Coming to this movie, I know that it is strongly disliked by the critics. But even without those bad reviews, right from the start, there were already elements of its production that made me worry. No, casting Ben Affleck as Batman was not one of them. The first red flag for me was the title. I hated the annoyingly pretentious use of “v” instead of “vs.” Furthermore, putting “Dawn of Justice” as subtitle suggested that the script would heavily shoo-in elements that would set up the Justice League movie, potentially distracting the focus on what the movie should essentially be: Batman and Superman clashing. Second, the trailers seemed to have revealed so much information about the plot already.
All in all, now that I’ve finally seen it, I find Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice convoluted, problematic, and messy. My initial dislike for the implications of the title and trailers are justified. However, I don’t reflect the brutality of the critics’ negative reception of it. I don’t think it’s that awful. It actually has terrific aspects as well.
First, let me discuss the negatives. (By the way, there are going to be SPOILERS in this review.)
The main problem of BvS (I will be abbreviating the movie as such from now on) is that it wanted to be several things at once. It has some cool ideas that would have made for great premises for at least three movies. But by packing them all in one movie, plot points didn’t have enough room to gel. Several factors were affected negatively. The direction was incapable of juggling them all. The editing and pacing were off. The writing was unable to mash them up sensibly and cleanly in a single narrative, but instead relied on dumb and lazy tying conveniences.
And it didn’t help itself by having a gritty, “realistic” tone. By being so, audience would tend to treat it seriously. Stupid stuff easily stand out, and aren’t easily forgivable.
I was not all pleased by how future DC movies were set up in BvS. It felt too forced. I wasn’t at all excited when the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg made cameos. In fact, I was somewhat irritated by how indolent and condescending the approach was. This movie’s sloppy execution simply proves that the Marvel approach of taking it slow in building a shared universe is much more preferable, since it’s done much more organically and cleverly. This also further enforces the sentiment that Warner Bros. are much more concerned in establishing several cash flow sources as quickly as possible than doing something pleasingly creative with its DC movies (seriously, the DC movie guys should learn from the DC TV guys, who are generally doing a great job in building its shared universe, or rather, multiverse).
There are also several instances in this movie wherein it “spoon-feeds” its audience. Comic fans and sharp viewers will easily catch details, but in case they are missed, the movie would really go a mile to make them more obvious – as if the filmmakers are afraid that the general moviegoers would miss them. Example, whenever something Justice League related happens, heavy music cues in. Or that Lex Luthor’s collected footages of metahumans – hence, how the cameos happened – are conveniently logoed. But the thing that made me really groan was the series of short flashbacks to remind audiences that Bruce Wayne’s mother and Clark Kent’s mother share the same name.
Lastly, I hated Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Doomsday. Even during Man of Steel, I never liked Amy Adams as Lois Lane, but she was more dislikable in this movie, as if she’s just a compulsory but needless element in the story. I rolled my eyes and groaned when she had this awkward bathtub scene which was obviously only there for an Olay product placement. I hated Jesse Eisenberg’s reinvention of Luthor – so inferior from the charismatic persona of the comics and cartoons. (For the record, Smallville’s Erica Durance and Michael Rosenbaum are my most favorite live-action portrayals of these characters). As for Doomsday, I hated how he looked. He was like an LOTR troll. Heck, his “birth” was even visually similar to the Uruk-hai’s formation.
Now, for the positives…
Of course, a Hollywood movie about iconic superheroes will always have awesome stuff to offer – especially one with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. For starters, the mere fact that they are all together on the big screen was enough to send a happy chill down my spine.
The action sequences are exciting, and though there are times when the CGI appeared obvious and ugly, the visuals are exhilarating in general.
Ben Affleck proved to be a fascinating Bruce Wayne/Batman. As far as appearance – looking like the character – is concerned, he’s now my most favorite live-action Batman. I won’t say that he’s the overall best live-action Batman, but he’s definitely distinctive. I love almost every aspect of this Batman – his demeanor, gadgetry, Alfred (played fantastically by Jeremy Irons) – that I believe having a new standalone Batman movie would have been much better than BvS. My only problem about this version of Batman is that he definitely killed a couple of people in this movie – a departure from the character’s quintessential “no-killing” rule. But my frustration for this was minimized by looking at this movie with an Elseworld perspective, just as I did with Man of Steel.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was also fantastic. Though her presence in this movie has a tang of being a gratuitous shoo-in, she was a delight to watch, and now I’m greatly looking forward to her upcoming standalone film.
The integration of “The Death of Superman”, one of the most powerful comic book moments in history, in the plot was a bold move that I appreciated. But the emotional effect would definitely have been more emphatic if it wasn’t implied by the last shot that he’s still alive. Also, it would have paid off more if it happened in a separate movie, since by then, he and Batman would already have been established having a strong friendship, and his death would have had a deeper impact on Batman and the audience.
I’ve always been a fan of Batman and Superman, thus, I wish their first live-action big screen time together came in a much different circumstance. These two heroes deserve something better than BvS. Unfortunately, they belong to DC Comics, who in turn belongs to Warner Bros., a studio that doesn’t have the kind of vision, patience, or enthusiasm to give justice to these heroes on film. Thus, BvS turned out being not as good as what we fans desired. Though it has a couple of awesome aspects, it’s unsuccessful in organizing them cohesively. Hence, the result is a clutter of missed opportunities and wasted concepts. Nonetheless, it’s not entirely loathsome – absolutely disappointing, but not at all loathsome. It still has facets of enjoyment.