Review: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice


I've been talking smack about this movie for months.  Ever since that absolutely awful trailer that shows Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill (and an unremarkable Jesse Eisenberg), in what appeared to a be a cocktail party conversation, I've been ragging on this movie.  Oddly, the very scene that had my stomach churning ended up being not that bad, which should say something about some of the choices that have been made for this film.  As some of you might remember, I did a pre-review of the film in order to lay out my expectations and what I feel the movie should contain in order to get a perfect score.  I also did this so that the legions of fans out there will understand how I generally percieve and rate things.  I will address the issues of the film in line item fashion, using the pre-review as my template.  If you haven't read it, you may want to here.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice was directed by Zack Snyder, the director of 300 and The Watchmen.  Both of those films I enjoyed.  Some reviewers called Snyders adaptation of 300 "juvenile", I called it "panel perfect".  He got panned for "The Watchmen", but I felt, despite major deviations in the story, that the story itself and the writing were superb and the film was a pleasure to watch.  But there is one major difference between those two films: Snyder followed the "300" graphic novels almost to the panel.


Let's talk about the liberties Snyder took with the original storyline.  It could be argued that this story is no the Miller "Dark Knight" series at all, except the idea that Superman and Batman fight, and oh... the powered armor Batman uses is identical to the armor used in the Miller comic.  If you aren't going to follow some kind of canon, then why borrow from the storylines of others at all?  More to the point, why borrow from one of the more famous storylines?  Is it a lack of originality or creative impulse?  To my mind, Snyder screwed himself the moment he said he wasn't following any particular storyline.  Which is just code for "I want to do whatever I want and screw what the fans want."

As I stated in the pre-review, I believed that the inclusion of Lex Luthor as a character, and more importantly, a catalyst for the "gladiator matchup of the century"was utterly superfluous.  And Eisenberg had the twitchy, neurotic, affect one would expect from the Riddler, not the cold arrogance of Lex Luthor.  Both the character and the portrayal were a miss for me.  It is important to note that any character whose primary attritbute is intelligence should demonstrate that preemptively in films so that when it is brought to bear on someone later on, the gravity of it is felt.  In a film such as "Iron Man" despite Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) role as a spoiled and douchey tech bro, at no point did we doubt his potential for intellectually driven bad assery.  The spectre of his genius was always in evidence and at times we wanted to warn the bad guys.  This was completely lacking in "Batman vs Superman" and made Eisenberg's Luthor more of a malevolent Zuckerberg than anything.  I actually felt at times that "The Facebook" was spliced into the film.  Eisenberg is notorious for doing what I like to call "Cruisin'", or basically playing himself in all of his roles (a reference to something Tom Cruise does).  Being cast as Lex Luthor, and having an exceptional amount of screen time, offered Eisenberg an opportunity to bust out of his bird chested, weakling archetype and do some serious arch-villainy.  Unfortunately his unconvincing performance not only reinforced the negative feelings I had about having the character in the film, but also left me wondering why Eisenberg was cast for the role at all.  


There ain't no Heisenberg in this Eisenberg


The presence of Lex Luthor and the absence of the Joker had a twofold effect.  In the original, the Joker's death was the impetus for the U.S. Government asking Superman to reign Batman in, thus bringing about the eventual confrontation.  Inserting Lex Luthor instead is seemingly senseless but I understood ultimately why they did it, which I will get to shortly.  But other noticeable absences include Robin, which in the original was a teenage girl.  Another absence I understand given the completely altered timeline.  However, there was some excellent missed opportunities for cross promo and foreshadowing of eventual appearances.  Snyder took a perfectly good storyline and butchered it in his own self serving attempt to promote a Justice League film.  In fact, while watching "Dawn of Justice" one really gets the creeping sensation that they are, in fact, watching a 2 hour and 35 minute trailer of the Justice League.  The introduction of Wonder Woman was cool, but also unnecessary.  Her presence was completely tangential to the story and only served as a distraction.  The coolness factor she added was marginal overall, though I must admit she was fun to watch during the Doomsday fight scene.  The other scenes where they showed the discovery of other "meta-humans" varied from kind of cool to simply goofy.  I can't wait to see Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, but the little intro they did of him was ham fisted and gratuitous.