I should preface my review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with a few facts so you can decide whether you want to try taking this review at all seriously:
- I hated “Man of Steel.” I feel like the only things that movie got really right were Henry Cavill and Amy Adams, whose Clark and Lois respectively were remarkably solid.
- I only rented this movie because I’m cautiously optimistic about the upcoming Wonder Woman solo film and wanted to see Gal Gadot’s part in this film first.
- I couldn’t bring myself to watch the three-hour “full” cut of this movie. Devoting two-and-a-half-hours-plus was already a big commitment considering how badly I didn’t like the movie that came before this movie.
If the above facts render my upcoming thoughts invalid to you, you’re welcome to stop reading. There’s a whole rest of the Internet for you to explore. Thanks for dropping by, have a lovely day!
Oh, and below you’ll find spoilers. Big unsubtle spoilers, even. Be ye fairly warned, mateys. This review is long, sprawling, and badly in need of an editor. Like the movie. Ba-dum-PISH!
The common structure of a movie review is [what reviewer found good/bad] BUT [why reviewer has given the final grade]. Good before bad, or bad before good. With that in mind, allow me to present a few bullet points detailing what I liked about BvS…
- This is my second opportunity to review Ben Affleck in a superhero role, and my second time to say: He did good. His Bruce Wayne is spot-on, and since this is largely his movie that’s a big help. His work in the Batman suit is… okay. (The problem isn’t the actor but the costuming and the script? Whoah, deja vu…)
- Gal Gadot as Diana Prince is a total joy. Alluring in the high-class party, ass-kicking in the big final battle, and wholly doing her own thing the entire time. As far as Point Number Two above is concerned? I am sold. The Wondy pic can’t show up fast enough to suit me. One stand-out moment for me: She’s just been sent sprawling by the Kryptonian cave troll, and as she picks herself back up and readies for another charge there’s a look on her face which read to me as, “Oh, okay, this just got FUN.” Kickass. My only complaint with her is that she wasn’t in this movie even more.
- Lois Lane, Actual Honest-To-Zod Investigative Reporter. The biggest story driver who doesn’t wear a cape in this film, Amy Adams’ Lois gets to do a lot more than just make eyes at Supes. (I mean, she does that too, and by the way there’s a pretty good rendition of the Lois-and-Clark relationship on display throughout BvS.) Adams may not be an ideal fit for the part, but she did really good here and had some of the best material to work with. While I’m at it, Cavill’s Clark is good. It’s his Supes that continues to have problems…
- There are many beautiful and/or clever bits in this movie. I mean, genuinely “why wasn’t THIS in a BETTER MOVIE” moments. One could say that in the movie I just watched are the elements of a far more engaging and entertaining work. More on that, later. For now let it suffice to say that for those who really enjoyed this movie a lot: I get it. I can see what captivated you. This movie has some truly gorgeous elements, and nice character beats, and big ideas.
- Everything about the Kryptonian cave troll could have been excised from this movie and it would’ve been better. Just, everything. A stock CGI monster with a few minor upgrades in a full-length all-CGI fight sequence and, no. Just, no. The creation of the monster made no sense, the part of the movie centered on the monster made very little sense, most of the fight was computerized monster fighting computerized heroes on a computerized set. It might as well have taken place on another planet for all the grounding it had to even the faintest hint of reality. I know that all fantasy movies (and superhero flicks are fantasy, let’s be honest) end on a big CGI-fest blowout set piece but even Age of Ultron at least tried to make it look like everything was happening on Earth in a specific environment. And boy howdy you can tell I’m incensed if I bring up AoU as a positive example for comparison.
- For a movie whose entry and exit character is basically Batman, I wish they’d done a better job with the Batman bits. It wasn’t terrible. It’s just… occasionally I’d be watching an action set piece and be pulled out of the movie by how un-Batman it was. For example: Batman stands dramatically atop a crane and fires a tracking device onto the truck containing the Macguffin, okay. Then if he has the tracker… why then would he immediately engage in a rolling vehicular battle, drawing attention to the fact that he wants what’s in the truck? Why not simply use the tracking data to map out a likely point for an ambush and be smart about this? Oh right, because we needed another action piece and explosions are more exciting than clever planning. Yawn.
- Every one of the dream sequences could have been excised from this movie and it would’ve been better. Just, all of them. At best they were a longhand (it can’t be shorthand if it’s too damned long) way of conveying the turmoil inside a character’s head, usually Bruce’s. At worst they were the seeming result of the filmmakers’ desire to film a bunch of “wouldn’t it be cool if” moments on the screen even though those “if” moments didn’t actually make any sense whatsoever. The movie starts with one of these, and almost every time afterward you don’t know you’re viewing a dream sequence until something goes wonky. And you’re left thinking, “Okay, so that wasn’t real.” If you’re lucky you just have a minute of resetting your expectations to deal with while you try to get back on track with the actual plot. If you’re not, well, you have the entire “Superman Corps gunned down by Batman before Supes shows up and eye-blasts Bats’ cronies” sequence. (Yeah, part of that is what’s in the trailer. Sigh.) I mean. What. What the hell was that? That was bad and the filmmakers should feel bad.
- (Yes, I know that it’s potential foreshadowing for a potential upcoming movie plot. Great. But how are all those details in Bruce’s head now?)
- An extra special call out for Costner’s brief return as Dream Sequence Pa Kent, because that entire bit didn’t make sense either. Clark’s dreaming while standing upright? He’s hearing a story that he’s never heard before, in a dream? He’s getting words of encouragement from someone who’s not actually there? What? I can squint and see how you can try to rationalize that scene but seriously, it pulled me completely out of the movie. (Again, how is this in Clark’s head now?)
- Easily half of the Idiot Balls strewn around the landscape could’ve been excised from this movie and it would’ve been better. (Warning, that IS a TV Tropes link.) I know how LexCorp got so big: They manufactured all the Idiot Balls required for this plot, such as it is, to have worked. Profitable work, apparently. Let’s see… people carrying and/or ignoring beeping tracking devices, people believing that Superman killed a bunch of people with bullets, Lex’s home server closet being accessible without codes or biometrics AND lacking security cameras, Zod’s ship’s AI just blithely letting Lex take control (as well as circumventing Council directives) and those are just the first examples I can think of in less than a minute’s worth of recollection. Yeesh.
- Let’s wrap this up with Lex Luthor. Suffice to say that I’m quite, quite done with quirky villains featuring twitchy mannerisms. Can we give this characterization a rest, in general, for all actions movies for a while? Please?
As quipped above, this movie is badly in need of editing, preferably editing down. You’d need some re-shoots to craft more of a proper ending but everything else you need is available on the screen already. I got my rental money’s worth from Bruce and Diana and Lois and (to a lesser extent) Clark. Everything else, however, is why I’ll never want to actually own a copy of this hot mess.