Batman V Superman Review: Superhero A.D.D.
I know I’ve said this with a few other reviews, but honestly, there are times where it needs to be said again: I really wanted to like this. I really, really did. I’m a Batman fan. I love the darkness, the brooding, the violence. And I like to see new interpretations of the character. That’s why I didn’t jump on the Hate Batfleck train when news broke of him being cast. I was willing to give it a shot. Plus, I actually like Ben Affleck as an actor/director – his misadventures as a blind lawyer notwithstanding. So after getting hyped by the trailers, then realizing I needed to temper my expectations after having read or watched a slew of reviews, I still managed to walk away disappointed. But it’s strange, because almost everyone around me is saying how great the movie is, and I’m over here scratching my head. So, what happened? What went wrong? Without getting into spoilers, let’s take a look.
What seems to be the standard disclaimer for this film is that if you liked Man of Steel, then you’ll like this film – which is fair, but not entirely true. For all of Man of Steel‘s flaws, it still manages to be a bit more entertaining than this one – and it maintains a more focused narrative. It also handles its own momentum better. During the last half of BvS, where the action starts to ramp up and the story to get more complicated, the film can’t seem to decide if it wants to build momentum toward the showdown we know is coming, or if it wants to explore ethical dilemmas a bit more. Or divert our attention with a subplot. And getting into the final half hour of film, this happened again, as we were literally on the cusp of a throwdown, and they cut to a scene away from the tension and coming action, in which another piece of the mythos is shown . It was a scene that was sorely out of place and took me out of the film.
Another criticism that I’ve heard, and can certainly agree with, is that Zack Snyder likes to focus more on style than content. That’s not to say that he skips the content in favor of stylistic imagery, but he certainly gives more attention to the style. While it can make for some cool framing or interesting set ups, it ultimately hurts the narrative as things can feel a bit disjointed at times. He also had this issue with Man of Steel, but with that film, there were fewer moving parts, fewer main characters that needed development and screen time. In fact, if you go back over Snyder’s films, you’ll probably notice that the less Snyder has to juggle, the more coherent his film becomes. His greatest example is 300. It’s a simple sword and sandal film of the heroic last stand of King Leonides and his 300 Spartans. There’s no grand philosophy to explore, no moral quandaries to contemplate – just a stylistic telling of one of the greatest epics in history ever. But it’s epic in a more contained way than what BvS tries to be. Here, Snyder goes for broke, pulls out all the stops and throws in the kitchen sink – but then forgets to make it focused and cohesive.
The writing here isn’t bad, but is definitely feels like is needed a bit more polish. Original duties went to long time comic book movie writer David Goyer, and then a rewrite was done by Chris Terrio, who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Argo. To be honest, I don’t know if that helped or hurt it over all. There is a good story here, however, I just don’t feel like it was executed very well. As for the score, Hans Zimmer returns to score, with a collaboration by Junkie XL – who got a lot of recognition after Mad Max: Fury Road. The soundtrack itself is actually pretty great, but unfortunately, I had a hard time being able to enjoy it during the film because of how it was mixed. It was oppressively loud, and strangely constant. I can only remember one scene in the film that didn’t have any of the score set to it. And there were even scenes where there was a very intense and heavy track that was playing over a scene that did not even match it. It actually took me being able to sit down after the film to listen to the soundtrack separately to be able to get a full grasp Zimmer’s collaboration with Junkie XL, and fully appreciate it.
As for the actors, just about everyone did pretty well. Henry Cavill played pretty much the same Superman as the last one, with the exception that he seems to have more of a mind towards collateral damage. Anyone returning from Man of Steel more or less continues their roles as they were. But the big question is how do the new players perform? Pretty well, for the most part! Gal Gadot is great as the mysterious woman who seems to always show up and throw a wrench into the works of one of our heroes. There’s also a little bit of a set up to her Wonder Woman movie that’s coming, as well as a bit that sets the stage for the Justice League movie. People are saying that she steals the show, and I can’t say I really disagree. She acquits herself well as the Amazonian warrior, and kicks some ass, so I have some faith in her solo movie.
Ben Affleck also turns in a good performance, here, though he doesn’t do anything extraordinary – nor should he. But what he does do is a bring a fluid physicality to Batman that we haven’t seen, yet. It’s very reminiscent of how Batman fights in the Arkham games – fast, vicious and acrobatic. I am actually looking forward to an Affleck directed Batman movie because of this!
Unfortunately, not everyone did very well, here. Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor was… bad. It was annoying to say the least. His over the top quirkiness was like Mark Zuckerberg on speed, and I just wanted him to go away every time he was on screen. It felt like he wanted to make his rendition of Lex feel like Heath Ledger’s Joker – but he failed to give it any sort of depth or danger. As a result, it was just laughably bad.
All in all, there are quite a lot of things wrong with this film. It’s bloated, it’s unfocused, there were a couple bad casting choices, and it can’t hold its own momentum. If you’re still unsure about the film, I can’t give this a recommendation. Though, like I said above, there are plenty of people who really like the film – as evidenced by it’s $420 million global box office take after only a single weekend – and you may be one of them. But if you feel like you must see it in theater, I’d recommend a matinee showing. Save a few dollars for that airport bottle of booze that will help you enjoy the movie a little more.
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