Batman-V-Superman-Armored-Batsuit-Costume-Comic-Con

Starring:  Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter and Diane Lane
Running time: 151 Minutes 

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Year of release: 2016

(SPOILER ALERT: I discuss a couple of early scenes in depth here. They occur in the first 10-20 minutes of the film, but I’m not shy about the details. Fairly warned thee be, says I.)

Before I begin to express the violent, almost homicidal rage I feel towards this movie, I must stress that none of it applies to the actors. Though saddled with dreadful material, they battle as heroically as their characters to do right by it. You can sense real torment in Ben Affleck’s Batman, for instance, and the prospect of an Affleck-helmed feature covering this aging, wounded Caped Crusader is a choice prospect indeed. Amy Adams shows pluck and verve as Lois Lane, Gal Gadot is a star in the making, and even figures who struggle (like Henry Cavill’s bland Superman and Jesse Eisenberg’s badly miscalculated Lex Luthor) do so out of a dearth of script quality rather than some flaw in their efforts.

This may be the worst superhero movie ever made because it wastes each and every one of them. They’re terrific actors perfectly cast in roles tailor-made for them… and I never want to see it again. I’ve been a comic book lover for over 30 years and I found myself thinking horrid, unspeakable thoughts during the screening. Thoughts like, “come back Joel Schumacher, all is forgiven!” and “maybe David Hasselhoff’s Nick Fury wasn’t so bad.” What kind of superhero movie DOES THAT to a man?

Frankly, the kind of superhero movie that generates nearly three years’ worth of buzz and a $250 million budget in the service of a raging dumpster fire. I’m a little late to the game here, but you’re doubtless familiar with the critical response by now. None of it is exaggerated, overblown or unjustified. The arrogance involved in tarnishing such beloved figures takes the breath away, as does the deliberately joyless assault on anyone who presumes that superheroes might have something to offer besides posturing and killing people.

Yes, killing people. Affleck’s Batman does it without thinking, and the movie spends no time at all on the implications. Cavill’s Superman, too, takes a shockingly cavalier attitude towards collateral damage, which is supposed to prompt the titular feud between the two heroes. From the beginning, director Zack Snyder seems totally at sea with the notions he’s toying with. There’s no sense of loss or folly, no grappling with serious moral questions. Characters suffer beneath the titanic struggle of super-powered behemoths, but hold no real pain or humanity in them. They simply exist to get the plot from one point to the next, leaving the sight of buildings collapsing and innocents shrieking in horror a dubious sign of the movie’s “bad ass” credentials. Only pussies adhere to higher ethical standards, it tells us, leaving the occasional musings about making a difference sound like the bad excuse of a sociopath.

And that might be less problematic in a film serious about exploring that idea: gods who exist above the law and what happens when they start to lose their moral bearings. Instead, Batman v. Superman skims across the surface impressions before lurching into non-sequiturs that confound even the most basic concepts of storytelling. Example? As one of the film’s half-dozen opening scenes, we watch as a meeting between Lois and a band of Nigerian terrorists goes pear shaped. The bad guys start shooting Lois’s entourage. Bang! Dead man. Bang! Another dead man. Bang! Bang! Bang! They cap it off by putting a gun to Lois’s head… and only then does Superman show up.

The movie doesn’t understand why that might be disturbing, or indeed constitute a fundamental betrayal of Clark Kent as a character. The scene simply exists to further the “Batman’s gonna fight him” thread which becomes the only purpose of the plot. “Why would Batman and Superman fight? We gotta have reasons! And those reasons need reasons! And in the end, we’re gonna resort to the most egregious heavy-handed bit of Republic-serial chestnuts to make it happen, after spending 120 dour, cheerless grimdark minutes failing to find a better one!”

We, the audience get to suffer for those sins, witnessing pointless scene after pointless scene without any thought given to how characters with actual understandable human emotions might act in similar circumstances. Snyder’s visual eye has often been praised and there are some striking moments here, but it all goes into initial impressions instead of underlying ideas.

Example: in yet another opening sequence, we get to watch Bruce Wayne’s parents die in the prescribed fashion. Snyder focuses on one of the iconic images of that moment – Martha Wayne’s pearls scattering in the rain as she’s gunned down – to the detriment of the actual emotional impact. (He’s drawing a lot on Frank Miller here; do try to contain your surprise.) We get the necklace wrapped around the gun, a Martha’s-eye-view of the weapon that’s about to kill her, the white spheres slowly falling in the rain and bouncing on the concrete. Pearls, pearls, pearls, and how they look in a close-up and the way they slip into the sewer grate and the depth of field as they pop out at us in 3D, and the gleaming surface of their- hey didn’t this kid just watch his parents get gunned down? Enough with the fucking pearls Zack!!!

