CAVEAT LECTOR: This is the SPOILER FREE review of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice read on with no worry.
In an episode of the fourth season of Breaking Bad the character Mike tells the character of Jesse (who is trying to replace his former right hand man) that “You are not the guy. You’re not capable of being the guy. I had a guy but now I don’t. You are not the guy.”
Funny enough, there’s a feeling coming out of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice that for Warner Bros. and DC’s cinematic universe, this could be (or maybe should be) said to Zack Snyder.
The movie, the culmination of two of comics greatest heroes having a spat, yet sharing the screen together for the first time ever should evoke feelings of awe or wonder. However, most of this film leaves one largely uninterested with flashes of good action and some build up with what to come. Bolstered by some performances that are so good they will stop the haters who have hounded them literally for years, they are stranded with a few wooden others, a script that weaves between plot points at breakneck speed, for better or for worse, and other questionable details. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is mostly a ho-hum exercise in squandered potential.
Two years after Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) had their climatic battle in the skies of Metropolis, the world grapples with the question of what hero it really needs. Suspicion mounts after an incident in a foreign nation where Supes saves Lois Lane (Amy Adams), which mounts pressure against him. Horrified by the destruction he witnessed that day, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) dons his cape and cowl as Batman in order to stop this perceive menace, all while Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) plots and schemes his own plans in the aftermath…
The performances of this movie are a mixed bag, but the clear standout is Ben Affleck, who shines as Bruce Wayne AND Batman (a tightrope act no modern actor has fully mastered). Affleck makes every scene he is in, and never chews scenery or goes to deep into mockery-ready territory (no Bale smokers voice here). If a solo Batman film is truly in the works, then count this examiner as excited, as there is solid ground on which to build that upon. Gal Godot also impresses as Diana Prince or Wonder Woman, in her limited screen time, she also hushes critics who felt she was too wooden or inexperienced to play such an iconic character, and she delivers great work here. Amy Adams is fantastic as Lois Lane as always, and Laurence Fishburne also turns in excellent and funny work as Perry White.
On the other side however, is Henry Cavill, seemingly directed to have as little charisma as possible by Snyder, who is often very wooden in many scenes, especially character building scenes that sort of took away from the movie. Jesse Eisenberg also missed the mark completely as Lex Luthor, devolving him into a ticky, high pitched weasel that never seemed threatening (a few times he begins words in a pitch reminiscent of Mickey Mouse). Both are talented men, but both left something to be desired here.
Zack Snyder’s direction was all over the place, with scenes seemingly stitched together. Other action scenes seem to ape directly from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and the use of cameras, especially in a handheld fashion, led to mixed results. Some scenes were edited almost as a sizzle reel for Hall H than as a part of a finished narrative. Other aspects of the story are rushed and kind of better left out of this movie (more in the spoiler review), and some scenes fluctuate between passable and preposterous. Beside some strong visuals (that he always seems to deliver) he also leaves plenty to be desired. His characterizations also need to be discussed, as Superman gets no development seemingly whatsoever (the aforementioned character building scenes are few and far between, and signify nothing) and he seems to woefully misunderstand the character of Batman (more on that in the spoiler-rrific review) . Part of this problem could be accredited to Chris Terrio and David Goyer, the film’s writers, but at the end of the day Snyder makes the pitch and leads the story to a point (he’s also responsible for that clunky title), so he must shoulder blame.
Overall, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice my finds itself endearing on some, and there are some good things about it, but many things hold this movie back from the potential of what could have been, especially leading into a Justice League film. This film by no means puts an end to DC’s quest to compete with Marvel, but it will need another shot to stick the landing.