Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice – A Cynic’s Review

I’m sorry, Batman tortures people and Superman is the same old irresponsible tide of death? I don’t see the justice here.

If you were hoping to see the epic meeting of Big Blue and the Dark Knight alongside a host of deep, balanced characters, look away now

If you were hoping for some Avengers-like meeting of the giants in a seamless blend of flaws and virtues overcoming a great evil, wait for Civil War.This gonorrhoea-pit of plot holes and overdramatic speeches cannot be recommended in good conscience. Even a future Justice League film cannot excuse this heap of garbage that treads over the good name of comic books. I had always thought DC cancelled Nolan’s Batman series so they could make more family-friendly superhero films, but Snyder’s blunder is darker than Daredevil and with none of the atmosphere. How this film, which alludes to torture and shows death on such a massive scale, got a 12a is beyond me. The geeks and nerds like myself who had high hopes following Man Of Steel will see their faith  betrayed and broke into tiny pieces and urinated on, mingling with our tears into a salty and bitter cocktail of disappointment. I am not a DC fanboy, but as a lover of film I am saddened by the this slog of Jesse Eisenberg typecasting and serious, dark, latex suits produced with so little love.

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The plot is a convoluted mess of overdramatic dialogue and plot twists to facilitate a disappointingly slow fight sequence

The story begins with Bruce Wayne’s backstory: a thankfully short five minute sequence, though confusingly transitioning into a dream without warning (a recurring motif in this film). We see him in Metropolis during the events of Man Of Steel trying to help the survivors. This is a superb bit of filmmaking, linking the two films and setting up the character rivalry as Bruce watches Superman tear through skyscrapers, powerless to stop him. A year and a half later and Metropolis has been rebuilt. Superman is idolised by many, but despised by some citizens and a government official called Senator Finch, who see him as a threat. Events in the Middle East place him as responsible for dozens of deaths (as opposed to the thousands he caused in the last film) and is summoned by the government to answer for his crimes. Meanwhile, Senator Finch, Bruce Wayne and a young Alexander (Lex) Luthor look for a weapon capable of killing him as a final deterrent. Lex is playing both sides of the table, however, and forces Superman and Batman into a position where they must fight, the resulting chaos encompassing both Gotham and Metropolis (which, for convenience’s sake, have been placed next to one another). Through the power of a convoluted plot device (shared matriarchal figure) Bats and Supes team up with Wonder Woman – she’s in this film, by the way, but is so back-seated that her defining moment is setting up the next movie – in order to defeat a great threat, but at even greater cost. The threat and the cost at the end of this film will cause a large amount of contention in audiences. At least three people, I feel obliged to note, left the cinema before the end of the film. I was an inch away from joining them. I have only described the significant action because if I tried to go into the dozen or so subplots, this review would end up being longer than the film itself.

Now that the exacerbated mess of a plot is dealt with, let’s get into the details

I’ll begin with the cinematography. Admittedly there were a few high points: the scene at the beginning in Metropolis during Zod and Superman’s fight was a spark of genius. A rather fetching shot from the side of a building showed Batman’s helmet (because he wears an Iron Man suit in this film) surrounded by rain, panning up to reveal Superman approaching with sinister intent. This sent chills down my spine, however those short oases of innovative camerawork are mired in a mess of shallow focus, shakycam and colourless, drab settings that began to strain my eyes toward the end. This style of filmmaking has become tired since Book Of Eli and Monsters did it best. Now it’s just painful. Gotham and Metropolis lacked notable features or interesting architecture; cut and paste cities ripe for destruction. The only character that jumped off the screen was Wonder Woman because of her superb costume, as opposed to Batman’s which looked simply awful – the fat bat is not flattering. The editing was too quick-paced: there were never any establishing shots or pauses between dialogue and action, making everything feel rushed. Also, I have to say that Zack Snyder does not understand what a dream sequence is or how to use them. There is one (of several) in the middle where Bruce Wayne dreams of Superman as a cruel dictator. Wayne is knocked out in his dream, wakes up still in the dream, dies then wakes up to another dream before waking up for real. This took me a few minutes to digest, by which time we were on to the next important speech about Superman’s destiny. There were some technical flaws that are unforgivable in a high-budget release. There was some dialogue that was so muffled, I can only assume they botched it and didn’t bother to fix it in post. The CG light effects at the end of the film turned the whole screen white and almost fried my ocular nerve. These are the kinds of things that should be fixed after a test screening. The choreography for the fight scenes was slow and meandering. Each punch flew like a reticent sloth on a mobility scooter. Superman took a two minute break from the final showdown to have a romantic moment with the dead-eyed blank slate that is Lois Lane. All of this concocts into a dose of arsenic nobody can take and come out unscathed. I’m still having flashbacks of Ben Affleck hitting a tyre with a sledgehammer.

