Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has finally arrived and it can’t have escaped your attention that it’s getting less than favourable reviews across the board.
With Zack Snyder in creative control of DC Comics big screen adventures, Batman v Superman should have laid a massive statement of intent for where this franchise is heading. It also should have set a high bar of expectation for the standalone Justice League, Aquaman, The Flash, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman movies coming soon.
Check out our spoiler-free review of Batman v Superman here.
If you continue reading, please be aware that from this point onwards there are lots of Batman v Superman spoilers.
The film has lots of problems and concerns but also highlights that are certainly worth a mention. Let’s look at where Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice went wrong and what it managed to get right in our Pass and Fail test.
Bruce Wayne – PASS
Ben Affleck is brilliant as a world-weary Bruce Wayne and the opening sequence where he is witnessing Superman v Zod from street level is amazing. Structured well, this scene gives us a great introduction to the character and his nobility.
Batman – PASS
Ben Affleck makes for a solid Batman and his grit and determination lends itself admirably to his interpretation of the Dark Knight. He has the physical presence, he looks the part (especially with the Jim Lee-inspired costume) and he carries that sorrowful weight of regret and anger exceptionally well.
Batman – FAIL
The character’s nobility, so brilliantly portrayed in the opening scene, quickly vanishes when you see Batman using guns.
Batman uses guns?!
And lots of them. He mows down his opposition in some scenes and this goes against a fundamental trait of the character… he doesn’t kill! And especially not by using a weapon that has haunted him since his parents were killed in front of him. A basic, unforgiveable and massive mistake to make.
Superman – FAIL
For a man brought up with such core values of decency and doing what’s right, it’s alarming to see just how ambivalent he is to the wanton destruction left in his path. He chooses to ignore things when he should instead be addressing the fears that he has helped create. Superman makes some odd choices and doesn’t seem to handle the situation with much authority or conviction.
Batman’s past – FAIL
Alfred (Jeremy Irons) tells us that Batman has been fighting crime for 20 years. These are the years I want to see as a movie. Why are we only given movies about his origin and about the twilight of his crime-fighting career? He’s also lost Robin, killed by the Joker from the look of the costume hanging in the Batcave. All of this is story we want and need to see on the big screen, not just mentioned in passing. Again, this is down to the mismanagement of DC and their desire to fast-track everything with short-cuts.
Wonder Woman – PASS
Gal Gadot doesn’t have an awful lot to do in Batman v Superman but when she shows up it’s certainly cool. Her fight scenes with Doomsday were great and her limited screen time with Batman and Superman promises much. Her origin film can’t come soon enough to fill in crucial blanks to her story.
Lex Luthor – FAIL
Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) plan actually makes sense and by pitting the Man of Steel against the Bat he clears the way for his own domination. The character’s interpretation however makes little sense. This is certainly a Lex we have never seen onscreen before – a manic odd-ball rich kid that you just want to slap at every opportunity. If the overriding desire was to do something different with Lex then it worked. But that shouldn’t be the remit for Lex Luthor at all.
Eisenberg was not the way to go here, and his Lex is another wasted avenue of possibility. Having seen the initial trailer, I had hoped that his spewing motor-mouth was actually a public front to a much more malevolent psyche at work behind the scenes. It turns out that I gave the writing too much credit – he’s just a whiney loudspeaker with an inferiority complex. And why the hell did the secrets of the Kryptonian ship come so easily to him? In 18 months since the Zod/Superman attack had no-one thought of breaking in the way Lex did with Zod’s fingerprints?
Lex Luthor – PASS
For a character that’s familiar to most, they at least tried to do something different with Lex. He is annoying as hell but having him so different to Superman and Batman creates some interesting dynamics to explore in the future. He’s not the Lex I want but since he’s here, he might as well go all-in with a fresh new approach. Being less like a Joker rip-off would help him to no end though.
There is too much going on in the film – FAIL
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s fundamental problem is that it’s a convoluted mess of storylines that aren’t afforded the appropriate time to develop properly. Everything feels rushed. Take inspiration from your source material but at the very least make it coherent and give it its due respect. Each thread makes sense if you allow enough time for it to brew properly. There are elements of this story that should have taken 2-3 movies to set up. Instead, we get it all thrown at us in 151 eye-blistering minutes.
