“Fight Night! The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world, Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham, God versus Man!” – Lex Luthor Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
That one line perfectly encapsulates the hype surrounding this movie over the past three years. Some of us have waited thirty years to see these two Titans of modern mythology fight on the silver screen. The question on everyone’s mind since this movie was announced in 2013 has been, “will it live up to the hype?” The answer is unfortunately, no. That does not mean Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was a terrible film; it simply means that, like a lot of films, it had its flaws and failed to live up to the expectations of a public that has been dreaming of this movie their entire life.
There were many good and exciting parts of this movie and the future of the DCEU as a whole. The performances, with few exceptions, were sublime, particularly Ben Affleck’s Batman. Many were doubtful of his casting when it was first announced, but his performance as a grizzled and more violent Batman was near perfect and should be able to carry the DCEU the way Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has carried the X-Men franchise and Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man has carried the MCU. His ability to exhibit rage and consternation through body language and facial expressions was truly impressive. Henry Cavill made the most of what he was given in his performance of Superman. While I found there to be too many moments where he is depressed at his place in the world and at the public controversy surrounding Superman, he shows the ability to present himself as both purely human and supremely God-like at the same time. Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, was fantastic and her brief role in this made me very excited for her solo film. She is strong and fierce, and truly enjoys engaging in battle. While not the ideal characterization of Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg jumps head first into his performance. He is sociopathic and philanthropic, genius and insane, all at the same time. He seems to truly believe in what he is doing, and sees Superman and other Meta-Humans as a threat to planetary security.
The combat and action on a whole was very well choreographed and shot and the CGI, with one major exception I’ll get to later, is mostly unnoticeable and well done. The Batman combat is the best part of this film. The fight scenes reminded me of the Arkham Batman games and they are the best translation of his fighting style in the comic books that I have ever seen. The major battle between Batman and Superman was a lot of fun, albeit very brief. They were able to make the fight believable and used tactics that allowed Batman to go toe to toe with Superman, while not diminishing Superman’s obvious advantages.
With all that being said this movie makes some very bizarre choices, and I believe most of the blame for this movie’s flaws lies directly at the feet of its director: Zack Snyder. He has a tendency to choose style over substance and that is the main downfall of this movie. You get the feeling while watching this movie that he is trying to please the major fan boys of these characters, while also not understanding what makes them so special to begin with. Also, the reason for the conflict between the two icons is somewhat contrived, and feels like it could be solved with some level of diplomacy, rather than them immediately resorting to violence. This movie might have benefited from simply being a Batman V Superman movie, as was originally intended, rather than a jumping off point for an entire universe. The cameos by the other members of the Justice League, with the exception of Wonder Woman, are very forced and unnecessary. You can almost feel the desperation of Warner Brothers to make up the lost ground with Marvel, but Marvel was able to build their universe organically through a series of movies, rather than including the characters into a singular property out of some sort of forced obligation.
The main issue with this movie is the final battle. This fight felt like a very different movie, and felt more like Zack Snyder wanting to play with his cinematic toys than an organic ending to the story they were trying to tell. It gets messy at times, its hard to tell who is punching who and the whole battle is filled with CGI to the point that it removes any suspension of belief. This movie tries to be gritty and real, but over the top and ridiculous at the same time, and that is not an achievable goal. One of my hopes for the DCEU moving forward is that they will give somebody besides Zack Snyder a chance to use the building blocks that he has started, but considering he’s directing Justice League and it starts filming in about a month, that’s probably not happening. I am not a necessarily a Zack Snyder hater, but I am also not an apologist for his directorial flaws.
All told, I enjoyed Batman V Superman. Did it live up to the hype that the past three years of build up has given it? I don’t believe so. Is it a horrible film? I don’t believe that either. Like most things in life, this movie is both triumphant and greatly flawed. It left me with both great hope and great concerns for the DCEU going forward, but I found myself having a lot of fun during it, I just had to shut certain parts of my brain off in order to allow that to happen. If you liked Man of Steel and are a fan of Zack Snyder’s other movies, then I recommend going to see this film. If you hated Man of Steel and hate Zack Snyder’s movies then you’ll probably hate this one as well.
The Geeky Bugle Rating: Just Another Movie