Saturday, July 9, 2016

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 151 minutes

With the release of the DVD coming soon, I decided to jump ahead on my neverending list of movie review catch-ups to cover one of the most anticipated flicks of the year. I'm sure plenty of you Cult followers already have heard the many reviews of this movie upon its release in theaters; I know I have before seeing it about a week after opening weekend. After watching it in theaters, I knew I would have an absolutely fun time reviewing it for you.

While Superman battles with General Zod in Metropolis, Bruce Wayne steps onto the scene to help his company's workers through the destruction and witnesses the chaos surrounding him. Feeling infuriated with Superman's reckless actions, Bruce Wayne and the citizens of Metropolis decide whether Superman is a hero or a menace. Of course, Bruce Wayne takes matters into his own hands as Batman. Meanwhile, Clark Kent and Lois Lane deal with the controversy from Superman's fight eighteen months ago and LexCorp mogul Lex Luthor tries to harness Superman and General Zod's powers for his own benefit.

After the dark and lengthy Man of Steel, I once again was not excited for this movie, but I held a tiny bit of hope that Zack Snyder would learn from his mistakes. Upon seeing the previews for this movie, it seemed like more of the same with additional problems. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been very successful over the years and Warner Bros. attempted to play catch up in this sequel/prequel to Man of Steel and the upcoming "Justice League" movie, which is obviously a terrible mistake. Of course, I will go into this a little later. In short, this film did not prove to be promising and the reviews reflected that. Even my mom, who saw it before me, was not impressed by this addition to the franchise. So, were there any positives to this movie?

Yes, actually. While some people were skeptical of Ben Affleck's Batman due to his history in Daredevil, I totally forgot about that movie and had some faith he would be a great Bruce Wayne. I wasn't so sure about Batman, but he did a pretty good job. I quite enjoyed Batfleck and I look forward to more of him. Even in Man of Steel, I really had no problems with Henry Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman. I think he does exceptionally well with what he's given and I enjoyed watching him and Ben Affleck interact with each other, whether the costumes were on or off. Hopefully, their chemistry continues to build positively in any upcoming DC movies. Despite initial criticism of Gal Gadot's casting as Wonder Woman, she did pretty well in my book. She was both beautiful and strong and definitely held her own throughout this movie. I think the three of them make a decent team so far and hopefully the chemistry will get better with time (and maybe a better script). Man of Steel presented some hard to watch fighting scenes and this movie does improve with the lighting and slowing things down enough to process the action. The fight scenes between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel were very exciting, tense, and kept the adrenaline high. Aside from bringing the brightness up a few notches, the visuals remain appealing, although I still think the dark, grittiness you would see in Nolan's trilogy doesn't quite suit this movie. With some adjustments, I enjoyed Jeremy Irons' portrayal of Bruce's loyal butler Alfred. He really made the character his own and different than Michael Caine's performance. And...that's about it. Now for the fun part!

Like most reviews, I'm going to try my best not to mention any spoilers from the movie. I might skirt around them if need be, but I'll definitely give a warning if I do mention anything close to a spoiler. The biggest problem I had with this movie was the story. While it started off with some interesting, believable, potential conflict for our star superheroes, it didn't feel like it was utilized fully. In other words, the whole movie I had no idea what Bruce Wayne's motivation was to fight Superman. The movie tried to create some tension between them at Lex Luthor's party and during Batman's truck chase when Superman entered toward the end, I felt nothing. It just seemed like two kids calling each other "poopy head" and sticking their tongues out at each other. I had a vague idea of why Batman wanted to get rid of or even punish Superman, but the reason seems too flimsy and not well thought out. Then there was the second movie. You know the part where Lex Luthor tries to be this menacing, manipulative bad guy with Superman, while also being the most powerful person by experimenting on General Zod's body. Yeah, that didn't quite gel well with this story. In fact, I think it should've just been a Batman versus Superman story and save the Dawn of Justice for later. In short, it felt very disjointed somewhere in the middle and tried to do too much. As I said before, it wanted to be both a sequel and prequel and it failed at both because the story was over ambitious with its intentions (i.e. catching up to Marvel). I think if they focused on both parts of this story separately, it would've been executed slightly better. Only "slightly" because I still believe this pseudo-Nolan tone does not work for this film. Also, having two stories in one made the movie unnecessarily long and boring.

