Batman V Superman arrives with an astounding thud
The battle of the century. Man vs God. The bat of Gotham vs son of Krypton. However it was advertised, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is here. Whether that is a good thing or not is another topic altogether.
Fresh from the polarizing reviews and comments of Superman’s last outing, Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder has made it his mission to explain away the most egregious problems of that film. On the day Superman (Henry Cavill) fought for the survival of all humans against General Zod, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) was on the ground facing the conflict with the civilians. From Wayne’s point of view, the image of Superman meant the inevitable destruction of the human race. Thus, Bruce Wayne or Batman which the film painfully reminds the audience of the origin story over the opening credits, has a seemingly personal vendetta against Superman.
Batman isn’t the only problem Superman has these days. Louis Lane (Amy Adams) has questions about the strength of their relationship. A new evil menace in the form of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has appeared. Add in the half of a planet’s civilization believing you are evil and Superman has a lot on his plate. Among all these different plot developments that would’ve been enough for a full-featured Superman film, Batman V Superman also carries the burden of introducing characters that will make up the Justice League. A competent director would’ve had a whole lot of difficulty putting this together. That director Zack Snyder failed isn’t a surprise. What is a bigger surprise, is just how gloriously bad the entire venture seems to be. Snyder tried to fix Man of Steel from the first frames of Batman V Superman, but he did so while falling back at his weaknesses. Misguided sex scenes, increased body count, and 9/11 symbolism all do their best to damage the DC comics brand.
The Batman depicted in Batman V Superman is straight out of one of DC’s best-selling trades of all-time, The Dark Knight Returns. The 1986 Frank Miller penned story shows an old, no holds barred Batman, one that does not live by the ethics of “do not kill”. Snyder’s Batman, follows these rules extremely close, as his Batman is evil to his very core. He often complains about the damage Superman is doing on the world, while racking up his own personal body count.
Jesse Eisenberg is a fine actor. He has been terrific in films like The Double, Social Network, and The End of the Tour. His Lex Luthor in Batman V Superman might be the biggest miscast in Superhero feature history. Every time he appears on screen he is distracting, whether it is his poorly written lines or if he’s hopped up on some kind of substance. He doesn’t seem to want to be there and it is obvious to the point of parody. Those hoping he was only miserable in the trailer aren’t going to be happy with the finished product.
Everyone else is solid with what they are given. Lawrence Fishburne and Gal Gadot are the standouts given their brief time on screen. While she doesn’t appear in the main marquee, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman provides hope that her solo outing will be enjoyable. Henry Cavill has the unfortunate luxury of being second fiddle in his own sequel. It’s almost as if the powers that be at Warner Bros and DC have finally decided that Superman alone can’t carry a movie the way they want him to. They try to cram a seminal Superman comic book series plot near the end of the movie, but the emotional beats ring hallow. Synder and his co-writters haven’t earned what they are going for and it’s more that they could do it, not that they should.
Batman V Superman tries to be a lot of different things. It wants to be a Superman sequel, a Batman origin story, mix in two best-selling comic books, and set up future Justice League movies. It fails on most of those ideas, instead being one of the worst Batman movies and one of the worst Superman movies at the same time. Warner Bros and DC were too hasty and didn’t spend the time needed to build these characters to a point where this story line would make sense at all. Perhaps they misjudged director Zack Snyder and his ability to guide such an important entry in DC history. Whatever the case might be, Batman V Superman is a misfire of massive proportions and doesn’t just start the Justice League off on the wrong foot. They aren’t even in the right galaxy.