Friday, 25 March 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Spoilers abound for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice below the picture

In an effort not to be accused of burying the lead on this one lets get this out of the way right at the very top of this review: I hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Completely hated it.

Now lets take a step back and try to explain exactly where my dislike grew from.

Let’s start with Ben Affleck’s caped crusader. Everything about the character felt wrong. Zach Snyder had clearly decided that he wanted to try and make a Batman worthy of continuing the legacy of the Nolan movies (which were famously darker than what had come before). However: because Snyder isn’t half the film maker Nolan is, he lacks the subtlety to make this dark and gritty Bat feel real, and instead we just get shots of Affleck staring off into the distance with a brooding look. This is the darkness. Or he’s holding in a fart. I can’t be sure. It just becomes unrelenting

He also isn’t afraid to break the One Rule which Batman has lived by, killing pretty much without regard. This isn’t Batman as we know him, but instead it feels like a sadistic monster who happens to be wearing the suit. This shouldn't perhaps be shocking, given that Snyder also totally sold out the Superman mythos for Man of Steel, so the fact he does the same here isn’t surprising, even if its disappointing. 

Also: Don’t even start me on the voice, which sounds like what might happen if Siri tried to do Christian Bale’ Batman voice. Its just awful. Bale’s was never exactly great, but it looks like the work of a great thespian in comparison.

Then there’s the plot of the thing, which is both clustered and yet empty all at once. DC clearly realised they needed to catch up to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, fast tracking the build to Justice League. In doing so they end up with a single film here that is trying to do the job of 4 or 5, building this universe’s Batman, Wonder Woman, and continuing the build of Superman which Man of Steel began (while also offering a tantalising view of Cyborg, Aquaman, and Flash which it doesn't have time to really capitalise on). They also of course offer the first view of Lex Luthor, who one would assume we will see again as the franchise moves forward.

The problem is that they seem to have missed the point. The reason the MCU works is precisely because each character has had a very defined build up, they each have their place in the story, and their own personal goals and character traits are fully presented, so that by the time Avengers Assemble came around they could really get right into the film.

Here DC has instead gone the “Just throw everything at a wall and see what sticks” route, and it just comes off as an incoherent mess. You can’t become invested in any of the storylines, because they never have time to fully establish themselves. 

There are several threads of what could be good movies - the political fall out for Superman after the battle of Metropolis, an already established Batman years into his vigilantism, LexCorp’s goals to create a Kryptonite weapon, just to name a few - but before you can try and care we have moved on to something else. 

And because you can’t get invested instead you just get bored fast. There’s not enough action to keep you involved though either because its trying to get these conceptual moments talked out, so it ends up rather awfully stuck in a limbo in which it just doesn't work.

I don’t know how a movie involving 3 of the most important superheroes, and very probably the most important super villain (except maybe Joker) of all time, all sharing the screen, could be called boring, but Snyder has managed it. The 2 and a half hours feel like ten, its so interminably slow, and by the time the final credits roll you’re elated just to be able to get out of the cinema and away from this out and out disappointment of a film.

This movie should be getting you excited for what is to come with the Justice League, and instead we are now two films into the franchise and both have been rubbish. Its not looking promising.

Finally lets talk about the last few minutes of the movie, and why they make an already bad situation worse. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows going into this film that it is a prelude to the Justice League, and that there is no way they’re going to do a Justice League movie without Superman. Yet still Snyder decides its a good idea to kill Cal El off in the films final act to try and bring about some emotion in what is an otherwise just mind numbing experience. Except that because we know he has to come back for Justice League, it doesn't work. There’s not one person in the audience that truly believes he is dead and gone. So why should we care? The film itself even realises this, and its very final second cops out the 15 minutes which has come before.

Its impossible to feel the empathy the film wants you to when you just know its not real, and its even more difficult when even the film doesn't believe in it enough to go with its own conclusions. 

Put simply, it is time to get Zach Snyder away from the DC Cinematic Universe. The man has always been more about flash and style than he has substance (see 300, Sucker Punch, and the aforementioned Man of Steel for examples of this), but with such an important franchise we cannot afford for someone who cannot tell a story to continue raking the universe over the coals. I hate seeing superheroes I love like this. 

The film is just awful. Overlong, with way too much going on, and without nearly the character development needed to make you care about any of these people. I’ll say it again: I hated this film. Completely utterly hated it.