Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review (Spoiler free)

March 25, 2016

First off, I’d like to say that there will be a spoiler section at the end of this review, but it will be clearly marked, and easily avoidable.BvS could easily be summed up in one word:  “meh”.  It wasn’t terrible by any means, as some reviewers would have you believe, but it’s far from good.  It has some high points and some low points, but mostly it stays in the sphere of “watchable”.For more spoiler free BvS talk, and other news, check out the latest episode of Geek Versus Week. BvS is long and has some serious pacing issues.  It clocks in at 2 hours and 33 minutes, which isn’t too long for a movie that’s engaging and entertaining throughout.  It’s also not that long if you have a complex story to tell, either.  Unfortunately, none of this is the case in BvS.  Most of the time is spent creating a tone, conveying themes, establishing character motivations, and setting up conflict.  Don’t get me wrong, these are all good things to spend some time on, but not as much time as it dwells on these things, especially in a movie where the obvious and inevitable conflict is all anyone’s really waiting on anyway.Characterization is a mixed bag in BvS, which I will go into more detail about in the spoiler section of the review, but here I’ll just say this:  Superman, while a good and honorable person in the movie, isn’t quite as wholesome or pure as his traditional portrayal.  Batman is shown to be vengeful, brutal, paranoid, and uncompromising in his quest to keep the world safe, which is definitely true to the character.  However, his methods are unquestionably un-Batmanlike.The acting in BvS ranges from great to uninspired.  Laurence Fishburne and Jeremy Irons are in small supporting roles, but they are amazing, which is pretty much expected.  Gal Gadot sells the part of a beautiful, strong, and dangerous Amazonian.  Amy Adams does a great job at making Lois confident and tough, and while she does need to be rescued, she’s not just a “damsel in distress”.  Henry Cavill is pretty boring and generic as both Superman and Clark Kent, with a range of maybe three different facial expressions, one of which makes him look like he just ate something really gross and is trying hard to choke it down, which I assume is supposed to convey….anger?  Maybe?  Jesse Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor in a very unique way, that I personally didn’t like, but at the same time I do respect the decision to try something new.  Lastly, Ben Affleck absolutely nails the personality of Batman.  He’s dark and brooding.  He’s angry.  He’s menacing. He’s got some serious issues, but at the end of the day, he’s a good guy, even if the line gets a little blurry sometimes.BvS features numerous fantasy/dream sequences, much to its detriment.  For a while, it seems like every other scene is something that didn’t really happen, and isn’t something we should really care about.  Most of these scenes are to set a tone, but really, how many do you need?  It just seems lazy to use the same device multiple times to accomplish the same thing.  If you were to take out some of this stuff, the movie probably would be a more appropriate length.The use of overly dramatic music for the most mundane situations is something that was laughably bad.  Here are two non-spoiler examples:  Incredibly over the top, epic music plays when…..Lex Luthor is walking down a hallway.  That’s literally what he does, and the music tries to tell the audience that this is the most epic few steps that anyone has ever taken in the history of cinema. The other example is Batman standing on a crane.  It’s not even that good of a shot, because he doesn’t look intimidating or menacing.  It’s a helicopter shot from about 100 feet away, and he’s just standing there.  That’s it.  Seriously.  Yeah, it’s a little nitpicky, but it was something that stood out to me and made me laugh in the theater.The action in BvS is really well done, which is something that director Zack Snyder is actually pretty good at.  The downside is that there really wasn’t all that much of it, but when it’s there, it’s great.BvS isn’t a fun movie.  It’s dark, gloomy, and brooding.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone should be cracking jokes left and right.  I’m not even saying there should be humor at all, because any movie with Batman in it is probably going to be dark and humorless, because that fits the tone.  The problem with BvS is how seriously it takes itself, and how hard it tries to be dark and edgy just for the sake of being dark and edgy.  It’s the film equivalent of an emo teenager who wears all black, smokes clove cigarettes, spits out Nietzsche quotes in an effort to sound pseudo-intellectual, and has come to the conclusion that the world is a dark and cruel place because in high school someone made fun of them a few times.All told, Batman v Superman isn’t a great movie.  