When Man of Steel came out, I remember being a fan of the film at first and, whilst there are some moments I really hate, I am more of a fan of Man of Steel than most people and as such, when it was first announced I was excited for this film. However, as time has gone on, my anticipation for the film has gone down, from seeing trailers for the film which seem to give away most of the plot of the film, to the film doing the same thing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did and completely remove a character (in this case Jena Malone as Barbara Gordon) to the announcement that there would be a 15-rated director’s cut on DVD, all of this being made even worse when the reviews started coming in with a lot of critics I trust giving it bad reviews. However, I wanted to be proven wrong in my suspicions so I went to go see the film and I have to say I was proven wrong: this is so much worse than I thought it would be. I will be spoiling the film here though, a lot of the problems I have with the film I cannot explain without spoiling it, so consider this your warning.The plot of the film picks up 18 months after the events of Man of Steel, with it being revealed that Bruce Wayne was in Metropolis on the day General Zod attacked to help rescue people from the Wayne Industries building in Metropolis. When it’s destroyed by the fight between Superman and Zod, Wayne develops an intense hatred of Superman. This hatred is capitalised on by Lex Luthor who wants to destroy Superman and has discovered Kryptonite and who is arranging events around the world to make the public hate Superman. Superman meanwhile, in his Clark Kent persona, is launching a crusade against Batman, believing that his idea of justice is going too far, with all of this leading up to Superman and Batman eventually fighting each other. Now that description of the plot is about as simple as I can make it as the overall plot is actually really complicated, not in a way that denotes intelligence but in a way that denotes laziness. So many elements in the plot are so contrived that it does feel like the script for the film was already written, then they added Batman to it and just rushed to find a way to put him into the film, whilst also feeling like a number of different films were merged together. It’s a shame as the individual plot elements of the film could have worked really well as standalone films, such as Superman struggling with the consequences of his actions and Batman being pushed too far after the Joker killed Jason Todd but because these plots are merged together with a Batman vs Superman plot and the set up for the Justice League film, none of the promise in the film is given time to develop.
Speaking of set up for the Justice League, you cannot complain about the way Marvel does tie ins to other films in the MCU as, whilst some of them do feel a bit forced, none of them are as lazy as this film. Firstly we have the appearance of Wonder Woman, who adds nothing to the story as a whole, who’s powers we’re expected to know, despite the Wonder Woman film only being out next year, and who’s appearance sets up the laziest build up for other films I’ve seen. Early on in the film, we see Wonder Woman trying to hack into Lex Luthor’s servers to find a picture of herself from 1918 and delete it, but she cannot do it because only Batman can. What makes it worse is that, right before the fight between Superman and Batman, the film completely stops as Wonder Woman opens an email that Batman sent her which has footage of all the other members of the Justice League so we can see their powers and how they can be used later on. This feels so tacked on and lazy that I would have made a joke about them just putting the logo of the characters on screen to fully make them trailers, except they actually do that in the film. Some of the other set up for Justice League meanwhile makes no sense, a dream sequence Batman has about an evil dictator version of Superman followed up by a time travelling Flash sending him a warning adds nothing to the plot and the warning from The Flash, which should have been an important piece of set up, is rendered inaudible by the sound mixing. This dream sequence also makes it clear that Darkseid is going to be the villain of Justice League, which is part of all the trump cards for the DCEU being played too early, Darkseid is the most powerful villain in DC, doing him first is like the first Avengers film having the Avengers fight Thanos instead of it being saved for Infinity War.
Another thing that really annoyed me about the film is how it doesn’t seem to understand the anger over the destruction of Metropolis from Man of Steel. The trailers made it look like the film would focus on the aftermath of the battle of Metropolis but that’s not what happens. Instead, the inciting incident is a massacre in a war torn African country which Superman is blamed for when it was actually committed by soldiers hired by Lex Luthor using experimental bullets, this not making any sense as the bullets prove that Superman wasn’t responsible and the use of experimental bullets leads right to Luthor. The big problem though is that this plot could have been cut out of the film entirely and nothing would have been lost, in fact it would have made the film better by making it apparent that the backlash is over the battle of Metropolis, which other elements of the film show that it should have been about, such as a Senate meeting with Superman confronting someone who lost his legs as a result of the fight between Superman and Zod. Plus, at the end, in order to dispel the idea that there is a lot of collateral damage, we hear that the locations for the fights are abandoned, which feels so lazy, especially compared to the MCU where we see the heroes trying to limit collateral damage as best they can.
