I have to admit, I went into Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice with pretty low expectations. I thought Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel was an unmitigated disaster, and I also wasn’t a fan of the semi-rehashing of Christopher Nolan’s Batman in Ben Affleck’s skin and Snyder’s world. Nevertheless, I wanted to form a legitimate opinion about the film rather than just skip it out of cynicism.
I can’t say I walked away with a much better impression than I expected, but one thing did surprise me: Snyder isn’t entirely responsible for its worst faults. The main culprits are the writers, Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. At one point fairly early on in the film, after Superman has saved Lois Lane (something he does so frequently in the film that you become completely numb to it), Superman says something along the lines of: “The woman I loved was about to be shot, or blown up! Who knows what might have happened?” I’m just guessing here, mighty Man Of Steel, but it sounds like she might have been shot or blown up. But hey, who knows…
That’s objectively bad writing. While it’s the sort of thing you can easily gloss over if it happens once or twice, the screenplay is littered with similar issues. And the screenplay has to get us through a 157-minute adventure in which Batman and Superman air the most hypocritical grievances imaginable with one another. Basically, each is uncomfortable with the other’s mode of vigilante justice, and thus enacts his own mode of vigilante justice to stop the other. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor—overacted into oblivion by the chirping and determinedly eccentric Jesse Eisenberg—successfully intensifies their beef. He does so while recklessly experimenting with Krypton technology in an effort to destroy Superman, and in his own mind, conquer God. That’s pretty much the entire plot summary.
I’ve largely let Snyder off the hook thus far. While the film is more cohesive and maybe even more enjoyable than Man Of Steel, it unfolds in a rather messy manner. In particular, Snyder severely bungles the action sequences throughout. Most of them are akin to watching a boxing match in fast-forward with the lights turned off. These scenes are disjointed, relentless, and worst of all just not that much fun. And unfortunately, they take up quite a bit of the runtime. Although, in fairness to Snyder, we don’t see things devolve into Man Of Steel-like loops of buildings being smashed until the final showdown.
And yet, Dawn Of Justice really isn’t all bad. There are scenes that rope you back in, largely as a result of the intelligent placement of reliable veterans in the cast. Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and Jeremy Irons all deliver with effortless professionalism. None of them have huge roles, but each of their scenes is gripping enough to help you forgive whatever nonsense came just before. Relative newcomer Gal Gadot is also terrific as Diana Prince, though I can’t help feeling her skimpy Wonder Woman outfit is a backwards step for those who believe superhero films have been sexist.
All in all, it’s not the most difficult film to sit through, but that’s as far as the praise can go. You may see one or two worse movies in 2016, but it still feels like it’s about time the studios removed Zack Snyder from superhero projects. It’s just not working out.
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