Movie Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I initially told myself I wasn’t going to watch this movie, not after the horrible trailer that revealed everything (bad movie trailers deserve their own blog post, but I don’t want to raise my blood pressure), but it was an excuse to hang out with a friend, so I went in expecting and wanting to hate it, and in a real-life plot twist, I ended up liking it.

Don’t get me wrong, you have to be in a certain type of mood in order to enjoy this movie; specifically your brain has to be turned off and you have to not care about plot holes. Other than that, this film was pretty kickass. From my understanding, the Internet hasn’t been kind to BvS, so this review may stand out as one of the few which are willing to talk about the good things, but, as always, we will also talk about the bad things, followed by some serious discussion on the art of cinema, so let’s get on with it.

The Good

The biggest strength of this film is the casting (with one notable exception that will be discussed below). Ben Affleck just might be the best Batman/Bruce Wayne in film history. The 90s had Batmans who were similar to James Bond, and Nolan’s Batman edged closer to what the Dark Knight really was, but with Affleck we see an older Batman moulded by decades of facing Gotham’s most depraved. He’s rough, tired, and less idealistic than when he started out, and it was great seeing this other side of Batman. I didn’t grow up with the other Superman movies, but Henry Cavill’s performance is just as believable, and he looks like a good Superman, doesn’t he? Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, and Gal Gadot round off the excellent cast list.

I think something that goes understated in film is pacing, except when it’s bad. Good pacing is difficult to notice, because when it’s good the audience isn’t supposed to notice it. Instead, the movie breezes by and it’s over before we know it, and that’s what BvS felt like. With the exception of the ending, everything was given just the right amount of screen time, from Alfred’s witty banter to Luthor’s diabolical expositions.

A major reason why the pacing worked was because the fight scenes were great. They were well choreographed and mercifully shot without shaky-cam. Everything was clear, and we could actually see what was going on. The actual Batman vs. Superman fight was also really good. Everyone knows Superman would beat Batman in a fistfight, but the movie executes the scenario where Batman comes out on top with success.

It was at this moment that Superman knew he effed up.
It was at this moment that Superman knew he effed up.

With regards to the smaller fights, there are many that will object to the amount of killing Superman and (especially) Batman does in the film. They are, after all, the heroes, and Batman explicitly has a non-lethal code of conduct. However, I found myself enjoying watching Batman go all out, with nothing holding him back. It was different, and because the scenes were shot so well it was enjoyable. I’m not a fan of a Batman killing, but after dismissing this film ever since I watched the trailer, in my mind this movie takes place in some alternate universe, and telling myself that is how I go to sleep at night.

I do believe anyone can enjoy this film, provided they don’t take it too seriously. BvS is way better than other obvious cash-grabs (see Avengers: Age of Ultron, Dark Knight Rises), and it does seem as if the producers put some effort and love into this project, though they didn’t get everything right, and sometimes they tried to fit in too much.

The Bad

The tradition of goofy Lex Luthor continues with Jesse Eisenberg, but it’s not the actor’s fault. I think I have an idea of why Eisenberg was cast in the role. In an effort to modernize classic superheroes, the producers may have decided it was time to turn Luthor into a CEO of today: trendy, young, and quirky. A lot of movies have also tried to copy Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds, but I don’t think any of them have succeeded, nor will they for a long while. It was the overall style and character of the film that gave Christopher Waltz’s performance the opportunity to shine; sticking that kind of antagonist randomly into your film in an attempt to imitate that charm is a mistake, and that is what BvS has done. Luthor as a socially awkward loudmouth is inferior to Luthor as the calm and collected man of calculating hostility.

Great portrait. Unfortunate role.
Great portrait. Unfortunate role.

The second major thing that bothered me was often the film became sloppy. A couple of time it does the cheap trick of “it was only just a dream!”, and while comic book fans may appreciate whatever references may have been going on, I was utterly confused, even though I sensed there was something important going on. If you want your comic-book movie to succeed, it seems unwise to cater only to comic book fans while excluding regular action movie fans. The abundance of plot holes was also very distracting, most noticeably near the end, and I got the feeling they had written themselves into a corner, and scrambled for any half-baked idea to wrap things up. How did Lois know to go back and retrieve the Kryptonite spear? Why did Luthor suddenly know everyone’s identity? It seemed as if once one character knew something, every other character knew it via shared telepathy. Maybe this was the result of bad editing, and there are probably extra scenes that cover this, but bad editing is still bad film-making.

Also, the ending’s main villain was weak and ineffectual. It was a biological creation gone wrong, and merely became something that had to be punched to death. It had no story and no character, and to make it worse it was all CG. These elements all combined to form a villain that just doesn’t really matter, which is pretty bad since the audience has already dismissed Luthor as a serious threat.

Lastly, the final ten minutes of the film seemed completely unnecessary. We all know Superman didn’t die, because 1) he’s Superman, and 2) Justice League is coming. Both within and without the movie, audiences knew he wasn’t dead, so why spend so much time on the funeral? One of the great things BvS did was show the closing events of Man of Steel at the beginning, and I think this funeral may have been better placed at the beginning of the Justice League film. In that context, it would’ve served the purpose of starting the heroes at a disadvantage, and contribute to the League’s formation arc. As it is, all the mourning and the funeral scenes were pointless, and audiences knew it as they were watching it, so why bother?

The Gladiator Match of the Century

The only question is: how much planning does Batman have?
The only question is: how much planning does Batman have?

Despite having more complaints than compliments, I think I ultimately like this film because it stayed true to the titular characters. Both characters were recognizable and their original characterizations were familiar. It’s a strange thing to admit; there are very few bad movies that I actually like. I think I may have even given it a chance because who can say no to Superman fighting Batman? It’s a childhood fantasy, and this film does it right. The story wasn’t riveting, but it’s better than fanfiction; the performances by the actors were exceptional (minus one); and the movie was spaced out evenly, not too much action and not too much dialogue, and just the right amount of time in between.

BvS isn’t perfect, and some may think it’s a shame considering the two famous characters involved, but it’s still a well-made film, which is more than what most superhero films can say. With all this in mind, I’m actually looking forward to seeing what the Justice League movies come up with, as this film does a great job nabbing us onto the hype train.

In Conclusion…

If you’re a Batman or Superman fan, you’ve probably already seen the film and enjoyed it. If you’re undecided, I recommend watching this film if you’re into action, or even just a casual fan who watched the cartoons growing up. It’s a good action movie, where plot and sensibility take a back seat and the explosions and punches are triple-A.

If you’re reading this having already seen the movie and was wondering about the general consensus, I hope my review has been fair and somewhat thought-provoking. Externally, this film is an interesting example of when fan reviews may be more accurate than professional reviews. The film’s current score of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes seems skewered and unfair, though it’s good to see fan reviews more favourable. I definitely agree that this film is likely a six or seven out of ten, but then again, I am a Batman fanboy.

This has been a gamobo review.

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