Commentaries

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE



BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE  

Film Review by Fiore 

 
Well, this review is rather difficult to write.  How, even with all my years of expert film criticism tucked firmly under my belt, do I criticize a movie that delivers all it promises in the final hour, but breaks every standard for solid film making in the first ninety minutes?  If it wasn’t for the iconic nature of the characters, you could easily walk out of this film after the first hour.  It is that bad.  There is a disjointed dream sequence, which is in itself a dream sequence, a technique purloined from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, which has no purpose, save to allow the SFX guys to go super sci-fi.  There are snippets of fragmented scenes, obscure references to even more obscure characters and more posing by guys in costumes than an average viewing of Monday Night Raw.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN : DAWN OF JUSTICE begins well.  Viewers are privy to the aftermath of Superman’s epic battle with General Zod from the original SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEELZod wanted to take over the Earth, but apparently some humans have forgotten this important fact, and instead are dwelling on the destruction caused by the battle.  Must be liberals – they always have a tendency to forget the lessons of history, and try to find scapegoats instead, which is why they continue to make the same mistakes.  Anyway, Superman goes from hero to demon in a relatively short time.  Like The Joker said to Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT:  “You can either die a hero, or live long enough to become the villain.”  So now, Superman is the bad guy and as a means of redemption, he tries to take down Batman, in neighboring Gotham City.  Here, BATMAN  V SUPERMAN : DAWN OF JUSTICE really starts to fall apart.

In addition to the dream sequence mentioned above, there are gaping holes in script continuity.  For example:  How is it Batman arrives to a scene in the Batmobile, but leaves in the Batplane; and how is it Batman is wearing his Superman fighting armor suit, but magically appears in his normal suit in the next scene?

Ben Affleck does a marvelous job playing Bruce Wayne.  He is middle-aged, beginning to lose idealistic concepts as reality smacks him in the face.  “We’ve fought bad guys for twenty years, Alfred, and what difference has it made?” he avers to his man-servant during one of the film’s more pensive moments.   

Henry Cavill returns as Clark Kent.  He does well and offers a stoic performance, but he shows a massive weakness in the world’s greatest superhero – confidence.  It seems anyone can bring self-doubt into the Man of Steel, to the point where he has to run home to mommy (Diane Lane) for comforting.  If I had the powers of Superman, believe me the last problem I would ever have is lack of self-confidence.  I mean, I’m Superman for God’s sake! 

 But why Superman suddenly has a massive dislike for Batman, or why Batman is so concerned about a traitorous former employee, is never given the full dawn of justice.  While Cavill and Affleck do their best with the material, it is weak.  The supposed feud is never developed.  This is great for no-minds who want to see an epic battle, but totally lame sauce for those who want the battle to happen for a reason.

It would be easy here to blame screenwriter Chris Terrio for the lack of plot, but actually Director Zack Snyder and Warner Brothers may be more to blame.  Snyder made the movie originally with a four-hour length.  I’m fairly certain the story was fully developed in that time.  The WB said they would not back a film of that length, and demanded BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE be trimmed to a ‘reasonable’ length.  It is currently two hours and thirty-five minutes.  Snyder, before the film opened, spread over social media a statement claiming the home version of the movie would be well over three hours long, and carry an R-rating.  As soon as he said that, I think every serious film fan thought it best to wait for the DVD.  Faced with the unenviable task of trimming ninety minutes from the film, Editor David Brenner made some unwise decisions. 

During the final hour, after the two heroes battle, nearly destroying each other, they realize they have a common enemy in Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg.  This is simply horrible casting.  Eisenberg is never believable as a calculating kingpin nor a member of the lunatic fringe.  He is the film’s definitive weak link.  Instead of his sequences augmenting the tension between the superheroes, it diminishes them.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      Batman saves Martha Kent
2.      Batman fights Superman
3.      Conversation between Alfred and Bruce

BATMAN  V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE wants desperately to appeal to the adult graphic novel reader.  Affleck helps the cause tremendously.  Simultaneously, WB and DC want the same young appeal as the AVENGERS films.  This film attempts both, and ends up succeeding in neither. 
Personally, I always like the darker, brooding superhero.  I’m looking forward to Ben Affleck’s solo Batman flick.  That probably places me in the minority. 

This movie could have developed the feud between Clark and Bruce much better and eliminated the entire Doomsday segment, and I think I would have enjoyed it more.  As soon as Doomsday arrives, the poorly developed adult story ends, and the super market comic book story begins.  The second half plays better, because the first half is so understated and incoherent.  It will be nice to see the home version.  There is so much more potential with this material.
 
GRADE FOR BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE = C

1 comment:

Ken Burke; Pat Craig said...

Hi Fiore, Once again we're mostly in agreement (don't worry, I'm sure that will disappear in November), this time about "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." Like you, I enjoyed Affleck and Cavill in their roles, but while I wasn't totally comfortable with Eisenberg as Luthor I'm willing for now to see what becomes of his performance in future movies (I"m sure he'll be back) because, for now at least, I'm open to this being another Earth somewhere in the DC Multiverse than we one(s) we've come to know in previous manifestations of these superheroes (where this Superman, despite his ongoing-noble character, is now willing to bring his fights to the bitter end when necessary instead of his no-kill policy of earlier years) as things happen that we're not yet accustomed to, but you're certainly in the majority with your rejection of Eisenberg in this role.

I also agree there's too much crammed into this 2 1/2 hour version but maybe it all works better (I'd think it would) in the longer, darker home DVD release. However, I will note these two points: (1) It's not just liberals who forget the lessons of history, nor do I think that all liberals do this any more than all conservatives would go along with the politicians here who're suddenly turning on Superman by taking a form of an "anti-alien" (in the other sense of the word) stance from the Trump-Cruz playbook; (2) Given your weekly Frisky Friday posts I'm surprised that you make no mention at all of Wonder Woman (except for the photo where she takes center focus).

As for you ever having a lack of self-confidence, I doubt you'd need to be Superman to achieve that. After all, there are a lot of aliens with superpowers running around in the movies these days but you're the ultimate Right Critic! What more could you possibly need?

If you've got a few days of down time you might want to look over my review at http://filmreviewsfromtwoguysinthedark.blogspot.com/2016/04/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-and.html, although it's even longer than usual (if you can believe that's possible). If you don't want to wade through the whole thing (and then have to clean your shoes off afterward) you might go to the 5th paragraph in my Bottom Line Final Comments section (with a big square photo of Batman next to it) where I cite your review. For that matter, you might also be intrigued by my connected comments on "Eye in the Sky," given that I ultimately come down on the side of the military who want to blow up the terrorists even if the little girl in the vicinity does become collateral damage. Liberal that I am I'm not fully comfortable with that, but it's an honest response because I find few circumstances that don't justify to me the termination of known terrorists whenever the opportunity arises (for me, stopping monsters like that is a bipartisan issue, despite disagreements I'll surely get).

As always, I look forward to your next review. I just don't comment on the ones for films I haven't seen.

Ken