BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE; Directed by Zack Snyder; Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer; Starring Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jessie Eisenberg, Gal Gadot and Jeremy Irons; Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality; Running time 153 minutes. In wide release March 25.
Batman vs. Superman. Man vs. God. A battle for the ages as two of DC Comic’s mightiest titans duel to the death in glorious IMAX high-def. At least that’s what we hoped for since that was the premise promised us a few years back at San Diego Comic-Con. It goes without saying that a good portion of the movie is pure spectacle, but is that enough to satisfy what everyone was expecting? “Batman v Superman” answers a lot of questions but leaves a lot more unfulfilled and a lot wanting. However, it’s too big a movie for just one reviewer to handle, so we invited all the robots who have seen it to jump in and share their thoughts as well.
Adam McDonald: I really enjoyed “Man of Steel”, and I’m a huge Zack Snyder fan, so I went in with high expectation but also an unsettling feeling that something was “off” about the whole thing. I left feeling much the same, which isn’t to say I didn’t like the film -- I did -- there were just too many glaring issues that took me out of the experience. Let’s start with those since I do want to end on a positive note. First off, Zack Snyder needs to hire an editor and someone to tell him “no.” BvS is quite simply way too long and stuffed to the gills with what amounts to fluff. The opening shows us the battle between Zod and Superman from “Man of Steel” from Bruce Wayne’s perspective and sets up their grudge match nicely. Why then do we need countless dream sequences driving this point home further? We don’t, and it’s completely unnecessary to the story. The first hour and a half meanders all over the place and were a chore to get through.
Bryan Young: I had low expectations going into this film, worried that it was going to skim the surface of the characters and not offer us any new window into what would set these two iconic characters against each other. But low expectations doesn’t mean that I “had it out” for this film. Zack Snyder isn’t one of my favorite filmmakers, but he occupies a space with Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay, and I can admit when they’ve done something right. But I wonder if blaming Snyder for this mess is the right thing to do. This film plays like a series of trailers based on studio comment cards. Every sequence is a trailer for a movie I’d hope to see more depth in, but we’re given a virtually endless string of these trailers. Do you know how exhausting and frustrating it is to watch almost three hours of movie trailers for the same movie?
That’s what “Batman v Superman” felt like.
Adam McDonald: Also, considering the fact that the movie is called “Batman v Superman” we get hardly any of that in the whole thing. I’d say maybe 20 minutes, tops -- in a nearly three hour film. When the premise is nearly completely lacking in the final product, then you have something to worry about, and someone should have tapped Snyder on the shoulder and pointed this out to him. Not that he would have listened, but it still should have been brought to someone’s attention.
Bryan Young: I guess that never bothered me because he never made me care enough about either character to even want me to have them punch each other. I would have wanted more of them fighting against each other if it was consistent with their characters or the story, but, at best, Snyder establishes them as having a mild disagreement that could have been solved with one scene of dialogue between them.
Adam McDonald: Which is why Lex Luthor's plan to get them to fight was so brilliant. The more I think about it after seeing the movie, the more I realize he really was an evil bastard in this film. Although, that does bring me to Jessie Eisenberg who was grating as Lex Luthor. I will give him credit for the fact that he’s the only one who looked like they were having any fun on set, and since I do generally like him, I’m going to blame the way the character was written and not the actor.
Bryan Young: He was acting in a different movie. One where superhero movies can both be serious and fun. I can’t blame him for this, the director was clearly asleep at the switch for every other aspect of the film, why not this one?
Adam McDonald: It’s also startlingly sexist in its portrayal of Lois Lane and Martha Kent, specifically. Adams was a terrific Lois Lane in “Man of Steel”, but here she’s literally just a prop to spur Superman along. The same for Martha Kent who got “The Killing Joke” treatment by the bad guys.
Bryan Young: Exactly. The women were treated horribly in this movie. Why in good hell did Holly Hunter have to act against a jar of Lex Luthor’s piss? And Wonder Woman is nothing but a prop for exposition, and she manages to be watching cable TV news every time Snyder thinks the audience is too stupid to understand the idiocy he’s wrought. And then she’s brought into the final battle, not to kick ass on her own, but to serve as a distraction for Doomsday while the boys get to complete their “fully realized” stories.
