Movie review: Despite the hype, ‘Batman v Superman’ underwhelms
–This clash of the titans has been a long time coming. I don’t mean Batman fighting Superman, though that’s true. No, I mean the battle between Marvel and DC Comics.
Beginning in 2008, Marvel had a long-term plan to build a cinematic universe. That came to fruition with “The Avengers” in 2012 and continued with “Age of Ultron” in 2015. Meanwhile DC saw what was happening, and planned a cinematic empire of its own.
“Man of Steel” in 2013 set the stage for a new wave of DC films, and with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which opened March 25, DC Comics is hoping to see a successful cinematic universe of its own on screen. The movie set Box Office records, but it’s also drawn fierce criticism and middling reviews, which are all deserved.
In the film, we get an origin story for Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) as Batman. We see the classic story of how Bruce lost his parents and decided to don the mantle of the Batman. We also see where he was in Metropolis the day Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) fought, laying waste to half the city.
That event made Bruce Wayne angry, and caused him to start planning for a way to keep Superman — and the alien threat he presented — in check. Of course his anger was fueled by information secretly being slipped to him by someone who had a nefarious plot of his own.
Meanwhile Superman, living as Clark Kent, tried to establish a normal life with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) while crusading against the threat he saw in Gotham in the form of Batman, a vigilante with a unique brand of justice. Clark, too, is being manipulated.
Elsewhere, Superman is facing a pair of threats. Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) is holding hearings to look into Superman and his actions. Meanwhile billionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is researching a weapon option that would give man the edge over their alien savior.
When “Man of Steel” debuted three years ago, I was excited. I loved the scenes in the trailer and the potential for what the movie could be. And much of that potential appeared to be realized during the first act and half of the second act. The ideology and ideas about who Superman is were somewhat moving.
Then General Zod appeared, the fighting began, and I lost interest. There’s only so long you can watch people get thrown through buildings before you are over it. “Man of Steel” wasn’t great, but there was potential, I thought, for future installments.
On March 25 we got that future installment, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and it turned out to be more of the same. Moments of brilliance mixed with fight scenes that feel like a complete waste of time. I don’t hate the movie, but I’m disappointed that it couldn’t be better. But the trick of this franchise is that it always leaves you with hope the next installment might deliver on that promise. Will it? Who’s to say.
All we can do is examine the film that we actually have. Of “Batman v Superman” I will say it’s too long, tries to accomplish too much and has marginal action sequences, especially during the third act. It suffers from the same kind of flaws as “Man of Steel,” or perhaps worse considering that we don’t get to see much of any of our characters. That’s the problem when you’re trying to cram some origins stories, two major plot lines and the set up for the Justice League into 151 minutes. Everything gets the short stick. And that’s a big part of the problem.
The film has too much to service. I was interested in Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Batman and Superman, and their character growth and dynamic. But that is a very small part of this film. Instead, there’s a lot of angst and fight scenes, none of which are particularly compelling.
I liked the performances, though. Cavill continues to be a good choice as both Superman and Clark Kent, and I thought Affleck did a nice job, too. There’s rumors he’s written the script for a standalone Batman film he will direct, and I can’t wait to see it. Gadot is good, too, and will have no problem carrying her own Wonder Woman film. But that’s all the future, and doesn’t help the problems of this film.
A lot of this falls at the feet of Zach Snyder. He has a vision for this — one has to assume — but this movie does too much, and Snyder doesn’t have a good feel for compelling action films. Both “Batman v Superman” and “Man of Steel” spend a lot of time destroying cities and buildings, but that grows old really quickly.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has the weight of hype and expectations on its shoulders and it doesn’t live up to all that is expected or hoped for. That being said, it’s not a terrible film — just a flawed one. I’m still a fan of these characters and I still want to see the Justice League succeed. That’s probably the greatest legacy of these movies — they keep us coming back, hoping for better.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.
Two stars out of four.