BATMAN V. SUPERMAN
REVIEW BY GARETH
29-MARCH-2016 Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Comedian is killed right in the beginning, there’s this big mystery everyone is trying to uncover using a bunch of flashbacks and forwards. Oh, and it’s directed by Zack Snyder. That’s right, it’s Batman v Superman.
I’ll be upfront and honest about my initial reactions to the movie. Reading and watching all the promotional material that came out leading up to the release made me feel upset with the tone and direction. I went in to the movie trying to be as neutral as possible to give it a fair shot, and I like to think I can be fairly balanced in my opinions where reviewing is concerned. Maybe I was having a fan-reaction to what they cut into a trailer, and it wasn’t all that bad?
The short review: I did not like this movie, and thought it was a total mess of a presentation.
I’ll touch on several notable areas for a more clear reason for why I feel the way I do, and in order regarding how they affected me.
Without spoiling any of the major story beats, be prepared for a lot of 9/11 imagery in the opening moments. It sets the tone for the whole movie, arguing the pros and cons of Superman after the events of Man of Steel through talking heads. It uses it as a springboard for everything and doesn’t pull punches.
The movie runs really long for the story it’s trying to tell. It feels like there is maybe 40 minutes or so of footage they could have easily cut out to smooth the movie into a better narrative. In their ambition to lay as much groundwork as possible for a larger universe there are many scenes that make the movie choppy. This bad editing often leaves you totally confused as a viewer. With extra scenes I’m sure it would be cleared up, but as a theatrical cut they should have been removed entirely.
Several scenes are entirely disconnected they could have been better serving to the audiences to move them to the credits as zingers. Marvel has trained fans to stay through the credits and those scenes would be better served during the credits of this movie.
The CGI effects are better this time around but still jarringly obvious where they splice footage in. The zoom in and out during action is also jarring. I don’t like the overuse of the handheld camera method of filming action scenes, and the movie is full of it.
Ben Affleck makes a fine Bruce Wayne and is an effective Batman. I had no problem with him in the movie as an actor or his acting. He does seem like he’s tired all the time, but that is also the angle I think they are trying to use. Being Batman is hard work and they show it.
We get glimpses of his origin, thankfully only briefly. The changes they make personally feel like sacrilege, as they seem gratuitous and have no impact anywhere else in the story.
This Batman is an essential copy of the character from Dark Knight Returns, except much younger in his career according to the movie. It doesn’t hold up when you think about it too hard, but that’s the route they are taking. He shoots people with guns, smashes cars purposefully and brands people to mark them in jail. If you’ve read any comics with Batman in the last 40 years, Frank Miller aside, you will not like this version.
Henry Cavill is once again, visually perfect for Superman. The main problem this time around is that he give the sense that everything is a chore for him. It’s like he regrets having to do anything as Superman. There is no wide-eyed innocence to the character, and like in Man of Steel, the portrayal suffers for it.
Gal Gadot is great and I’m glad they allowed her to use an accent. It’s unfortunate we only have the briefest of time with her. I can’t say too much regarding her as it plays into the greater plot, but she was probably one of the only decent things about the movie.
Where to even start with Luthor? Once again we have an over the top crazy portrayal of the character that started with Gene Hackman. I wish for once we would have calm and wholly collected Lex like we have in the comics or the animated series for that matter. Instead, we have the stereotypical presentation of extreme intelligence being shown as an unstable psychopath. There is no subtlety here.
I think Zack Snyder can direct well if circumstances allow it. I think he was perfect for 300. I thought he did the best job anyone could have asked for with Watchmen (though, I can only ever watch the Ultimate Cut they produced). I think this is the primary flaw in both Man of Steel, and now Batman v Superman. To put it in comic book terms, he’s alright directing movies in the Vertigo vein — content directed at mature audiences. He uses that point of reference for something that would be a DCU movie and it feels wrong.
Batman v Superman takes the majority of the concepts, both narrative and visual, directly from the Frank Miller school of arts. It’s the director’s go-to catalog for style; and I stand by my opinion to this day that it is the wrong direction for any unified movie universe for DC Comic properties.
Keeping with the comic book analogies, if this movie is any indication to where the greater film universe is going we are in trouble as fans. We’re on track for a New 52 through the eyes of Miller world of stories. It may make money for the studio, but like what seems to be going on with Deadpool, the studios will learn the wrong lessons. New 52 had a great launch as far as sales are concerned, but creators and fans quickly left the publisher and sales dropped off tremendously as the years moved on.
If it’s any indication that I may not be alone in my opinions, you just need to list to my fellow audience members during the screening. There were kids next to us who several times during the movie voiced their confusion as to what is going on. They were confused by legitimate issues with the film, not just from not paying attention. Issues I also had to make leaps of logic to address, having read comics for many years and occasionally just ignoring about the movie. Once the credits began to roll, many members of the audience also were quite vocal about how bad they thought the film was. We had a full theater and I could hear them from all over the auditorium.
As I said before, this was far from a good film and JLA needs a major course correction before it arrives.