Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) …and other things DC

It’s been 77 years since we were first introduced to Batman.  78 since Superman.  Fifty years since the Adam West cartoon, twenty-seven years since Burton’s initial interpretation, and not quite four years since Christopher Nolan’s last installment.  Three years since Man of Steel, ten years since the attempted reboot, and not long enough since Superman IV: Quest for Peace (1987, to those who care).

Batman v Superman is too much too soon.

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I can’t go into this review without recapping the last few superhero flicks Warner Bros. and DC have attempted.  DC Entertainment have exclusively made nine feature films thus far, starting with the amazing Batman Begins.  You should know by now that I’m biest; nothing will trump Chris Nolan’s interpretation…at least not for many, many years.  The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012) remain loyal adaptions of incredible comics as well as being great achievements in cinema.  Any-who…DC’s film division spitballed three adventitious entries, hoping for a brush fire, since Marvel’s 2008 savior Iron Man swooped down and met the audiences and critics (and box office ticket stubs) in the middle.  Those three unspeakable curses were: Watchmen, Jonah Hex, and Green Lantern.  …Yeah.  Only one of those three happened to be okay.  And it was directed by the same visual-madman as BvS: Zack Snyder.

Although DC is in no disastrous trouble of losing their comicbook giants at movie theaters, they are definitely outnumbered by titles Marvels is spewing out multiple times a year, nowadays.  So after Christopher Nolan announced The Dark Knight Rises as the final entry in his Batman series, DC made plans to fast track and incorporate their Man of Steel reboot with a Justice League assembly but jumping head-first into a Batman and Superman standoff, just like in the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.  So, after a dull Superman reboot in 2013, they quickly sat Snyder back into the director’s chair for this mammoth.

In case I haven’t given it away just yet, I was very skeptical of the movie from the get go.  I really was.  My apprehensions were, A) Zack Snyder, B) TDKR comicbook storyline, C) Too much too soon, D) No Batman movie will ever be as great as Nolan’s Batman movies, and the icing on the cake: Ben Affleck as one of the titular characters.  My mouth dropped when it was announced.  I was agast and very disappointed in Warner Bros. and wanted the casting assistant fired for mentioning his name.  I read Christian Bale was offered somewhere around $30 million to reprise his role…and I would’ve been totally okay with it, but I respected his decision to remain apart of Nolan’s universe and no other.  But my heart still ached, especially after the Batfleck announcement.  Sigh…can’t win ’em all.

Well.  Moving right along.  Trailer found here:

For the techno people who need their regular movie gibberish, like I constantly do, here is some: the movie is directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Man of Steel) and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.  The American superhero movie is a follow-up to 2013’s Man of Steel and is the second installment in the DC Extended Universe. Its screenplay was written by Chris Terrio (Oscar winning screenwriter of Argo) and David S. Goyer, and the film stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence FishburneJeremy Irons, Holly Hunter and Gal Gadot.

So from here on out, I should warn: SPOILER ALERT.

The movie started off with a different perspective on the climatic battle between Superman and General Zod in Man of Steel, immediately delivering to us a strong, caring, “more human” Bruce Wayne.  After a reminder of the worthless death and destruction and overpowering mayhem from MoS, it skinnied onto the political backlash Superman faces from the US government and the reaction of the people.  We dabble briefly in discovering what kind of Batman will be appearing in the movie, which is a tough-on-crime Batman that doesn’t seem to give much of a crap what he does to badguys anymore.  Then Lex Luthor is introduced and he begins to pit the capes against one another…for never thoroughly explained reasons between his monologues and tranquilities that try to match that of…I dunno, better screenwriting?  After a misguiding subplot in the desert and a brief stint around the world, the two icons meet and beat around the bush till they come head to head.  But a predicable bad decision on Lex’s side forces the two of them to fight together, and–gasp–Wonder Woman!–where did she come from?–jumps in and delivers such a brief and genuine performance that the feminists in the audiences will be standing up and cheering for (?).  Fight, boom, Wonder Woman gets hit ONCE (I counted), then we move from TDKR storyline to the early ’90s Superman story.  Although it’s been nearly two weeks since its release, I won’t spoil the ending.  And after a few words exchanged between the heroes, we conclude there are others in the world with superhuman powers and they need to join forces and protect the world.

Mic.  Drop.

Okay, Mr. Snyder.  What should I get out of this?

