“Well, here I am!”– Batman
Let’s start where the movie does: the aftermath of 2013’s Man of Steel.
(Well… technically, we get to see Thomas and Martha Wayne’s death once more via montage, but eh… been there, done that.)
Man of Steel was a movie I was hesitant about. Word that core concepts like kryptonite, flying, Jimmy Olsen were publically said to be changed. This wasn’t going to be the same Superman we’d seen before. He’d be grouned, like Batman in Nolan’s iconic trilogy.
I can be on board with that, I guess. But what they didn’t tell us prior to the movie’s release was just how bland and unemotional the film would actually be.
Where Nolan’s Batman films took their grounded reality to heart, Man of Steel cast it aside whenever it suited it. Destruction and chaos ensued with little to no ramifications. Mass killings happened and we’re left with a final scene where things seem instantly rebuilt and order is restored.
BvS starts by trying to rectify this and setup Batman’s ideological differences with Superman. We actually see some of the fall out from the first film and the ramifications it had on the lives of those living in Metropolis.
In fact, BvS – as many others have stated – goes out of it’s way to course correct what fans were unhappy with in its predicessor.
Kryptonite is back. Superman isn’t just jumping, he is legitamately flying. Jimmy Olsen exists (for a short scene at least). And that’s just the first 15-20 minutes of the film.
Praise Where It’s Due
Before I dive into what I didn’t like with this film, let me hit on the things that I did.
First, Director Zack Snyder actually accomplished the thing I was most skeptical about: he managed to tell a coherent story while introducting a lot of new characters and a huge world without losing the audience. In fact, the story itself is mostly comprehended on a single viewing, something even Bond films don’t always get right).
Second, Batman’s fighting style (as seen in the trailers) is straight up out of Rocksteady’s Arkham games and looks amazing. If anything, we don’t get to see enough of it.
Likewise, Afleck sells being Bruce Wayne and Batman. He’s the bulkiest version we’ve seen on screen and he commands the dual role.
Finally, I commend the producers for going through with the final moment of the film. While Doomsday may not resemble much of the character some are familiar with, they still fulfilled that climatic moment just when I thought they wouldn’t. This sets up some interesting situations for the DC movie franchise moving forward.
The Two Sides of Two Face’s Coin
Perhaps my biggest issue with the entire film is ultimately its actual underlying premise. While it’s revealed that Lex is manipulating the situation to his own will (an interesting plot point for sure), aren’t Batmand and Superman arguing the same point?
Batman wants to stop Superman after Superman takes matters into his own hands to save Lois in the desert (with some plotholes to set it up) which led to the killing of people and the aforementioned destruction in Man of Steel.
Superman wants to stop Batman because he’s taking justice into is own hands.
So they’re both doing the same thing and mad at the other one for it?
That’s how their conflict ultimately comes off.
Further, the titular event is setup (later in the film than it should have been) because Lex has kidnapped Martha Kent and will kill her unless Superman kills Batman. That’s fine, right? Superman’s hands are metaphorically tied, so what’s he going to do?
Well, in Snyder’s world, he goes to see Batman (who he suddenly knows is Clark) and instead of telling him about the predicament he says some other random crap and they fight. Then they stop fighting, so he still doesn’t mention Lex having his mother. Rinse and repeat for another ten minutes until finally he says it.
Then and only then, Batman stops because Superman, for one reason or another, chose to say “He has Martha” because, you know, who doesn’t refer to their adpotive mother by her first name randomly?
In this case, it triggers an inner conflict within Bruce because – as we saw for the millionth time on screen – the name of his gunned-down mother was Martha.
And now they’re instantly friends.
That’s where the film really lost me.
The Joke’s On Us
As I mentioned before, the film had a lot of setup to tackle. One specific piece of that was the character of Superman’s arch enemy Lex Luther.
Now, this isn’t the Lex you’re probably accustomed to. This Lex is unhinged and should be medicated.
In that regard, Eisenbwrg was perfect casting, and I guess the character works overall, but at times, he’s played more as the Ledger’s Joker: maniacle, but genius, able to pull everyone’s strings to get the destruction he wants.
It was an interesting choice for sure, but one I can live with.
Did I See Optimus Prime?
Remember how I mentioned the mass destruction in Man of Steel? Well it’s back. The final third of the movie lays to waste acres and acres of land, but don’t worry because you’ll hear multiple times how it’s all abandoned.
That feels cheap, especially in a film that built the first act at looking at what the true consequences would be and how the fall out of a real globe-trotting fight between two god-like men would unravel.
Should superheroes be regulated? I guess we’ll have to wait for Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War to find out the answer because BvS drops the subject and forgets about it.
I asked myself multiple times during the third act if this film was produces by Michael Bay because it reminded me of the Transformers movies where world-wide destruction happens, but no one seems to really notice.
The Doomsday Problem
Speaking of the final act, the use of Doomsday felt tacked on and weakened the film in multiple ways.
First, it made the Batman/Superman friendship feel rushed and like a switch was flipped.
Second, it turned one of DC’s huge villains into little more than a huge, CGI killing machine. (Another reference to Michael Bay?)
Third, it ruined the setup of Lex. For two thirds of the movie, we’ve seen (whether we knew at the time or not) that Lex has been orchestrating the battle we’ve all paid money to see. He doesn’t want to get his hands dirty.
Then he accesses the Kryptonian database, learns it all in what seemed like an hour and discovers that he can transform Zod – despite the Kryptonian computer warning him otherwise – into a killing machine.
So there they are. All of my thoughts – good and bad – on this movie.
Am I mad I saw it? No. I’d tell superhero fans to see it once, at least.
Will I probably ever watch it again? Like Man of Steel, I don’t feel compelled to.
Last weekend, I thought I’d give Man of Steel a second chance in preparation for this film. I have it on my DVR; it wouldn’t cost me a thing to watch, but I couldn’t bring myself to hit play.
Ultimately, IGN’s review helped me understand why: it’s not a fun movie, and neither is BvS.
That doesn’t make them bad, but it does make them movies I don’t look to return to.
In comparison, I’d happily invest time to watch Nolan’s trilogy again. Even Avengers: Age of Ultron, for all the flaws it had, it’s a movie I could put on now and be entertained.
DC’s yet to prove they can do that in their new movie continuity. Maybe Suicide Squad will change that. To be honest, I had higher hopes for that movie going into BvS and still do. It looks like an enjoyable film.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, while a feat to make, simply isn’t that enjoyable enough to repeat.
3 / 5
What did you think of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Do you agree with my thoughts? Did you have a different experience? Share what’s on your mind in the comments below and let’s discuss.