Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is almost a great movie that hurts from trying to be Iron Man 2.
At the time of watching BvS, I was coming off of disliking Man of Steel very much. I had no real excitement for this movie other than the fact we were getting Ben Affleck as Batman and that Batman was going to be a main part of this movie. I didn’t really agree with the direction they were taking, by giving us a combo movie before giving us a proper Superman sequel, but on the other hand I did see it as a kind of pseudo Superman sequel. I’m watching the trailers, I did have a little bit of excitement because it seemed like they were actually taking the story in an interesting direction that made sense, but I was more worried about the subtitle “Dawn of Justice”. It could have meant a lot of things and in this case it meant exactly what I didn’t want it to. Originally I halfway liked this movie, and rewatching it I always find myself watching the extended cut which does feel like a better movie overall. In this review I won’t be discussing the differences between the theatrical and extended editions, I will be reviewing only the extended edition because that’s the version I watched prior to writing this.
A quick side note here, there’s a cool scene that I actually really like when Clark goes up to the top of a mountain and has a conversation with Johnathan Kent. Obviously it’s not a real conversation but rather a conversation he has through his own memory of his father. It’s meaningful and really works by giving us a great moment between these two characters. I bring this up because if any of you reading this really like this scene then just remember, a very similar version of this is done in The Rise of Skywalker between Ben and Han. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie overall, the scene really works for me in that movie too. Just keep that in mind if you weren’t entirely aware.
Back to the rest of the movie. I actually appreciated how they set up the main story by giving us the battle between Superman and Zod but from Bruce Wayne’s perspective. They also set it up in a way that makes it feel as if the battle was a terrorist attack in the vein of 9/11. Now this is entirely fictional of course and you can’t compare the two, but it was definitely the feeling they were trying to get across by showing the events from ground level. I love that it doesn’t take long for us to sympathize with Bruce Wayne and where his motivation to take down Superman came from, but I also don’t like the decision.
Of course not everyone is going to look at Superman the way that we have in all of the previous feature films, but it seemed a little earlier in their “DC Universe” to make him out as a bad guy. Now this is only coming from a personal perspective of me not feeling like it was the best idea. With that said, how they embraced going into this direction works perfectly. Everything is set up the right way in which the world looks at him both as a villain and as a god in some people’s eyes. It really does a fantastic job of giving us a realistic approach to how our current world would perceive somebody with the powers he has and I applaud them for that.
The problem is that it never really gives Clark a chance to be human. Of course he has emotional moments where he feels the pain of having to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he honestly doesn’t get time to do a whole lot. We just see him sulking and being pushed around by the public and then eventually being attacked by Batman. He has no real development through this story. You can argue that he does and I can see certain points where you might be right but overall I feel like his purpose is to just be there for the sake of Lex and Batman. He only shows a real importance when the final battle comes around.
Speaking of Batman, this is easily one of my favorite versions of this character in live action. He’s a veteran of crime fighting and where’s the scars on his sleeve. You can feel the pain that he has been through yet it’s hard to really grasp since we haven’t actually seen some of the instances he’s hurting from. Outside of that though, he does give us one of the most brutal versions of the character and I mean that in a good way. The fight choreography with him at any given time is absolutely stunning and brutal. I keep saying brutal because it almost seems very violent and angry when he’s knocking down bad guys. Not too violent of course but possibly the most violent we’ve seen Batman. They also do the best job of making us feel the terror that is Batman. It actually makes us feel what the bad guys feel when they see him. There’s a specific scene early on when he’s hiding up in the corner of a room and it’s terrifying for a moment as you realize it’s him. Also his costume is by far the best on screen costume we’ve had and that includes the badass desert nightmare costume.
This brings me to my first real significant negative point. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor absolutely does not in any way work for me in the slightest. Look, I really like Eisenberg as an actor, but the version of Lex we got is absolutely annoying and irritating every time he’s on screen. I understand the version they were going for and I can see a way that it could have worked, but man I cannot get it out of my head how much I dislike this character. Everything with him makes sense and his plan is a very Lex Luthor type of plan that on the surface works, but it’s the character himself that I can’t ignore disliking as much as I do.
