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Before I get going with this review, let me just say that I am trying as hard as I can to say things that every other critic hasn't already said. You see, a little habit of mine is that I always read reviews of popular movies before I actually see them because I like hearing different opinions. But the downside is that those reviews, for good or for ill, really do affect my opinions of movies. Even when I'm finally watching the movies, I have those opinions hanging over my head. I had a similar situation with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, when I read the reviews, I did not plan on giving my own review of the film as I wasn't even thinking about setting up a blog. But, seeing as I do have a blog and Batman v Superman seemed like a natural choice for my next review, I tried my best to go in with an open mind and I tried to not let the previous reviews influence my experience. And I am doing the same thing now; I am trying to write a review that's not just rehashing what everyone else has already said. Just thought I'd let you know. OK, here we go.
The story: we begin with the battle between Superman and Zod that leveled the city of Metropolis. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is on the scene witnessing his headquarters being destroyed during the battle, along with a handful of his employees. Angered and fearful of the power that Superman has, Wayne decides to set out on his own personal quest to stop Superman as the masked vigilante, Batman. Meanwhile, Clark Kent - Superman's alter ego (Henry Cavill) - is working at the Daily Planet with his girlfriend, Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Kent is on his own personal journey trying to expose Batman's vigilante actions by way of extensively reporting on it, much to the annoyance of his boss, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne). As Superman, Clark finds himself struggling with the fact that he's caused so much collateral damage in his attempt to save the world and has made many people angry (which is a good idea, conceptually). One of these haters is a young billionaire named Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who has gained possession of a piece of kryptonite that was found from the remains of the second World Engine in the Indian Ocean. He plans to use this Kryptonite as a defense against Superman, but also has his own hidden, vaguely explained agenda. During Bruce's quest against Superman, he also encounters a mysterious antiques dealer named Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), who has her own motives.
And that is as far as I can go without giving away any spoilers.
First, I am going to talk about the good stuff in this movie. I think Ben Affleck is one of the better things this film has going for it. I like his interpretation of an older, more grizzled Batman who actually brands his victims and is not afraid to use firearms if necessary. He even manages to kill one or two bad guys. Even though I don't like that particular aspect of the new Batman, I like everything else about him. In fact, I'm kinda psyched for this upcoming Batman film directed by Affleck. Another element I like is Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Even though he doesn't feature in the movie for very long, every scene with him is memorable. He delivers all of his sarcastic dialogue in a fantastic, dry, British sort of way that we in America can't help but love. Some of the film's funniest scenes are with Alfred and his sarcastic one-liners. Even Perry White manages to get a good line in every once in a while.
But the best aspect of this film is Wonder Woman. Holy cow, have they managed to make her cool! Despite the fact that Gal Gadot is a little on the skinnier side than I would have liked, she totally owns the role, both as the mysterious Diana Prince and as the tough Wonder Woman. In fact, when Gadot finally showed up as Wonder Woman and the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL kicked in, I was legitimately pumped! Speaking of which, the musical score is not bad. It recycles some of the old themes from Man of Steel while seamlessly mixing them in with the new themes.
The final aspect that I think this film has going for it is the visual style. Despite the MANY problems this film has (which I shall explain later), this is a FANTASTIC LOOKING movie. One of the problems with Man of Steel was its grey color palette and unnecessary amounts of shaky-cam, which made the fight scenes hard to enjoy. But in this film, the color palette is much more varied and the shots are much smoother. Not to mention that the slow motion is effectively used, especially in the opening scene where we witness the murder of Bruce's parents. Bottom line: this looks more like a Zack Snyder film than the last one. In fact, this is how I was hoping the first one would look. That's why I was excited when I first heard that Snyder was going to be directing Man of Steel. I thought his penchant for slow-motion shots could be used to demonstrate the sheer size and scope of Superman's strength. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, but what are you gonna do?
So, with all of these positive things, you would think that this film is pretty passable, right? WRONG! Here's how they manage to mess it up. First of all, Superman is the least interesting character in this movie. He's pretty much the same stoic, brooding individual that he was in the last movie and he barely changes throughout this movie. Superman didn't seem to have a character arc in this film. And if he did, please explain it to me because I really have no idea what he learned throughout the entirety of this picture. Not only that, but we don't really see Superman saving anyone aside from Lois. Whenever Superman is flying into action, we only see the results of it. For example, there's a scene where Superman is saving a little girl from a burning building. Yet, the only shot we see of it is him flying out with her in his arms; we don't see him try to comfort the girl while he's saving her or anything like that. There's another scene in which a family is standing on top of their house during a flood. We see Superman hovering above them, and then it cuts away. Why? Wouldn't it have been cool to see him actually save those people instead of just seeing a cool trailer visual? This is why when Clark Kent tries to argue with Bruce Wayne about Superman being a savior, it doesn't hold water. It also doesn't help that Cavill maintains the same stoic expression throughout the entire film (there are some moments where he changes his expression to something more positive, but those moments are few and far between). What's even worse is the fact that Clark and Lois share absolutely no chemistry in this film. Remember what I said about not liking romances that are in movies just for the heck of it? This is a prime example of that. The only reason these two are dating is because the DC Universe deems it must be so based on the source material. Not because they share any actual chemistry or because their personalities work so well together. Just because.
