Monday, March 28, 2016

[Review] Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


With Man of Steel, it was clear that director Zack Snyder attempted to entrench the brightly iconic Superman with the Nolan-ized tone of Dark Knight, only to misfire on all levels. So what happens when yet another incarnation of Batman is thrown into the equation during the blockbuster that is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Well, the results aren't as great as you'd want them to be.

The opening scenes somewhat clumsily jump through several different countries and time frames, and in the process we revisit the explosive wreckage from the ending of Man of Steel. That's where we meet Bruce Wayne (aka Batman, played by Ben Affleck), who was caught amidst all those collapsing buildings. Flash forward 18 months later: Superman (Henry Cavill) is a highly divisive figure, blurring the lines between savior and criminal with prickly repercussions. Batman, a controversial vigilante himself, has a major beef with Superman. Meanwhile, the jittery Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) is plotting some evil endeavors and conspiring to finally pit Batman and Superman directly against each other.

It's almost as if Snyder took a story about two of the most beloved comic book heroes and siphoned all the soul and intrigue out of it. Midway through, I thought to myself: Shouldn't this be more exciting? The film's structure is disjointed and clunky from the very beginning, flowing as smoothly as a mountain of jagged metal. The plot lacks a gripping coherency, and of course there's the obligatory shoehorns for the sequel. It always feels like you're watching a big long chunk of something, rather than a fully established unit. And the pieces of that chunk aren't always bad, but they don't really form or transition well with each other. The film alternates between dour and slightly thrilling. Some scenes land, while others spark questions of why they're even included. Some scenes drag, while others are rushed. Such a monumental occasion should possess more momentum and escalation than this. Is a bit of jubilance within a Superman and Batman movie too much to ask for?

Henry Cavill's Superman carries over the detached, cardboard blandness from Man of Steel. Which is a shame, because the guy showed some nice flair in last year's Man from U.N.C.L.E., and I wish more of that was demonstrated here. Ben Affleck caught a lot of flack when his Batman casting was initially announced, and the rage of comic book fans intensified even more when Jesse Eisenberg was cast as Lex Luthor. But ironically, these two are the most interesting aspects of the whole film. Affleck's performance is brooding and controlled, and he does a perfectly swell job in the face of haters, even though when we first witness Batman operating in his Batcave alongside his white-haired British butler (Jeremy Irons), it can't help but give off a "Here we go again..." vibe. I mean, The Dark Knight trilogy ended only a few years ago.

Then there's Eisenberg's unhinged, sociopathic turn as Lex Luthor. Eisenberg does this thing incredibly well. Sure, he's not the Lex Luthor who comic book enthusiasts wanted (he's more of a Joker B-side), but he certainly commands every scene that he's in and emerges as the highlight. The film also gains a boost when Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) joins the party, and it's at this very point when the script produces its first amusing lines of dialogue and slight shreds of humor. You get the impression that this sort of flavor should've been injected into the series from the get-go.

So, Batman v Superman does have its moments. And it isn't the abomination that the Twittersphere might cause you to believe. In fact, despite often being shrouded in darkness, the production design of this thing looks really stellar (for the most part). However, it's completely fair to say we want a more compelling story, tweaked characterizations, and something that isn't so coldly one-dimensional. The film contains a line from the city's senator that goes like: "The world has been so caught up with what Superman can do that no one has asked what he should do." Well, he should be involved in a movie that doesn't leave us so exhaustingly numb.

5.8/10

2 comments:

  1. Awesome review dude, couldn't have put it better myself. "Exhaustingly numb" is pretty apt way of putting it - it's such a tiring film to sit through. Let's hope for a better effort next time out.

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  2. I agree that Eisenberg and Affleck are the two best things about this movie. Eisenberg's casting was real outside-of-the-box thnking, which I enjoyed. As actor he brings a lot of distinctive quirks to the role, which helped make it distinctive from other takes on Luthor.

    As for Affleck, his portrayal of Batman is the closest we may get to a live-action THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS adaptation. He was very good.

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