Review Rating: 7 out of 10
I actually liked this version of Batman, but very quickly came to think of him as the Bond kind of Batman. Full of toys and technology, bitter from past failures, effortlessly charming while never actually revealing anything, Ben Affleck somehow manages to bring to mind Daniel Craig’s current run of 007, and that is kind of bewildering. Jeremy Irons as Alfred immediately somehow becomes all the powerful supporting characters of Bonds life, from Moneypenny to M, chiding Batman as he does for his cruelty and yet offering unstinting support in all Batman does. We are offered a morsel of why Bats is this way when he stares at a dark suit in the Batcave a-plastered with Jokersign in sorrow and rage, and even those of us semi-in the know of the DC-verse can tell you, it’s alluding to the death of a Bat companion, most likely one of the Robins.
We learn all of this about Bats piecemeal, but what is immediately established at the outset is that Bats is hurting bad guys. And there are more than a few allusions to him outright killing people, when the situation demanded it. We are supposed to have established by now as just part of the Batman mystique, that Batman never kills, right? Period, end of story. Only now, he might be. But why? We the audience are never actually given an answer, and Bats deserved more.
I know Henry Cavil can act, I’ve seen him do it in The Tudors. You’ll note I don’t say Man of Steel because, while yes I did see it, I didn’t think it was particularly his finest work. A good deal throughout Man of Steel Cavill seemed to have this look of mild confusion, like he couldn’t understand why Superman was acting this way, either. And here he is again, as Superman, biting his lip and frowning the Superbrow but saying nothing as he’s accused and belittled and occasionally even reviled. We don’t expect you to go all Zod-killer on everything, Supes, but you could at least, I dunno, defend yourself.
The whole thing that Superman really needs to defend himself from, that controversy over what happened with Lois Lane, is just a horror-show. And really, Lane herself walks around the entire movie in a kind of dumb-show numbness, gamely doing her best to act as a character that’s been reduced from a woman strong enough to be Supes’ lady, to a whining damsel forever in distress and in eternal need of saving. Lois Lane, the woman that has been associated with Superman the longest, is now a vehicle for what plot there is to move along. Who needs backstory when there’s things to smash?
And then there’s Wonder Woman. Annnnd the other Leaguers. Let’s just cram as much backstory bites as we can into this movie so we can get to the hour of action, yee-ha! Gal Gadot as Diana Prince was perfectly serviceable for the screen time she got, which wasn’t much. I get that the movie is supposed to be a vehicle to the next Justice League DC movies coming out hopefully soonish, but to tack an icon like Wonder Woman onto this already bulging sandwich sub seems really optimistic. Prince has a teeny exchange with Bruce Wayne, is herself used as a vehicle to introduce the videos of the other Justice League potentials, and that is it before she dons those iconic duds and its off to fight Darkseid!
Is it really? Because, it seems to me, that the films actual big-bad is a big let down. The…crazy-Luthor-made from my blood and Zod’s body and something about a Kryptonian ship and a forbidden sort-of-science process turns out this CGI monstrosity that must’ve been a real bitch to fake fight against a green screen. Our actors valiantly battle on and look pretty good doing it, I have to give them that, Snyder can make the shit out of an action scene, oh yes. But he failed us at making any kind of scary villain for his opus movie.
And what about the Leaguers? This is another instance of trying to include way too much stuff into one movie. Dark Knight Rises suffered mildly from that too, but the BvS version is just a big ole hot mess. We see a robbery foiled by a speedster with that gold lightning bolt and we know, the Flash will be there in the next movie for sure. There’s already some minor controversy over the fact that Ezra Miller and not Grant Gustin will play Flash in the next movie, but that’s only if you watch tv at all. (I’m undecided as yet; I saw Miller do an astounding job in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but based on that, his version of Barry Allen will be quite different.) Next we have Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and his video moment was enough to elicit gasps, but all we got was a moment. And hey look, Ray Fisher as Cyborg is being tortured, I mean, helped, by his father Silas Stone. Each of these moments is our very brief introduction to the updated versions of the Justice League, an icon of DC comics that’s existed for decades. Boy that’s a lot of pressure. But Snyder is full steam ahead to get to the punching and the throwing of people around!
We’ve come round to Lex Luthor. And I have to agree with the general consensus: what the hell was that? I’ve actually liked some of Jesse Eisenberg’s roles, he does awkward-charming fairly well. Him as Snyder’s version of Lex Luthor was neither awkward nor charming, nor even coherent half the time. Luthor seems to a warped mirror face of the Luthor we normally know, mad with power and determined to stop at nothing to stop Superman. This Lex laughs at the most inappropriate things, rants like he’s a mini-Caesar, has genuine nervous tics and could be Norman Bates’ cousin. Lex Luthors known powerful voice and his ability to deliver the epic speech as Supermans ultimate nemesis is in evidence nowhere in here, and that is a shame. Even his determination and reasons for sending Darkseid against both Superman and Batman are at best muddy, at worst incomprehensible. We all know Lex Luthors Superman obsession drives him to do all sorts of crazy things, but we’re talking Legion of Doom kind of evil, not John Gacy with an alien fetish. Bond-Bats needs his Oberhauser and Nine Eyes, after all.
And yes, we will address the elephant in the room called, “Martha.” Now, while it never occurred to me until right then when the movie pointed it out, that the two orphans shared a love for a momma whose name was Martha, it can’t possibly be enough to halt the fighting right in its tracks like someone had flipped a switch. I call shenanigans. I mean, sure, Supes and Bats can stare at each-other a bit and perhaps have an actual conversation as they stagger to their feet, but this cannot instantly make them on the same side. We are denied what could finally be a beautifully written piece of drama between Batman and Superman, and it’s yet another shame.
Director Zack Snyder is a total fanboy and wants to do justice to the storylines at DC that he grew up loving, we can all totally get behind that. The trouble is he loves it all so much, he wants to try and include every last bit he can get away with, including an exclusive to DVD R-rating directors cut nonsense. Which will likely bring the whole movie, Snyder’s ultimate vision of it anyway, up to three solid hours of stuffing every single last sock he can find into the washing machine and hitting psycho-spin-cycle!
See, we here at the superhero-watching geek community have become mildly jaded on the whole superhero action movie deal. Marvel blockbusters don’t thrill quite as much as they used to, and Nolan’s Batman only proved how far and how dark beloved familiar characters can go. We’d be perfectly fine with a properly marketed hour and a half or so of nothing but Bats and Supes wailing on each-other, have at it! These pinches and dashes of plot from fanboy Snyder are trying to turn the action stew into a full-on film casserole, and a lot of us just don’t have the patience for pretentiousness anymore. And, it should be noted, you’ve set the bar really fucking high for the Justice League movie. Like, almost impossibly high.
The internet says Ben Affleck will be returning to direct and star in the next, I assume it is, standalone Batman film. Which I’m actually totally okay with, because if you remove all the external noise and fluff from around Bats in BvS, Batfleck is actually pretty hot. Just make sure you keep Jeremy Irons as Alfred on, damn it.
Next up in the DC movie-verse is Suicide Squad, and I think most fans are looking forward to it. After this terrible version of a bad guy, we deserve to be treated to a whole squad of unapologetic real villains. And don’t get me wrong, there are some redeeming things to BvS, sure there are. Our collective expectations for a vehicle epic enough to open the door for the Justice League movies may have been a shade unrealistic, but no-one can deny that Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice is a bombastic movie that nearly any fan can at least enjoy parts of!
Decide which “Martha!” mom to root for in Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice on HBO Max now!