And this contributes to the film's biggest problem: it's BORING! Clocking in at two-and-a-half hours, the film is just spending most of its time focusing on government hearings, dirty CIA mission gobbelty-gook, and pseudo-psychological ramblings which are supposed to give the surface level illusion that "this is a thinking man's movie" (which are actually less present here than they were in the last movie). By the time it got to the action scenes and the big showdown between Batman and Superman, I was just so bored by that point. The only time where it started to get interesting was the last battle where Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman are all fighting this one villain whose identity I won't divulge (however, considering how late I am at writing this review, you probably already know who it is). And when the film is not doing all that other stuff I just mentioned, it's also trying to set up the upcoming Justice League movie. For heaven's sake, there's a scene in the movie where a character is looking through what are called the "Metahuman Files" and every video from that file is shown; the files contain videos on The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, in that order. The whole scene stops the movie in its tracks and it feels like a trailer rather than a natural scene. There's even a dream sequence (this film, as you'll realize, is obsessed with dream sequences) where Bruce sees the Flash as he's basically saying "We're gonna be important later! We're gonna be important later!". All of this just makes Dawn of Justice feel overstuffed and overcomplicated, even comically so. It's like a Coen brothers movie that has a lot of unnecessary fat that could have been cut from the movie and nothing would change (Big Lebowski, for example). However, the Coens make their plots overcomplicated so that the characters can basically make fun of how overcomplicated it is. Dawn of Justice expects the audience to be invested in every single plot detail rather than just be bored by it.
And now for my biggest personal problem with the film, which is ironically one of my favorite parts of the film: Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Oh, where do I begin with this guy? First off, his motivations don't make a whole lot of sense. He wants to kill Superman because he has some problem with him being a god or something? I don't know. If you have any idea of what his motivation is, just let me know. Second...I could NOT take this guy seriously at all. Lex Luthor is supposed to be intimidating and is supposed to have some sense of class about him. Eisenberg is just doing his Zuckerberg schtick combined with Jim Carrey from Batman Forever, plus a little bit of Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight. All of which combine to create a non-threatening, overly goofy, exaggeratedly evil character. And I don't blame Eisenberg for this; he's a really good actor. He was just doing what the director told him to do (though, it's debatable how much direction Snyder could have given, considering how silly the performance gets). On the other hand...he cracks me up! Let me explain; the performance is so awkward and so silly that I can't help but laugh at how bad and how wrongheaded it is. It almost makes me wish that this film were a comedy so I could be legitimately praising it rather than bashing it.
The last problem I will touch upon is the film's ending. Without giving too much away, they try to do something with Superman's character that should elicit a big shock from the audience. However, the film is so overstuffed with unnecessary plot elements and Superman is so two-dimensional as a character, this moment just left me cold and apathetic. It kind of reminded me of Gwen Stacey's death at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Plus, there's the added fact that this Superman is still relatively new, so it doesn't have that much of an effect in terms of shock value.
The film is laden with many other problems which I could talk about, but I now wish to talk about the bigger picture. You know, it's kind of serendipitous that I decided to write this review today because at this point, Dawn of Justice has experienced a 71.5% drop in ticket sales. Apparently, this is some kind of record in ticket-sale drops. I actually thought that word-of-mouth would hurt this film in the long run, and that's apparently what happened. So, what does this mean for the DC Extended Universe? Honestly, it's not looking too hopeful to me. Not just because of this ticket-sales drop, but also because of the effect it's having on Suicide Squad. A recent piece of news has surfaced that Warner has ordered numerous reshoots on the upcoming David Ayer-directed film in order to add more "levity". Reshoots are always a little shaky, but they're even shakier when they're being ordered SEVEN MONTHS after principal photography has already wrapped up (principal photography officially ended in August of 2015). Now, reshoots aren't always bad; World War Z underwent drastic reshoots and it still managed to be a decent movie. But, World War Z reshot under different circumstances than Suicide Squad. The former reshot because of actual problems while the latter is reshooting because the executives were too easily influenced by backlash. This demonstrates that the Warner executives aren't confident in their product, and that usually doesn't bode well in the long run. So, unless the executives start planning ahead and try to start making GOOD films rather than trying to copy Marvel, this whole DC Extended Universe could collapse on itself and Warner may have to start from scratch yet again.
So, bottom line, is the movie bad? Yes. Is it one of the worst superhero movies ever? Well...I've seen Fant4stic, so no, not by a long shot. I'd say that if you're looking for a movie that will just be a good distraction for the kids, this might - I repeat, MIGHT - do it for you. But, if you're a hardcore DC fan and you're raring to see this big epic fight that you've been waiting a long time to see, I'd say just stick with The Batman/Superman Movie: World's Finest. It's an hour long, it's animated, but it's much more mature and much more interesting.
And that's my opinion on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Stay tuned for my next Throwback review, available at Elijah's Film Corner (elijahsfilmcorner.blogspot.com)!