Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Just because Batman v. Superman is all over the place, just because it’s tenuously holding together a slew of tangential plots, competing ideas, shifting tones, and numbing action set pieces, doesn’t mean it can’t be good fun. It’s still not though.
If anything, superheroes movies of late (that is, Marvel) have shown that just because something doesn’t make sense, and despite the citywide chaos that ultimately ensues in overlong finales, these big budget blockbusters can still be charming and enjoyable, two things sorely lacking in this tent pole film.
Where this lengthy production from Zack Snyder fails over and over again is in its disingenuous nature, a cocky, cavalier, and self-serious attitude that says we can do whatever we want, because we will make money, and we’ll be back again.
The full title, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice suggests this is the first of many films in the franchise; of course we know this to be true anyways, but most of the movie declares it bluntly, with unwelcome bravado. For instance, Gal Gadot costars and also appears in the trailer, as it’s no secret that she assumes the role of Wonder Woman. Yet there is no reason for her to be here other than to offer a launch point for her own singular story to come; other cameos hint at other fantastical offerings, acting as teaser trailers within the film.
Her presence is more for show more than anything else (but hey, female superhero! Right?) She meanders in beautiful dresses, and fights in beautiful armor, having a handful of lines and one somewhat witty exchange with Bruce Wayne that only serves to remind us that Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway did this much better in The Dark Knight Rises.
This is a different vision though, so let it fail standing on its own, which is does spectacularly. Pulling together two of the mammoth superheroes within the DC Comic universe seems too tall a task. Batman gets more treatment early on, rehashing the traumatic death of his parents that informed the dark vigilante today. Snyder sees Batman more cynical, while Ben Affleck plays him brooding yet reserved, careless and outside the law.
And the light. While Snyder helmed Man of Steel, from which this film acts as a direct sequel, more or less, he makes this world shrouded in night, pummeled by rain, and littered with bullets, explosions, and even bigger explosions. It’s Batman’s world, and Superman (Henry Cavill, immaculate) has entered it, and then things get murky. Both men are viewed as existing according to their own rules, and a Senate hearing and a whole bunch of real life reporters relaying the news overtly explains that people aren’t so sure about having these two around doing as they wish. If only the film had something noteworthy to say instead of shrugging its shoulders.
Meanwhile, Jesse Eisenberg is Lex Luthor, the embodiment of rich millennial self-absorption, angst, and ADHD. He exists in his own film, prattling about philosophies, and dead set on getting Superman to fight Batman while he burns everything to the ground. The returning women, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Diane Lane as Superman’s mother, offer sage advice before doing what women are often made to do in these films: require rescuing.
Oh, there is also some weird rampaging orc creature, a couple of random hallucinations, a spaceship with a very helpful A.I., and the problematic acceptance that nothing at all matters.
Predictability though, is not anathema to tension (ahem, Christopher Nolan). Of its many faults – and there are many – its most egregious trespass is being lazy. Conflicts are set up only to be quickly resolved (the titular one included, laughably), the plot turns suddenly on a dime, and everything is completely manufactured only to set up a couple cool hero shots; you’ll know them when you see them as the music swells and you can tell the film is waiting for people to cheer, but they’ll be too tired by then.
The moralistic question tepidly thrown about in the film is what of the innocent causalities of war, what of those that suffer the unforeseen negative consequences of heroic acts? Batman v. Superman is as big a perpetrator as it wants the protagonists to be painted as: the film carries on, doing its own chaotic thing, with little regard for making anyone watching enjoy themselves in the least.