Adventureland, Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway, Ant-Man, Aquaman, Avatar, Batman, Batman v Superman, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck, Black Panther, Captain America, Captain America : Civil War, CGI, Chadwick Boseman, Christian Bale, Christopher Nolan, Cinema, Comics, Cyborg, Dawn of Justice, DC, Deadpool, Doomsday, Ezra Miller, Film, Gal Gadot, Guardians of the Galaxy, Henry Cavill, Jared Leto, Jason Momoa, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Man Of Steel, Marvel, MCU, Morgan Freeman, Movie Review, Ray Fisher, Spider-Man, Suicide Squad, Superman, The Avengers, The Daily Planet, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Flash, The Joker, The Justice League, Tom Holland, Wonder Woman, Zombieland
On Wednesday morning I finally saw “Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice”. I did my best to resist the temptation of seeing yet another superhero movie at the cinema, but alas my will-power just wasn’t strong enough and I caved in. I’d heard mixed reviews, and having hated “Man of Steel” for various (and I think very valid) reasons, I was trying to avoid giving DC any more of my money.
Having seen the film I can say that I was justified in my reluctance, because whilst there were parts of it that I enjoyed, there were other moments at which I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and shake my head in disgust. I’m being overdramatic of course, but when the main motivation for warring superheroes to team up is that their mothers share the same first name, you know that there’s something drastically wrong with the film that you’re watching.
Whilst Ben Affleck is a fine Batman, and he isn’t putting on a voice when playing the hero (instead he has a device which modifies his voice for him – why couldn’t Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) have come up with one of those in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” series?), he doesn’t inspire love or devotion to the character and he’s far less likeable than Christian Bale’s version. This isn’t a major problem because at least it differentiates him from the previous iteration of the character, but when the solo Batman film that has already been confirmed comes into theatres I won’t be rushing to see it… unless Jared Leto is amazing in “Suicide Squad” and The Joker is the villain.
Henry Cavill is also okay in this movie – he’s definitely better than he was in “Man of Steel” – but Superman as a character is given no real personality, and the only thing that gives him any humanity at all is his relationship with Lois Lane. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if Lane herself was likeable in the movie, but Amy Adams (who I hate to criticise because I like her as an actress) was awful and her character had no real depth; you can basically sum her up by saying that she’s a reporter who loves Superman because that’s really all there is to her.
As a whole the film just doesn’t work. I could write 20,000 words of criticism on it and still have more bad words to say, but instead I’m going to bullet point what I liked and disliked about it and then talk about why I think that it should never have been made.
Let’s start with the things that I liked:
- (SPOILER ALERT) The court scene – Despite the fact that “Batman v Superman” was mostly a paint-by-numbers story, the scene in which the courtroom was blown up was quite unexpected and powerful. The aftermath could’ve been more exciting, perhaps with the dust settling and Superman still stood in the middle of the debris for all to see, but it was still a great scene in an average movie.
- Gal Gadot was a pretty good Wonder Woman – I actually really liked Wonder Woman in the film and I thought that she was introduced well. Her initial introduction felt a lot like Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) in “The Dark Knight Rises”, but it was still good. The only problem I have here is that the marketing for the film ruined it slightly by having Wonder Woman appear in the trailer.
- The question that the film fumbled over a couple of times – ‘should there be a Superman?’ – was a fair one to ask, and could’ve been fascinating if it was allowed more time to be explored.
- The action was well shot.
On to the things that I didn’t like (expect a longer list):
- Alfred – Although I like Jeremy Irons and I don’t think that his portrayal of Alfred was completely awful, I thought that the film underused him by making him something of a comic relief character. He had the potential to be so much more given how recklessly Bruce Wayne was acting, so it was a shame that most of the time he simply went along with whatever Wayne told him to do.
- Lex Luthor – Jesse Eisenberg is another actor that I don’t take any enjoyment from criticising. Eisenberg is great at what he does and he’s been in two of my favourite films (“Adventureland” and “Zombieland”), but he should never have been cast in this movie. His portrayal of the iconic villain is unique and he gives it everything, but it comes off as cartoonish and ridiculous, destroying tension and bringing more laughs than gasps.
