by: S. Scott Stanikmas – Senior Staff Writer
(WARNING! This review will contain mild spoilers regarding the latest “effort” from Warner Bros and DC Comics.)
Did anyone think back in 2008 when Marvel Studios released Iron Man and planted the seeds for what is now the Marvel Cinematic Universe that they would inspire the Shared Universe movement? And while continuity between movies isn’t anything new, it IS a new concept for DC Comics and Warner Bros – both of whom have put their hopes of a superhero movie universe on the shoulders of their newest offering Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
Even though this film is entertaining in some aspects it has more misses than hits, chief among them being very poorly focused and feeling every bit as long as the two-and-a-half hour runtime professes.
The main attraction that will bring people into the theater to buy a seat is the eventual battle between the Dark Knight and the Last Son Of Krypton. But the fight takes so long to get to that when the two titans do eventually go one-on-one you know where the fight will end up taking all the excitement and tension from the scene.
The film starts off with the prerequisite Batman origin (which doesn’t need to be retold anymore as it feels more and more dated with each passing year) and leads into the final battle from Man Of Steel, but told from the POV of one Bruce Wayne. As he rushes through the streets of Metropolis amidst carnage he calls his Wayne Enterprises building in the center of the battle and issues a mass evacuation. But it’s too late, as Wayne shows up to see his skyscraper destroyed and a number of his employees dead or injured. Here is the moment where Bruce Wayne decides that the alien is a threat and must be handled, if not permanently neutralized, once and for all.
Meanwhile you’ve got Superman, who is coming to the realization that not everyone likes him. In between rescuing doomed space shuttles and his girlfriend Lois Lane, the alter ego of Clark Kent comes to the realization that Batman is a little unorthodox and he doesn’t like how the Gotham Guardian operates. The Smallville farm boy feels like he should be the only one above the law as he knows limits (like flying through buildings?) so the Big Blue Boy Scout delivers a message to Gotham to bury the bat and leave him gone for good.
(Quick questions – hasn’t Superman been on earth for a while now? Wouldn’t he have already heard of and seen Batman’s handiwork? Why is he now having a problem with it? This makes Supes seem like a schoolyard bully who acts out because he has problems at home.)
When these two titans clash it’s…not as epic as you’d hope. The set-up feels way too long with too many meandering plot points that need to be brought up (so fans can get psyched for the next installments in the DC Cinematic Universe, leading up to next year’s Justice League) that the actual fight feels very anticlimactic.
Director Zack Snyder has produced a slick looking product that is heavy on style and light in the way of substance. The film looks good, which is expected when Snyder teams up with usual cinematographer Larry Fong. The two worked together on 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch so they have a set style which is visually pleasing for the most part.
The overall story is where the ball gets dropped as the film never feels like a cohesive narrative but more like a commercial to set up future films. Screenwriters Chris Terrio (who won an Academy Award for Argo) and David S. Goyer (who had a hand in crafting Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy) stepped in to rework the existing script and I have to wonder how god-awful and sloppy that one must have been for this to look like gold in comparison.
Ben Affleck stepped into an unenviable role when he was announced as Bruce Wayne / Batman, but he did a great job. I liked a lot of the aspects that he brought to the role. What I didn’t care for was how the World’s Greatest Detective was played as a Punisher-esque killer in this new DC Cinematic Universe. Meanwhile Henry Cavill still seems to be struggling with Clark Kent / Superman, never really getting comfortable even though this is his second outing as the Man Of Steel.
Jeremy Irons and Amy Adams, as Alfred and Lois Lane respectively, are mere afterthoughts here with Adams being given little more to do than be the damsel in distress and appear when convenient to the plot. And it seems a disservice to have an actor the caliber of Irons and only give him a handful of scenes and few witty lines (Mostly in Batman’s ear, although everything that did come out of his mouth was gold). Jesse Eisenberg solidified what I thought his Lex Luthor was going to be – a whiny and smarmy punk that I can’t believe as a villainous mastermind. And Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman seemed very out of place until her Deus Ex Machina entrance at the final fight against an unnecessary villain that could have been saved as a real threat for future films.
I could sit here and nitpick all day long – like why does Lex Luthor already seem to have corporate branded logos for the soon-to-be-introduced Justice League members – but that could be a whole column unto itself. In short order this film was overlong and severely lacking focus. Stunning visuals aside can’t stop this from feeling like the X3 equivalent of DC comic book movies.
Marvel Studios has provided the template for how to create a shared universe – and it works. They understand that you need to care about the characters singularly before you want to see them interact and team up. This movie is trying to bypass the critical steps and springboard straight to the big world-ending crisis film, which is why it fails as a springboard for future films. As of right now I don’t care about Cyborg, Aquaman or Flash as individuals, so why would I want to see them team up with DC’s Trinity (Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman)?
If Zack Snyder is the architect of the DC Cinematic Universe, then Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is a very weak and shaky foundation on which he chose to build. While many will enjoy it for the sheer entertainment it provides the little kids inside them, I can’t help but feel sorry for the future films that will be stacked upon this unsteady structure.