Friday, October 28, 2016

Movie Review: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) directed by Zack Snyder

In light of the destruction caused by Zod and Superman's battle at the end of Man of Steel, humanity is divided on Superman's role. He's acting as a one-man savior for which many people are grateful and treat him almost like God. Other people think he's crossed the line into enforcing whatever sort of justice he likes. That makes Superman a vigilante. Those people include a powerful senator (Holly Hunter), Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), and Bruce Wayne (Batman, er...Ben Affleck).

Batman has had his own history of vigilante justice and now after twenty years, he's a bit grumpy and sadistic. He brands criminals with a bat symbol. He uses guns quite liberally (this is a pet peeve of mine--classically he doesn't use guns because his parents were killed by a gun and the limitation makes him a more interesting character). Wayne Financial lost a building and many people in the Superman/Zod battle. Batman blames Superman and is now working to take care of the problem, i.e. develop something to contain or kill Superman.

Lex Luthor has his own mistrust of Superman and is more interested in discrediting him than in killing him (though that would be okay too). He has various schemes, some more plausible than others. Lex is fairly young and inexperienced, making his character more awkward and bratty than clever and menacing. The portrayal is interesting but not satisfying. Maybe he'll grow into a proper villain in future films.

Superman himself is trying to sort out his role in the world. His number one concern is Lois Lane, of that he is certain. He strives to save people when he can but he recognizes his limits. Even Superman can pay attention to only a few things at a time. He wants to stop the vigilante Batman. Which is a little weird, given Batman has been around for twenty years and Gotham is just across the bay from Metropolis (Lex can see the Bat-signal from the roof of his building!).

The movie has a lot of ideas floating around which shows potential. But none of them are developed in any depth or interesting ways, like viewers are at a fantastic buffet but aren't allowed to sample any items. After a while, I just accepted that any big ideas wouldn't get anywhere.

The other big problem was the movie taking itself far too seriously. The score has some painful moments of melodramatic corniness that made me laugh out loud when I should have been nodding my head and stroking my beard. Some minor plots made very little sense. The big moment of reconciliation between Batman and Superman was awkward and unconvincing. A little more levity would go a long way for the film.

On the other hand, the fight scenes were pretty good. The big battle at the end when Wonder Woman finally shows up was exciting and fun, even if Batman's main fighting tactic was strategically running away. He used his brains as much as his brawns. Ben Affleck was good as both Batman and Bruce Wayne, at least the equal of Christian Bale's performance. This movie isn't as good as the Nolan films but Affleck has a good future in front of him with the role.

At the end of the movie, Bruce Wayne says, "We can do better. We will. We have to." Bruce was talking about humanity in general and the meta-humans in particular (the movie has little teasers of Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg shoehorned in), but I hope Ben was making a promise to the audience. They definitely do need to do better.

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