Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★

"That's how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men...cruel."

Let's just be honest for a second. We can say whatever we want about how we approach watching a film, but the truth is it's really challenging not being at least a little bit mentally biased one way or another towards a work that is so polarizing, especially in our modern world that not only aggregates reviews into a single percentage score but those contributing to that number are sharing their thoughts on social media for a week before the rest of the world has a chance to see it. Unless one is capable of shutting off the world for days, the noise is palpable and virtually impossible to ignore.

I truly, honestly did my best to push it all out of my mind though. Not just the negativity, the opposite end of the spectrum as well, those that fought back against the reviews labeled as rotten and insisted the film was actually quite fresh. I believe I succeeded, because as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice began it all melted away in a hurry and I was pulled in by an outstanding start, as even the origins of Batman that have been done to death were a welcome sight thanks to a bit of that confident Zack Snyder visual flair. That combined with the fantastic idea of showing us the carnage that took place in Metropolis again, only this time from the ground level perspective of Bruce Wayne was exactly what I needed to believe in this film. The evocation of 9/11 terror through imagery to drive home just how horrifying it is to witness death from above, chaos completely out of your control was haunting and incredibly smart.

The highs of Batman v Superman are wonderfully high, the type of stuff that truly feels like a culmination of everything a comic book fan could hope for when this project was announced. The problem is, there are also lows and boy are they low, resulting in an experience that all together is more frustrating than thrilling. I considered trying to not bring Marvel into the conversation because I know the strange competition between the fans of the two gets some riled up (why we can't love and want the best from both, I will never understand), but it's important to bring up their cinematic universe to serve as an example of how it should be done. By the time the two Infinity War films are released, the MCU will have been churning out films that coexist for over a decade, a studio that decided to play the long game and try to set things up with patience in order to build the characters so that they wouldn't need to be fleshed out in a collaborative setting. Batman v Superman fails so massively at times in terms of its scattershot plot and piss poor characterization that the ugliness of trying to rush the main Justice League event to the big screen was evident and undeniable.

I found it humorous that after the film ended and the credits had finished rolling, when it became clear that there would be no post credit sequence (go ahead and leave, nothing to see here), a guy in my theater started joking that this isn't Marvel, that DC doesn't need to give us a preview of what's to come. Why is this funny? Because to proclaim DC is above such techniques is absurd given that what they did was even more egregious by forcing in uncomfortable previews of their future projects during the film, a moment involving comically labeled computer files that feels so out of place that if you don't laugh at it, you may cry.

Despite the frustration, I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited to see where the universe will go from here. I really loved the casting of Affleck as Bruce/Batman and it absolutely worked for me, the concept of him being a mentally tortured and far more brutal take on the character than what we have seen before. Unfortunately by quickly pushing him into this team up film, I felt like the chance to get a more nuanced look at everything that makes this version tick was lost. If the rumors are true that Ben will get the chance to direct and obviously star in his own solo Batman film, perhaps featuring villains from Suicide Squad rather than bloated CG creatures, I will be at the front of the line ready to fall in love with it. My only wish is that I had a better chance to learn about what Affleck was going for beyond what numerous dream sequences and a misguided anger towards the god that flies above us are capable of establishing.

Gal Gadot is obviously gorgeous, that was never in doubt, but the question of whether she would actually fit the role of Wonder Woman was and her character suffered from what weighed down the film as a whole, that her role was minimal due to being thrust into various scenes with no development only to finally allow her to shine during the main action set piece in the final act. While that battle scene didn't quite enthrall me as much as I had hoped, her role in it was extremely entertaining and gave me high hopes for her solo film. I just wish Batman v Superman didn't feel like a giant commercial for all of those solo films, because even though I may be sold on some of the future plans, the present was far more gloomy and uninteresting than it should have been.

I know a lot of people are raving about Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, but I'm still not sold. Not even close. While I found his take on the character a bit more tolerable as the story unfolded, that's sort of like saying being punched in the head starts to hurt a little less because you become numb to it. I found his Mark Zuckerberg gone twitchy and wild act to be insufferable early on, an exhausting attempt at being over-the-top ominous combined with comical and I simply wasn't scared nor was I amused. I can only hope that his performance in future films is tweaked to be a bit more serious and less ridiculous, and I should note that I don't fully blame Eisenberg himself for the way I feel. Obviously Snyder along with writers David Goyer and Chris Terrio found this take on the character to be interesting and believed it would fit the tone they were looking for. Personally, no thanks.

I deeply admire that Snyder, Goyer and Terrio strive to tap into some really interesting thematic material here and that Batman v Superman was far weirder and more unique than what people assume they are getting from a superhero film. Unfortunately it feels like the depth is only half baked before the film devolves into an effects driven slug fest, and don't get me wrong, that can be a lot of fun but I wanted to be moved by the message and much like a lot of the film, this fell short.

I liked Batman v Superman. It's a pretty good film, but it's so damn frustrating. Throughout every moment, even when the picture really feels like it is ready to go off the rails, I could sense a really terrific movie in there somewhere that just wasn't allowed to come out. Despite the fact that I proclaimed this film "good", that doesn't mean I believe the critics are wrong which is a sentiment I have noticed a lot of. It's a dangerous message, to declare others wrong because your opinion might not align with theirs. The beauty of appreciating cinema is that opinions are not only welcome, they are a necessity because without different viewpoints and debate, what the hell is the point? Why would anyone even feel compelled to write a word if it were a guarantee that all who read completely agree on every level? I love the fact that a vast majority of people can walk into a theater and walk out disappointed yet I am entitled to feel something different and explain why. No one is wrong and I'm not right, and neither are you.

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