And now we get to the stupidity of the characters and the lack of understanding of the film-makers over what makes the characters so compelling. Firstly, Superman is so dull and lifeless in this film, there is no hint of any of the charm of the character that was present in stuff like the DC Animated Universe. Next, Lois Lane is completely pointless, the character could have been cut out of the film and nothing would have been lost, even when she almost drowns trying to get a weapon to kill Doomsday, it’s because she threw the weapon away in the first place. Then we get to Batman, who is so stupid throughout the film. The actions that led to the fight between him and Superman could have been avoided if both of them had just talked it out instead of resorting to meat-headed fighting, with the only reason for the fight stopping being because Batman finds out Superman’s mum has the same name as his. This isn’t the worst thing the film does to Batman though, the worst is his callous disregard for life. The idea of Batman going to far with the branding of criminals is an idea that could have been done well in the hands of a competent creative team, but here, they do that, and have Batman casually murder criminals using the guns on the Batmobile. I hate the idea of Batman killing, I hated it in the Burton films and I hate it here, but it gets worse. We later see that Batman used the guns on the Batmobile in LexCorp, filled with innocent civilians. That’s right, Batman open fired and injured civilians. I almost walked out when I saw that. Another issue with Batman is that the film makes it feel like no-one knows about the actions of Batman, when it’s made clear Batman has existed for 20 years, with a few references to battles with The Joker, which would have easily made the news, how are all the characters in this film so stupid.
The crowning achievement of stupid though is Lex Luthor. Firstly, Jesse Eisenberg is terrible as Luthor, being incredibly annoying throughout the film, which is a shame as he can play a great villain, as can be seen by his performance as James in The Double. The problems keep going though as his motivations for wanting Superman dead make no sense, his overall plan for having Batman fight Superman makes no sense (especially when he has Doomsday cooking in the background) and his plan to turn the public against Superman makes no sense (as stated earlier) and when we see that a major part of his plan is a jar of his piss, well that was another moment that almost made me walk out. Some of his plan is only able to be carried out because of government stupidity, mainly the wreckage from the World Engine in the Indian Ocean hadn’t been cleaned up in the 18 month interval between Man of Steel and this film which I assumed would be one of the priorities in the aftermath alongside the rebuilding of Metropolis.
The ending meanwhile is absolutely terrible for two main reasons (other than the ones I stated earlier). Firstly, the marketing team completely dropped the ball as, by putting Doomsday in the trailer, they made it abundantly clear that the film was going to end with Superman dying to defeat Doomsday, with Batman and Wonder Woman forming the Justice League in his memory, with part of Justice League revolving around Superman’s return, which is exactly what happened. The other problem though goes back to my point about Darkseid, the trump card for Superman has been played too early, there aren’t going to be any more stakes regarding Superman in any of the other DC films as we know that he can come back from the dead, with this decision, Zack Snyder, David S Goyer, Chris Terrio and everyone at DC and Warner Bros have made the tension for any further Superman film none existent. The actual battle against Doomsday meanwhile doesn’t take advantage of the character dynamics of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman seen in other versions of the characters. They don’t work together at all (all aspects of teamwork feeling like coincidence), they act incredibly stupidly (Batman chooses to draw Doomsday to the location where he has a Kryptonite weapon instead of leaving Doomsday on an abandoned island, getting the weapon and coming back without causing collateral damage) and to top it all off, Superman didn’t need to die, Wonder Woman could have defeated Doomsday easily with the Kryptonite weapon, plus she’s able to hold her own against Doomsday, this decision makes Wonder Woman feel pointless in this fight scene.
