MOVIE REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice | FanboysInc

MOVIE REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

By Buddy Beaudoin

Batman v Superman

Writers: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer

Director: Zack Snyder

PG-13

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film that lives up to its historical context in the massive realm of DC comic books and their contained universe. Nearly every character is a cut and dry version of some DC tale. That straightforwardness and representation in the DC movie universe is an excellent form of fanservice, but ultimately, it’s where the film runs into trouble.

MOVIE REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman decked out in his armor, full brooding mode.

We open, yet again, on the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne and are once more given visions of flung pearls juxtaposed over a young Bruce Wayne falling into the cave that will ultimately become his home – for better or for worse. This scene is iconic. It’s a staple of any Batman origin retelling, and everyone recognizes it as such. The problem here is that it does nothing for this film. We aren’t given any other link to a Batman origin. We aren’t even given any character development of Batman as the film progresses. He’s the same Batman at the beginning of the film as he is at the end of the film. What’s more, is that this scene is repeated later in the film in one of a few Bruce Wayne dream sequences – time that could have been spent developing Bruce’s relationships.

From here, we’re reminded of the events of Man of Steel. Since this is essentially a direct sequel, the “Previously On” style of storytelling didn’t hurt. In fact, it opened the film up for possibly one of its only real touching character moments. As Superman fights his war, crashing through buildings and burning them up with his eyes, Metropolis is falling down around him. We’re taken back to Bruce Wayne, fully grown, and racing through the city in an effort to get his people out of the Wayne Enterprises building in Metropolis. This disaster scene sets the groundwork for humanizing the war between gods playing out in the background and establishes the basic theme. Furthermore, this scene is a perfect representation of what Batman is to the world. As Bruce Wayne, he saves a little girl from certain death. In her eyes, he’ll forever be a hero. Conversely, one of his employees is trapped under a steel beam. Bruce, being only a man, is unable to save him and the guy loses his legs. This employee, and the rage that he now harbors for Bruce, later becomes one of the catalysts for the Superman v Batman showdown. The expression here, in the duality of Batman as a character, is spot on.

Moving forward, the film is a series of schemes on behalf of Lex Luthor that fuels the nation, including Batman, into a firestorm that’s raging right towards Superman. This is a thing that they’ve done differently. Yes, in some ways it’s a reflection of the darker sides of Frank Miller’s storytelling of Superman, but for the most part, holding Superman accountable for destroying half of Metropolis is something that is typically not done. These scenes work pretty well in that they help Clark to question and understand human morality. He learns about the weight of consequences. He learns that, even though he was entirely justified and ultimately saved the city from total destruction, he can be as easily vilified as anyone else. This little bit of development, however, is again all that we get. Superman is largely the same character throughout the whole film. The saving grace of that is, though even though he acts like a brooding teenager and is put in some pretty melodramatic situations regarding Lois, he still acts out of wanting to do what is best for the people, which is who Superman is at the most basic level.

MOVIE REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

He’s like a god. Get it?

What Lex’s scenes really capture is the fear. Batman is driven by fear of Superman having so much power, and he uses fear as his weapon. Though, we’re not given much on Wonder Woman, what small amount of camera time she gets is dedicated to driving her fear as well. This is where the Lex scenes get interesting: While he’s spending his time scheming, learning, and plotting to make Superman the villain of the story. Batman and Wonder Woman aren’t buying into it. They’re researching Lex. During this time, Superman is having a crisis of faith.

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What’s included in the body of the film is a lot of the aforementioned fanservice. We’re given glimpses into, perhaps, some other storylines through Bruce Wayne’s dream sequences. One puts him in an Injustice scenario, warning him about the death of Lois lane and Superman’s rise to power. The other seems to keep to that, showing a post-apocalyptic version of Gotham and Metropolis in which Batman uses guns to fight off Superman’s troops which seem to include the Black Beetle. Again, a lot of this points to Injustice, but also gives nods to stories like Superman: Red Son. Without a doubt, these are the most Frank Miller-like scenes in the film. They’re the darkest forms of both characters, and while Batman doesn’t have a whole lot of morality in the rest of the film, he has just about none in this sequence. What is unclear, however, is how any of this pertains to the film we’re watching. All of these scenes seem to lead more into setting up the rest of the DC film universe rather than furthering the story at hand. We’re even given little glimpses into upcoming members of the Justice League as Bruce and Diana uncover Lex’s plans.

