FilmReview

Review: ‘Batman v Superman’ Doesn’t Do Justice to the Characters

Emily Solomon ’17 / Emertainment Monthly President

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Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

There’s a lot of reviews floating around right now that are going to tell you that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is bloated, confusing, a hot mess, garbage, terrible—that it was an inaccurate and disingenuous adaptation in at least a dozen different ways.

This isn’t going to be one of those reviews; you’ve likely seen and read enough reviews (or, at least, excerpts) of them at this point. This review will not talk about what elements of the comics should or should not have been included, nor will it pick apart every last scenery-chewing line in the film (and there are many—”Do you bleed?” doesn’t even begin to cover it, friends).

To look at the bigger picture, let’s take this in parts: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

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Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

It was not holy-mother-of-god awful. Which, you’d think, isn’t saying a whole lot, but let’s consider what it is Batman v Superman actually had to do: create a setup that opens opportunities for other characters to enter the story.

While certain elements of the film fell flat, the way BvS handled the introduction of Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman was clever. Gal Gadot’s turn as Wonder Woman was easily the highlight of the film, and the clues dropped about her story provide more than ample material and interest ahead of the release of the Wonder Woman feature. That she’s one of the best elements of the films and remains sorely under-utilized is perhaps the clearest of many creative missteps.

What glimpses we saw of Vic Stone, Barry Allen, and Arthur Curry were promising and intriguing, and didn’t pull down the rest of the movie with their weight as many assumed.

In essence, Batman v Superman managed to ensure, at the very least, that the DC Cinematic Universe is not dead on arrival. Is it a grand entrance that will be able to stand the test of time amongst what will hopefully be more successful entries in the franchise? Almost certainly not.

But at least DC fans can breathe another day knowing that other properties will not be thrown into jeopardy.

The Bad

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Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way:

There’s no dancing around the fact that Batman v Superman was not a good film. Perhaps there’s something to be said for Zack Snyder’s attempts to make this a true “comic book movie,” which manifested in things like high-impact framing and composition choices for different shots, a great deal of moral testifying (literal testifying, even, through the course of Senate committee hearings), and plenty of damsels in distress.

For sake of comparison: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was, clearly, about Batman. But beyond the origin of its source material, it wasn’t what you would call a comic book movie the same way you can call Marvel films comic book movies. There is a tonal and emotional difference.

In Batman v Superman, there’s a concerted effort to be a comic book movie that falls horribly flat.

The special effects were burdensome and exhausting (spare yourself and your eyes and do not buy tickets for a 3D showing), with multiple action sequences that stretched on far too long without much rhyme or reason.

It’s a shame, considering that quality visuals and special effects could have made the film lacking in narrative strength at least pleasing to the eye, interesting to look at. They leave the viewer desensitized, which isn’t really beneficial considering that the plot is already difficult to parse out. The effects are, in a word, overcompensating for a story that lacks much in the way of emotional stakes and narrative clarity from start to finish.

Just as heavy-handed as the visuals is the testifying, which often comes off as preachy and, at times, downright cheesy when coupled with Clark or Bruce looking broodingly into the distance.

Maybe it’s not enough to say that the attempt at a “comic book movie” fell flat—more like it read like a very heavy-handed comic book one-shot.

The Ugly

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Jesse Eisenberg in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

So if that’s the bad—what got worse?

Other than Doomsday himself (which, trust me: very ugly): the dream sequences. Actually, the first one wasn’t bad once the viewer learns it was a dream. The others dragged on. And on. And on.

The worst part is that it wasn’t a one-off. Multiple dream sequences, multiple periods of prolonged cringing. They were unwieldy, clumsy, and at times just plain unpleasant to watch. Without going into spoilers, let’s just say that “ugly” doesn’t even begin to describe the one that comes towards the middle of the film.

And then there’s Lois.

There’s enough material to write an entire article about Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the role she plays in this film. Or, rather, the role in which she is pigeonholed into, the role the male characters surrounding her shuffle her into, leaving her less an individual character and more a plot device.

But, as stated earlier, that’s deserving of its own article. But it’s enough to pull down the entire film.

Wrap-Up 

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Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Batman v Superman, as a film, did not work. The story was unfocused, and it’s unclear if plot and character were sacrificed for visual effects or if those effects were an attempt to cover up for what the film so clearly lacked.

It was gratuitous in many ways and lacking in so many others, and as a result the entire thing leaves you feeling off-balance and wishing for more.

And that, ultimately, is the best one can say about Batman v Superman: it makes “more” a possibility.

Overall Grade: C-

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