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As to the acting, characters have been stripped back to the plasterboard to make way for important plot

There is zero breathing room for good character moments in Snyder’s blunder of a sequel. Superman becomes an emo stereotype, whining about everything and wondering if he’s a hero. When things blow up in the courtroom during his trial, he barely reacts. The only time he gets mad is when he fights Batman and even then it feels very restrained. This Superman hasn’t developed from the broody, angry man-child of the last film. Affleck, on the other hand, gives us the best Batman we’ve seen in twenty years. Unfortunately this is coupled with the worst Bruce Wayne ever seen on screen. As the dark knight he is menacing; they use a voice-changer when he is Batman, which makes way more sense than the gravel-fests of Bale. There is also this sense that he is always there, hiding in the shadows, which can be frightening. But in his interactions with Alfred and Diana (Wonder Woman’s alias) make him look dull. He also never has those “yacht with the Russian Ballet” moments that made Bale’s Bruce so charming. Oh, and also apart from Alfred’s asides there are no jokes in this film: not a one. There are a few points of contention: this Batman brands his enemies, uses guns and is willing to kill. Though we do not see it directly, he ploughs through more than one thug in the Batmobile who could not possibly survive the collision.  I can sympathise, however, as this is a Batman who has spent decades fighting crime, seeing his friends die and enemies prosper. He is a damn sight more relatable than Superman, that’s for sure. Wonder Woman was dry, and while she had a part to play in the fight sequences, the rest of the time she did nothing more than facilitate the plot. She would have been better, I have to say, if she was given more screen time and maybe a speech or two. I guess someone still invested in these movies will have to see the Wonder Woman film that’s coming out and tell me. The supporting cast on the other hand… do nothing. As I’ve said already, Lois is hardly a character: she progresses a couple of side plots and drops a weapon, conveniently putting Superman in a dangerous situation. Senator Finch, Perry White and Martha Kent are the same: they either spout foreshadowing exposition or create minor inconveniences for Superman and Batman to overcome. And then there is Lex. Dear god there is Lex. When Jesse Eisenberg was announced for this role, the internet went into uproar over how there were such better options out there and that he would not fit the role. I can confirm, beyond a doubt, that they were right. Lex is goofy, unthreatening, unstable and has some of the cheesiest lines I’ve heard since Green Lantern. Though his reputation in the comics is for extortion and clever manipulation, in this film he swans about kidnapping people and engaging in Frankenstein-esque experiments to kill Superman because of daddy issues that in no way explain his psychotic rampage. It is not just that he has been typecast as the “Jesse” character, it’s that they try and throw a Joker spin on it. He ruins the lives of all the characters, and this film, but in the end he more or less gets away with it. There is no Justice here, but maybe at the Razzies some will be found.

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Of course, there will always be Marvel comparisons

If I were to put this movie alongside The Avengers, it would not hold up. The characters are less fleshed out, the dialogue is worse, the combat is not as engaging or fluid, the special effects are overblown and the ending is not nearly as satisfying. This film would not stack up to the Daredevil TV show in terms of dark plot, the Daredevil movie in action sequences, Green Lantern in terms of special effects, Hellboy II’s writing or even the first Captain American movie for backstory. It is a big yellow stain on DCs reputation. You do not need an arbitrary number/10 to know I will not recommend this film. It is a puss-filled sore that has damaged the integrity of superhero films the world round. Avoid if at all possible, wait for Suicide Squad.

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