Adam McDonald: I will fully disagree with you there. Wonder Woman was a complete and total bad-ass in that fight scene with the poorly rendered Doomsday, and I'm surprised you felt otherwise. That, however, sums up most of my complaints in the movie, but I’m sure Bryan will bring some up that I will agree with as well.
Bryan Young: There are a thousand things. It’s a problem when you’re watching a movie and see that it’s doing something that another movie has done better and you wish you’d rather be watching that one. It’s even worse when that movie is “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.” Think about what made the climax of “The Iron Giant” work so well? It’s because the director had a deep understanding of what Superman meant as a symbol, inspiring the heroism in people or things who might have been scared to do the right thing. Built on a solid foundation of good story well told and fully realized characters, we’re left to weep when the Giant makes his Superman-like sacrifice.
Put the same situation into this Snyder film and there is literally no emotion to give. Since it’s all spectacle, we’re watching the characters as well as the filmmakers going through the motions. It’s the problem with this movie in the first place: the studios and the filmmakers have learned the wrong lessons. Instead of saying, “Why did these scenes in other movies work and how can we emulate that?” They just stole the facade without the building’s foundation.
Adam McDonald: What DID work here clicked perfectly. All the Ben Affleck haters who were decrying his being cast as Batman can shut the hell up. He was magnificent and now holds a place as one of my favorite. Suave, debonair, driven, ruthless and probably more than a little crazy, Affleck delivered a quintessential Batman that I cannot wait to see more of in both the Justice League and standalone movies. He was, quite simply, the best part of this movie.
Bryan Young: I don’t think Batman worked in this movie at all. But I don’t think that was Affleck’s fault. He’s got the perfect Neal Adams or Jim Aparo feel to his character and I’d like to see more of him, but he didn’t make any sense either. After 20 years of fighting crime in Gotham, Batman is the World’s Greatest Detective. He doesn’t fight harder, he fights smarter. He doesn’t need a “Rocky III” training sequence, he’s supposed to be James Bond, three steps ahead of the bad guy and effortless. Affleck can do that beautifully, apparently the filmmakers are incapable, though.
Adam McDonald: He did fight smarter, and that's why he was able to go toe-to-toe with Superman and not get squished in the first five seconds. Did we need a training montage? Probably not, but it wasn't a bad thing, and it just showed how much of a powerhouse Batman really is. None of us could do one minute of that workout. Also, Gal Gadot was fun as Wonder Woman. Granted, she didn’t get much screen time, but as I said before, she held her own against Doomsday so it will be exciting to see what she can do with her standalone movie (and I’m really hoping for a period piece of one that takes place throughout the decades there).
Bryan Young: She was criminally underused. I didn’t see enough of her to see if she could hold her own. And what she was doing was in service to a plot that didn’t make any sense. Again, I don’t blame her, but… She looked good doing it.
Adam McDonald: Right, but we knew going in she was only going to be in the movie briefly. We can't get angry at the director for that when he specifically said she wasn't going to have much screen time.
Brief though they were, the fight scenes between Batman and Superman were thrilling and had me completely lost in the spectacle. At the end of them, it was easy to understand why Batman could have a fighting chance against a god and how he could possibly beat him if taken to an extreme. Granted, many of us have seen this in the comics and the wonderful DC animated movie “Justice League: Doom”, but the casual moviegoer will love watching it all unfold.
Bryan Young: I would rather direct people to “The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest.” It brought these two characters together in the animated universe, and teamed Batman and Superman up, first against each other, then fighting alongside each other, to take down the combined threats of Joker and Lex Luthor. The great thing about this film is that it makes sense and isn’t dripping in stupidity. Save your money and pick up this film.
Adam McDonald: So it's quite obvious that I had problems with BvS, and I really wish it could have turned out better than it did. You can literally show up an hour late and nothing will have happened. There are issues with plot, pacing and the handling of the female characters which, in some ways, is a reflection of how times have changed since they were originally conceived. However, as my friend said last night, once the movie picks up speed, it's like a freight train that can't be stopped, and we're all just along for an incredibly thrilling ride. 7 out of 10.
Bryan Young: In the final analysis, I tried to like this film and judge it on its own merits. The plot is incoherent, the actions of the characters illogical, the construction of the story beyond lazy. Sadly, I found it lacking any merits whatsoever. 0 out of 10.