By: Hess Sahlollbey
If my tickets were refundable, I would’ve left the theater after five minutes and asked for my money back. What should have been a simple grudge match between two orphans before they team up to face a greater evil is encumbered by a lengthy and superfluous political story and abstract metaphors.
While Man Of Steel was an effective introduction to Superman, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice can easily be surmised as Warner Bros. attempt to address the faults in Man of Steel. While technically a sequel, it rehashes the same themes, ideas and symbolism but with a much darker tone. This over-reliance on previously used material is what ultimately causes this movie to fumble out of the gate. The darker tone also adds a sense of hopelessness that creates an unattractive package.
Zack Synder is a man who’s not unfamiliar with adapting comics to the screen. His past credits on 300, Watchmen and on Man of Steel easily prove that. However a poorly measured ambition to pay homage to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Dan Jurgens’ The Death of Superman is what ultimately led to the direction losing its way. Snyder’s view is clearly on that depicts Superman as a poorly stitched together Christ-figure, while Batman comes off as a billionaire fascist.
While Man of Steel gave hints to Superman being regarded as a messiah, the symbolism and metaphors in that film were subtle. In BvS however, the references are overly pleasant and forced. One element that allowed Man of Steel to succeed was the solid story-arc. Clark Kent/Kal-El struggled and grew with a culminating scene where he overcame severe odds, defeated the evil Kryptonians and ultimately found his place as Earth’s saviour. Batman V Superman, however, doesn’t have a plot that can be recounted in a few sentences because there simply isn’t one. It’s a string of beats that are poorly tied together to form an abstract narrative. Multiple convoluted plots in the story falter near the middle of this film because the acts also fail to smoothly transition from one to the next. Superman and Batman find themselves in a situation where they must fight each other and only stop when a CGI Doomsday shows up.
A poor plot could be forgiven by strong characterization, but BvS mostly comes up short in that aspect too. Superman is a character that’s simply there but has no presence. The bulk of his scenes see him engaging in self-loathing and are a regression from all the emotional development he had in Man Of Steel. He has the least amount of dialogue and spends the majority of the film transitioning from one place to the next, gathering what is often irrational advice. Henry Cavill gives a paper-thin performance with no depth. It’s a stark juxtaposition to his endearing performance in Man Of Steel.
When Ben Affleck was first announced as the new Batman, there was significant backlash online from fans. Even I was unsure whether or not he could pull it off, but his was one the stronger performances in the film. While Batman’s methods of crime fighting were questionably brutal in comparison to previous depictions of the Dark Knight, Ben Affleck easily blurs the line between himself and the character. Jeremy Irons is equally delightful as Batman’s trusty butler, Alfred. His portrayal of Alfred sees him as more of a hand’s on mechanic, while also delivering some of the wittiest lines of dialogue in the film.
Jesse Eisenberg who takes on the role of Lex Luthor, is a different story. While at first he appears as a Mark Zuckerberg-type billionaire with a sinister agenda, his ramblings make his character come off as more cuckoo. Historically the character has been portrayed as a super-genius obsessed with greed and besting Superman. In BvS however, his motivations aren’t just unclear, they’re non-existent. Eisenberg’s most captivating scenes are those where he operates silently because his conversations are filled with nonsensical biblical and theological ramblings. This dialogue again ties back into the movie’s overabundance of depthless symbolism.
The real star of this film however was Gal Gadot. She is an absolute show-stealer anytime she’s on screen. Gadot’s depiction of Wonder Woman is sexy, mysterious and most importantly sparse. She has few scenes in the movie but always leaves you wanting more. Gadot’s role in the film is the only place where Zack Snyder seems to be aware that less is more. It should also be noted that it’s the first depiction of Wonder Woman on the big screen and sets the bar very high for whatever comes next. The same can also be said of Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher who all appear as Barry Allen/Flash, Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Victor Stone/Cyborg respectively. We get brief peeks that leave us wanting more.
Despite months and anticipation and millions of dollars of marketing, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is ludicrous in its reasoning and plot. A film whose purpose is to launch an expanded cinematic universe, the film has slivers of brilliance, but does everything else in the most inefficient manner possible.