Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Directed: Zack Snyder
Screenwriters: David S. Goyer & Chris Terrio Runtime: 2 hrs. 32 min Rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros. & Ratpac Entertainment
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t the dawn of any justice. None for the characters’ many iterations over the decades. Nor for the fans of DC Comics who have only ever been given Batman up to this point. It’s like Warner Bros was incapable and unwilling to try anything other than Batman until now. Couple that and the direction the screenwriters took to create this movie with future projects in mind…there isn’t any point in trying to stay neutral in this review. I won’t spoil anything that’s not in a trailer or isn’t backstory to any character in a way that will ruin something.
This film is set a year and a half after the battle over Metropolis occurs in 2013’s Man of Steel. (See Review) The movie starts off from Bruce Wayne’s perspective of being on the ground that day in Metropolis. From his point of view, Superman is just as culpable as the other Kryptonians. Like he did it on purpose. It’s the driving force that makes Bruce seek to destroy Superman before he goes bad. Take this mindset into consideration, along with the mommy and daddy issues that are repeatedly brought up. What has been created is an uptight man with resources in desperate need of anger management and PTSD therapy. I can’t decide if what I detest the most is Ben Affleck playing Batman/Bruce Wayne or how the character is written.
Bruce wants to stop Superman based on the chance he might go bad one day. At this point, Bruce has been Batman for around two decades and is jaded and calloused. He’s not a cautious detective; he’s untrustworthy on an unhealthy paranoid level. There’s actually no detective version of him to be seen in this film. Okay, Gotham got to him. That mentality extends throughout the movie. Pair that with Lex Luthor’s mindset. Yep, Lex and Bruce think Superman needs to die. Honestly, that’s not a spoiler. What could go wrong?
Lex is played by Jesse Eisenberg, a considerably younger take on the character who has always been older than Superman/Clark. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. An older Lex has more years to be justified in his questionable life choices and the path that got him there. Here it also means his dad is dead much sooner. That doesn’t matter for this story, but it could be problematic for future stories. Eisenberg plays eccentric well and plays up the neurotic psycho angle here. His acting isn’t the issue, but his script is. Lex is all over the place with his attempts to stick it to Superman and others that get in his way. Including his weird and overly conversed god/devil and good/evil rhetoric. This Lex is all about the “paradoxical,” but someone forgot to tell the screenwriters what a real paradox is. So, Lex comes off as just manic instead of goal-oriented.
Woven in all of this is Diana Prince cropping up in multiple places. That’s Wonder Woman to all you non-comic lovers out there. Gal Gadot was cast for this iconic character, and she is a fantastic embodiment of Wonder Woman. Her addition is done well, mysterious and not over-stated, but that’s okay, all things what they are. Honestly, her character’s place in this film is to help facilitate Warner Bros. dropping Wonder Woman’s stand-alone film after this one and setting up for the Justice League movie after that.
Bruce and Lex are paranoid, and Clark is still dealing with his feelings about his place in the world, especially now that his Superman persona is out there. This film really drives that point as well. Should there be a Superman? Who is he accountable to, and should he be? Is he or is he not the savior figure some have put on him? Is he just a political tool or just some person out there to do good for the sake of good? My take-away from all that noise is, are you team Batman or team Superman in this version? Then ask yourself why.
I have to say that the scene transitions in this film are lazy if done at all. The movie’s pace is continuously tripped up by this, and the BIZARRE and disjointed “dreams” of Bruce’s just thrown in. A disgusting reminder that Bruce has needed therapy for years, and ignoring one’s mental health is a self-destructive idea. These scenes had NO place in the film. It’s like someone copy and pasted in snippets from another version. I mention it because I don’t want you, the viewer, to feel lost or that you missed something. At one point, I thought about walking out of the theater—an action I’ve only done two times in 25-years of seeing movies on my own.
Zack Snyder is the director of this mentally scaring, shit-car-filled train wreck. But he didn’t write the script, David Goyer and Chris Terrio did. Directors get all the blame. Goyer also wrote Man of Steel with Christopher Nolan. Nolan understands these characters, or at least how to do a great Batman. Someone, please, give Mr. Nolan the screenwriting reigns from now on. While I’m not a fan of Snyder’s entire body of works, it’s not fair to blame him for a horrible plot and unrealistic character development.
This movie should have been the beginning of what DC fans have dreamed of for decades, especially in the shadow of Marvel’s cinematic universe, our own superhero team-up. You have the founding trio of the Justice League in this film, decades of stories to choose from and build upon, and this film is what fans got instead.
So why should you put Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on your watch list? To help you follow along in the other movies after this. So you understand the backstories of how certain characters met, why they are together, or are against one another. However, don’t fall into the comparison trap of DC movies vs. Marvel ones. That’s a decade-old dance that started with the actual comics. Take each as they are and look at it as good and bad from within each respective universe.
-A Pen Lady