By: Logan Sowash
Let me give you an analogy: Imagine playing darts at a bar. Let’s pretend that the dartboard, in relation to a film, is the execution of an idea while the dart itself is the idea. If you hit the dartboard, the idea works to varying degrees of success depending on its location. If you miss the dartboard, it fails no matter what. Trying to win this game involves preparation and patience.
Now imagine if a man walked into the bar with two handfuls of darts and, without any hesitation, chucks the darts at the board. How many of those darts do you think would stick to the board? How many would horribly fail to even hit the board? This is my dilemma with my thoughts on BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, a comic book film that just throws so many things at you that are both entertaining and infuriating. Zack Snyder’s follow-up to the disappointing MAN OF STEEL is another film that bites off too much than it can chew.
Despite that opening, there are several things I enjoyed about the film. First off, I really enjoyed the majority of the casting choices. Ben Affleck kills it as a harder Batman than we’ve ever seen on-screen, Jeremy Irons is a great Alfred, Gal Gadot does a good job in the scenes she’s in and I still like Henry Cavill as Superman. I also really enjoy the cinematography. The first 10 minutes of the film got me on board immediately due to how well Snyder used his strengths as a visual director to create beautiful recreations of comic panels from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and key scenes from MAN OF STEEL but from Bruce Wayne’s perspective.
Also, I loved the score by Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer. Zimmer’s score in MAN OF STEEL was serviceable yet forgettable, excluding Superman’s theme. BATMAN V SUPERMAN’s score, however, was memorable and enjoyable all the way through. XL and Zimmer’s styles blend in a very nice way. Along with the score, I really enjoyed the majority of the action. The confrontation the film is named after is enjoyable to watch though it doesn’t hold a candle to a Batman fight scene that is the pinnacle of Batman action sequences. It was like watching a live-action version of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham video games which is the highest compliment I can give to a Batman fight scene.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things to have a problem with when it comes to this film. First off, the writing and pacing just feels lazy. While MAN OF STEEL’s writing felt far from perfect and the pacing was incredibly bogged down, this film’s script feels like they’re trying to fit too much into so little time. That’s right: To have a film that handles all of these main and side stories perfectly, you need something longer than two and a half hours. Due to the film’s love of having too many plotlines in one piece (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, much?), the editing and transitions are just baffling. If I had a dollar for every jarring transition/fade-to-black from one plotline to another, I would have more than enough money to see the film in theaters more than once. While I don’t think this film is nearly as bad as 2015’s FANTASTIC FOUR, a lot of the transitions felt like they were lifted from that trainwreck.
Finally, my biggest problem with the film is how they handle Superman. Even though he’s only half of the names in the title, the film feels more like a Batman film with small snippets of Superman than a film about both of them growing a rivalry that ultimately ends in an unlikely alliance. Heck, it feels like Wonder Woman has more importance and screen time than the Man of Steel himself! While MAN OF STEEL is flawed, at least it gave Superman an incredible amount of potential to grow into a very interesting character in the future. It’s baffling to see Snyder and the writers have such a difficult time trying to fit Superman in his own damn narrative yet have no problems lazily throwing in several Justice League references throughout the film. If you were one of those people that thought Thor’s hot tub scene in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was a lazy way to introduce the audience to THOR: RAGNAROK, wait till you get at look at how Snyder implements what most people would consider “Marvel after-credits material” for the Justice League. It baffled me in the most disappointing way possible.
Despite those last two paragraphs, I don’t regret paying money to see this film. I could go into detail on aspects like the use of the side characters in the film, Jesse Eisenberg’s mixed portrayal of Lex Luthor Jr. or the use of a well-known Superman storyline in this narrative but it wouldn’t matter much because you would still get the same impression from how I felt about this film. I was disappointed. I was not one of those people that has hated on this film constantly since the trailers released or when Affleck was cast as Batman. I wanted this to be a great film. What I got instead is a flawed, disappointing experience that I did thoroughly enjoy at parts.
Is that because it was my first viewing of the film? I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t recommend this film to everyone. If you like MAN OF STEEL/Batman in general, go see it in theaters. Everyone else can wait till it’s out on DVD to see it. In the end, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is a flawed film that doesn’t hurt my excitement for future DC films like David Ayer’s SUICIDE SQUAD or Patty Jenkins’s WONDER WOMAN. It instead just makes me realize that DC’s cinematic universe might not be in the best hands at the moment. All I can hope now is that Marvel’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR doesn’t have the same problems of being overcrowded or being too ambitious for its own good. With 2016 looking to be the year for incredible comic book showdowns, DC’s showdown film could have been so much better.