nudity is present early on, in case you forgot she was a vulnerable character. Fuck you, Zack Snyder.

I feel even more sorry for Ben Affleck. Here we have a guy who not only looks the part, if we at least compare Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Animated Series to Affleck, but he has the gravitas to make this character work in a better film. I can't fault Affleck, as his Batman is let down by the writing. I get that they want to make a different kind of Batman than what we have seen before, but why does this Batman have to be so damn irrational? Paranoia has always been part of Batman's character, as he has to plan a strategy against any imaginable foe, due to him not having superpowers, but here, there's neither strategy nor detective skills unless Superman is involved, a situation which forces him to quote Dick Cheney. Added to that, he straight up murders everyone who comes in his way (accompanied in an unintentionally hilarious manner with a Wilhelm Scream) and he's branding the criminals he's chasing with the Bat signal, as if he's some kind of bizarro pimp. I know he has killed before in the past, most notably in the Tim Burton films, but it becomes questionable when the main inspiration for this film was Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, where Batman's weapons, and his tank, fired off non-lethal rubber bullets. What's next, Catwoman being his bottom bitch, or an incarnation of The Joker who's basically James Franco from Spring Breakers with green hair? Oh wait, that happened, and he was oddly enough not played by James Franco...

The most infuriating part for me was Luthor. I know he's not Lex Luthor, but rather his son Alexander Luthor (Jr.?). My question is, why does Jesse Eisenberg act as if he's playing The Riddler? In fact, his final scene is awfully similar to Jim Carrey's version of the character in Batman Forever, so why was he not The Riddler again? Why not make a deeper version of this character, who had discovered the identities of Batman and Superman due to his superior intellect, rather than plot convenience as the case was here? This was a point where DC could have one-upped Marvel, as they could have shown us that they were willing to revamp their characters in a different, and more threatening light. But nope, Jesse Eisenberg has to overact in every scene he's in, because Jeremy Irons is in this film, and he HAS to top Irons' batshit performance from Dungeons and Dragons. Something Eisenberg of course fails hard at accomplishing.

Finally, I will express my opinion on the plot. I'm sorry beforehand if my views are similar to those of Leon Thomas of Renegade Cut, but this is how I feel about the film's plot. It's way too moody and pretentious for my liking. I have described beforehand why I find it moody, mostly thanks to the characters, and bad jokes like "Granny's Peach Tea", but I find it pretentious because it shoehorns great literary references into its structure that come off as confused, leading to an unsatisfying climax. It has references to the Bible, as expected, with Superman being Jesus (as always) and the kryptonite lance could be seen as a reference to the Lance of Longinus in the hands of Batman during the climax. But it also has references to Arthurian legend, with Lois being Nimue/The Lady of the Lake, Luthor being Morgana Le Fay, Doomsday being Mordred and either Batman or Superman as Arthur and Lancelot. It does not work for me, because Batman and Superman's egotistical ways of heroism are too similar. Neither of them act in ways that could make them look like counterparts in any way to each other (which The Dark Knight Returns actually did), and therefore, the references serve no purpose other than to elevate the film to a level which it isn't at, further accentuated with Doomsday, who looks like Sloth from The Goonies barebacked a Khajiit from the Elder Scrolls games. Finally, having your climax as short as a whimper doesn't bring you at the level of T.S. Eliot, DC/Warner!

In conclusion, this film actually had a lot of potential. Too bad it never fully built up its characters nor its plot to earn the grandiose status it tries so hard to strive for. I understand why others enjoy it, but I found very small glimpses of joy while watching this. I am still looking forward to the Wonder Woman film and Ben Affleck's The Batman, but I don't want to watch anything by DC/Warner, as long as Zack Snyder is involved.

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