Hot Take: Love parts, hated parts… but really, what were you expecting?
We should have seen the negative critical reaction and subsequent fanboy backlash toward critics after reviews landed with a thud (did you say “thud” or “dud”?) on Wednesday and Thursday for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After seeing the movie, the overriding thought toward both sides is “what did you expect?”
First, there’s the critics. While there are plenty of reasons to criticize BvS for what might be, for some, a laundry list of issues, it’s hard to imagine a film as unrealistically ambitious as this working. You have two of the greatest comic book characters of all time squaring off with very little build and the side mission of introducing one of the greatest supervillains of all-time and the third goal of trying to bridge the film to a Justice League spin-off which requires another introduction of four more characters. No movie should be asked to do this much and be held accountable for the mess it creates. If you watched this on YouTube as a fan-made amalgamation of a bunch of other movies, it would make more sense than what you’ll witness in BvS but critics seem to be responding with bewildered vitriol toward the film. While the criticism seems to be how could Zack Snyder mess this up, the first thought I had was how could he not?
Then, there’s the fanboys. The overly sensitive comic book fans who hadn’t even seen the movie yet at the time of their critical attack was kind of sad. Comics are a niche market that have recently blown up because comic book fans are very ok with spending their disposable income on anything superhero related. At the box office, it would be the historical equivalent of the Gold Rush of 1849 as every studio flocks toward their own piece of the lucrative market. Surprisingly, the fans of this genre are a little too forgiving at first sight as if they ask more of these films, the studios might stop making them. It’s puzzling how sight unseen, one could criticize those pointing out obvious flaws in a film that is obviously very susceptible to those flaws. It’s even more puzzling that those who have seen it would choose to overlook those flaws but, again, it’s not like we haven’t seen these fans turn a blind eye to poor execution when voicing their opinion with their wallet (anyone remember the box office success of Batman & Robin or Spider-man 3?).
As for this critic, it’s hard to dig into BvS without spoilers and we do our best here not to deliver any. The movie is so Yin Yang. Ben Affleck plays Batman effectively but is this really Batman? The character named Batman in the film isn’t exactly like the Batman we’re used to. It’s not like other Batman characters haven’t been slightly different but this one doesn’t share one of the most universal qualities that all of the previous Batman characters have possessed which is that they’ve always had great intuition. This may have been explained by a Batman prequel featuring the older, grizzled Batman and how and why he’s become a shell of the man he used to be. But Snyder expects you to figure it out on your own.
Wonder Woman is fantastically portrayed by Gal Gadot. Well, sort of. Second level thinking makes you ask why does Wonder Woman even exist in Metropolis/Gotham? At one point in the film, she explains why she’s there and then later contradicts her presence. But it all sets up a stand-alone origin story Wonder Woman film, so it’s all good, right???
And don’t blame Jesse Eisenberg for his portrayal of Lex Luthor. As written, Eisenberg’s take on the megalomaniac is decent. It’s so poorly written and without any sort of substance, don’t be surprised if you start comparing Eisenberg’s Luthor to Heath Ledger’s Joker. That’s a very bad thing because the two shouldn’t be similar. But since Eisenberg’s acting is consistently over-the-top and psychotic, you have to imagine someone on the production side asking for more of the same. It shouldn’t be the actor’s choice to determine the tone of the character and it probably wasn’t here. The onus is on Snyder as director.
Nearly 600 words in and Superman hasn’t even been mentioned. It’s hard to wrap your head around this sequel(ish) to Man of Steel as the story is so fragmented. A Man of Steel II might have worked better. Instead, the challenges this film faces is how to do a sequel to Man of Steel within a Batman movie within a Wonder Woman short film within a Justice League origin story within a third Superman film. Even in a comic book world, that’s unrealistic.
Actually, whomever green lighted Batman v Superman could have learned a thing or two by paying attention to the problem at the core of Jurassic Park. No, not the movie Jurassic Park but the actual fictional Jurassic Park. To borrow from a quote from Dr. Ian Malcolm, the filmmakers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could accomplish the monumental task that they didn’t stop to think if they should. To continue the JP narrative, the power of Batman and Superman is pretty big. Unfortunately, Snyder and company didn’t require any discipline to attain it. They read what others had done and took the next step. They didn’t earn the knowledge for themselves so they don’t take any responsibility for it. They stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as they could, and before they even knew what they had, they patented it, packaged it, and slapped it on a lunchbox.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Snyder’s Comic Book Panel to Big Screen Adaption
I haven’t read a comic in years. However, there are actual panels from Batman and Superman comics that I can vividly remember that were re-created in this film. It’s a feat that actually hurts the pacing of the film but it’s an impressive artistic achievement and should be given credit where credit is due. The overuse of this technique might be his downfall but Snyder knows how to deliver memorable images.
- Ben Affleck and the Greatest Batman Fight Scene Ever Seen
The problem with Batman in BvS is the way he’s characterized but the older, grizzled, jaded Batman is done well by Affleck. You wish you could have seen this Batman by himself before having to put up with it being crammed into this 151 minute mess.
- The Visual Introduction of Wonder Woman
Seeing Wonder Woman on screen was impressive. The moment would have stood out more if the big reveal didn’t come in the trailer months ago. Sure, she was crowbarred into the film but it was still a pretty cool moment.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Lois Lane
The film’s handling of Lane is pretty brutal. It’s not any different than the handling of Lane in Man of Steel which is just a doubling down on a bad hand. There’s so many things wrong with the character and Amy Adams doesn’t do the characterization any favors. She’s almost a superhero herself with how she seems to just show up whenever needed. Isn’t it Superman that should have the impeccable timing?
- That Batman Origin Story
For a guy who chews on every bit of action he throws on the screen, Snyder’s effort to do the most condensed origin story of a comic book character is both impressive and infuriating. It’s one of the few things done effectively in a very short period of time which is rare for BvS. However, the reason this scene is so infuriating would involve a spoiler so let’s just leave it at, it’s infuriating.
- Lex Luthor
The sudden appearance of Luthor with nothing to introduce him or any information surrounding his existence, motivations, etc.. We’re asked to assume a lot which really isn’t fair because to casual fans, this Luthor is nothing like any previous Luthor ever seen and to hardcore fans, they want to be able to identify which Luthor from which Alternate Universe their viewing. Good luck with that here.
- The Dream Sequences
Really? What the hell?