By Darin Skaggs
Let’s get this out of the way, Zach Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is an absolutely, terrible mess. I am not the greatest Snyder fan, I really do not like any of his films including Man of Steel, the Superman movie that takes place before this. In that film the big critique was that Superman did not care about the lives that his foe, Zod was taking or even the ones he was as they both slam each other into buildings. It was clear that Snyder did not understand how Superman worked or even how regular people worked like Superman’s father, Pa Kent who died saving a dog in a tornado refusing the help of his son so he would not be revealed as an alien with superpowers and dissected by scientist. The film did not feel realistic on a human level which clashed with the dark, gritty tone the film wanted to be. Dawn of Justice is Synder’s chance to redeem himself and make an action packed, characters study of two superheroes whose stubbornness to save gets in each other’s way. He did not.
In Batman V Superman we see the Superman against Zod fight from Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) point of view. He runs into the collapsing rubble toward his building, where he saves a little girl and a man whose legs are being crushed. After all that he becomes angry with Superman and wants to find him and fulfill his vengeful needs. Superman (Henry Cavill) meanwhile saves his girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who is in the Middle East reporting on something. Before Superman arrives there is a set up where some bad guys shoot a bunch of people and when he does show up and saves Lois he gets the blame for all the other deaths. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is there too, he may or may not have set up that shoot out and also is doing something else diabolical that honestly is not clear to me.
The opening of this film had me. I thought to myself “Is this going to work out?” Even with yet another filmed version of Bruce’s parents getting murdered right in front of him, this one is one of my favorites. This is the part of where the credits role. I enjoyed that this is a big movie where two of the biggest superheroes not only meet, but fight and they decide to make the title card not only small and in the corner, but only last on screen for less than a second. The cinematography here is beautiful as they walk out of the theater. The wordless walk to their impending doom is devastatingly gorgeous. It simultaneously cuts back and forth from that and the funeral for the two as Bruce runs off into the nearby woods. He runs and runs until he falls into a hole in the ground and is immediately surrounded by bats. Then he is levitated by all the bats as the continuing credits reminded us that this is a Zach Snyder film as well as reminding us that this will be a gorgeous, confusing mess.
The script is bad, there are a constant array of logical gaps and lines that are just full of ridiculousness, but that doesn’t stop the actors from really giving it their all. They are probably tied with the visual style for the best part of the movie, even a great part of the movie. Ben Affleck is a great Batman and surely one of my favorite Bruce Wayne’s. He is a broken man clearly saving people because he lost loved ones to the evils of the world. He is always losing, but he still wants to be a hero. It seems we get that all from his performance and not the script. Lex Luthor is the big villain in the piece; he is a genius, sarcastic master criminal and Eisenberg plays that well. Adams is great in everything she does and Cavill does just fine with the little he is given. Everyone else is fantastic like Laurence Fishburne as the Daily Planet chief reporter and Jeremy Irons as Batman’s butler/technician, Alfred.
Unfortunately, the glaring problem in this grey film is the overall plot. I spent the few hours after seeing the movie saying to myself “Wait a minute?” and finding yet another aspect that did not make sense. There is a big moment of complete danger that a character becomes aware of, we see them leave supposedly to get ready for action, next time we see them, that person is checking her computer. Then later we see that person ready for battle. There are unintentionally funny moments like Superman is in the middle of an unexpected explosion and is given a shot of him in the very recent, flaming aftermath looking really bummed out knowing he had been set up to take the blame for it. The crazy part that comes out of all that, is he doesn’t get blamed and that bombing is never brought up again. It is supposed to be dark and emotional, but really just comes off as silly. Much like the strange, confusing choice to have young Wayne lifted by a massive amount of bats, there are strange choices that could be hilariously bad. There are also creative choices that to a certain extent work. Bruce Wayne voices over that bat scene with claims that it was a dream. He has several other dream sequences that are totally crazy, but also so out there that it works as creative individual scenes. They do not really make sense in the movie, but are entertaining to watch. Other decisions like when we meet Lex he is sinking a three pointer or when the beautiful women at the party steals Bruce Wayne’s file are both great. There are little moments that work well. The movie always has potential, but far too much of it is ruined by all that is wrong. The action is unforgivable. It is not only hard to see what is going on, but the movie doesn’t care that Superman would kill Batman with some of the punches he swung. Another big bad comes in and tries to kill the heroes and that is even worse. Not only is that monster-thing a really terrible design, but that character is absolutely nothing. He is created by Lex and literally it just starts to attack, no words. There are detours in the middle of the fight that are, again, hilariously dumb. The movie goes off the rails in the first few minutes. It stays there, sometimes driving in a straight, safe path, but ultimately finds itself in the last forty-five minutes driving into the middle of nowhere to never find its way back on to a path to save this franchise.