“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has evening screenings tonight, but officially begins its theatrical run across the country tomorrow in 2D, 3D, IMAX, 4DX, premium large formats, and 70 mm prints.
When two titans meet in the ring, face to face, or in some grand spectacle showcased for the entire world to see, it should at least feel earth shattering even if it has no intention of living up to such a behemoth reputation. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has all of the potential in the world that should get fans excited, whether they’re comic book fans or not, merely at the mention of the two characters meeting and battling each other in the same film for nearly three hours.
Publicly acknowledging that the film is influenced by The Dark Knight Returns, a fan-favorite Batman graphic novel, through interviews and trailers only made things more interesting. Suddenly a brooding, well-trained, human detective has the power and ability to stand toe to toe with a super powered alien who could literally crush any man at will just by looking at them if he so desired. This is a story that has been told many different ways in comics and animation. The inspiration is out there to write and create a live action film that is both captivating and entertaining for everybody. Why Zack Snyder and Warner Bros decided to deliver a film that is so utterly lifeless is soul crushing for both movie lovers and comic book lovers alike.
It’s ridiculous how little the massive $250 million blockbuster does right. There are times when the imagery in the film is absolutely incredible like the post-apocalyptic scene in the desert, the opening montage featuring Batman’s origin, and Superman saving the girl during the Day of the Dead festival. These are the richest visuals in the film often bursting with color or feature costume and set designs lifted straight out of a “Mad Max” film. The few sequences like this in the film say more in one frame than the entire film does in its 170-minute duration. The way “Batman v Superman” connects the events of “Man of Steel” to the Bruce Wayne character is also quite satisfying. Seeing the Zod/Superman fight from his perspective is one of the highlights of the film.
Unfortunately just about everything else in the film rubs you the wrong way or is genuinely intriguing at surface level and completely unsatisfying underneath. Batman and Superman don’t fight for at least a good hour and a half. The film milks that confrontation for as long as humanly possible. Most of the film is devoted to Congress holding a trial deciding whether or not Superman should be held accountable for the deaths and destruction caused by his fight with Zod in “Man of Steel.” Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is making a play for Kryptonite since he views Superman as an undeserving individual with God-like abilities and Batman is just running around branding people in an effort to establish his hardcore status as a vigilante.
Jesse Eisenberg is simultaneously the best and worst aspect of the film. The performances seem to take themselves too seriously, but in walks an energetic, passionate, and quirky Eisenberg who gives an extreme amount of passion and life to what is otherwise a raving lunatic. He’s outrageously memorable, but his actions are unlike any Lex Luthor you’ve ever known. His performance is purposely over the top and borderline ludicrous. He is Peter Sarsgaard in “Green Lantern.” He embraces chaos like Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight.” He’s John Travolta in “Battlefield Earth.” Eisenberg is essentially Nicolas Cage in everything he’s ever done with his Lex Luthor performance.
The main issue “Batman v Superman” faced going in was attempting to cram too much into one film. DC is using this film as its jump off point for “Justice League.” The method in which the film introduces those new characters is so delicate and subtle that it’s barely noticeable during all of the muddled malarkey going on between Batman and Superman. Wonder Woman has a total of maybe eight minutes of screen time. If you can get past Gal Gadot’s funky accent, then she’s fairly satisfying in the role. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth seems seriously underutilized. Irons does what he can with the role, but the character mostly gripes about Bruce failing to spread his seed across Gotham City. Lois Lane has this knowledge that Superman will save her whenever she’s in trouble no matter where she is in the world, so she practically thrusts herself into danger whenever she has the opportunity. There are at least three different situations in the film where Superman has to save her and why shouldn’t she live so haphazardly? Wouldn’t you if you had a portable safety net that could take baths with you, fly, and wear spandex at a moment’s notice?
The straw that broke the camel’s back with “Batman v Superman” is how dark its visuals are. Even in IMAX, blobby computer generated effects collide with shaky camera and digital actors on a stage that never has the proper amount of lighting. It’s absolutely disheartening because what you can make out is rather fantastic. That big Batman fight sequence in the warehouse, for example, has its moments as does the fight with Doomsday. Speaking of, you can’t decide which is more explosive with Doomsday: his sheer amount of power or monster camel toe that he flashes at the camera every chance he gets.
The story is literally all over the place. Every transition seems to lead off with slow-motion and a fade-in or fade-out sequence. Bruce Wayne dreams far too much throughout events of the film, but the downside is those dreams are often some of the most enjoyable moments “Batman v Superman” has to offer. Many are praising Ben Affleck for his performance, but in all honesty he doesn’t impress. He is fine in the role, but not overly impressive or memorable. The fight between Batman and Superman is underwhelming. Right when it gets interesting it offers the weakest solution imaginable to unite the two characters in an effort to fight a bigger villain.
It is astoundingly discouraging to say that “Batman v Superman” is sloppy, under developed, and unsatisfying as both a comic book film and an entertaining piece of cinema. The film could have cut a massive chunk from its duration resulting in a film that at least felt more polished in execution rather than feeling so overstuffed with unnecessary fluff. The film is so dead set on being dark and grim that its visuals are overcast with special effects and actions that will barely be seen. DC is so devoted to making these serious films that are drained of enthusiasm and color while Marvel is vibrant and constantly delivers entertaining film after entertaining film. As a gigantic Batman fan this is a serious blow, but strap yourselves in for the long haul; Zack Snyder is directing “Justice League Part One” and “Justice League Part Two.” It’s bad enough that the next three years are going to suck, but “Batman v Superman” is proof that they’re going to be heartbreaking as well.