by Alan Yudman
I have waited a few days to write about BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE for a couple of reasons. One, so my review would not get caught up in the maelstrom of negative buzz about the movie. The other, to make sure I properly processed what I experienced. The first part was easy. The second, not so much.
I wanted to like this movie. Really, I did. But I just could not make the leap from tolerate to love. Or even like. I’m not even sure I appreciate what Zack Snyder is trying to accomplish. It seems he is trying to make Superman more human. I realize that is something the Man of Steel wrestles with, but in the end he knows he is not and accepts that. So imprinting human dilemmas on him feels forced and false. Maybe in the hands of a more skilled actor it would work. Henry Cavill physically fills out the suit well, but after two movies I’m just not getting the emotional depth that Snyder is going for.
Then there is Batman. Oh, Batman. Dude, lighten up just a little. Ben Affleck is fine. Not as good as Christian Bale, but not as bad a George Clooney. But the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne is such an unlikable sourpuss that it is hard to root for him at any time. Some part of me wanted Superman to end him. I guess skulking around Gotham City for 20 years fighting to keep all the scum at bay could take its toll on a hero. But aren’t heroes supposed to be above all that.
So why are the two at odds? Batman doesn’t like the way Superman dealt with the Kryptonians in MAN OF STEEL. He lost a friend in the chaos and destruction (he should be more angry at Snyder for that). So he decides he alone must come up with a way of keeping Superman in check. An ace in the hole that can destroy him if necessary. At the same time Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg trying his hardest with average material) is doing his evil best to do the same. Or something similar. Kryptonite is discovered in the wreck of one of General Zod’s world engines and both Luthor and Batman want it. And if it seems like I’m going all over the place, this is mild compared to the way Snyder jumps from storyline to storyline.
For the first 90 minutes I continually scratched my head trying to figure out exactly what was going on. Eventually all the pieces come together, but it takes entirely too long to do it. Once the movie does get going it is kind of satisfying. The fight scenes aren’t bad, but they suffer from Snyder-ology. Too much slo-mo. Too many weird camera angles that make the action confusing and hard to follow.
I haven’t even gotten to the set-ups for the sequels. We meet Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who has a key role in defeating the creature Luthor creates to kill Superman and Batman. Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) also make brief cameos, though not in any significant way.
Let’s bottom line it. Did I like it. Well, there were parts I enjoyed (mostly in the last hour. Yes the movie is 2:31). But it is a narrative mess with characters that you should care about but do not seem to have anything to like. Yes, it did huge box office in its first weekend. But Warner Brothers would be well served to take this out of Snyder’s hands and give it to someone who values character and story above style. Until then, I am not sure any of DC’s sequels will live up to any kind of expectations.