Extend that feeling through the entire, ponderous, infuriatingly tone-deaf running time, and you begin to see the problem. Batman v Superman clearly has presumptions towards big questions and small ones, encouraging us to explore some interesting moral issues while still showing us a simple bit of good guys vs. bad guys entertainment. It resolutely fails at every turn: creating silly plot complications where none exist and expecting characters to make a complete shift in motivation for no reason other than the story demands it. Snyder slathers the profound narrative failures with a snide hipster-nihilist tone, suggesting that the world is a giant pile of shit and not even those with great power can make a dent. It would be more compelling if Batman v Superman could back up such cynicism with anything resembling a coherent thought or a story that makes the slightest bit of sense.

I will single out Gadot again, because she grabs most of the film’s few tolerable moments. We’ve waited a long time to see Wonder Woman strut her stuff on the big screen, and while her presence here is agonizingly brief, it gives us something to cling to amid all the bombast. Affleck pulls off a similar feat by sheer force of will, and the film’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Aquaman cameo with Jason Momoa got me excited about seeing more of that character, which is no mean feat.

In the end, though, those moments feel like previews of other, better movies to come while we’re stuck suffering through this one. I say “the worst superhero movie ever made” not because it’s less competent than the genre’s well-documented disasters, but because no other comic-book adaptation has wasted so much so completely in the service of nothing. This is an ugly movie on every level. The only real emotions it understands are anger and fear, and they only way it can convey them is by slamming them into our skulls with the force of a wrecking ball. The real world can pull off that trick all too well, and hoping for an improvement in the next film isn’t nearly enough to justify such willful, resolute unpleasantness. These characters, these actors and the comic-book fan base in general deserve far more than such a reprehensible effort can produce. Batman v Superman sneers at us as it squanders every bit of goodwill it can find, then has the temerity to ask why we might be angry at it. I suspect that Warners and DC won’t like the answer one little bit.

[review]

 

Our Score
R

By Rob Vaux

A Southern California native, Rob Vaux fell in love with the movies at an early age and has been a professional critic since the year 2000. His work has appeared on Flipside Movie Emporium, Mania.com, Collider.com and Filmcritic.com as well as the Sci-Fi Movie Page. He lives in the heart of surfer country and still defends the Star Wars prequels against all logic and sanity.

14 thought on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Movie Review”
  1. I question the intelligence of anyone who liked this movie. How the plot holes didn’t make you want to pull out your hair says a lot about critical thinking skills. Enjoying this farce of an interpretation of B and S shows that this person does not know anything about comic books and is not a real fan.

  2. I dare say a large majority of individuals defending this film and this director are too young to have experienced the heinous Batman films of the Schumacher era. I saw those films in the theater (dear lord..) and its why the Christopher Nolan trilogy is so beloved by comparison. It literally saved the franchise and restored the proper tone after an era of bat-nipples and Arnie as Mr Freeze.. To see Warner/DC running in this current direction is, to plunge headlong into understatement, disappointing. All the contrived “dark and edginess” and CGI in the world can’t mask a hot mess.

  3. Maybe mild spoiler below.

    I saw the movie earlier today. This review is spot on. A long time DC fan and I totally appreciate the grim of Dark Knight Returns.
    This motion picture has zero of that grim. This movie is BORING and Batman is portrayed as an idiot. In fact, he is soooo impaired the mere mention of a name causes him to freeze during an attempted MURDER. I am very concerned this threatens the future of the DC Movie universe. There are NO superheroes in this movie. Just overpowered brutes. The hero part is ignored.

    The whole premise of the movie is “Don’t worry, there is such a thing as justifiable suicide.”

    I found the action boring and pointless. Superman is struck with a porcelein sink instead of a metal fist. Why not, it looks cool. It also proves this is a stupid Batman.

    The movie is an INSULT. The WB/DC execs sat around and green lit this $250m pile thinking – eh, its good enough to get the fanboys in. There is NO Way anyone thought this script was worthwhile. I am soooo glad I went to a cheap early showing. Avoid prime time if you MUST see it. Wait to rent it from RedBox in July if you can.

