Justice League is almost here so it is time to go back through the DCEU – DC Extended Universe – and take a look at the precursor to Justice League, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The film to really kick off the DCEU, BvS was highly anticipated. This thing was heavily featured at ComicCon, trailers and TV spots where everywhere; it seemed like Marvel was about to have some real competition in the market. Hell, Batman V Superman and Captain America: Civil War were even set to come out on the same weekend at one point before Warner Bros moved their movie to March from May.
So did it work? Was Batman V Superman the film we all hoped it would be?
No, not really.
I don’t think Batman V Superman is the worst thing in the world – I can even sit down and watch it and get some joy out of it here and there. But this film has a load of issues that keep it from being good.
First of all, it’s overly long and bloated – don’t even get me started on the Ultimate Edition which stretches the runtime from 151 minutes to 181. 3 freaking hours is just too much for this type of film.
There are scores of scenes that don’t make sense, their placement in the film could be shuffled around or removed entirely. Some are overly long and confusing, others too short and unnecessary. If someone can explain to me the story workings of the opening scene in the desert, let me know what that shit was all about.
The story is bloated, trying to set up too much for the future while neglecting to tell a coherent story in the present. Character motivations flat-out don’t make sense at times and while watching the admittedly impressive and sometimes fun spectacle on screen, you can’t help but ask yourself why it is all happening.
This brings me to the characters of BvS. Henry Cavill‘s Superman is one that I just struggle to get behind. I’ve never been a fan of the character in comics or other media, so I hoped that this iteration of the character would be the one I liked. Sadly, he is just too…bland. The way the film plays out, it’s as if Superman views saving people as a chore, an obligation that he’d rather not bother with. Not to mention Martha Kent (Diane Lane) doesn’t exactly help him in the right direction.
“Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be. Or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.”
Superman has always been looked at as a beacon of hope, standing for truth and justice and all that schlock. I’m fine with them changing the character for a more realistic approach, where the world isn’t quite sure if Superman is their saviour or reckoning. But the presentation and execution of it is all wrong. You can’t show scenes of Superman saving people, then have others be like “Superman saved those people, yeah, fuck that guy.”
It doesn’t make sense.
There is an interesting angle to play out here, having a superhero alien operating unchecked and out of government control in America – something that Civil War would also touch on. Sadly as soon as they go to address the issue in a scene in Congress – a scene I was very much looking forward to – they decide to pull the rug out from the audience as a bomb goes off, destroying Congress and what could’ve been an intriguing plot line.
This brings us to the villain of the movie, Lex Luthor. Jesse Eisenberg was what we pictured when we heard Luthor would be in the film. There is a throwaway line about how this is Lex Jr or something, an explanation for why the character is so vastly different from previous incarnations. My only problem is they wrote the character more like the Riddler or the Joker.
Funnily enough, I don’t hate Eisenberg in this film. I think with some fine tuning they could’ve gotten the character to work a lot better. But it all comes back to his motivations and their unnatural evolution throughout the story. His motivations change scene to scene and by the end he is seemingly acting as a herald for Steppenwolf, telling him to come fuck some shit up on Earth.
If the character was downplayed and wasn’t as pivotal in getting Batman and Superman to fight each other, I think it could’ve worked. Instead he serves mainly as a crux to move characters towards ends they may have gotten to on their own.
This brings us to the Batman. A violent, murderous, no-nonsense Batman. Ben Affleck is pretty great as him, and Bruce Wayne. The world weary Batman makes sense in this world, as does his hatred for Superman. The opening scene of Wayne in Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel is probably one of the best scenes in the film.
However, would it have been better to see Batman slowly pushed to edge rather than start the movie with him already there? Batman kills in this movie, you can’t dance around it. Would it not be better to see him slowly worn down, rather than just hints of what got him to this place in life?
I can’t deny that he is probably the most entertaining part of the film. Scenes with him as Batman feel different to previous Batman’s before him. Dark, brutal and unrelenting – his fight scenes are impressive to say the least. Even if the one dream scene in the future doesn’t exactly fit with the rest of the film.
I’ll say it now, too. Despite being shoehorned into the movie – Wonder Woman is the best part. Gal Gadot embodies the character perfectly and if you didn’t want to cheer when she shows up against Doomsday, well, that’s fine, you shouldn’t disturb other cinema-goers.
Of course Wonder Woman is totally unnecessary in the film, as is Doomsday, the majority of Lex Luthor and about six other subplots. Confusing dream, but not a dream sequences, an unexplained Flash cameo, laughably bad Justice League cameos – the list goes on.
Batman V Superman is a movie that is overly complicated, despite having a simple idea at its core. It gets bogged down with so much fat that could’ve been trimmed. Quality over quantity.
Like I said, I can watch this film and be entertained, despite its flaws. It has its bright spots – not the lighting, which is dark and gloomy, as usual. But the camerawork, most of the visual effects, the score and action scenes are all competently handled.
The characters need work – none of them are properly written and are inconsistent at the best of times. The story needed to be simpler than it was – there was no need to over complicate it. Batman wants to fight Superman – done. Keep it simple and clean. Have a tease of Luthor being a bigger threat towards the end of the film and getting in contact with Steppenwolf. Have a subplot explaining the Mother Boxes a bit better, since they look to be the McGuffin in Justice League.
Batman V Superman is a film that Snyder let get away from him. He went for a more-is-more approach when less-is-more was the right answer. It had potential, but wasn’t sure how to tap into it.
It’s far from good, but Batman V Superman can be a fun watch under the right circumstances. You can pick it apart piece by piece, but it does lay an interesting foundation for the films to come. We’ll just have to wait and see if Justice League uses that foundation wisely.