Simply put, this superhero crossover is pointless and only ruins the movie from the start...
When I was a kid, there were boys at school who would play a fun game of imagining crossover matchups of different fictional characters. For example, one boy might ask, "Who's gonna win? The Ninja Turtles or the X-Men?" Another might ask, "Who's gonna win? RoboCop or Terminator?" While it can be funny to hear the amusing responses to those questions, I usually didn't want to see the crossover actually take place, particularly when the fictional universes are dramatically different from each other. But now fast-forward a few decades to 2016 when director Zack Snyder gives us a movie that asks, "Who's gonna win? Batman or Superman?"
Now, I'm not against the idea of all fictional crossovers. The only kind I can appreciate is one where each individual fictional universe is so similar to each other that they can really be just different parts of one universe. Marvel's The Avengers comes to mind. I'm guessing that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a way for DC Comics to compete with Marvel in the superhero film franchise business. But I'll say this right now. Meshing Batman and Superman into one movie doesn't work, because their individual fictional universes are very different and would only clash in combination.
Just look at the first scene of this movie, depicting an alien invasion while Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is scrambling to save people's lives. My mind couldn't fully grasp the concept that this is Batman in Superman's world. After all, Batman is a human superhero using human strength and technology to fight the criminal underworld, whereas Superman is an extraterrestrial superhero using superhuman strength and powers to fight threats that can be terrestrial or extraterrestrial. Oh, by the way, this movie really is a sequel to Man of Steel in 2013, and Henry Cavill returns as Clark Kent/Superman, but this is easily forgotten because Batman had to cross over into this world.
From that point on, all the way through to the end, I was forced to play cinematic hot potato. This movie is not one seamless narrative, but rather two unblended movies, so that my brain had to switch from watching a Superman movie to watching a Batman movie, then back to a Superman movie, and a Batman movie, et cetera. Each time the character focus changed, I had to remind myself of the last thing that happened in that same "sub-movie." Even then, I couldn't handle the four initially unconnected plotlines: Superman having an image problem, Batman having a public image problem while Bruce Wayne is tracking a Portuguese criminal, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) investigating a mysterious bullet, and eccentric research Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) having his eyes on something that may give him immense power.
The lack of a cohesive plot is one major problem, and it naturally leads to another: weird action scenes. I just could not picture Superman in Batman's world and vice versa, I didn't care too much about the action, as explosive and intense it was. It was especially hard for me to accept Batman in the same scenes as any out-of-this-world elements characteristic of Superman's world. Speaking of which, I do think Ben Affleck is miscast. He's OK as Bruce Wayne, but when the actor dons the bat costume, he looks, sounds, and acts as cheesy as an obnoxious person doing a crappy Batman imitation. In contrast, i thought Henry Cavill is just fine as Clark Kent/Superman.
So does this movie get any better ultimately? Barely. I liked the ending to say the least, and the climax does once put Batman in his world and Superman in his world before the big epic final battle. Other than that, there isn't much to save the movie. I remember a moment late in the movie when Batman discovers one thing he has in common with Superman, and the idea of it is neat, but its revelation and consequence could still be better executed. All of this is overshadowed by this unforgivable cinematic sin: introducing a major character way late in the movie instead of way earlier. Ladies and gentlemen, Wonder Woman comes out of nowhere to join the two title characters. I am NOT kidding.
If they had just kept this a 100% Superman movie that clearly follows Man of Steel in 2013 and left Batman entirely alone since Christopher Nolan already directed the best Batman movies ever, I probably could enjoy this movie a whole lot more. Going back to that childhood game of hypothetical matchups, Superman definitely wins over Batman, so just make this movie as Superman: Dawn of Justice. Trying to cram Superman and Batman into a two-and-a-half-hour movie results in underdevelopment of both. So let this be a lesson: cross characters over if the combination makes sense, but otherwise, leave them separate. Come to think of it, if Zack Snyder has ruined his Superman series with this movie, his next movie should just focus on Wonder Woman. WITHOUT ANY OTHER SUPERHERO CHARACTERS IN IT!
Anthony's Rating: 4/10
(Review originally published at http://anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/B/Batman_v_Superman_Dawn_of_Justice.htm)