  4. Dear GOD, I have not seen an article I agree with more. This movie was horrendous. Everything about it bothers me. And my Christ, people, stop saying people don’t like it cause its “Dark”. Its not dark, its boring and inconsequential. And Marvel movies are bright and sunny? Are you insane? Captain America takes place during WW2. We witness a ton of people die. Ronan the Accuser smashes peoples heads in and sleeps in their blood. Having color instead of desaturation doesn’t make a movie good or bad. Having characters that make sense and talk out problems makes a movie good. There are literally twenty times when Batman (who is supposed to be the worlds greatest detective and is, instead, played like a goddamn fiddle for the entire film) could have solved this just by talking to Superman. Their cities are about 5 miles apart from each other. You’d think they’d have some time to discuss some shit. But no, they bro-down and beat the piss out of each other for completely contrived reasons. WHY DOES LEX HATE SUPERMAN? WHY DID DOOMSDAY NEED LEX’S BLOOD? WHY DID THEY KILL JIMMY OLSEN RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE? DID YOU EVEN KNOW THAT WAS JIMMY OLSEN? WHY HAVE WONDER WOMAN IN THIS MOVIE AT ALL? God, fuck this movie. Sorry if you guys like this movie. I guess if all you wanted to see was Batman beat the hell out of a God who could literally just flick his fucking head off, you got what you wanted. Otherwise, this movie is literal trash.

    1. Also, it should be noted that I didn’t WANT this movie to be terrible. I WANTED to like it. But I just couldn’t. I’m not a marvel superfan or anything. I’ve always loved DC, and would absolutely be down for a cinematic universe the same quality as the MCU, but thus far, I am anything but impressed. Get it together DC.

  5. I see the desperate-to-salvage-a-crap film fanboys and/or WB plants have found you. Since your review echoes the opinions of over 150+ other critics, I think that you’re not far off the mark. 0 may be a bit harsh but understandable considering that they had extra time to get this right.

  6. Just saw BvS and these critics have a right to their opinions but please don’t go on just their opinions. See this movie!! I am a comic book nerd and have seen all of the Marvel and DC movies and have to say Marvel movies in most cases are starting to get to be repetitive. The exception Guardians of the Galaxy and Recent Deadpool which both were unique.

    B vs S was not boring but one of the best comic book movies I Have seen. The last one was Deadpool. Ben A. as Batman was fantastic and best one yet. Wonder Women’s introduction great. This movie was a take off of in a lot of ways of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight which was fantastic and well received. Maybe these critics should read it, or maybe not they would say it was to dark.

    This is not Marvel’s world but DC world’s and thank goodness for that as I am getting bored with some of the Marvel stuff. The best Marvel films recently have been Dark IMHO look at Deadpool. Yes it is funny, very funny, but a Dark vicious funny. The other Daredevil on Netflix very dark but very good.

    Overall a great start to the new DC Universe, a new and fantastic Batman and, of course Wonder Woman.

  7. Wow… I’d say you lost me at wishing for David Hasselhoff’s Fury, are you serious?

    That being said, I continued, and read thoroughly. Sam with the nail on the head above – melodramatic. How can you exaggerate so much on the negatives, this movie had faults but it was not mindlessly bad, and definitely not deserving of 0 stars? We’ve all seen bad movies, as well as bad SUPERHERO movies, and although this isn’t the best one, its far from being a bad movie. The acting was pretty spot on and made me feel the weight of the characters emotions and fears. The visuals (except for a few, unpolished CGI moments) were spectacular, the score was dark and bone-breaking along with the tone and plot, and really the only weak thing was about 2/3 in when they advanced the upcoming fight plot strangely rapidly after having such thorough pace early on.

    Those small flashbacks and out-of-present sequences were well done, and strangely enough I felt the EXACT opposite of you during the pearls and gun scene. I felt the loss, the fight of the father along with the powerlessness of the mother, along with some other key moments that actually DO give more gravity of that scene, whereas you seem fixated on the pearls.

    My favorite parts of the movie were outside of the Doomsday showdown (spoiler anyone? I think not, he was in the trailers), but even that had its moments, including your praise of WW. I only wish they had put in a couple more moments of levity, breaking up consistent grimness, and that may have left room for about even 10 more minutes to have a more natural development of the final events.

    Other than that, I very much enjoyed it overall, and will gladly see it again.

  8. Ok, they absolutely discuss the implications of people dying in the film. That’s the entire premise. They just don’t spoonfeed it to you or beat you over the head with it, until Clark has a talk with Pa Kent in the mountains… Actions have consequences and you can’t save everyone and everything. It’s a looooooong running theme in Superman stories. Along with the God vs Man battle, which I thought played out fantastically in the fight – where Batman realizes that Superman is just a man, who has people he cares about (and they care about him personally), and who is trying to do good but he’s not perfect – the movie actually has a fairly tight narrative and sticks to the themes introduced in Man of Steel. Maybe you should see it again. I was really disappointed in Man of Steel when I first saw it, but on re-watch, I’ve come to love and appreciate it.

  9. This review is incredibly melodramatic (moreso than the film) and hyperbolic. Really? ZERO stars? That’s absolutely ridiculous. I saw it, it’s a decent film that’s without a doubt very messy. Still had tons of great moments, particularly Ben Affleck’s Batman.

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