3/28/16

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE - REVIEW


The SPOILERS are coming...

The SPOILERS are coming!

Finally, DC comics and director Zack Snyder deliver their big, expensive, world-building clash of titans as the son of Krypton and the bat of Gotham face-off for the very first time on the big screen. Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice not only promised one heck of a one-on-one battle but also the start of even bigger things.

This should have been a no-brainer: Batman and Superman, the two biggest superheroes out there, in a movie together fighting it out.

The words "screw you, take my money!" come to mind.

And yet from the casting of Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight to the mixed response Man Of Steel received upon its release, Snyder's patchy track-record, the confusion around whether this would be a Justice League movie or not, the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, the much too generous (and spoilery) marketing and, ultimately, the many unkind early reviews, this increasingly looked set to be much less popular of an endeavour as the studios no doubt expected. Most of the press surrounding the release of the film seemed to be negative and the admittedly amusing "Sad Affleck" meme didn't help.

Was this Dawn Of Justice worth it?

The good news is that the Batman V Superman part of the film mostly works. Seeing the two heroes battle it out is exactly as satisfying as you'd expect it to be and Ben Affleck proves himself to be a worthy Batman, against all odds. Everything surrounding the character is handled with care and seriousness from his now absurdly familiar origin story to his eventual involvement with the Justice League. Jeremy Irons is a perfect Alfred, the Batmobile and Batwing look great, the design of the Batcave is impressive and Affleck's understated performance as both Bruce Wayne and Batman is effective. Unfortunately, a bizarre motif of pointless, confusing dream sequences and an hour-long build-up makes this comic-book boxing match a little tedious to reach and, by the end, you'll feel like re-editing the entire movie, throwing out entire sequences in the process.

Another minus is the indestructible ghost of the, let's be honest, not very good Man Of Steel which looms over the entire movie. Henry Cavill is a charming, talented actor (last year's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was recent proof of that) and yet Snyder refuses to let him use any of that. Superman, once a beacon of light, an inspiration for the people of Metropolis and the whole world in the hands of the late, great Christopher Reeve, has now become a symbol of dullness. Everything about the character except how he looks is a bust: he's much too serious, he's remarkably bad at his job and he comes off as a mama's boy, a clingy boyfriend and a careless saviour in this movie. Add to that the fact that Cavill doesn't even try to act any different as Clark Kent, an alter-ego which, at this point, might as well not even exist. Robbing the character of this alternate persona and the Lois Lane love triangle, I feel, is a mistake which hurt Man Of Steel and hurts this film as well.

Say what you will about Brandon Routh, his Kent was spot-on.

Luckily for the Superman side of things, Laurence Fishburne is excellent as Perry White and Jesse Eisenberg is very entertaining as Lex Luthor. Some have criticised the latter's performance yet it's easily one of the best aspects of this film. Sure it's campier than the rest of the brooding tone the film sets up but had the film been any more grim than it already is they might as well have released the film exclusively to funerals. This Luthor is fun to watch: over-the-top yet vicious, out of his mind yet clever, silly yet dangerous. The fact he's not plagued by annoying comic-relief sidekicks is also a plus. It's a shame the film builds up to a messy climax involving a fully CGI Doomsday because, up to that point, Lex Luthor worked really well as this movie's main and only villain. Adding in a couple of Batman rogues would have been a better, more appealing move. Shout-out to Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL for their frankly brilliant Luthor theme.

Which brings me to the "Dawn Of Justice" part of the film.

This film, it became clear long before its release, should have only been Batman V Superman and nothing else. Shoe-horning in a pre-Justice League taster on top of it all not only needlessly clutters the film but makes the prospect of an actual Justice League movie directed by Zack Snyder about as appealing as seeing Billy Crudup's blue genitalia parading around on a very big screen on a loop for 48 hours (see Watchmen) non-stop. This is a good Batman movie, a below-par Superman movie and an awful Justice League movie. Cameos from the likes of The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are brought to us by a character literally clicking on video clips on their computer, which is the laziest way they could have possibly done that. Gal Gadot does a decent job as Wonder Woman yet the film would have been better off without that character which, again, feels thrown-in at the last second just because. The dark tone of the film just doesn't blend with her persona at all so when she shows up in full Amazon get-up with a Xena: Warrior Princess theme booming in the background, it's just odd.

If the length of this review tells you one thing it's that Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is far from perfect.

We're made to wait criminally long for the action to truly start, there's far too much filler, some of which serves little to no purpose, Superman is, once again, a bore, the film generally makes poor use of either main character's universe and it's quite clear the Justice League stuff should not have been in this film except right at the end perhaps as part of an intriguing cliffhanger. The messy third act CGI-fest is a little disappointing and the tone of the film is much too downbeat. Having said that, the central conflict is involving, the Batman scenes are very cool, Luthor is entertaining, the art direction and the score are terrific and the scale of the whole thing is appropriately huge.

It's only the third comic-book movie crossover of this kind out there so definitely go see Batman V Superman as it's likely you'll find something you love about it but keep the critics' complaints in mind as they are not all unfounded. The best way to put it is this is like a fevered Christopher Nolan wet dream with all the joy and misery that this implies.

Batfleck begins...

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