March 26, 2016

Movie Review: Batman v Superman - Dawn of Justice

I sit here contemplating if I should bother writing about this movie. There is both good and bad to the movie, but no real effect to be done by my words. Besides, I have seen what it has turned my Facebook feed into. It is at a level of disharmony that I thought was reserved for political discussion, which I generally try to avoid (generally). On top of that, there has already been so much written about the film that anything I saw would disappear into the echo chamber (pretty much like everything else I write). Not to mention the cyclical, few times a year, backlash against critics, including a crazy claim of writers being paid off for bad reviews. Ridiculous.

I think the biggest problem lying between myself and a lot of other people is the fact that I did not like the movie. I am not going to say hate as a lot of people have (at least not in a forum such as this), that is hyperbole that does not really fit how I feel. There are elements that I like about the movie, but there is too much that I don’t like that kept me from enjoying it. I think it also ties into the fact that I did not like Man of Steel. This is the continuation of that vision, only put into high gear to jump start a Justice League film. It almost seems like a reaction to what Marvel has done and an attempt to play catch up. Perhaps not, just an outside the movie thought.

I did not go in to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (a rather unwieldy title that seems to warn you it is more about setting up the subtitle than it is about the top billed herows) wanting to dislike it. Sure, I was skeptical based on its predecessor, as well as the trailers not exactly winning me over. Deep down I wanted to like it, even as I joked around about how it was going to suck. The one consistent piece all through the marketing was that I liked what I saw of Ben Affleck as Batman. He looks the part, not a young spry fresh out of the academy Batman, but a grizzled man who has seen a lot of ugliness the world has to offer, who has taken that ugliness, merged with it and came out the other side a grim, brooding fellow trying to protect who he can.

The movie sets up an interesting premise that immediately puts DC’s top two heroes at odds, by tying it to the destruction that occurred in Man of Steel. Batman sees the potential threat an all powerful alien could pose, not matter how benevolent he may appear to be. Batman sees this as a threat that must be dealt with. On the other side of the coin is Superman, an extremely powerful being who is struggling with his place in the world and how he relates to humanity. Not a bad set up and immediately gives us the conflict needed to get these two to fight. Unfortunately, it is about two hours before we get to that fight and the intervening time is filled with subplots setting up future movies and a larger universe and keep the movie from ever gaining any real momentum.

There some great shots and some great visuals, but I felt like it kept getting sidetracked. There was no real flow to the film. While so much of it looks great, the narrative flow is choppy at best, non-existent at worst. It moves from one subplot to the next, introducing all manner of character without any rhyme or reason. It just a dark, grim mess of storytelling.

Even now, I feel the whole thing just slipping away from me. There is no personality, no wit, no entertainment. It does target some lofty aspirations, but it never achieves liftoff. When it was over I felt a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

The problems with the film lie in the writing and the editing. The writing is unfocused and scattered, the editing brings no flow, the result is a boring movie that generally looks pretty. Director Zack Snyder does have a way with visuals, it all is very nice looking. The acting is mostly decent, I mean, there is only so much the cast can do if the script isn’t there.

I think there could have been a great movie here. If the screenplay was stripped of the universe setups and focused on the main part of the title (you know, the Batman v Superman part), this truly could have been one of the great ones. If you want to use the argument that you need to be familiar with the comic books to understand it, go ahead, I just think that is a bad argument. Just like for any adaptation where that is a defense, it just means the film is poorly made. The movie needs to stand on its own.

I recognize this is not much of a review, and I do not have much to add one way or the other outside the fact I do not like it. If you like it or love it, I am happy for you, your experiences have led you to a different viewing than I. I do not mean that in any patronizing fashion, we all know I have been on the other side loving movies everyone else hates.

I will say this does leave me excited for a new solo Batman movie with Affleck in the suit. As far as the Justice League goes, I am not so sure. I think this DC cinematic universe is very much a work in progress.

Not Recommended.

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