Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (aka Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The two most iconic superheroes in all of comics come together in an attempt to answer the debatable question: Who would win in a fight? Will the Kryptonian alien lay waste to the Batman or will the dark knight of Gotham smear Superman across the pavement? It’s a battle that was too enticing for director Zack Snyder to pass up. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be interested in anything else besides the main event.
For Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Snyder draws from a wealth of DC Comics material. He takes a heaping portion of The Dark Knight Returns, a dollop of the Superman Doomsday arc, a splash of Trinity (Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman team up), and a dash of Knightmare and mixes it all together. While he has a great eye for the best superhero comics, he misses much of what made these comics so unique.
We see an aged and bitter Batman (Ben Affleck) on a crusade for taking down Superman, but never delve deep enough into his descent to feel something more. We see a conflicted Superman (Henry Cavill) worried about how to approach the public that fear him, but we don’t have enough time to sympathize with his plight. We don’t even have time to understand Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and his psychotic obsession with playing a mad scientist to terminate Superman. Heck, the movie doesn’t have much time for anything in how it constantly spins its intricate plotlines in an attempt to provide setup for the eventual showdown.
And, let’s be honest, the action scenes are the only area where Snyder’s directorial talent shines. When Batman and Superman fight each other, it’s gritty, violent and brilliantly shot. Batman unloads his entire bag of gadgets on the man of steel, donning a clunky suit of powerful armor to even the playing field. Superman chucks the dark knight through walls with lightning-fast punches, using his heat vision to blaze through the smoke of night like a demon. There’s even a surprising amount of oomph when Wonder Woman joins the fight with her sword and shield, eager and thirsty for combat. These scenes seem to have the most attention with several unique camera angles, believable blows and, for a few brief moments, a sense of excitement.
But there’s a hollowness to these fight scenes in that they haven’t properly earned the emotional development of character - and that’s saying something for a movie that’s 2½ hours. We briefly touch on how Batman’s experience with Superman’s collateral damage has shaped him into a harsher vigilante. Bruce Wayne has taken a darker path and the movie only lets us follow his descent more as bystanders. Given even less time on screen is Superman’s sadness in trying to limit his powers and prevent further destruction. We should be feeling something in these characters so that by the time they trade fists there is an emotional resonance behind each punch. This effect could have been realized if only there were more time given to explore their characters and perhaps some better dialogue. The writing is so tiresomely repetitive in the first act bantering that it might as well just be Batman and Superman growling at each other. Even Snyder becomes so bored with a court hearing scene that he throws in an explosion.
So what’s eating up all of the screen time from the more interesting scenes? It’s a combination of plot scheduling and shameless cameo insertion. Lex Luthor keeps fight night on schedule by staging threats, deaths and kidnappings against both Batman and Superman. Why is he doing all this? It could be the daddy issues he briefly mentions or the orders of interdimensional gods - both of which are eluded to in his rantings. Again, his motivations could have been made clear if there were only time to focus on him. But there isn't even time for that as the plot attempts to shoehorn in Wonder Woman as well as quick glimpses of future Justice League members. Such promotion for building the franchise makes the forced cameos within Iron Man 2 seem subtle in comparison. I must admit that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does breathe some life into the third act, but it comes as too little too late as if scenes from a more engaging superhero movie were spliced into the picture. There is even extra time wasted with two, count them, TWO dream sequences in a row.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is overstuffed with so many great elements from the comics that are unfortunately filtered down into a mess of a movie. It bears a striking similarity to Snyder’s treatment of Watchmen in which he lifts some grand material, but does not have the skill to translate it to the screen. I wish I weren’t aware of all the material Zack Snyder uses in this picture because it probably appears rather bold and unique for those not familiar with the sources. I wanted to enjoy this picture because I love the comics and these characters, but this movie is ultimately a disappointment because it could have been so much more if it only had less.