Whoever wins, we lose

Image via www.comingsoon.net
Image via www.comingsoon.net

‘Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ film review

By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor


Somehow, a movie everyone expected to fail still managed to disappoint. It’ll make bank, but that doesn’t change the fact that Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is the cinematic self-destruction of Zack Snyder. The film tries to be about so many modern issues—terror attacks, foreign policy, nuclear deterrence—that it degenerates into a mopey, unfocused alphabet soup of socio-political posturing.

The sequel to Man of Steel—the only Superman movie where the hero destroys most of Metropolis and saves no one—BvS attempts to justify the previous film’s carnage as the setup for a plot where the world’s governments must decide whether Superman’s godlike power is a benefit or a hazard. Though Supes is the main matter at hand, all the discussion comes to nothing, because it never leads him to make any dramatic decision he didn’t already make in the last movie.

Of course, that decision involves half an hour of gratuitous destruction, undertaken with the flimsy excuse that the civilians on the Gotham docks aren’t in danger because they’ve all gone home from work. Apparently Superman has learned nothing of discretion from his battle with General Zod, so we’re back to square zero because Snyder wants to make more big shit go boom.

The script is a mess of setup for future films. Given the out-of-nowhere introduction of Wonder Woman, BvS is clearly meant to be DC’s version of Marvel’s Avengers. That leaves BvS straining to act both as a sequel and a middle chapter, vainly struggling to build up the new Lex Luthor, adapt the Doomsday story arc, and leave a hook for potential Justice League films. It’ll be pretty hard for DC to make good on that, considering the way Doomsday panned out.

Snyder is reaching for Marvel’s box-office results without leaning on any previous films for buildup. He’s not, after all, a trend-setter. He’s a trend follower. Netflix’s Daredevil did a one-take fight scene, so Snyder’s does a bigger one. The Dark Knight had a freeway chase, so Snyder’s does one with more explosions. He even does the Zack Snyder VersionTM of Batman’s origin story in gratuitous slow-mo, even though nobody currently watching this movie is asking “Who’s Batman?”

Snyder clearly wanted to film Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, because he has appropriated many of that story’s iconic moments only to pantomime them without meaning or context. For instance, Batman breaking his “no guns” rule to save an innocent life falls completely flat here because Batfleck spends half the movie blowing thugs away with the Batmo-bomber’s machineguns. He’s portrayed as so reckless that he fights Superman on principle, even though the conflict could have been resolved in two lines of dialogue.

Following Hans Zimmer’s maudlin brass-turbation session and the criminal underuse of Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Batman and Superman finally get to throw down. And it blows. Bats is barely able to move in his armoured suit, so the fight choreography resembles a worst-of-the-worst WWE grudge match. It’s baffling, since whenever he dons his regular cape and cowl, the fight scenes become fluid and vicious.

As always, Luthor is playing both sides against the middle, but his evil plot is grade school level. Why he thought blackmailing Superman would work out is a mystery. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Luthor is a truly awful hodgepodge of annoying tics. He struts and frets, endlessly spouting blunt mythological doggerel that feels less like megalomaniacal ravings than a giggling manchild quoting a comparative religion textbook.

There aren’t even any surprises in the final act. Everything from Wonder Woman’s rescue to Doomsday’s rampage were spoiled in the trailers. There’s absolutely no reason to watch the movie. Chances are you’ve seen the good bits.

BvS is a film made only for the sake of cutting a trailer to in turn promote the film. It is literally FilmCeption. Don’t believe the hype, and don’t waste your money.