The performances don’t fare much better. Henry Cavill is boring as Superman and Amy Adams is boring as Lois Lane, the two of them have no chemistry with each other so the moments regarding their love don’t have any weight. I’ve already stated how terrible Eisenberg is as Lex Luthor, Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves is given nothing to do and again could have been cut from the film and nothing would have been lost, Holly Hunter gets some good moments as Senator Finch but is completely wasted. Scoot McNairy as a man who’s legs were destroyed by Superman fighting Zod is terrible, the character motivations, particularly his attitude of blame towards Bruce Wayne, who pulled him out from the wreckage, making no sense and feeling so forced. Gal Gadot meanwhile does a good job in the action scene she’s in as Wonder Woman (even if it is for a few minutes) but when given dialogue she’s terrible, sounding bored and lifeless every time she opens her mouth and again, like with every female character in the film, her presence adds nothing to the film. I’ve been very negative so I want to highlight some of the things I did like. Firstly, Ben Affleck gives a solid performance as Batman, having the right mannerisms and presence for both Bruce Wayne and Batman, the most dramatic weight of the film comes from him as Bruce Wayne and, if given a film with better writers, I could very easily see Affleck being the best live action version of Batman (Kevin Conroy will always be the best screen version of Batman though), with this being aided by Jeremy Irons, who’s a great Alfred, having some great dry wit and some really strong moments with Affleck. I also really like Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, who I found to be one of the most entertaining aspects of the film, his performance being the right mix of funny and serious.
Another positive aspect of the film is the design of the film. The costume design is excellent, with this film featuring the best live action version of the Batsuit, along with a great depiction of the Batcave and Batmobile which I wish we’d seen more of. The production design is pretty solid throughout, even if it does go a bit too murky by the end of the film. The rest of the technical aspects of the film are a mixed bag though. The editing in the first half of the film is terrible, there being no rhyme or reason for the cuts and the cinematography is really solid but does use shaky cam a bit too often. The music by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is pretty forgettable for the most part with the piano riff for Superman’s theme being used a bit too often and the theme for Lex Luthor sounding way too much like the music for The Double, although the theme for Wonder Woman they’ve composed is excellent and the most striking music in the film.
The action scenes and overall direction by Zack Snyder though are a mixed bag. With the depiction of the physique of Batman and Superman, Snyder continues to show himself as the most homoerotic director in the Hollywood system which, whilst it works in showing the physical strengths of the characters, does add to the meat-headed atmosphere of the whole thing. The direction of the action scenes meanwhile is a mixed bag. The main scene where we see Batman in action is a great scene, but should have been the introduction of the character rather than being used near the end, and the action for Wonder Woman is well shot but isn’t used effectively. The actual fight between Batman and Superman though I found to be dull, devolving into a standard fist fight, not making use of the skills Batman and Superman have, plus the actual fight is over way too fast, being less than 5 minutes of the film. The main element the film was building up too takes up less than 5% of the run time of the film. The final fight against Doomsday meanwhile, whilst having some good moments from Wonder Woman, is also really boring, with the CG used for Doomsday being pretty terrible, which doesn’t help the boredom of the fight and the stupidity of the decision to put Doomsday in the film.
I really wanted to like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I really did. I wanted to write this review and say that I was wrong in my preconceptions and you should go out and see this film, but I can’t. This is a terrible film. No-one involved in the production seemed to care about making a good film, and they still don’t care that the film doesn’t work. This film feels like a rushed, lazy cash grab for DC to try and emulate the success of the MCU whilst missing everything that Marvel did right. If the different plot elements of this film were split up and given their own films then this could have worked, but as it stands, I have no confidence for any of the films set in this version of the DC universe. The only way I will have any excitement is for Zack Snyder to be removed as the main creative consultant and director of Justice League, but I know that’s not going to happen. Based on this film, DC is building their entire cinematic universe on sand and whilst this will make money, it should damage the credibility of DC in the cinematic world. Now I’m counting down the days until Captain America: Civil War to show how this type of film can be done properly.
My Rating: 1/5