On Monday nights I occasionally tune into Monday Night Raw. Professional Wrestling is pure testosterone soap opera entertainment. It’s giant muscle dudes giving hugely theatrical performances with 100% commitment, but there’s always self awareness and everyone is in on the joke. It’s silly fun.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Screw You I’m Not Typing That Long Ass Title is a WWE battle headlined by the most famous superheroes, Batman and Superman, yet it has none of the WWE’s self awareness or confidence in its outlandish story. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not apart of its own inside joke.
After the deadly events of Man of Steel (which I mildly enjoy btw), Bruce Wayne, played as a handsome statue by Ben Affleck, is outraged at Superman’s inadvertent cause of millions of deaths. Director Zack Snyder introduces us to this Batman through an opening credits montage that had me ready to leap out of my seat with excitement. This and Watchmen’s opening credits are the best thing he’s ever done. And… maybe he should just do a movie with only opening credits. In the first 10 minutes the stakes are set and it appears we’re about to see a film that pits Batman and Superman’s ideologies against each other. Unfortunately, Snyder doesn’t have a clear idea what those ideologies are. His character’s are cardboard cutouts occasionally framed in symbolic images that punch the audience in the face with their heavy handedness and offer no tone but dourness. Everything interesting set up in the first 15 minutes is squandered by corporate greed, too many cooks in the kitchen, and a lack of graceful storytelling.
Snyder is adamant on creating “cool” moments, which come at the expense of telling a story. He’s making a movie with moments and heavy handed imagery rather than scenes of substance and this causes major problems. The biggest of these reside in character motivations. Bruce is mad because…. Batman is supposed to be mad? Yet, there’s no outlining of his ideology or character. He just wants to punch shit and literally kill people. Superman just wants to stay Superman, which is kinda hard in a film that cares little about him. He has almost no real goal in the film besides saving a few people in a montage and answering to the deaths he caused. That’s the backstory that the entire film rides on.
Lois is also running around investigating stuff that’s not quite clear until it’s explained later. Then there’s Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor absolutely hamming it up but why is he here? He hates superman? This movie needs kryptonite? Because… the comics say so? Plot and character motivation in this film come from a studio executive high up in an office as he checks off his list so he can make as many of these movies as possible. Or, even worse, is that Snyder just is not aware of any of these problems.
I haven’t seen a studio film this unintentionally bizarre since idk, a long time. Zack Snyder seems like a super nice dude and is a talented stylist, but he has problems telling a well rounded story. 300 is his best live action film because it has a sense of humor about itself, and the stylization brings the content to life. Human drama is his kryptonite, and it’s frustrating that he’s been handed the keys to this entire kingdom. The first 30 minutes are directed and paced so oddly that I truly thought that Zack Snyder had stolen money from Warner Bros. and made an art film, but as the film went on it became clear that Snyder just does not understand rhythm or cohesion. Loads of scenes cut to black and then we hop to some other random plot point. This leaves any moments of interest left in the dust as the film trudges forward with NO narrative momentum.
I suspect Snyder wanted to make a different movie than Warner Bros. did. There’s a subplot with Holly Hunter as a senator that takes up about 25 minutes and the entire goal is to make Superman pay as if there were real world consequences here. To then have Batman killing people (really), silly easter eggs for other DC films, Wonder Woman in a metal bikini, and these two superheroes trying to kill each other is profoundly lacking self awareness and reeks of studio interference.
The most tense sequence in this movie includes a jar of piss. A jar of piss.
That would’ve been the oddest thing had the climax not happened when the most bland CGI monster ever is created and we randomly cut to Wonder Woman on her laptop where she literally watches trailers for The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. It’s truly baffling.
With silliness like this you’d expect Snyder to inject some wink wink awareness and superficial fun but there is absolutely no irony or wit to be found here. Even Nolan’s Batman films, while serious and tackling massive themes, are among the most fun blockbusters since the early 80s.
The only thing keeping me from calling it awful is that it’s an earnest film at its core. Beneath the product placement, constant justification for itself, and trailers for its sequels, is an actual comic adaption with sincerity — albeit one without awareness. I’m not angered by this film but instead sad. I’m sad that such a great showdown with such iconic characters are sloppily slammed into a mess.
The worst thing about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is that it’s significantly more interested in the dawn of justice rather than its main event. I just don’t care.
Grade: C- yo but batman has some cool moments