Much like with Michael Bay (but undeservedly so), people seem to be lining up to knock director Zack Snyder down a peg. His crime? Snyder adapts comics into movies, but is not married to the source material. His version of Watchmen wasn’t half bad, but the filmmaker got heck for changing the ending and keeping everything else the same.
The Watchmen backlash was nothing next to the hatred Snyder received for Man of Steel. Superman’s latest cinematic reboot showed a careless superhero (Henry Cavill) battling arch-nemesis General Zod in the middle of Metropolis. The scuffle killed thousands, including Zod himself, who got his neck snapped by his fellow Kryptonian (a huge no-no in the Superman canon).
Which brings us to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In a brilliant bit of retroactive continuity, the events in Man of Steel send Batman on collision course with the son of Krypton: Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) witnesses several of his employees perish during Supes brawl with Zod and vows revenge against the alien (the shades of 9/11 are on the nose, but overall it’s the most accomplished sequence in the movie.)
18 months later, mankind treats Superman more as a saviour than a threat, but there are a few people who don’t forget: Batman, the U.S. Congress –looking for a way to control the superhero-, a disgruntled employee of Wayne Enterprises and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Luthor becomes aware the man of steel is susceptible to Kryptonite and has the resources to collect every bit available in the planet.
I won’t go into how these three hyper-intelligent, highly damaged individuals end up at each other throats. Suffice to say this plot thread hurts the movie the most, followed by Eisenberg incessant whining, and the dour, solemn tone that has become the franchise’s calling card.
But there is more to Batman v Superman than it’s most obvious shortcomings.
Unlike Christopher Nolan, who is uniquely skilled at telling complicated stories without losing the audience, Zack Snyder is a visualist: Every frame in Batman v Superman is curated to a fault. Batman’s hundred-times seen origin story it shown over the credits and it’s exquisite. The action scenes are pure chaos but stop short of becoming unintelligible. This is very much in line with Snyder filmography: 300, Sucker Punch, Legend of the Guardians.
Story and character development is where Snyder comes short. If The Dark Knight saga was rich on political subtext, Snyder just recycles Watchmen’s premise (who watches the Watchmen?) for another go-around. The intrigue surrounding Batman v Superman not only fails to drag you in, but feels like a disjointed chore you have to endure to get to the good part.
Unlike The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Batman v Superman is not just a setup for the DC cinematic universe. The introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, rather emotionless) is a notch underwhelming, but then again, this is not her movie. More problematic is Lex Luthor, who is bound to become a DCCU mainstay. The promise of an evil Mark Zuckerberg goes unfulfilled as Jason Eisenberg follows his worst tendencies and delivers a performance full of twitches and little substance. Eisenberg makes you yearn for Gene Hackman’s casually evil Luthor. Heck, even Kevin Spacey was better.
As for the main guys, Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are correct but are not memorable. Cavill is a little less moppy than last time, while Affleck injects some gravitas to the proceedings (better than Kilmer, not as good as Keaton). It’s likely the DCCU will continue limping along, not good enough to challenge Marvel, not that bad that you have to put it down. Here is hoping Suicide Squad increase the average. Two and a half representatives of the Prairie Dog cinematic universe.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now playing everywhere.