Movie Review - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
By Matthew Huntley
April 5, 2016
The same goes for Superman, who’s actually made stiffer and less charming than we prefer. I guess he’s the darker, more serious Superman for the 21st century (as opposed to the jolly, upbeat protector from the 1930s comics and Superman movies of the late ‘70s and early ’80s). But just as he’s been updated to modern times, he’s also been made less interesting and distinguished. The problem may be Cavill, as there’s no fluctuation in the actor’s tone or mannerisms, neither as the Man of Steel nor as Clark. He just sort of appears on screen as an empty symbol instead of a hero with a soul.
And speaking of heroes, Wonder Woman is by far the most disappointing of the three. I didn’t actually count, but I would estimate she has less than 10 lines of total dialogue. As a character, she’s given no depth, charisma, or worthwhile things to say. And we can’t really fault Gadot, because the screenplay doesn’t really given her anything to do besides react to things happening around her or look pretty for the camera, even during the climax. The movie offers us little reason to get excited about the standalone Wonder Woman feature due out in 2017.
But back to the other hand. One character that does stand out is Lex Luthor, to whom Eisenberg lends a fresh and unique spin. Unlike the three heroes, he’s quirky, playful, and amusing. Eisenberg plays him as a high-pitched weasel, but a weasel we enjoy watching because he’s so peculiar and has a troubled, complicated past that we want to know more about. If any of these characters deserves his own movie, it’s him. I especially liked Luthor’s exchanges with June Finch (Holly Hunter), a Junior Senator attempting to thwart his diabolical plans. Their back-and-forth dialogue is rhythmic and effective, as is a key scene when she notices a mason jar in front of her.
This scene, along with a touching moment when Clark sees a vision of his deceased Earth father, Jonathan (Kevin Costner), reminds us what the movie could have been - dark, emotional and substantive. Instead, Snyder opts to keep the majority of it brainless and action-heavy. And, just like Man of Steel, it comes with an ending that’s way too long and ridiculous for its own good. During it, the heroes fight a genetically engineered creature called Doomsday, and this battle goes on and on and on. But why even bother to call the ending “ridiculous” when the movie is already called Batman v Superman? Because even in the context of the world in which these larger-than-life characters inhabit, the violence and devastation wreaked by the ending would leave no ordinary human behind, and so it’s just too unbelievable to be taken seriously, and that’s a problem.
So I’ve spent the majority of my review excoriating the movie, and while it’s mostly a fatuous mess, its flaws still didn’t prevent me from being entertained, or at least entertained enough. I admittedly got caught up in the movie as an event picture and one that’s purely about visual and aural sensation. Like Man of Steel, it can be enjoyed as a dumb, superficial action movie, so long as you consciously set aside your expectations for what the characters should be like and simply accept them for what they are in this particular context, and if you anticipate the whole experience will eventually leave your mind numb. If it sounds like I’m giving Batman v Superman the lowest type of recommendation, then it should. I felt it did its job of whisking me away from reality for nearly three hours (which was about one hour too many) and when I came back I was more fulfilled than when I left. That’s a sign the movie can be useful - once, but nothing beyond that.