DC is playing catch-up to Marvel and as a result their end-product feels far too hurried, which is a real shame. Given the right amount of time to set things up, Batman v Superman could have been stunning.
You have to know your comic book history to fully appreciate certain aspects of the film – FAIL
Accessibility is key for a film of this scale. The casual viewer won’t have a clue what’s going on, especially with Doomsday and the significance of The Death of Superman storyline so pivotal. The Multiverse aspect will also only make sense once we get a few more DC movies under our belt so those scenes (with the Flash etc) don’t make much narrative sense now.
Batman v Superman fight – PASS
It looked good. Yes, there was lots of CGI-infused rubble but the fight itself was pleasing with lots of good action moments and a few fancy moves along the way. The armoured Batsuit looked great and the Rocky training montage featuring Bruce bulking up was solid. But again, this was hurried along far too quickly.
Batman v Superman fight – FAIL
Why couldn’t Superman just open his mouth and explain the situation when he arrived to challenge Batman and save some time?! The life of his mother was at stake but he did that old soap-opera cliché of saying, ‘look I need to tell you something’ but not actually say anything.
Dream sequences – FAIL
There are too many and they affect the narrative because it’s handled in such a haphazard way. It doesn’t matter that they sometimes look cool, they don’t help clarify anything that we don’t already know – ie Bruce Wayne is a tortured soul. The Bat creature busting out of his parents coffin was cool though. They should have been used to fill in more pertinent, overlooked back-story like what happened to…
Robin – FAIL
Seeing the blood-stained costume in the Batcave only raises more questions and didn’t create anything other than frustration. If you don’t read comics then this reference will be lost on you. Would it have killed Snyder to do one dream scene featuring Robin in that iconic ‘A Death in the Family’ pose? At least give the death some context and emotional resonance for Bruce’s character.
Zack Snyder not using his visual skills to depict key moments from the comics – FAIL
With comic book films, I’ve never really understood the excuse of delivering a poor product. You literally have a tried-and-tested storyboard in front of you. If all else fails, just copy that scene-for-scene from the page to the lens… it’s already done the heavy lifting for you. This is especially true of someone like Zack Snyder, who feels far more competent when he’s adapting someone else’s work (Watchman) as opposed to his creating his own (Sucker Punch).
With so many iconic, key moments being thrown about in Batman v Superman, surely Zack Snyder could have delivered a few onscreen. Where was the iconic torn cape flapping in the wind when Superman died? Why wasn’t there a picture-postcard of Superman and Doomsday squaring up to each other? If you are going to speed through pivotal narrative moments, at least give them their visual dues.
Doomsday – FAIL
As mentioned before, he shouldn’t have been in this at all. But he is. So why the hell put him in the trailer?! This was utterly pointless if he was always going to be the film’s bigger bad. His story should have been what DC are working towards in 2-3 films time. Remember when everyone was falling to Doomsday’s attacks in the Death of Superman comic storyline? It enforced the fact that Superman was the only one who could actually stop him. Others tried and failed but the Man of Steel makes the ultimate sacrifice. It was perfectly laid out for someone to follow frame for frame. But DC has jumped the gun and got rid of one of its main trump cards in a throw-away fashion which is a massive missed opportunity. And he was basically Lex Luthor’s Frankenstein monster, which does neither character any favours.
Doomsday – PASS
I liked the fact that Doomsday grew even more powerful no matter what hit him. The nuclear aspect was great and his mutation into the bone-splitting beast was great to see. He looked good, his scale was decent and his melee with the trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman created some nice visuals.
The Batmobile – FAIL
It just looked flimsy and incapable of handling any situation. The Tim Burton Batmobile and the Chris Nolan Tumbler are laughing in its jagged, vulnerable face.
The Justice League – PASS
The brief glimpse we get of Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash are tantalising reminders that there’s still plenty of excitement to come from these stories.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice tries something different – PASS
We know that this is a rushed job and using the Marvel recipe doesn’t seem to appeal to the folks at DC (for whatever inexplicable reason). But if we accept that, does Batman v Superman make for a good viewing experience? Despite its many flaws, it’s not a bad film. There is spectacle and grandeur on display, with lots of interesting ideas on the paranoia and uncertainty of idolising heroes.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is in cinemas now.