It isn’t even a terrible movie.  It’s a very forgettable movie.  Nothing really stands out about it.  There are no memorable or iconic scenes, no great quotes, no standout characters.  It’s generic and bland.  It’s plain white rice.  It’s also very predictable, and if you’ve seen the trailers, you know the whole plot.  There are no twists, nothing is unexpected, nothing takes you by surprise.  Every step of the way, you just wait for the events to unfold exactly how you think they will.  If you’re a diehard fan of either Batman or Superman, you might enjoy it more, but even as a ridiculously passionate Batman fan, I have to say, it just wasn’t that good.***Spoilers ahead!  If you haven’t seen it and don’t want it ruined, stop reading here!******No really, the spoilers start here!***Being a huge Batman fan, my biggest problem with the entire film is that Batman kills people.  Batman.  Kills.  People.  That’s not supposed to happen.  Yeah, I know that in every movie interpretation since Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman he’s killed some people.  (Yes, letting Ra’s die at the end of Batman Begins counts.)  But this isn’t about those other movies, this is about this movie.  This movie was supposedly going to be true to the characters, and having Batman kill, which is one of, if not the most, defining characteristic of Batman in the comics.Superman, while closer to his comic book counterpart, still wasn’t quite right in the movie.  Superman in the comics wouldn’t allow statues to be built in his honor.  It’s a minor complaint, but it just didn’t sit well with me.The reasons that Batman and Superman came into conflict were a little inconsistent, at least on the Superman side.  The Batman side made sense, and stayed the same throughout.  The Superman side was much less so.  At first, it seemed like he had an ideological difference with Batman, and that he disapproved of his vigilantism, especially after their first costumed interaction, where Superman tells Batman that his days are over.  So that’s why they clash, right?  Wrong.  It’s because Lex Luthor kidnaps Superman’s mom and holds her hostage, sending Superman to kill Batman.  Even then, Superman doesn’t even approach Batman with the intention of fighting him!  He goes to talk to him, and due to sitcom levels of misunderstanding, it results in a fight.  So what exactly was the point of the earlier scene showing that Superman wanted to shut Batman down?  It has absolutely no bearing on the fight later on.The entire Batman v Superman fight itself was incredibly underwhelming.  It wasn’t that good of a fight by any measure, let alone the conflict that the entire movie is supposedly building toward, and in fact is the name of the movie.I hated the obvious setup for the rest of the DC cinematic universe.  It felt so forced and completely took me out of the movie.  It was essentially, “Hey Wonder Woman, click these links to teaser trailers for our upcoming movies based on other properties.”How does Lois know that the key to defeating Doomsday is the kryptonite spear?  Unless I missed it, no one ever communicates to her anything about this.  I could be wrong about this one, but I didn’t see the connection.What was up with Clark seeing Jonathan Kent, who died in the previous movie?  As far as I know, they never explain it.  Clark is walking through some snow, talks to his dead dad in the mountains, and that’s it.  No lead in, no explaining afterward.  It happens, and it’s never mentioned again.  Am I missing something?Lex Luthor is a smart guy, right?  I mean, he’s supposed to be.  Here’s the part where I get confused though:  If Lex Luthor is so smart, then why would he arm people with ammunition made from a metal that’s only produced by one of your labs?  Why you’re at it Lex, why not just put your name on the bullets, and for good measure include your twitter @lex_luthor #imavillain?Ok enough complaining.  Here are some of the high points for me:

  • Doomsday regenerating, getting more powerful, and growing the bones.
  • Batman vs the goons holding Martha Kent hostage.  Great sequence, and my favorite action scene.
  • This is a subtle one, but when Bruce Wayne is watching the underground fight, whispering in the losing fighter’s ear how to beat his opponent, after which he proceeds to wreck him.
  • The Batmobile was siiiiiiiiiick.
  • Wonder Woman fighting Doomsday, and loving the thrill of battle even when getting knocked around.
  • Batman actually doing some detective work.

Enough of what I think – what did you think?  Love it? Hate it? “Meh” it?  (That’s a word, right?) Let us know in the comments below. And for our no holds barred spoiler review, check out part 2 of our BvS podcast special. 

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