The biggest crime Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice commits is being boring. It’s riddled with massive, glaring flaws, but they perhaps could have been given more of a pass if this film had been enjoyable. Instead, director Zack Snyder’s follow-up to 2013’s Man of Steel (although really it’s just an introduction to the upcoming Justice League and DC Extended Universe films more than anything else) is a slog to get through, resulting in multiple moments of wondering when this film would finally be over.
It’s not just that the film’s grim dourness makes it a slog, because there’s a time and place for grit and cynicism and those traits can be made exciting to watch. Unfortunately, that seemed to have flown over the heads of Snyder and writer David Goyer.
Clocking in at 151 minutes, I joked after I saw it that the film is two and a half hours too long. But I also sort of really mean it.
They’ve taken some of the best and most iconic superhero characters and turned them into a drag, mostly due to poor filmmaking in nearly every sense. It’s astonishing that a film with a $250 million budget could churn out such amateur editing, okay-to-good action sequences, and some questionable visual sequences (especially since Snyder, to his credit, is typically a great visual director, but you have to lay off the slow-motion sometimes, dude).
The editing is what really hits hard in the first hour or so of the film. Films are a visual medium, created by connecting pieces in a particular flow, but Snyder never seems to care about a flow, because scenes are put together haphazardly with no thought to coherency or structure.
Pacing is all off, as scenes jump rapidly and make no sense in their order.
This goes hand-in-hand with the script, which is plotless and full of shallow and confounding characters. Like Man of Steel, potentially interesting questions are briefly touched on, but never followed through, instead masked by xenophobic and dubious religious and 9/11 imagery.
All these aspects come together to instead pose questions like: “Hold on, what’s their motivation?” and “Wait, why does insert-character-here hate Superman?” and “What does this scene have to do with anything else?”
Seriously, what is Lex Luthor, gratingly portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, trying to accomplish? There’s a throw-away line about an abusive father, and weird religious quotes, but nothing of substance or sense. He’s feeding Jolly Ranchers to a senator, leaving a jar of piss for Holly Hunter, and I wish I was kidding. There’s something to be said for a godlike figure like Superman, and how fear of that can manifest, but this is not the movie that explores any of that.
The rest of the cast also suffers from the movie surrounding them.
Despite initial fears, Ben Affleck actually makes a fine Batman, and a better Bruce Wayne. I have no issue with seeing him in the role more, but this movie did not always present him in the best way.
As other reviews have said, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman truly is one of the best parts of the movie, even if her reason for being in the movie makes absolutely no sense other than to act as a plot device for setting up the Justice League and her own film. Gadot handles the role well, and her action scenes are the most thrilling of the entire film. If I can give anything in this movie credit, it’s that it made me even more excited for Wonder Woman than I already was.
However, this film is hardest to watch as a Superman fan.
Man of Steel should have prepared me better, but it’s still heartbreaking to watch a character I adore be dragged through the mud. And I’m not talking about the ending, because there’s no tension in it as we all know it’s not permanent. It’s everything else in the film regarding Superman.
I’m confident Henry Cavill has the potential to be the charming, likable, warm Superman I love, but you wouldn’t know it from Snyder’s films. He has taken this vibrant, hopeful hero and turned him into his own personal emotional punching bag, and it’s rough. It’s even worse when this treatment is carried over to Clark Kent, who’s just as aloof and down as his hero counterpart.
Furthermore, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) don’t fare much better – which, again, shouldn’t be much of a surprise given the mere existence of Sucker Punch. Lois, a plucky, intelligent, independent reporter and Martha, with her emotional strength and resilience, are treated as no more than plot devices and damsels in distress.
Plenty of fans disagree, but as a whole package, I found Batman v Superman to be bombastic, loud, overly stuffed (how many times will I be forced to watch Batman’s parents die), and messy.
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