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I’m probably going a little harsh on Wonder Woman, here…so please don’t throw any more of your coffee and doughnuts at the screen and hear me out.  Gal Gadot was good…but she had barely enough screen time to make a lasting impression.  I got chills when she appeared in the suit with the other two monkeys, but her time in the movie didn’t offer anything extraordinary.  Now given her own feature film coming in 2017, I see a lot of potential in the character.  But until then, I can’t say that I was wowed.  But I blame that on the hype more than the script.  The plot could have been done without her in it.

Henry Cavill is a great Superman.  There was little character depth showcased in the film, so it’s hard to riddle his performance with praise.  I liked what he did near the beginning of the movie with Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and their brief scenes together, and he also did a great job as showing pain during the big fight.  He is a well-cast son of Krypton.

Ben Affleck.  Well…I don’t know why fans are so ecstatic about his portrayal of the Dark Knight.  While his performance is adequate, there is not very much to be seen.  Yet again, the movie did not exhibit enough character development or depth for me to pay any heed to Batfleck.  From watching this and Gone Girl (2014), I guess I can redeem him for Daredevil…but not much else.  He still has yet to wow me…if that day ever comes.

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Amy Adams and Jeremy Irons are well suited for their parts.  The logic for casting them is sound.  I will not touch on their roles except to say that they do their job well.  It’s hard for either of them to perform badly, right?

Eisenberg.  What.  The.  Heck.  My “Movie Thunder-Buddy” and co-writer of this blog warned me beforehand that Jesse Eisenberg delivers a completely new Luthor, and I should have an open mind about it.  I went in with an open mind.  And several hours after taking it in, I still can’t shake off how unoriginal or how heavy-handed his eccentricity was delivered.  While it was a slightly different performance and role than Jesse’s previous movies, I would have paid a buttload more to have seen the original casting consensus, which was Bryan Cranston.  Oh!–he would have been the bomb.  But BvS, tries to create an arch enemy for Superman that resembles too much of the Joker.  I love the Luthor from the Cartoon Network series Justice League Unlimited ten years ago.  They should have incorporated him in the matchup.  It could’ve worked.  Here, while I do not blame Jesse, I give the “credit” of this villain to Snyder.  I read recently that Eisenberg initially auditioned from Jimmy Olsen.  Well, that would have been a splendid three minutes of screentime for our Best Actor nominee.

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Now that we’re past the introductory mush of the cast, let’s focus on the biggest issue of all: Zach Snyder.

The guy needs to take some serious classes in character development and storylines and not just rely on comicbook visuals!!!  While the movie is infested with some spectacular scenery and camerawork, it could have been toned down to focus on the script–or even on the overzealous shaky-cam.  The fight scenes were mostly well orchestrated, as far as Batman was concerned, but I feel more credit is due to the stunt team than the director’s eye.  While the movie had some great moments and well-timed elements, there were too many scenes that were formulaic and over predictable that could have been dodged if a different director had been chosen.  That’s my opinion and I’m sticking too it.

Sadly, he’s already doing Justice League Part I and Part II…

Rotten Tomatoes, and most critics, have not been kind to Batman v Superman.  The website’s critical consensus reads, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice smothers a potentially powerful story – and some of America’s most iconic superheroes – in a grim whirlwind of effects-driven action.”  The movie has been polarized by critics and audiences alike, and while it had a huge box office opening, it has also nabbed one of the biggest box office plummets in history during its second weekend.

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My personal opinion of the movie is nothing special.  I believe there was a lot content stuffed into a somewhat predictable and sometimes cardboard-ish two and a half hours. But there were several moments that good screenwriter broke through and illuminated a potentially great story.  I will say that I was *slightly* pleasantly surprised with Ben Affleck and his try with the caped crusader.  I look forward to seeing a Batman film in the near future, and his small part in the upcoming Suicide Squad.  But even though it is filled with a (mostly) strong cast and achievable “wonder moments”, Zack Snyder proves to us that he is more interested in creating loyal puff-pieces from the comicbook page than the story and themes behind them.

A sad waste, I suppose I want to say.

It still did not stop me from enjoying myself.  Yes, I enjoyed the movie.  It was a definite step-up from the dull Man of Steel, but Justice League is going to have to take major leaps forward if it hopes to win over more audience members and critics alike.  Ditch Snyder, re-focus on the script, and you have the possibility to make something great.  For now, I’ll give it a B on our rating scale.  The extended cut might shed light on more character development opportunities that will boost my vote, but until then, it was a just-slightly above average superhero movie with terrific icons fighting each other.

I hope you enjoy.

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About Morgan

January 2016 Update: This blog is under reconstruction. Please be patient while we gradually remove old material, posts, and pages, and create new ones. Thank you.
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