Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

This review is Spoiler-free.

It's here. 's highly anticipated and impressively controversial sequel to Man of Steel, and setup for The Justice League, where returns as Superman, and dares to take on the role of the Dark Knight. And, as the title demands it, they must fight. But they must also join together to defeat Lex Luthor () and his evil plan for a... Doomsday. Joining them is: , returning as Lois Lane; as Wonder Woman, and taking the mantle of Alfred Pennyworth.

"The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: God versus man; day versus night; Son of Krypton versus Bat of Goth--" you know what? Just get to it already!

The giant, hero vs. hero film is controversial because, well, it's giant, and people seem to think either it's the worst thing to come out of the superhero genre since Iron Man set the new standard, or the best. The general consensus seems to lean toward the former. I was skeptical of the film's quality ever since it was announced, and went in with low expectations and an open mind. But, as few things ever are, this film is not totally good or bad, but rather sits in a grey area. There were elements that were better than I expected, and ones that were even worse.

First thing: our two heroes in the ring. As you may know I detested Man of Steel, but did maintain that I thought Henry Cavill could play a good Superman given the proper opportunity. Well, that opportunity has still yet to arrive. He still looks the part but is oddly stiff in his acting. Like, I know it's a played comparison, but it feel like they were actually trying to make Supes be reminiscent of Jesus, but did it all wrong by making him all stiff and religious and stoic acting. Where's the guy's humanity? It came through a little more when he was being Clark. As Superman though, I waited a long time to hear him speak; to really address someone as Superman and have a conversation, but it never happened, and the few things he does say feel super rehearsed. He's at his best when fighting, and of course, doing great heroic acts.

I want to like him. I really do.

Ben Affleck's Batman fell more to my liking, with only a few notable flaws. His Batman felt so experienced it was liked he'd already made three or four films as the character that I just hadn't seen. You can feel his past. Yet he doesn't let the part where his past haunts him bog down the character too much. He does, however, have way too many dreams. I mean good grief. His Bruce Wayne also, is less of an alter ego and more of an actual, useful character. Less playboy, more businessman, and it's nice. Affleck also looks the part spectacularly. Still, for all the time he spends on screen, most of it is spend glaring and brooding, and as good of a brood as it is, there is a lack of true depth.

Both these men are total idiots. I could never decide if I was team Superman or team Batman because every time one of them presented their case for wanting to stop the other, I disagreed with them. Both of them, every time. I felt for Bruce because Supes and Zod killed so many with their collateral damage-heavy fight of the previous film, but I also can't blame Superman for that. I blame Snyder. Superman may be darker in these films, but he's still absolutely noble, and it is not in his character to let innocents die. The fact that he did is not a defining element to his character, but a flaw in the film. If it is a part of his character, then his beef with Batman is extremely hypocritical. For the Bat's part, he tries to justify killing Superman saying that he could destroy the whole world if he wanted to, and that's close enough. Grasping at straws, guys, really. But I get it: as Ken Watanabe said, "Let them fight."

Batfleck wishes he could fight an actual villain...

The supporting cast was mixed as well. Outstanding as bad: Lex Luthor takes the top spot! Jesse Eisenberg's Lex was, I am sad to say, one of the worst superhero villains I have ever witnessed. And the only one I've ever been embarrassed for. Eisenberg came across like he was going for a depressed Joker who had drunk too much coffee, and every time he tried something dramatic it was painfully distracting and obvious. I don't care anything about his age or appearance, and I bet he has the ability to play an interesting Luthor. But not today. Also, I really dislike Lois. And I like Amy Adams, so it's not a bias. Lois is just so pathetic, always perfectly adept at getting herself into danger with her strong-headed spirit, and equally adept and not being able to get herself out. She seems determined to be more than just the hero's girlfriend, but only succeeds in being a bother and taking up screen time with useless plot.

On the good side, Jeremy Irons fit the part of Alfred like a glove; but never got to do a thing with it. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman gets a good introduction -- although it would have been a fun surprise if I didn't already know who she was, because she comes across like Catwoman at first. But she helped liven up the film, and properly teased for her solo outing.

That awkward moment when you thought you were a crazy Batman villain, and are introduced to the guy you really have a vendetta against... and it's Superman.

Plot. It started off with good intentions to be a complex narrative leading clue-by-clue up to the final climax, but just before it actually got there, suddenly none the plot lines were actually necessary to get there. All that planning and plotting and scheming and investigating -- all for practically nothing, and all adding up to an almost totally useless first half of the whole film. And once the third act begins, the film forgets that it wanted to be a smart movie with a weaving narrative and grown-up things like motivations and grey areas, and just throws everything at an explosion-filled, "POW WHAM ZAP" of an end battle. Where everything is burning, and the explosions are exploding and more CGI fills a frame than anything else.

And it was fine. The third act was just as decent and just as terrible as the first two, just for different reasons. So I may wonder at the necessity of the movie's first half, but hey -- without the first half there could be no second half. So... I could wonder at the necessity of the whole film. The true point of the film was to set up The Justice League, plain and simple. The "Batman v Superman" part was to create appeal and gather an audience, and that's exactly what it did. It tried its hand a politics but gave up (probably after confusing itself); and it threw a bug budget into giant jumbled mess of action to entertain, but it's not exactly quality. But, when Wonder Woman comes around, and after that The Justice League, people will be there; some hoping that they're improved a few things this time round, and some probably determined to love it all no matter what.

Baitman! And Superbman! And Wonderful Woman!

This was a movie not made to be good cinematic work, but to be enjoyed; and even I got more enjoyment out of it than I imagined I would. Sometimes, while I laughed to myself at how bad one thing was, I was simultaneously able to appreciate the fun of it too. This film also has a unique and extreme comic book feel to it that I hadn't experienced in any other Superhero film before. Perhaps Snyder's visual style helped with that, but it also comes across in the tone in an interesting way. Even though it's so serious, the seriousness actually plays a factor in finding the film's overly glossy, but oddly fitting state of being. There's a constant stream of drama that is taken very seriously by the film, but it isn't on the same level as a "real life" type film would have. There's no sense of shame; no tongue in cheek; no safety net. It just throws itself into the fray; clumsily, lumbering and oddly disconnected.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice winds up making a confusing mess of things that require any amount of tact, like plot, or character, or really anything that isn't fighting -- and even that is generous. But, underneath all that overlong sludge, the hum-drum attempts at meaning, and the caking layers of indulgent chaos, there's something admirable in the effort.

2 comments:

  1. Yes, I pretty much agree. Lex was painful to watch. I never cringed in the theater before but boy did Eisenberg make me cringe. I felt uncomfortable watching him, which never happens. Just wow, how awful can you be?

    As for the rest of the movie, it slowly gets worse in my head every time I think about it. My current rating would be the same as yours, a 6/10, aka 3/5. Just not bad, better than Man of Steel, but a mess for sure. Great review Sarah!

    -James

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    1. I know, it was truly a sad sight to see. And he was in it so much, and talked all the time! What with the strict brooding of the two heroes I bet he had more lines than the both of them put together.

      Haha, same here. It did entertain me, but I'm beginning to forget that and only remember how bad it was. Still, I'd rather it be the mess that it is than actually annoying like Man of Steel was any day! Thanks James!

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