- Doomsday – If DC had courage in their convictions then they wouldn’t have allowed another villain to appear in this movie other than Luthor, but alas, they chose to throw Doomsday into the mix so that the heroes could team up at the end. What they should’ve done was got a better writer on board and focused on the war of ideologies between Batman and Superman.
- Martha – Superman convinced Batman not to kill him by saying that his mother’s name was Martha. That’s all that really needs to be said here.
- The Daily Planet is a terrible newspaper which allows its staff to come and go as they please and write rogue articles.
- So many scenes should’ve been cut from the film – the dream sequences, when Batman confronted Lex Luthor at the end, the scene in which Superman and Doomsday were hit by a nuke, and many more, were awful and should’ve been omitted from the final product.
- The dialogue was terrible.
From my perspective, “Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice” is an example of when business trumps quality in film-making. With “Captain America : Civil War” set to smash box-office records and continue Marvel’s commercial and critical dominance in the superhero genre, DC had to do something big. Their answer was to throw their two most famous heroes together, in what was billed as a gladiator match yet ended up being a team-up against a giant CGI monster.
The baffling thing about this isn’t that DC’s biggest heroes tried to kill each other and then joined forces, but rather DC’s crazy decision to throw Batman into the mix without first giving him a solo movie. They clumsily rehashed his backstory and tripped over his motivation for taking the fight to Superman, and instead of building the character properly they tried to fit multiple storylines into what should’ve been a focused narrative.
DC is desperate to compete with Marvel financially and yet they fail to take the lessons that Marvel has taught them on board. They misunderstand how the universe that Marvel has built has developed over time and they ignore where it all began.
Marvel has spent an admirable amount of time building its characters and creating a very noticeable tone which carries through each film, and they didn’t have the entirety of their main cast together in one movie until they had each had their own solo flick. This meant that by the time that “The Avengers” came along Marvel had already acquired a dedicated fan-base of comic book readers and mainstream cinemagoers, and thus they made an obscene amount of money from that movie. Now that this initial development has passed they are able to throw characters like Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into the mix prior to giving them their solo films, but they earned the right to do this and they have strong characters alongside them.
Thinking back, Marvel’s cinematic universe took off with “Iron Man”, a film based on a character that had never truly been a fan favourite. Marvel took a character that they knew they could build around, cast him perfectly, and then made a coherent and isolated film about him which only connected itself to the rest of the MCU through its end credit scene and a couple of Easter eggs here and there.
If DC really wanted to create a dynasty like Marvel’s and steal some of their thunder what they should’ve done was saved Batman for either a brief cameo in their upcoming “Suicide Squad” movie, or his own solo movie, and then they should’ve made a second “Man of Steel” film which focused on the question ‘should there be a Superman?’. This would’ve given Superman much more depth as a character and allowed us to better understand Batman before the pair faced off in a future film. Plus, in the meantime they could’ve introduced characters like Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), in much more natural and interesting ways, instead of shoehorning them into an already convoluted film like they did in “Batman v Superman”.
Of course, it’s easy to make these statements in hindsight, but it really is mindboggling that a company like DC could be so impatient. People aren’t stupid – if a movie looks like it’s going to be a muddle then they won’t go to see it, and if they aren’t going to go on the opening weekend then they’ll probably be indifferent enough to listen to a couple of negative reviews and stay well clear. You can’t just throw special effects at people and expect a crowd to gather anymore – we live in a post “Avatar” world where amazing CGI is commonplace, going to the cinema costs £10+, and the superhero genre is incredibly diluted! If it’s a choice between something new like “Deadpool”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, and “Ant-Man”, or something that fans have seen multiple times before like a new Batman movie, I think that most people will choose the former.
At the end of the day, “Batman v Superman” was exactly what I thought it would be. A film which was doomed from the start because it was trying to do too much, with the wrong writers and director on board, and a marketing team that was so scared that people wouldn’t go to see it that they showed everything they had on the trailer. The action was good and so were the effects but modern day audiences have a right to expect more for their money. The actors did what they could to save the film, and Henry Cavill was a lot better this time around than he was in “Man of Steel”, but ultimately the script let him and the audience down.