A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Produced By: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder
Written By: David S. Goyer, Chris Terrio
Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot
Running Time: 151 Minutes
If you cast your mind back to 2007’s I Am Legend, you’d remember seeing a promotional banner on a derelict building that featured the Superman emblem superimposed on the symbol of Batman. The concept alone was enough to tickle audience’s imagination, but ultimately it was passed off as nothing more than fictitious fanfare.
Little did we know that a cinematic face-off between two of the most iconic and celebrated superheroes was stepping out of the world of post-apocalyptic fiction and into production as the long-awaited sequel to 2013’s Man Of Steel some nine years later.
When announced shortly after the release of the heavily divisive Zack Snyder reboot, salivation and anticipation swept across the globe, resulting in a state of excitation regarding the historical cinematic duel.
Three years and $250,000,000 later, we are presented with Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice; a cataclysmic mess of a film that bites off far more than it can chew, which is saying something given the final cut runs for the better part of three hours.
Set 18 months after the colossal destruction of Metropolis in Man Of Steel, the city and it’s civilians are beginning to question the purpose and inevitable, unstoppable risks associated with having a god live among them.
An alien that swears to protect the planet is comforting, but the sheer might and capabilities of Superman is something the civilians of Metropolis had only come to fully understand as they witnessed buildings collapsing all around them in an unnecessarily gargantuan metaphor for September 11.
Where Batman v Superman begins is in Gotham City, which neighbours Metropolis and with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). In what is both an interesting but necessary narrative path to venture down, the chaotic scenes between General Zod (Michael Shannon) and Superman (Henry Cavill) are relived, but from the perspective of Wayne as he navigates through the dusty, rubble-ridden Gotham streets, fearing for the lives of his employees and everyday people alike.
A catalytic perspective that attempts to justify the heavily criticised conclusion of 2013’s Man Of Steel, the viewpoint of a man who believes in protecting the city he loves establishes a fascinating conflict between two men who ultimately fight for the same side, but don’t necessarily see eye to eye.
The title Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice is contradictory to itself, however it perfectly summarises the film in almost every aspect. In what was sold as the first cinematic duel between Batman and Superman, the film had the world at it’s mercy. The idea of a DC civil war between it’s two greatest titans is tantalising and intriguing from not only an action-oriented point of view, but morally and politically as well.
Regrettably, these truly enveloping themes are explored for a mere portion of the seemingly endless runtime, leaving room for Zack Snyder to bombard us with disjointed setup for future films, mindless loud noises and poorly executed, disconnected storytelling that unapologetically shoehorns in the Dawn Of Justice. What’s worse is that the conflict between Superman and Batman doesn’t manifest itself logically or entertainingly, it’s forced and briefly explored in a sequence no longer than 8 minutes in which Snyder can craft a faithful homage to various classic comic books, all the while splicing together a semi-decent trailer. This is anything but the Batman v Superman bout we were hoping for…
As a director, Zack Snyder has built a reputation of being a visually-oriented filmmaker. He tells his stories through striking artistic imagery that usually features some variation of extreme slow motion or high contrast, desaturated colour correction.
For a film such as 300, these over the top stylistic choices heighten the action and relegate the narrative, however it’s films such as Dawn Of Justice where the style-over-substance director becomes exposed for his severe lack of cohesive and structured storytelling abilities.
The stylistic accolades belong to cinematographer Larry Fong, whose previous work includes 300, Sucker Punch and Watchmen, all of which were directed by Snyder and praised for their visual style and not much else, go figure.
That being said, it’s one thing to give a film a “look”, but without the images furthering the plot and telling their own story, the impact of the visuals is unavailing.
The consensus is rather universal regarding Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman. Incarnating the caped crusader as a grizzlier, hardened and older vigilante with a savage temperament, Affleck portrays an all-together different hero that many are unfamiliar with.
Heavily inspired by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns comic book, the latest embodiment of Batman brands his foes, sports the famous armoured suit and uses a voice distorting microphone as he patrols the Gotham streets, serving his own form of justice in the process.
Along with the excellent chemistry between himself and Alfred the Butler (Jeremy Irons), Affleck is far and away the most interesting aspect of the film, but even his character his severely misdirected and misunderstood. Snyder has envisaged the latest Batman/Wayne as a man, a vigilante, a genius, a billionaire and a murderer.
Having Batman kill fundamentally goes against the most gripping moral conflict the character is crafted upon.
In what demonstrates a panicked attempt to place the character in a world where gods collide with monsters from different galaxies, realms and universes, Batman’s killing sprees affect the street-level world in which he reigns supreme, but ultimately serve no purpose whatsoever towards the conclusion of the film.
It’s an interesting idea in theory to further the heavily tortured Wayne, but in practice it simply doesn’t work.
In the over-crowded mess that is Batman v Superman, the under-development of certain supporting characters could be forgiven, even if their presence is unnecessary to begin with.
It is simply unforgivable in this case that Henry Cavill’s Superman is given so little to do in his own film, moping around from city to city, constantly looking off camera with a look of sombreness and melancholic regret. Like his banishment to the periphery in Man Of Steel, Superman is pushed aside even further and given virtually nothing of any magnitude to pursue. Following Superman throughout the film, it’s obvious he’s occupying a handful of separate narratives that pathetically struggle to intertwine. There is a fantastic film hidden somewhere in Dawn Of Justice, however we were only presented with a sample of it’s potential greatness at most.
The remainder of the scattered mishmash of a film is occupied by insufferable characters such as Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor Jr., undoubtedly one of the most irritating, intolerable characters to grace the screen in a comic book motion picture.
Twitchy, psychotic and utterly blood-curdling, the portrayal of the upstart son of an otherwise more investible antagonistic entrepreneur makes for some incredibly difficult viewing, particularly when you question the casting of Eisenberg and why they didn’t incorporate the Luthor we all wanted to see in the first place.
Lastly, the shoehorning of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is by no means a necessary inclusion. Used a a plot device to set up the greater universe and promote her own solo outing, Wonder Woman’s first cinematic appearance provides nothing more than a Deus ex Machina and some nods to the future.
Like countless others in the film, omitting the Dawn Of Justice aspects of the narrative all together would have been immensely helpful to the cohesiveness and plot direction of this basket case of a cinematic universe.
With a confused and over-bloated narrative, a desperate attempt to squeeze in a future interwoven franchise and the criminal misunderstanding and underutilisation of it’s central protagonist, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice is nothing more than a three-hour identity crisis.
Filled to the brim with half a dozen disconnected and rushed storylines that abruptly conclude and are edited with such painful incoherence, the supposed Man Of Steel sequel that showed so much promise ultimately confirmed our greatest fear about the goings on at DC Studios; nobody has any idea what they’re doing.
After the divisive reactions of Man Of Steel in 2013, one would think those involved in the sequel would be swift and intelligent in their followup that would silence the critics and present an enveloping dichotomy between the two most iconic figures in comic book history. Instead, we had to wait three years for a $250Million smorgasbord disaster that has no sense of direction in any aspect.
That is a true injustice in anyone’s book.