With all of this, we finally get to the confrontation of Batman and Superman for the big fight. There was of course a small interaction between the two prior to the big fight, but it’s the big fight that matters most. Batman does his Batman thing and comes up with a way to defeat Superman which is badass. The fight itself is badass despite me not being a huge fan of the mechanical suit that Batman wears. I understand why he has it and why it’s necessary of course, but I would have much rather seen a version where they could think of a way to keep him in his normal suit. The fight goes on and I’m loving it, but then the rest of the plot comes into play and ruins the whole movie. They have to get to the “Dawn of Justice” part after just getting into the “Batman v Superman” part and so they need a transition. They needed a way to stop the two from fighting and having them team up instead. This brings us to the famous “Martha” moment.
Now look, I could probably write a whole piece about why I hate the “Martha” scene but I’m not going to go into it that much. I have seen and read many things regarding how the scene makes sense, but hey, if it doesn’t work for you then it doesn’t work and this scene is one of the worst things to happen to the movie. The name Martha clearly is important to both Clark and Bruce and eventually leads Bruce to stop fighting and join up with Superman in the fantastic “Dawn of Justice” portion of the movie. I understand why the name affects Bruce, but up to that point his character wasn’t going to allow anything getting in the way of him completing his mission to defeat Superman. The only reason why this name works in stopping Batman is because 1. They don’t want Batman killing him and 2. They need to get to the Iron Man 2 portion of the movie.
If you’re not familiar with what I mean by Iron Man 2 portion of the movie, it basically means that it’s a part in the movie where the main plot is pushed aside for the sake of setting up their larger universe. And in this case, I believe it’s done worse than Iron Man 2. Up to this point and right before the “Martha” scene I was actually really enjoying the movie despite not liking Lex. There was enough up to that point to make me think this movie was actually pretty good, but then they decided to ruin the whole thing by going from a grounded and emotional story into a world destroying epic disaster movie for the sake of setting up their DC Universe. Let’s bring in the destroyer of worlds himself, Doomsday.
As if it wasn’t enough to just have a good story with Batman and Superman, we had to bring in a monster created by Lex Luthor that is set to absolutely annihilate Superman while destroying the planet in the process. My big issue with Man of Steel was that the action was over the top. The action that comes into play in the final act of this movie far surpasses that. It’s as if they felt like they needed even more destruction than before. Now I will say that the visuals of course are stunning, but you can’t just please me with visuals if the narrative doesn’t work with them. It was like watching a car crash happen right in front of me.
It was the most jarring transition between two totally different movies that I’ve ever seen. We go from a great interesting narrative between two heroes with differing perspectives to an almost Justice League end of the world story. All of this also ends with killing Superman because it wasn’t enough to just make him feel like a villain, they had to kill the guy too. This whole final act is so frustrating that it makes me want to bang my head against the wall over how poorly it was handled and then it makes me realize how poorly a lot of the movie was handled. I think the best part of the movie through and through was Batman, but this movie has so many problems.
My buddy Connor said it best. He said that this is the Monkey’s Paw of movies. It gives you everything you want out of a movie like this, but executed on absolutely none of it. While I do think that they execute Batman very well throughout, I can’t argue with this statement. It gives you so much, so much to be excited for and to like, but drops the ball entirely on almost everything. This movie feels a lot like the first half of Man of Steel. There’s a fantastic movie in here somewhere but the direction never gives you a chance or the movie a chance to fully realize what it has to offer you. It instead gives you surface excitement with underlying disappointment. As my dad says best, shit floats. It doesn’t matter how much surface excitement you have, when the underlying feeling is utter disappointment for them dropping the ball then it’s going to float to the top and overpower any excitement or enjoyment you had.
I know that I may have gotten off the rails a bit towards the end of the review, but it’s honestly so frustrating that this movie had so much potential and failed. The potential was just within arms reach, but it just never made it to the point of success. This movie makes me want to see more of the Ben Affleck Batman and it makes me enjoy Man of Steel more, but does nothing for me overall at feeling confident for the DC universe going forward. It’s a movie that I want to love, but just fails at so much that I just can’t. I know there are many who like this movie a lot and I know that many of the negative and positive points I made can be argued, so if you disagree in any way then comment below and let me know what you think about it!
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