Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

casey NO

brooke I agree

casey Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Not the worst superhero movie in the last few years. But it’s easily the movie I hated the most. Just, almost everything about it is bad, boring, and dreary. I don’t even know where to begin.

brooke Well, let’s start with rehashing of Batman’s origin story, since it’s entirely spoiler-free

casey Thank God the movie spends its opening sequence covering that, because if there’s one thing I haven’t seen enough it’s yet another rendition of Thomas and Martha Wayne getting murdered and leaving their son deeply traumatized. You know, in some version of this story, someone needs to realize that little Bruce might need therapy after all that.

brooke Who needs therapy when you have Alfred?

casey Speaking of which, he’s a terrible surrogate father. Dude apparently lets Bruce simmer in rage for decades and then decides to make up for it by enabling his self-destructive vigilantism and flagrant violations of civil liberties.

brooke But those complaints apply to any Batman movie. Howsabout we talk about this disaster on film?

casey Right! Batman v Superman, properly begins during the climax of Man of Steel (which, to be honest, neither of us have seen), in which Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod are getting very smashy in Metropolis and killing lots of people as collateral damage. We get the perspective of an adult Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who happens to be in the city as it collapses around him, leaving him upset with Superman for having brought the fight so close to home (in this telling, Gotham and Metropolis are apparently next door).
Flash forward a few months and we see reporters and politicians justifiably questioning whether they can really trust this godlike alien and his apparently limitless power, a theme the movie will unsubtly beat us over the head with until it gets bored and forgets the the whole thing near the end. Meanwhile, Superman is concerned with a bat vigilante abusing bad guys in Gotham–also justifiable, since this Batman has no problem maiming and murdering his targets. We also meet a young Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), and soon we’re knee deep in a convoluted plot in which Batman and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) independently unearth a complex scheme ultimately designed to Superman and Batman against each other in order to…I dunno, prove that Luthor was right about God or something. Naturally, the heroes oblige and dutifully punch each other until other events take over. But we’ll get to that. Also, Wonder Woman occasionally wanders in and out from a completely different movie before sticking around for the finale.

brooke A completely different movie that I hope they actually make, because Wonder Woman was literally the only piece of this story that I enjoyed.
I just don’t know what to make of BvS. Cavill’s Superman looks good but has nothing else going for him, and this iteration of Batman is somehow meant to be a compassionate figure while also being extremely stabby. It’s all over the place.
Speaking of Lois Lane for a minute, I didn’t understand any of her motivations at all, or what the movie wanted to do with her. She’s a major character in the first part of the movie, and then sort of disappears midway through.

casey After she helps uncover Luthor’s shenanigans through some capable reporting, the movie switches gears and has her make a series of bad decisions so Superman can rescue her. I think the problem with Lane speaks to the problem with the movie generally: It tries to cover too much ground with too many characters, cramming in too much plot without creating meaningful stakes or interesting characters.

brooke Pretty much.
Eisenberg’s Luthor is so incredibly manic that he was hard to understand or empathize with. Good villains usually have some basic urge or drive that the audience can understand, but all I could gather was how much he hated his dad for bestowing him with riches and a job for life (privilege problems, amirite?)

casey I guess the intent was to reimagine the character as some kind of nerdy yet evil Silicon Valley CEO but he’s less a character than a collection of odd tics. Why does he hate Superman? Because that’s what Lex Luthor does, I guess. What is his end goal? I had no idea. He’s awkward, grating, and carries no sense of menace whatsoever. There’s an early scene where he threatens a Senator for some reason, and instead of coming off as a sinister megalomaniac he just seems like a creepy loser.

brooke There was no real legwork done to hint at what he wanted. Maybe this was addressed in Man of Steel? Probably not.

casey Meanwhile, the whole movie feels slloooowwwwwwwww. That’s literally true on a scene-to-scene basis, thanks to dozens of slow-motion shots. And everything is so grim and po-faced, you feel the weight of every sullen, glowering minute.

brooke Ughhhhhh the slow motion is so bad.
You know what else was bad? Batman’s nightmares.

casey Filmed in classic “THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A DREAM SEQUENCE THAT WON’T ADVANCE THE PLOT” style. Also long and boring.
I will say this: I thought Affleck’s Batman was okay. He’s got a hulking physicality that suits the character, and he’s a passable Bruce Wayne.

brooke (If he only had decent material to work with…)

casey Meanwhile, like you said, Superman is bland. There are so many scenes where characters talk about him, how great or awful he is for humanity, but he’s mostly a cipher.

brooke Basically, we have little reason to be emotionally invested in what is supposed to be this huge battle between the two.

casey I think the reason is that the real purpose of this movie is found in the subtitle. Dawn of Justice,  aka Glorified Goddamn Prequel Created to Establish The Franchise. In order to discuss that, we have to get into mild SPOILER TERRITORY.
Obviously, the movie has to somehow bring together the Justice League, which includes integrating Wonder Woman. As I hinted above, she’s barely involved with the main plot and her motivations are entirely opaque, but she gets some cool fight scenes at least. For the rest of the JL, it’s even worse: the movie literally stops dead in its tracks to show us brief security camera footage of each of them, in a scene that exists solely as a teaser for future movies. It’s filmmakers admitting they have no idea have no interest in laying the groundwork organically, so instead it’s “eh, fuck it, here’s a short trailer for some heroes who aren’t in this movie.”

brooke And why Lex Luthor just had those videos chillin’ in his database made zero sense. They’re just brief clips, and they don’t even use same Flash as in the TV show, so I guess DC Cinematic Universe is a different one than the DC TV Universe, which further complicates things.
Which really brings me to my number one complaint about Batman v Superman–it doesn’t know how to tell a story. It feels like some executives decided that they needed to catch up with Disney and Marvel without doing any of the things that makes the Marvel universe work.
The movie takes itself VERY seriously, and it forgets to make you care about any of its characters as it tries to make room for future Justice League superheroes.

casey One final thing: The final act is so boring. The inevitable Batman vs Superman showdown is kind of fun, if completely contrived. But before long they find they must band together to stop the real big bad: a Generic Space Orc! (Actually it’s Doomsday, if you care about such things.) So the final act pits Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman against Space Orc in a long fight that mimics every other bland CGI-driven finale you’ve ever seen. At least in this they’re roughly on par with the median Marvel climax.

brooke It was so odd to spend an entire movie ramping up to this battle between Batman and Superman and then have it end so quickly so they can fight Doomsday instead.
In the end, Wonder Woman was amazing, and Batman has some good scenes, but the entire film is a train wreck. It can’t maintain a consistent tone, its scenes are broken up in ways that don’t work, and like you said, it’s boring.

casey Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is dull, witless, and cynical. Maybe they’ll get it right next time, when they inevitably reboot the franchise and do it all over again in a few years.

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