Directed by Zack Snyder, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (henceforth known as BVS), is DC’s and Warner Bros. answer to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, as they furiously try to catch up in establishing their own grand cinematic narrative. However, BVS is a mess of a movie, filled with some great performances and explosive action, but lacks a cohesive narrative and a much needed final go around in the editing suite. What it is, is disappointing.
The following is review is spoiler free but does touch upon some light plot points.
BVS starts off pretty great. Hurrying through the origin of Batman, the film kicks off with a bang as Bruce Wayne speeds through the streets of Metropolis as Superman battles General Zod, in the flashback to the end of previous installment Man of Steel. Eighteen months later and Batman realises that Superman is too much of a risk to the world and decides to stop him. It’s an excellent set-up but it’s after this the movie begins to lose focus. Subplots are introduced but they’re not all that interesting. Characters aren’t explored or given much to do except look moody and argue with others. There’s a pivotal scene in the film’s final act which could have benefited greatly from establishing the relationships between two characters and making the audience feel something in the moment. Snyder is a fantastic visual director but falls when it comes to story and character. This is easily a fault of screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer as it is Snyder’s.
I mentioned characters looking miserable and arguing and this highlights the film’s dark tone. The movie just isn’t fun. DC’s characters are a lot more brooding than say Marvel’s, but Superman represents hope, and a smile as he’s saving the people of Metropolis wouldn’t go amiss. A couple of jokes are made but these aren’t enough. Audiences will walk out of BVS feeling depressed as the film just runs you down for two and a half hours. It opens with Bruce Wayne’s mother getting shot in the face and ends on an equally depressing note. This is not a film for children and while this doesn’t impact on me, it’s sure to weigh on parents minds when they’re contemplating taking their children to see this.
BVS’s biggest sin however, is its editing. The first hour and a half, before the titular characters fight is a mess. Scenes are thrown together, with little relation as the movie bounces between Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. These characters cross paths every now and again and that’s when the film is at its best. There are rarely establishing shots, the audience is thrown into what feels like the middle of scenes and they’re left to try and figure out just what’s going on. There’s a scene where Bruce Wayne has a rather vivid nightmare and there’s practically no set up to it and it’s disorientating, interrupting the narrative to set up a future movie. I like foreshadowing and building hype for the future but there needs to be context and meaning within the current movie.
What the film does have going for it are its performances. Not a bad word can be said for any of the actors, notably Ben Affleck who is the highlight, stealing every scene he’s in and proving all the haters wrong. He’s arguably the best Batman there’s been on screen, and the suit looks incredible. A scene in which he takes out over ten plus henchman in a warehouse is the films best, reminiscent of the Arkham series video game combat. Henry Cavill is just as great as he was in Man of Steel, even if he doesn’t have a lot to do. Gal Gadot is a lot of fun as Wonder Woman, adding a much needed sense of levity to the film in the final battle, including a kick-ass theme which makes several welcome appearances throughout. While his character doesn’t resemble his comic book incarnation, Jesse Eisenberg is definitely an interesting Lex Luthor.
The action sequences are equally stunning, even if they’re not as jaw-dropping as Man of Steel’s or what other comic book movies have to offer. They look great and move fast, Larry Fong’s cinematography deserving a mention here. The final battle will be the most memorable for audiences but there’s an excellent scene with the Batmobile chasing Luthor’s henchman with aerial stunts and explosions galore, as well as the aforementioned scene with Batman in the warehouse, taking on several armed goons. Basically, anything with Batman is pretty cool and is entertaining.
Coming away from BVS, I’m thinking about the effect it had on me. I couldn’t call any scene my favourite. Nothing stood out to me as being incredible or noteworthy. It’s telling that Marvel’s Ant-Man, featuring a character I knew very little about, was more memorable and entertained me more than two of pop culture’s biggest characters decking it out. I really wanted this movie to blow me away and the fact it didn’t, when it had all this talent attached is just upsetting. BVS is worth your time, if you’re ready to leave your brain at the door and can accept some glaringly obvious flaws in basic filmmaking and you aren’t expecting much. My fingers are crossed that DC’s next effort with Suicide Squad will make up for this!