The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Warner Brothers has a lot riding on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s meant to serve as their launchpad to the rest of their cinematic universe. Unfortunately, their cinematic universe is off to a rocky start. In similar fashion to The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is more concerned with crafting a universe than making a good movie. Director Zack Snyder tries to accomplish a million different things at once, juggling a countless number of plot lines in a convoluted, incoherent story that does not leave time for the film to breathe.
The basic premise behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is that Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) has grown increasingly distrustful of Superman (Henry Cavill) after he witness first hand the destruction of Metropolis due to the fight between Superman and Zod. Batman believes Superman is a ticking time bomb, a potential threat that needs to be eliminated. That sounds like an awesome set up for a fight between Batman and Superman right?
Well unfortunately the V part of the title only accounts for about 7 minutes of this 2 and a half hour movie. The rest of the film is a collection of seemingly random scenes that don’t have any clear connection to one another. The editing is awful. There is no real natural flow or progession in this film. One moment you will see Bruce sitting in front of a computer decrypting files, then the next scene will be an unexplained dream sequence that has no bearing on the plot whatsoever, and serves only to set up the Justice League film. And then without warning you are back to Bruce decrypting. It’s almost as if the editors forgot the very basics of film making. There are absolutely no transitions between most scenes, instead BvS elects to simply incorporate dramatic cuts to black to serve as the bridge between scenes. It’s jarring to say the least.
There are so many plotlines to keep up with, all of which are needlessly convoluted and don’t really tie together very well. You have Batman trying to secure Kryptonite for LexCorp to take down Superman, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) manipulating Batman and Superman to fight each other for no real reason, while at the same time creating Doomsday for equally unexplained reasons. Superman spends the majority of the film not really doing anything, he just flies around moping everywhere. There is also a vague and unclear plot revolving Lois Lane (Amy Adams) investigating bullets manufactured by LexCorp for…reasons? It’s another convoluted plot that doesn’t really amount to anything, and it feels like the writers just had no clue how to make Lois Lane relevant.
Too much time is dedicated solely to Justice League set up, much of it has no real baring on the conflict between Batman and Superman. As it cool as it was to see cameos from The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, these scenes felt extremely out of place. One scene in particular that involves The Flash was particularly jarring. I actually had to lean over and clarify to my confused girlfriend about The Flash and his powers, because the film leaves it totally unexplained! There were just some baffling creative choices made in the hope of expanding the DCEU. The film primarily acts as a commercial for the rest of the DC Extended Universe, much to its detriment.
With all the focus on the Justice League, the rivalry between Batman and Superman fell by the wayside. The actual conflict that was so heavily marketed, a grudge match between DC’s two biggest heroes, ended up being supremely underdeveloped and disappointing. When the fight between these two titans finally came to pass, I found myself almost uninterested. The final events that lead to the confrontation are so insipid and uninspired, I could not find myself to care about the actual fight.
The sad thing is, even with all the negatives I’ve listed (and there are a ton more, but that would require spoilers) there is still a good movie hidden somewhere within! While watching the film, I could see its failed potential. A lot of the individual scenes are outstanding when viewed in a vacuum. The opening scene of Bruce witnessing the destruction of Metropolis is fantastic and really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Every scene of Batman taking on criminals was choreographed fantastically. Jeremy Irons as Alfred had superb chemistry with Affleck. Pretty much whenever Batman was onscreen, I was enthralled. Affleck as Bruce Wayne is the single best part about Batman v Superman. Besides the creative choice to have Batman occasionally kill (which I vehemently disagree with), this is the definitive live action version of Batman.
Affleck embodies the Batman I have always known and loved from the comics. Seriously, he was born to play Batman and if there is one positive way to spin Batman v Superman, it’s that it will lead to a fantastic Batman solo film (hopefully) directed by Affleck. The movie is carried by Affleck through and through, he manifests such a presence on screen and plays an intimidating, brutal Batman.
Less successful in their performance is Jesse Eiseneberg as Lex Luthor. I was just not a fan of the direction the script took his character. He is not a compelling villain at all, acting as more of a clown who executes evil actions just because. It felt like they you took out everything that was menacing and interesting about The Joker, leaving an only annoying hysterics, and then attributed these characteristics to Lex.
Zack Snyder is a great visual director and the film is absolutely gorgeous. Everything here is shot beautifully, and its apparent that Snyder has a real eye for visual aesthetics. He is less skilled at handling multiple plot lines and executing them successfully however. The final act of the film which focuses on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman is the most entertaining portion of the whole movie, and that is because Snyder knows how to direct action. But I only enjoyed it due to the pure visual spectacle. I found it impossible to become emotionally invested in what should be supremely dramatic moments occurring on screen.
When it’s all said and done, Batman v Superman is a film they fails to deliver on the promise of the “greatest gladiator match in the history of the world”. As a film it is a total mess, but I still found myself entertained watching it. Too much time was spent on Justice League advertising, and really hurt the film as a whole. But at the same time, I find myself oddly looking forward to revisiting the DCEU in future installments. This film is funny that way.