Too many bum notes in a song I wanted to love.
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is a long, oppressive, confused movie which, in spite of having some of the coolest toys in the box, manages to be frequently boring. There are some very nice moments, some really interesting themes, but they are either under developed or bungled, and the movie as a whole represents a hugely missed opportunity, and a shaky foundation upon which to build the DC expanded universe.
And that’s part of the problem. This movie feels like the first issue in a comic book mini-series designed to tease a big event. Even casually pumping the breaks on its own narrative to trail JUSTICE LEAGUE. It constantly struggles for momentum and while there are many interesting individual components to admire, they don’t ever effectively work in concert. There has been a feeling with Snyder that story concerns and character moments are not given the same level of attention as his (often peerless) shot composition. This is particularly pronounced in BvS where there are whole scenes which make virtually no sense and there is one – utterly crucial – moment which is authored by co-incidence rather than character or story. You get the feeling that scenes, sequences, and even entire characters could be excised and have minimal impact on the plot itself. Why? Because this isn’t really a movie. It’s a work-shop for a universe.
But given the origins of this site, the biggest crime is the continued mishandling and willful misinterpretation of Superman. If, like me, you are something of a MAN OF STEEL apologist, you are now no longer able to give the film makers the “he’s not yet Superman” benefit of the doubt. He’s been on the beat for 18 months or so, and he is infuriatingly passive or outwardly sulky (with the exception of one very effective montage showing shards of super-feats, as pundits like Neil DeGrasse Tyson hold court on what his presence means. If only those shards were set pieces themselves). Snyder and his writers seem to have only one path into understanding Superman, and the lack of variety is frustrating enough without that one path being a dark one. Their Superman is only truly engaged when someone he loves is threatened. Even when the story promises to dig into one of the most interesting aspects of a post-modern Superman (how does someone with so much power conduct himself in our world, how can he truly be incorruptible) the idea is left half-baked as the sheer weight of universe-building drags the narrative away.
Oh, a word on Henry Cavill: when permitted, he shows us all the kind of Superman he is capable of playing. In some rare beats, he projects warmth, courage, and wisdom. Unfortunately, they are but small islands of comfort.
Affleck is a great Batman, and Bruce is borderline insane in this movie, which sometimes works (it’s needed to explain the titular fight) and sometimes doesn’t (weird dream sequences). He kills goons with absolute abandon though, and the movie has no interest in exploring why/if that matters. He’s athletic and moves with much greater speed and dexterity than any of his predecessors and although the modulated Bat-voice is distracting, Affleck has a natural authority in a role which he easily makes his own. In many ways, Batman is the one with the most coherent arc and maybe the only one with any real development by the movie’s end.
Eisenberg’s Luthor will be divisive, but I kinda liked him. It’s a new take and his manic energy and intense stare made him feel genuinely menacing and unpredictable.
Lois Lane doesn’t have enough screen time for my liking, but she has far more agency than Superman and is much closer the character we know and love. Amy Adams pulls the movie’s ass out of the fire more than once simply through the level of content she can load into a look or an inflection of her voice. This is one of the great actors of a generation playing one of the most important roles in popular culture. More please.
Gadot’s Wonder Woman is a real treat too. The former model was a huge question mark going in but on this evidence she may have the screen presence and chops to make a great success of Diana. She seems a natural with the action and has a surprising amount of world-weariness which implies great age. With her, and new blood Patty Jenkins, WONDER WOMAN may be DC’s great creative hope.
Because at the moment, creatively, we’re in trouble. In my view, Snyder is the wrong man to steer this ship much further. The folly of announcing the whole slate of movies before people had a chance to react to BATMAN v SUPERMAN is now clear because there is virtually no time to learn any of the lessons. JUSTICE LEAGUE starts shooting shortly and this universe is barely on its feet, stumbling as it tries to take steps for which it’s simply not ready. BvS is filled with unearned moments both small and (very) big and it doesn’t feel like there is anyone holding the story to the fire before Snyder starts sketching out some of those beautiful shots.
And god, I miss Superman.
Our non spoiler thread for this movie is HERE.
For spoilers, click HERE
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