After the immense success of 300, Hollywood execs started to assume that Zack Snyder is good at directing comic book movies. This belief could still be upheld after Watchmen and got somewhat discredited after Man of Steel. But now, after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it is hopefully clear to everyone that Snyder is not, and can never be DC’s Joss Whedon, and the DC Cinematic Universe should really start getting it together if they want to catch up with Marvel, let alone produce a single watchable movie. Because Dawn of Justice is not by any means watchable. Instead of answering the question “How cool would it be if two of the most iconic superheroes clashed in an epic, layered movie,” Dawn of Justice only answers the one that goes like “What if there was a remake of Watchmen that has Ben Affleck, sloppy writing, and no clue about anything whatsoever?”
A blockbuster, by definition is a movie that is supposed to provide fun and entertainment for a huge target audience, and fun is perhaps the first word that comes to my mind when contemplating what is missing from this movie. It looks and feels like the perfect counterpart of the crappy, kitschy Batman and Robin that is only similar to this one with regards to its awfulness. While fun was a definietly a thing the studio was going for in that one entry to the Batman saga, now we have a movie that makes its largest point with taking itself way too seriously, never letting the audience breath under the weight of heavy-handed dialogues, dense, tiring fight scenes and incomprehensible 3D-visuals. Batman and Robin felt like everyone who took part in its making was obscenely high on cocain. Batman v Superman feels like everyone involved was going through heroin withdrawal.
DC’s cynical approach and the movie’s anti-blockbuster standing is perhaps the most apparent if we take a look at how the three main characters are handled. We have Henry Cavill trying to embody the mighty, godlike, supposedly struggling character of Superman with using a total of two facial expressions (there is Very Angery Crazy Person Face and Clueless Boy Scout Who Really Needs A Coffee Face). His Superman is a hero that might save a few people, but lets hundreds and thousands to die, and is a ferocious murderer himself, but feels that everything about his doings is justified whenever his girlfriend tells him that he is an okay guy. The movie doesn’t get deep into any personal conflict or guilt he might has and justifies the countless of deaths he causes basically by pointing and him and telling “Calm down, buddy, he didn’t really mean it.”
Then we have Jesse Eisenberg starring as
discount price Joker with Wes Anderson’s hair criminal mastermind Lex Luthor. It is of course suggested that he is the main villian of the movie but if we put in contrast his motives and the things he is doing in the movie with those of Batman’s and Superman’s, he really looks like just another guy who is wrecking havoc without any pronounced reason. Eisenberg tries to bring the cool with his wacky, over-the-top acting, but unfortunately he does not end up finally bringing justice to the character, who is still yet to be duely represented on the big screen. His Lex Luthor is an angsty, hyperventillating idiot, so much that after only one hour into the movie I was already sure that the whole conflict could have been resolved in minutes if someone took away poor Luthor’s Adderall. He blabbers about gods and humans, holding a pretty ununderstandable grudge against Superman, and pulls the dumbest tricks ever to set up the two superheroes against each other, before cutting short all his preivous schemes with a hostage-drama setup simple as a stick.
And finally, there is Batman, the supposed main hero of the movie who nevertheless ends up being the most twisted fecker of them all. The movie starts with a segment that shows Zod and Superman’s fight from Bruce Wayne’s perspective and that lays down the foundations for the two heroes’ conflict rather neatly, only to mess everything up later, especially with regards to Bruce’s character. This Batman seemingly doesn’t give a damn about his most important rule, which is not killing anyone and is a violent madman who burns his sign into his victims’ chest so that they can be comfortably beaten to death in prison later. He is the World’s Greatest Detective, who eats up Luthor’s transparent manipulations without a question, and lets himself led by his nose, while blaming Superman for being an unjust vigilantie, not realizing that he himself is the poster-boy for that kind of self-imposed, out-of-control fascist god-complex he accuses the other hero of. He also has some of the worst one-liners in recent movie history.
My point here is that there is no true ‘hero’ in the movie and what we treated to instead is a confused, two and a half hour long mess that fails to find purposes for its main players. The only exception for this is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. While she plays a small role in this movie, her presence and screen-time is well balanced: she doesn’t get into the way of the story like Nick Fury did in Iron Man 2, but manages to spark enough interest in the viewer to still consider buying a ticket to another DC movie. Even the generically boring and uninspired soundtrack of Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL seems to be pulled together when it comes to her theme. We also get a few cameos of other DC superheroes, but so far it is really hard to care about them if you are not a DC superfan or just hate bad movies in general.
Despite the hopeful beginning and the Wonder Woman scenes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ends up as a confused, predictible, unbearably cynical and mostly clueless picture that is definitely not worth two and a half hours of your life. The film is killed by its own attitude. Yes, dark and gritty superhero movies can work out, as we have seen that in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, or in our beloved Snyder’s Watchmen. In those movies, the story and the substance both called for a realistic style and dark visuals, but here making a “serious” movie was apparently a priority over everything else. We get it, DC, mature comic adaptations are cool. Batman and Superman beating each other up for ten minutes is cool. But you know what else is cool? Consequential storytelling and character development, that’s what.