Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Movie Review

I was going to wait a few more days to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but I found myself getting involved in too many online discussions about it that I was getting bombarded with spoilers. So, I seized the opportunity to see it this afternoon and just got back home about an hour ago.

I wasn't in too much of a rush to see this one, honestly. I was disappointed with Man of Steel and this looked to be more of the same from director Zack Snyder. I didn't think that I would hate it, just that it wouldn't live up to its potential. When I started to see the reviews pour in, I really started to fear the worst (actually, that started with a few somewhat lame looking previews).

Basically, I'm disappointed in the direction that DC/Warner is taking with their shared cinematic universe. They're trying to catch up with Marvel Studios, but they're not necessarily learning the right lessons. They see that it's cool to have a bunch of superheroes in one movie, but they don't want to take the time to build up those characters in their own movies first before rushing to the Avengers goal post. Plus, they got off to a rocky start with the aforementioned Man of Steel and the trainwreck that was Green Lantern. (Which I'm pretty sure is considered apocrypha by now.)

So, what did I think now that I finally saw it? I actually really liked it a lot, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. This isn't to say that it doesn't have problems - because it definitely does. It also doesn't mean that I'm going to echo the cries of "the critics don't know what they're talking about!" Most of the criticism that I read was pretty fair, and while the negative points don't bother me as much as they did some people, I can see how they might detract from somebody's enjoyment of this film.

Here's what I thought about various aspects of the movie, in no particular order. Oh, and SPOILERS.

Batfleck - Unlike a lot of fans, I did not bemoan the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. I thought it was an interesting choice. This doesn't mean that I thought it was a good idea, but I have been surprised by so many unconventional choices (Heath Ledger as the Joker anybody?) that I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now it sounds like a lot of people are praising him for his performance. So, what's my verdict? I definitely lean more toward the praise than the lamentation. I don't know if this is the "best" Batman, but I can't say that it's worse than either Christian Bale or Michael Keaton. He certainly looks the part more than Keaton, and his Batman voice is less over the top than Bale's. Overall, good job, Ben. If I ever see you while crashing the movie set to Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season, I shall shout: "Affleck, you were the bomb in Batman v Superman, yo!"

Gal Gadot - I had a good feeling about this casting choice, and those feelings were justified. While I might have preferred a bit more of a muscular Wonder Woman, I can overlook that. (If I can overlook Michael Keaton as Batman, I can get over a more slender Amazon Princess.) Aside from that, she's exactly what I wanted in a Wonder Woman - beautiful and yet totally convincing that she could kick your ass. I also got a bit more than I hoped for, as she has an accent (the character isn't American, after all) and she actually looks Mediterranean. Props to Linda Carter, but we don't need another Wonder Woman who looks like she's of Northern European stock. (Personally, she's one character where I wouldn't mind if they cast a woman of any ethnicity.) Oh, and the best part of her performance was how she clearly relished being in combat. Now THAT'S Wonder Woman.

Luthor - I actually think that this was one of the weak spots of the movie. I was actually pretty excited that an unlikely choice like Jesse Eisenberg got to play the part, but I feel like he's just doing "Generic Super Villain" with this role. I was kind of hoping that he'd basically do what he did in The Social Network only more menacing.

The Story - There's a lot that works. For one, Batman is given a really good motivation for wanting to take down Superman. I'm not sure if his sudden change of heart was all that believable though unless one takes in the entire Batman mythology as a whole. Aside from that, this movie did suffer from trying to cram too much into one movie. The fight with Doomsday would have felt totally anticlimactic if it weren't for the chance to see Wonder Woman kicking some serious butt. I'm sure that with subsequent viewings, I'll notice more plot holes and inconsistencies, as that sort of thing happens when you try and put too much into one movie.

And yes, much of this was a setup for the future Justice League movie. Do those parts work? Yeah, sure. Could the movie have done without them? Yeah. All they needed to do was make a brief mention of the fact that other metahumans exist. We didn't need a whole scene that served as a preview of franchises to come.

I guess I felt the same as I did with Man of Steel. There were parts where I felt emotionally invested, and then there were parts where it just felt like it was dragging on.

Final note - I don't think that it's possible to give an "objective" movie review, as the nature of the beast is subjective. However, when reading my reviews of superhero movies, one should always keep in mind that I'm always going to be partial to them and find something good to say for the sheer fact that they put superheroes up on the screen. Perhaps a good gauge is for me to put it on my list where I rank the comic book adaptations. It would definitely be in the top half - but perhaps not too much higher than that. Time will tell if it rises or drops.

But I will say this - it currently ranks below Affleck's rendition of Daredevil on Rotten Tomatoes. That's crazy. Maybe it's just because the bar has gotten really high since then with the various Marvel studio movies and Christopher Nolan Batman films. But there is not a moment in this movie that's worse than Affleck and his wife fighting on a swingset.

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