Along with the story, I had problems with the characters. Starting with the movie's shining heroes. While I enjoyed Batfleck, there were some story choices that got me puzzled. When starting with a new Batman, it's hard not to include the backstory with his parents and it's something that most people know by now after 2 live action franchises. I appreciated the way they approached his an extent. While I don't mind a little mental trauma from childhood tragedies, the way it was executed and edited just seemed weird to me. They kinda made Bruce Wayne seem unstable, especially when he approaches Superman with his issues. His fever dreams also seemed very distracting to the main storyline, like the script wanted to throw in that Bruce is still dealing with his past but distracting himself from it with his Superman or Lex Luthor obsession. I don't know. It doesn't work here and I think it could've been left out. I believe I mentioned this in my Man of Steel review, but I'm not that big of a fan of Superman. I find him kinda boring, but I can recognize when certain elements of his life are interesting. In Man of Steel, I was intrigued by his backstory and watching him grow up with his second set of parents. I don't know what happened here, but he just seems extra broody or something, like maybe they switched Bruce and Clark's personalities! While I understand that Clark is under a lot of stress after what happened in Metropolis with General Zod and company, but he doesn't say much and is just overall kinda mopey. His support system, mother Martha and Lois Lane, mostly just exist. Like Peter Parker's Aunt May, Martha provided hope and encouragement for Clark in Man of Steel. In this movie, she is simply a set piece. She doesn't give much wise words to lift her emo son and she also gets kidnapped. Definitely a waste of talent, along with Bruce's parents. While I like Amy Adams, her Lois still remains somewhat useless. It feels like every time she's given a task, it's meaningless to the overall picture. Sure, she comforts Clark in his time of need and tries to build him back up, but most of the time she seems to be fumbling around trying to fit into this ridiculous story. Going along with the female cast, I felt Gal Gadot was under-utilized as well. They put her into this nonsense and she didn't have much to do, until the end of the movie where she did the bulk of the work, in my eyes. I really wanted more of her, but the story kept going back and forth on whether it wanted to be a Justice League prequel or not. Therefore, her role definitely suffered. Shortly, the other member cameos seemed unnecessary and not really used much other than to tie in this prequel thing and getting fans hyped for the future DC Cinematic Universe. Lastly, we have Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. He was another casting choice that was criticized before the premiere. If you've read previous reviews here starring Mr. Eisenberg, then you know my feelings toward him. If you don't, then I'll let you know that they're not good feelings. I kinda agreed with the public that Bryan Cranston would've been a suitable Lex Luthor. I honestly don't know much about Lex, but the little snippets of his character I've seen over the years displays a charismatic, intellect that knows how to dabble in business and pleasure and Eisenberg's portrayal was over the top for me. I already find him quite annoy and lacking range, but I tried to put that aside when watching him as the respected mogul. Unfortunately, he channeled the Joker and became overly dramatic with his plans. He just really bothered me more than usual. Apparently, there's some rumor floating around that this character is really Lex Jr. or something, but sounds more like excuses to cover up the mix audience opinion. Aside from my annoyance, I kinda thought his motivations or at least his execution was a little weak. He just seemed a little all over the place, but a tiny part of me is curious what his fate may be in the DCCU.

Other problems I had was a dream sequence that Bruce has that dealt with fighting and the choreography was very stiff and lackluster, especially compared to the blows that him and Superman have later. The final third or fourth (whatever fraction) was a bit anti-climatic and silly. Also the conclusion to Superman's storyline was too soon and apparently lost its impact compared to the comic book. [link contains spoilers]

Unlike BlipMasta5 to some extent, I obviously didn't enjoy this film as much as he did. It's a borderline "good" film and one I'm not planning on revisiting, much like Man of Steel. I'm not even going to check out the extended R rated version, especially since it's 30 minutes longer and this already felt twice as long with its long dialogue pauses and just emptiness in execution. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had problems from the start and basically met most of my expectations. While I did enjoy Batfleck and there were improvements with the visuals, the story lacked impact and it tried to accomplish too much in one movie just to catch up with its rival. Obviously, I'll continue to follow the DCCU like most viewers, but I hope they learn from their mistakes and lighten up the tone.

Rating: 2.5/5

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