The body of the film is also where the pace seems to crawl. Make no mistake, there is forward motion here. We are given a beginning, middle, and end, and we’re set on a linear path through them. The thing that makes the pacing so difficult to view is that there’s no relationship between the characters. Everyone just acknowledges that everyone else exists, and that’s about it. Even Bruce and Alfred don’t seem to really have any sort of connection to one another. Alfred doesn’t question much of what Bruce does. In fact, between being kind of just a placeholder in the film, and the work that he does with Batman’s technology, Alfred is almost more of a Lucius Fox character.

MOVIE REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Lexy Eisenberg is actually pretty entertaining

During all this time, while the characters aren’t developing, the plot is. Everyone is learning what they need to learn to get to the final fight of the movie. There’s even a training montage featuring the buffest version of Ben Affleck that you’ve ever seen. Then, suddenly, the film’s crescendo hits and Lex’s plan snaps into action. This is one of the better things in the film. Lex is behind everything, the whole time, whether subversively or explicitly, and this scene comes in an instant and Lex is holding all the cards. Now, the world seems to have been quite worried about Jesse Eisenberg’s ability to play Lex Luthor, but it’s the best Lex in some time. He’s the smartest man in the DC Universe. Rather than keep him a quiet character, he’s flamboyant. He wrestles with his own genius. He’s outrageous and on the forefront of the film while still moving all of the pieces in the background. He’s actually the perfect Lex. So, it’s only fitting that, not only are these two juggernauts tearing each other apart, but also that Doomsday make his appearance and spring forth a wealth of Dragonball Z-style fight scenes.

MOVIE REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Hi, Doomsday. Wanna fight?

The film sees its end as you’d expect once Doomsday shows up. These fight scenes are a lot of fun and the visual effects are pretty great. They’ve gone with more of a New 52 style Doomsday, and it works well. What is annoying during these scenes, is the filmmakers need to constantly remind us that all of this fighting is happening in uninhabited parts of the respective cities. It’s as if they’re saying “Hey, we heard you saw Man of Steel. Please don’t hate us for this.” More than that, it’s a little distracting to what’s going on and actually takes away, again, from any of the screen time that Wonder Woman had been given.

MOVIE REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Wonder Woman, making a meal out of her allotted screen time.

As both a fan and a critic, taking a firm position on this film was akin to making the choice of whether or not I would put my hand in a bear trap for $10,000. Sure, I’d come out of it with some shiny things, but the shiniest of things would be my new metal hand. The characters, in reference to how they would act in a Frank Miller inspired universe were all done well. However, the film as it is presented is not. Just about everything is flat, and fanservice is not enough to serve as a life preserver. So while it’s easy to hear the fans when they say that this movie is for fans and not for critics, the fact remains that it is a movie and it should be criticized as such. Saying that something is for fans and not for critics is like saying “if you don’t like steak, you probably just haven’t had a good steak yet.” This is art, and art is subjective.

The “Best There Is:” It was fantastic to see all of these characters together. Batman’s fighting scenes were beautiful and played out just like comic book panels. Everyone acted like they were in the Frank Miller universe, and it maintained the integrity of the darkness surrounding them. Superman V Humanity was a surprisingly interesting take on the character, but the real winner among everything was Lex as played by Jesse Eisenberg.

The “Not Very Nice:” Unfortunately, all of the beautiful Frank Miller characterization is bungled by the missteps of the plot. Snyder and company managed to miss an overwhelming amount of story beats, and give almost zero consideration to how these characters would form relationships with one another. In a film that is clearly a setup to a more ambitious Justice League, not being able to tie your characters together is a rough start.

FBI Score: 6 out of 10. This film is half great tribute to the Frank Miller legacy, and half not knowing how to tell that story. It deserves that extra point for the moments when it managed to be entertaining enough to make you forget that it had gotten stagnant, but on the whole, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is difficult to swallow.  

 

Buddy Beaudoin

Buddy Beaudoin is a writer and independent comic creator from Upstate, NY. He's a fan of tea, spacey music, and a nice pair of slacks. He LOVES comics. Batman, Swamp Thing, and Jonah Hex are some favorites, but he's also a pretty big fan of the indies. Should you ever need him, walk outside and yell his name loudly...

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