2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments, but is overall bad)
Note: I have since watched the 3-hour version of this film (dubbed “The Ultimate Edition”) which, while not perfect, fixes some of the story and pacing problems I mention here. As well, I came to realize that Ben Affleck’s actual performance in the film wasn’t the problem, but rather the way he was written and characterized. Please keep this in mind when reading the review. Enjoy!
Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (a title chosen solely to set up the next installment of the DC Cinematic Universe) is one of the dumbest, most disjointed comic book movies I have ever seen, as well as having the most laughable title in recent years. The character motivations (something very important for this to work) are non-existent, as is any inkling of a coherent plot. Add to that the most embarrassing portrayal of Batman ever to hit cinema (yes, even George Clooney did a better job), and a painfully overstuffed feel, and you have a recipe for a film that will go down in history as how not to do a modern superhero movie.
The numerous plots here involve: the people of earth questioning whether or not Superman (Henry Cavill) should be allowed to have so much power without anyone to answer to, Batman/Bruce Wayne (A depressingly horrible Ben Affleck) scowling at the camera and talking with Jeremy Irons (providing a fine Alfred), Lois Lane (Amy Adams) following an investigation about a magic bullet, and, the most interesting of them all, mad genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg doing a great job, as he is at least Acting and seems like he wants to be there) getting his hands on Kryptonian technology and using it to unleash a giant monster on the city of Metropolis. And oh yeah, Wonder Woman (a gorgeous Gal Gadot) shows up at the end to help fight said giant monster. Does any of this make sense? If it does, then you, great reader, must have a very hard-working brain, because I could not keep mine on to enjoy the jumbled proceedings.
The problems with this movie are endless. First, we don’t know why Batman is mad at Superman. Their rivalry is well-established in the comic books, but here, we can only assume that he hates him because Supe’s actions have made it hard for other heroes to do what they do. Second, this plot is all over the place. If you thought Spider-Man 3 was a pinball machine in terms of its narrative, then this will be like trying to ace a Calc 2 test in the 2nd grade. It feels like the filmmakers had ideas for 3 different movies and ended up crushing them together in the best way they could. The comics this movie borrows from are some of the most respected in all of comic book history, so there is a good story in here somewhere. It’s too bad that Zack Snyder and crew could not portray what that story was, or we may have had a decent movie at the very least.
In terms of acting, Ben Affleck is a terrible Batman, not intimidating in any way. Especially coming off of Christian Bale’s arguably definitive portrayal, Affleck is laughable in the role. However, he is an even worse Bruce Wayne. All Bruce Waynes have flirted with women endlessly, but this one seems like he hasn’t had interest in women in ages. He has one encounter with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman early on, but does not flirt with her at all. Affleck makes Bruce come off more like a killer than a playboy billionaire, which is shocking, considering that Ben Affleck is playing him. For everyone who thought his portrayal of Daredevil was bad, this film will shut them up.
Jesse Eisenberg is a revelation compared to everyone else. His take on Lex is funny, maniacal, self-absorbed, and, most of all, interesting to watch. Whenever Lex was onscreen, I was invested, whenever he wasn’t, I couldn’t care less about the events in the film. I didn’t clock it, but I think he got more screen time than Superman did. Superman should not feel sidelined in his own movie, but that is what happened here. The other note of mention is Jeremy Irons as Alfred. He was entertaining to watch, as most of his lines are witty comebacks to Batman, but Michael Caine will forever be Alfred to me. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman (the first big-screen incarnation) was quite enticing.
Everything else about the movie feels like a big budget amateur hour. The writing is ridiculous, the pacing sluggish, and the overall plot confusing. The action in it is fine, when it is there. Speaking of that, the actual fight between Batman and Superman comes near the end of the film, the end of the over 2 and a half hour movie. To pour salt on the wound, the reason for said fight is so idiotic that I laughed out loud in my theater when it finally came up. There is also a logical inconsistency here: Why can Superman use his powers to solve a problem one minute and not use them for a very similar problem five minutes later? How does Lex gain access to as much information as he does? Finally, why does Batman hate Superman so much? We understand that he is mad at him, but we don’t understand why. Of course, all of this nonsense leads up to yet another fight with a CGI monster that could have been avoided if someone had used their common sense. On a more minor note, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams still lack chemistry together, a problem that seriously needs to be remedied for me to care about the Superman/Lois relationship.
All in all, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a movie that will be made fun of by college boys for years to come for its nonexistent narrative, horrible character motivations, and dumb conclusion. I would Redbox it.
At the end of our showing, the audience applauded politely. I can only assume they were overjoyed that the train wreck had reached its conclusion.
Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violence and Action Throughout, and Some Sensuality
PS: Apparently, there will be an R-rated cut of this released on DVD that will have more violence. Because THAT is what this movie needed. (yep, the 3-hour version was actually better, 2016 Kevin).