Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Warning: This article might contain *SPOILERS*

Almost three years of hype and anticipation. Ben Affleck playing the Dark Knight. Gal Gadot playing Wonder Woman. Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor Jr. Was it worth all the attention it was receiving? The answer is Yes. And NO!

Turns out, BvS is somewhat of a middling fare. The first 90 minutes is spent in establishing Lex Luthor’s intentions and our superheroes getting in his way for their own benefits (or losses I should say). Does it test your patience? Nope. Did you happen to yawn a few times? Nope. Still, why do you get the feeling that the proceedings could’ve played out a lot better than they have in the film. In a single line (trying to justify the title), our superhero protagonists are not happy with eachother for what they have been upto in recent times. Clark Kent believes that Bat vigilante in Gotham is scaring its people. And Bruce Wayne questions why Superman had to destroy so much of the infrastructure in Metropolis (including one of his own buildings) and end so many civilian lives in his efforts to defeat General Zod in the climax action sequence of Man of Steel (2013).

Agree, Snyder had a point regarding superheroes toying with human lives while they fight their way through evil-doers. But how the sequences pan out show a definite lack of coherency. I wouldn’t dare to mention anything about the various dream scenarios that both Batman and Superman have to deal with. They seem to have been merely added to showcase the fact that superheroes are ultimately ‘human’ at the end of the day and yeah, we do get some muddled character/plot development in the process. Snyder, Terrio and Goyer must have sat down at tea and told eachother “We need to make things look dark and highly philosophical but simple enough for the viewer to GET IT! How do we do this?” “Dream sequences.” Meh.

We also have Diana Prince a.k.a Wonder Woman (in her human persona) attending parties which also happen to RSVP Bruce Wayne and extracting information from LexCorp records about some super-hero assemblage. Yes, the supposed cameos from The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are in the form of 30 second video-clips in Luthor’s research. Also, yes The Flash does make an appearance in Bruce Wayne’s dream. Grrrrrrr. No more of that dream shit again!

The worst part of the screenplay would be trying to explain why Luthor is doing what he is doing in the film. He conducts parties where he gives awkward speeches, invites superheroes to confront eachother (in their public personas, mind you!), embraces deep shit when he gets his hands on some kryptonite material which he thinks can be utilized to curb Superman when the time comes. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance looks great at times and also jaded at others. It is like the movie itself. It is not exactly sure WHAT to present, or HOW. Eisenberg however mouths some good lines such as “And now, you will fly to him, and you will battle him to the death. Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world. God versus man. Day versus night! Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!“. And boy, we sure have waited a long time for this to happen.

The much-hyped battle between Batman and Superman merely happens not because they’ve been hating eachother with murderous intent for all that has happened to their respective cities, NO! But ’cause Martha Kent has been held hostage and Luthor wants the Bat wiped out before he becomes a further threat, and let Superman die in the process as well. We get a decent ten minute set-piece before all fun is averted to the bigger danger. Luthor’s DNA and Zod’s powers blended into (a completely CG) DOOMSDAY! The CG in this part looks sluggish to be frank, and it does take a while for the average comic buff to digest this fact. Luthor’s actions need some explanation. Couldn’t he have built a krypton-spear and destroyed Superman himself? Oh wait, this was his plan B. And yeah, the battle between Bat & God ended pretty soon and without a result, so..

The writing goes completely haywire, but that’s when the visual spectacle begins. And yes, Wonder Woman appears (in costume) finally. Gal Gadot looks every bit her part and she does appear to be a good choice for future sequels. The sort-of epic battle ends after some superhuman efforts by Superman (with Wonder Woman playing defense, and Batman playing ‘YOU MISSED ME’ for a couple of times). They show the death of a character, followed by his funeral mourning. Luthor is put in jail. Snyder even tries to pull off an Inception-esque climax at the end.  Gosh, why did he have to try so much to be Nolan? The god-awful dreams and now THIS. He was never getting there in the first place!

I did like Ben Affleck’s take on Batman. He is slow, worn-out and twenty odd years of crime-fighting in Gotham seems to have taken its toll on him. It is evident from the way he projects himself. No comparisons to Nolan’s version because this Bat is a completely different one. Cavill doesn’t get to redeem himself much until the fight with Doomsday. Amy Adams was quite okay, yeah, you can say she did her job alright. Also, we have Kevin Costner (again in a dream), Diane Lane (returning as Martha Kent), Laurence Fishburne as White, Holly Hunter as Senator June Finch, and Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth. Among these however, it is Irons’ Alfred that leaves a mark.  The PG-13 rating makes sure there is hardly any blood-shed or actual physical damage to anybody other than by way of CG.

The cinematography by (Snyder-regular) Larry Fong is mostly good and even though much of the scenario takes place in the night, they look decently lit up or sufficently dark. The rain scenes looked great. Editing lacks finesse. David Brenner made sure he stuck to the 150 min mark but we, as viewers, surely missed the idea behind the ‘epic battle’ when it finally took place and had to be satiated with yet another super-villain setpiece. Musical score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is pulsating but sounds repetitive after a while. The production values are posh and except for a few scenes, the explosions and everything look fantastic. But the pitfalls in writing and direction were so deep that every other technical aspect that had been good (or great!) seems conveniently forgotten. Chris Terrio’s and David S Goyer’s screenplay required re-imagining by someone on the likes of Nolan. However, we are stuck with a jumbled mix of ‘okay’, ‘good’ and ‘excruciatingly bad’ for an epic that has been given the title of BvS.

Snyder tries hard to make up for the lack of panache in the writing department with some lacklustre action. Batman’s on-the-ground scenes (the fistfights and the scenes involving the Bat-mobile) looked neat and nicely choreographed but the action taking place in the sky looked pretty bizarre. The humongous-looking Doomsday makes sure we have a Spiderman-3 kind of setting for the climax set-piece. The theme for Wonder Woman was particularly catchy.

All in all, BvS does not impress but it doesn’t bore you either. Just do not go in expecting so much of an epic battle between Batman & Superman. Ugh, why this title then anyways? Let’s hope Marvel justifies their Civil War title atleast.

Two & a half stars out of Five.

**1/2

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