It's been just about three solid years of overwhelming negativity towards any future Warner Bros. production within the DC Comics universe. After the 2013 release of Man of Steel, moviegoers and comic nerds alike gave a collective "boo" towards director Zack Snyder and Warner Bros., even after the announcement for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and future release dates for the expanded DC Universe. The only glimmer of hope came when a small clip was shown at San Diego Comic-Con International during a Hall H presentation.
By now, we have all had the opportunity to watch Batman v Superman and the bashing of the DC Universe films hasn't really stopped. In fact, you could argue that it's just gotten worse. After initial reviews of the film were overwhelmingly negative, it quickly spread around the internet that the film was sitting on some horrible ratings. It's currently sitting at a 29% approval via Rotten Tomatoes.
A majority of the responses have been similar and a lot of viewers are complaining about the same things. However, the positives viewers managed to find are also fairly similar. Now that I have seen the movie for myself, I would say that my complaints are pretty much with the majority but I did find some positivity. This got me thinking, what exactly did Batman v Superman get right? On the opposite side, what went so wrong to justify the negative responses from fans and critics?
With this article I will argue the points both ways and go from my personal experience seeing this movie. I will admit that I'm not a complete expert in DC Comic story arcs, but I know enough to have suffered some irritation at the hands of this movie.
And yes, there are spoilers ahead, so if you haven't seen Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, you might want to bookmark this and come back after you have.
What did they get right?
4. Setting up the DC Universe as a whole
A main criticism so far of the DC Universe is that they weren't following Marvel's example by creating a collective cinematic universe. The way Marvel Studios has setup their universe is by tying each solo film into one giant film at the end of each film phase and finding ways to connect everything together in some way. It really is genius and no one can really argue against it, especially when comparing Marvel films to DC films. However, Batman v Superman acted as the first DC film to really open our eyes to the expanded DC Universe. We are introduced to future characters such as Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. We aren't really given a whole lot of information but we got enough to know the direction they're headed.
3. Batman was very brutal
We were warned to a point that this version of Batman was going to be different than any that we've seen before. If you can recall, it didn't go over too well when it was announced that Ben Affleck was going to be our new Caped Crusader. Some people went far enough to say they were going to boycott the movie unless Batman was re-cast. Even with that said, I have to honestly say that the "Batffleck" was one of the strongest parts of this movie. He is shown to us as an alcohol filled man of rage who is haunted by nightmares of what Superman might do to this world. He is engaging, somewhat terrifying, and heartbreaking all at the same time.
2. Man of Steel was properly addressed for what it was
This is one aspect of the film that made the power of fan response very obvious. One of the biggest criticisms of Man of Steel was the third act where Superman and General Zod flat out destroy Metropolis. Some called it out of character while others simply said it was too much. However, Dawn of Justice begins with Bruce Wayne being caught right in the middle of the fight as he rushes into Metropolis to his Wayne Enterprises building that is basically destroyed killing an unconfirmed number of his employees.
In addition to addressing the personal effect it had on Batman, it also addresses exactly why the events of Man of Steel have led to the situations present in Dawn of Justice. Antagonists and protagonists alike are terrified by the power that Superman displayed and possesses and are fighting for answers to the exact same question; how can anyone control something as powerful as Superman? Not only that, but who will or should he answer to?
1. Wonder Woman
Similar to the questionable casting of Ben Affleck, the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was also met with some conflict. Personally, I think that Gadot completely owned the role and she brought that level of mystery to a character that not many know a whole lot about. While characters like Wonder Woman are often brushed into the background or portrayed in a certain "damsel in distress" light, it was refreshing to see a female character like this take center stage and step into a situation that you normally wouldn't see a woman kick ass in. She is featured just enough to let us know she's important and to clue us into what is still coming, but she wasn't overpowering or too distracting from our title characters.
So, what exactly went wrong?
4. Editing and plot
First of all, I just have to say the editing was atrocious. It was choppy, messed with the timeline, and I got to a point where I wondered if they were intentionally trying to confuse people.
Along with poor editing, we had a movie that was ridiculously crammed. In addition to an attempted origins story, we had the Dawn of Justice world being put on top of the DC universe as a whole, plus 2-3 more subplots. The events in this movie easily could have filled another movie. The title of Batman v Superman is a bit misleading because the main fight between the characters is very brief and given that this is film is 151 minutes long, you would have expected more of a battle between the title characters and not necessarily a bunch of crammed subplots and character introductions. Not only was the actual Batman/Superman fight short, it molds right into a simultaneous fight with Doomsday which is a whole other can of worms.
Speaking of Doomsday, let's talk about what a disaster it turned out to be. It's a given that any film with Zack Snyder's name attached to it is just going to be a massive CGI dump, but Doomsday took his lack of subtlety to a whole new level. This villain was no doubt the easiest target to appear in this movie because it requires little to no origins explanation, but it's basically just a big clump of CGI to slap in between the title characters. Doomsday was cheated by poor editing and writing and was so matter of fact it was painful. News clips playing on Metropolis and Gotham TV stations didn't know what it was, Lex Luthor was basically out of the picture throughout the entire battle, the government was acting like they knew what it was, and there was no real sense of fear in anyone fighting against Doomsday. It was just a big ball of failure that makes the film's negative responses make more sense.
2. Not kid friendly
It should be a given at this point that not all superhero movies being released these days are suitable for children. However, there needs to be more of an understanding with studios regarding the ratings system and exactly what your target audience is. My theater was full of small children in Batman or Superman t-shirts brought by parents because their kids love superheroes. It was not really relayed to potential moviegoers that this film is full of pretty graphic violence and dark themes that your Batman loving four-year old will not possibly understand. People die in rather gruesome ways and Batman's torturous attitude is enough to tarnish the image for a child. When Superman "died," a couple of parents escorted their children out of the theater I was in. I honestly don't know what is being added to the R-rated version of Dawn of Justice. The PG-13 version was worthy of an R-rating based just on violence.
1. Lex Luthor
There are a lot of reasons to dislike Jesse Eisenberg's take on this DC villain. For one, the portrayal gave Luthor this sort of neurotic and rather manic presence. What I took from it was that he was basically a combination of The Riddler and The Joker. You don't really know what his motivation is for pitting the heroes against each other and you never really gain a sense of why he hates either of them. The closest you get is because Batman steals his Kryptonite rock and that Superman is more powerful than he is. We are sort of clued into a rather painful and potentially abusive past Luthor suffered at the hands of his father, but the truth is we are introduced to this new version of him with absolutely no explanation as to why he is the way he is or why he acts the way he does. It was confusing, annoying, and just plain weird all at the same time. Like I said, he reminded me a lot of The Joker for the sheer fact that he seems crazy and evil just for the hell of it. Not to mention shaving his head was a major no-no. Way to make more enemies, Snyder.
I wouldn't say that I completely hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, I also wouldn't say I liked it. For me personally, the "wrong" outweighed the "right" and I felt the treatment of specific characters and the ridiculously crammed storyline hurt it more than anything else. They took enough material for what could have been two, if not three, movies and compressed it into one giant mess. As a result, things that needed more attention were swept under the rug or ignored completely.
This movie didn't make me more excited for any future DC films because I have enough sense to know that as long as Zack Snyder is in charge, they will be more of the same. We will have rushed plots, awkward editing, too many special effects, and in your face action. There's very little substance to these movies up to this point and no matter what is done with the solo movies, it will be lost because Snyder is directing both Justice League installments.