There are those of us who willingly choose to avoid the paper representations of the immensely popular superhero films. In doing so, while unable to provide a glimpse into how faithful the adaptations are, can still provide a unique and still truthful outlook to the success of the filmmakers to present a story that is worthwhile and thrilling. Sadly, it’s filmmakers like Zack Snyder who make us realize how good we had it with Christopher Nolan and his uneven take on the cowled vigilante in The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan, provided a grim perspective on the Batman universe and Snyder too uses the grim approach, it also is more often than not…soulless.
For better or worse I approach each superhero flick hoping to experience a well told story. With any luck it’ll come together cohesively even without having read the comics. One should not have to have that knowledge to enjoy the film counterparts because it is the job of the filmmaker to present the story in a way that makes sense in its own right. Snyder has not done his due diligence in this regard- at least from this viewer’s perspective. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice certainly sets the table for DC’s own Avengers type formula, but does so in messy fashion. Consider Synder’s vision the Island of Misfit toys so to speak, which goes a long way in describing the film as a whole. It’s like a child playing with his toys and like a child they’re no sense or meaning to anything that happens, just the bashing together of plastic soulless figures because it’s fun. Plus this particular child has a $250 million budget so those plastic toys look a lot cooler.
Following the monumental destruction of Man of Steel of which Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) had a front row seat, Wayne now sees Superman as a potential enemy- one that his alter ego, Batman, must potentially put down. Superman (Henry Cavill), sees Batman as a ruthless vigilante who believes he is above the law. Naturally the two believe that they are enemies and are poised for an epic showdown. Neither realize that there’s someone pulling their strings leading them on their collision course, Alexander Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who is their true enemy, but can they come to an understanding before Luthor and his sinister plans win the day.
As is the case with a lot of superhero movies, the inclination is to stuff them with as much fan service as possible- such is the downfall of this film. Serving too as the setup for The Justice League, Snyder force feeds the audience nuggets of info that tease to bigger things to come, and sometimes short changes the heroes at hand. The nearly hour and a half of buildup to the mighty gladiator battle lends to disappointment as characters change their tune on a dime. Wayne/Batman spends over half the movie hell bent on taking down Superman, unwavering in his quest- and then *minor spoiler* drops his quest almost instantly. In a two part movie with a much longer battle sequence to cap off the first part, this could have had much deeper implications. As is, Snyder’s last act is rushed and mired in messy special effects, including the forced CGI mess that is Doomsday.
Many fan’s issues with Man of Steel were the level of destruction that likely killed thousands upon thousands of people, which is at the center of Superman’s plight in BvS. That too is dropped unceremoniously as the last acts is basically just Man of Steel 2.0- except they try to bypass that by saying the section being turned to rubble is all but abandoned…..yeah, ok. That’s somewhat easy to ignore if the action is good enough, and pretty enough to have fun with and for the most part it is even in spite of how fake the CGI is. There’s no weight to the chaos, it’s just CGI creation laying waste to another CGI creation and the story/character development is almost non-existent leaving our heroes feeling hollow. The exception is Affleck as Wayne/Batman. The character’s backstory has been done to death, and is shown over the opening credits. Little tidbits of his life are on display through Alfred’s comments, props in the background, and Wayne’s own dialogue. Affleck works as Batman, and this is essentially his movie. Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent is dull and falls completely flat. By the time anything he does carries any weight it’s almost too little too late.
Save for a rousing score that plays well as a sequel to the barrage of drums from Man of Steel, the last act is at least fun to watch in spite of the grim tone to the spectacle. The attempts at humor are admirable, but misplaced given the personality of the film up until this point. Picture being dumped and as your walking away the person who just dumped you tries lightening the mood with a joke and as you attempt to chuckle they kick you right in the balls. One day you’ll see the humor in it…but at the time it hurts like a b*tch.
I know, I know…it sounds like I’m doing nothing but dumping all over this film, but the fact of the matter is that I also didn’t hate it- in fact I actually had some fun. It’s a messy movie with frayed connective tissue. The shell around it can hardly contain the amount of content within and because of that a wonderful story is often short-changed for inconsequential dream sequences that come out of nowhere. Still, there’s something satisfying watching Batman clobber Superman relentlessly over the head with a metal fist and that alone was enough to plant my butt in the seat. Snyder is a director with a keen eye for framing scenes in a comic book movie, but zero interest in storytelling. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is overstuffed, overlong, and aimless. It certainly has its moments, but ultimately it’s still just another example that DC is just a blip underneath Marvel’s looming cinematic shadow.
Brew & View Recommendation:
Want a beer recommendation fitting to this review of Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice? Let’s go with Not Your Father’s Root Beer from Small Town Brewery. Why? Because this is not your father’s Batman. It’s a beverage people loved when it was scarcely available, but following it’s transformation into a mass produced conglomerate that’s spawned countless ripoffs, it’s suddenly become a target to snobs- perhaps even for good reason. It’s sweet and it does it’s job well- the job being of course providing a fleeting buzz- but too much and it’s likely to no still all that well in your stomach. Even still, it’s a drink worth revisiting from time to time as a guilty pleasure.
Not Your Father’s Root Beer comes in at 5.9% ABV (but also 10.7% and 19.5% in certain markets). Available in 6 packs of 12oz bottles or 4 packs of 16oz cans in most areas of the U.S.