My review of Batman v Superman hit the streets Monday in this week’s edition of The Contributor. I saw the movie in previews a few days before its big opening weekend, but given the paper’s editorial calendar this one is merely adding a drip to the deluge of negative criticism and fan reactions that found some sources reporting that the flick’s box office dropped by more than 80% in its second weekend over April 1-3. Generally, this flick’s a mess — Jesse Eisenberg is a disaster as Luthor, but I really want to see Affleck in his own Batman flick. Here’s the rest…
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of those movies you hope will be good even if you’re pretty sure you’ll be disappointed. The film is wildly uneven, but not altogether unrewarding – Ben Affleck mostly silences critics of his Batman/Bruce Wayne casting, and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman/Diana Prince intrigues early and scores the film’s biggest superhero entrance. That said, the flick predictably suffers from being more of a launch vehicle for the DC Extended Universe than a cohesive film with an engaging story, real characters and a sense for the value of the grade A villains, choice heroes and spicy storylines that it cranks through this celluloid sausage grinder.
This movie should have been called DC v Marvel: The Inevitable. Ever since Marvel’s first Avengers flick broke box office records it was only a matter of time before DC Comics answered with a multi-franchise juggernaut of their own. The difference between the two has been one of execution: Marvel’s The Avengers was anticipated by the rolling-out of five stand-alone films over four years: Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) followed by Marvel’s The Avengers (2012).
Batman v Superman arrives precariously balanced on one previous, controversial, criticized film, Man of Steel, which rebooted the Superman franchise with Henry Cavill as the world’s most famous Kryptonian. Critics panned the film’s uneven pacing and under-developed characters, and comic book fans recoiled when Superman uncharacteristically killed his nemesis General Zod in the film’s climax – a line Superman nearly-never crossed in almost eight decades in print. With all of this in mind, Batman v Superman has a lot of weight to carry, introducing five new heroes along with two of the most iconic baddies in the Superman universe. It’s all too much, even for superheroes.
Batman v Superman’s confusing first act feels like the movie opens and reopens over and over again as locations continually jump from one side of the globe to the next, and the tone seems to shift with each set piece: Bruce Wayne rescues one of his employees from the wreckage of Superman’s fight with General Zod from the end of Man of Steel; Superman rescues Lois Lane from the tent of some baddies in Africa; Lex Luthor is trying to con a Kentucky Senator (Holly Hunter) into teaming up with him against Superman.
By the time Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent meet face-to-face at a party at Luthor’s, it’s still not clear what this movie plans to be about. Lex Luthor wants to get rid of Superman because of Luthor’s implied rule-the-world-plans, but we’re left to guess. Batman doesn’t trust the all-powerful Superman, even though there’s little reason to doubt his dedication to humanity. Superman is kind of annoyed by Batman’s violent vigilante brand of justice, but their beef never seems to justify a battle to the death. The movie does an admirable job of raising philosophical questions about gods and men, morality and justice, power and corruption. However, it never offers answers before the whole affair devolves into the cartoon battle that eats up most of the third act.
Read the rest of my thoughts about the film’s cast and its embattled director at The Contributor’s site…