[This article contains major spoilers for the film]
My initial thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were proven right when I saw it in theaters recently. The trailers gave too much away, there was a crowded spotlight, and that title is clunky and memorable for the wrong reasons. It was everything I expected and a little more, but that may not be a good thing. Yes, I am more of a Marvel fan than I am with DC Comics, but I wanted this movie to prove to me Warner Brothers could do this and knock my socks off, because I was initially worried they didn’t know how to do this. I’ve also been accused of being a Zack Snyder supporter in the past, but as I do with anything, I will try to be objective and critical when it is needed.
Let’s start with what I liked, because overall, walking out of the theater this time was a more enjoyable experience than leaving Man of Steel. That first ten minutes is amazing. It’s sad that the material in question only built up Batman though, and I was hoping Superman would get something even close to that, but it was all hidden in a convoluted plot. Superman and Lois Lane are more like plot hubs in this, barely given the proper time to grow or act (though, I’m starting to question Amy Adams’ acting and character logic). What I did like in the time that this happened is how it made me feel for Kal-El. I’m not a fan of Superman in the comics, though I read more and more of his books as time passes. I still have trouble feeling much for him, especially when he is depicted like a Christ figure (Superman Returns comes to mind). Here though, it is easy to see that it sucks to be Clark Kent or Superman, and that the decisions he makes are hard and costly. Having all that power doesn’t make him perfect or god-like, only capable.
Visually there were some really cool spots and anyone wanting to see superheroes punch each other with loud explosions is going to be happy. There were plenty of references for comic book fans, which this film seems to be made for more than the casual comic movie fan. I thought the acting was good as well for the most part, with Ben Affleck proving me right that he makes a fine Batman. Yes, it’s no surprise, but the Caped Crusader was my favorite part of the movie. No, I didn’t mind that he killed people, because if it was good enough for Keaton’s Batman, why not this one. Everyone he killed tried to shoot at or attack him first. Also, old school comics Batman used to walk around with twin pistols (as odd/dumb as that sounds these days). This Batman is older, does detective/spy things, and is in a fight with Superman, so of course he’ll be more brutality and less finesse.
That is where the good things end though. I walked out of the theater thoughtful and a bit lost about how the film really performed and gave myself some time to think about it and talk to others before trying to put my finger on what exactly I didn’t like.
This movie is entirely too long at 151 minutes. The project was full from its inception, but even more was shoved in, everything from the needless cut aways and cameos to acceptable attempts at character building that bogged down the movie and made it sluggish when everything came together. My bladder was hurting by the third act. A lot of fat could have been trimmed here, but I think the best things to cut were the stuff that the studios plans required, and that is typical. This is yet another film on a long list that I think could have been so much better without studio involvement and the concern of creating a cinematic set of intertwined franchises. Before the universe is expanded, the world needs a few good movies to stand on.
Like, it was neat to see Flash warning Batman about the potential Injustice style plotline that might be coming, but how did it help the current movie? In fact, there were really just too many dream or vision sequences all together. I think these things could have been accomplished in better ways, because each was a little jarring. The plot was already convoluted and people were getting lost on parts, and some of that could have been avoided. The scene order seemed odd, like they were thrown together and mixed up to try and fix pacing issues that just made the flow feel more spastic at moments. There are tons of plot holes, but most of the big ones boil down to, ‘why did this character not just do this?’
There were some smart things in the film, but so much was left untouched, like certain themes. The obvious one is mentioned above with Superman, but there is also the fact that both of these men (and Wonder Woman to be fair) have parental issues and strive to be perfect from two completely different perspectives. Lex casually threw in that his dad beat him (and possibly more?) as well, but his dialogue was some of the worse to me. I couldn’t get behind this version of Lex Luthor, even though I thought Jesse Eisenberg was going to kill it in the role. I wasn’t happy with it and think he felt nothing like any version of Luthor and lacked real motivation other than, “because I can.” Also, he killed Mercy. Bad Lex! And yes, killing Jimmy Olsen was stupid, but because of how it was done, I didn’t care in the slightest. I should thank him for making logos for all of the JLA characters that were the definition of forced in, but all that needed to be cut, or should have been an after-credits scene. This was so much like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, better, but a setup for so much else that it felt befuddled and unfinished. I wish they had concentrated more on the story they were telling at the time and hadn’t let everything become so clumsy.
It was just too early for Doomsday. He worked to a degree in the comics because able to actually kill Superman, after the hero had proven himself time and time again. The first third of the film was good, the fight between the heroes was not bad at all, but by the time Doomsday showed up I stopped caring. Lex could have really come into his own as the center point of that third act, but instead we got a big monster for everyone to fight. I actually enjoyed most of Wonder Woman’s part, it’s just too bad the majority of her screen time was in this section. We didn’t need this. It all struggled to feel like an epic fight and made me wish—as much as we pan him—that Snyder had taken some hints from Michael Bay and kept the plot moving more during all of this. That character just shouldn’t have been in the film at all though in my opinion. This was the hot mess portion of the film I would have liked as a teenager, but it just reminded me of Hulk versus Abomination from the Edward Norton movie and I was more focused on things that had occurred previously, because they were actually interesting.
Now that the first deleted scene is out I believe a director’s cut or something similar for this might be beneficial. I enjoyed it, for two thirds of the movie at least, but this could have been a lot better and less of plea for me to care about their upcoming films in the future. I am honestly looking forward to a new Batman movie now, and still excited to give Suicide Squad a chance (even though I’m uneasy about these re-shoots), but overall I have lost some faith in Zack Snyder and am hitting rock bottom with WB (don’t get me started on their game studio). I see why some people liked it though and that is cool, and hey, it wasn’t Superman Returns.