Monday, March 28, 2016


This time, I'm part of the problem. I thought a lot of Zack Snyder's Man of Steel worked, and that by having a good handle on Clark Kent he had the key to making good Superman movies. The lust for spectacle created a final battle of such massive, thoughtless and wanton destruction that for many people the movie tipped into the failure column. I wanted to see some more of what Snyder wanted to do with the character and with the buildup for the Warner Bros. "Justice League" franchise.

Now I have, and by spending money to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I have contributed to the stink I believe is going to emanate from cinemas across the land every time one of these deposits is made within it. My apologies.

Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne finds himself in Metropolis when Zod's final battle starts wrecking it. He's appalled at the level of destruction this so-called "hero" Superman (Henry Cavill) creates in "saving" the world, but unlike many people, he doesn't see himself as helpless in the face of this power. After all, he's Batman. He dedicates his energies towards finding a way to eliminate the threat -- by eliminating Superman. Also seeking a way to eliminate Superman is Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who's got his hands in a number of other illegal ventures that are drawing attention from Batman as well. Batman's quest to protect the planet from danger puts him in the path of mysterious visions of other beings with superhuman powers, and also involves a mysterious woman named Diana Prince (Gal Gadot).

There are some nice bits in Dawn of Justice. Despite the derision of his casting and his earlier lousy turn as Daredevil, Affleck makes a good Batman. He conveys the obsessive intensity you'd expect in a man who wears a demonic-looking suit and fights criminals. Gal Gadot's turn as Wonder Woman is impressive and far too short, but it offers some hope for her scheduled 2017 movie. Especially since Snyder has no role in it. There is a neat turn of the story based on an often-overlooked something that both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent share.

But almost everything else is awful. The story staggers between its developments without much of a sense of real movement -- there may be some flow to Batman's determination to take Superman out as a threat, but not for most of the other plot points. The need to use Dawn of Justice to set up a Superman sequel and the Justice League movie means that its seeds have to be shoehorned into this storyline and make it even murkier than the rainy, grimy fight scenes.

There is no real conflict in this movie -- we know who's good and who's bad before we start -- and neither is there any joy in watching any of it unfold. It's like listening to "Twist and Shout" played by a band getting $50 for a night's work in a bar next to an interstate motel three hours from any town. No matter how much you like "Twist and Shout," you'd probably cough up $50 for them to skip it. But since the world collectively hit the Warner Bros. tip jar to the tune of $424 million for this version of the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, we're probably going to get more of the same for encores.

PS: Every movie review, whether by a guy rambling on a blog or someone paid to be a "film critic," amounts to an opinion on what the writer thinks worked or didn't work. Which doesn't leave out that a lot of it can get influenced by non-critique-oriented responses as well. I had one, but I left it to the end so as to offer reasons why I thought Dawn of Justice didn't work, rather than just my reactions. But here goes. I loathed every...single...second of Jesse Eisenberg's version of Lex Luthor. If someone hired the woman who "restored" the Elias Garcia Martinez fresco in Borja, Spain to revise every single frame he's in, that would be a heroic act.


Todd Bergman said...

I have gone into every DC movie in recent history hoping that they could nail it. Which may be why I went into BvS without those expectations. I went in expecting very little so that may be why I came out with a more positive view. And not being a DC fan also worked to my advantage. But most of all, I honestly didn't care how it worked. I went in looking for it to take me from point A to point B. I just made the path the movie took work for me.

Totally agree on Gal Gadot. Agree a little on Affleck, but we didn't get to see his Bruce Wayne. Eisenberg was over the top and I had to check out on a "canon" Lex Luthor. I envisioned him as the love child of traditional Lex and a female Joker.

Friar said...

I think I wanted to enjoy the trip between A and B and I couldn't. You completely nailed the larger than/smaller than life problem; I wish someone would make Snyder read Kurt Busiek's JLA/Avengers crossover to get the distinction. Or just fire him and hire Timm and Dini.