You have to feel for DC sometimes. They built a comic book empire with lots of cool characters, but they just can’t seem to make good movies anymore. “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is an attempt to create an expanded universe for DC to profit from, but ultimately fails to deliver on the most basic elements of an entertaining superhero movie.
First, the writing in this movie is among the worst I’ve ever seen, and I mean that. The opening scene features a young Bruce Wayne being literally carried up a well by a group of bats, and already you’re wondering if this movie was released on Good Friday in order to create some misplaced Christ-like symbolism.
From there, we get some of the most awful, cringe-inducing storytelling in decades, including scenes where one character will stammer on awkwardly for upwards of a minute and spout gibberish at the camera in some pathetic attempt at creating a deep and interesting villain.
Henry Cavill returns as Superman, but Ben Affleck is a new Batman and Gal Gadot is introduced as Wonder Woman. The acting is all fine, but it’s never anything more than that. The only person who seems like they’re having any fun is Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.
Unfortunately, he’s horribly miscast, as Eisenberg basically channels his Mark Zuckerberg role, and the lines he has to deliver do him no favors, nor does the ridiculously long haircut that looks nothing like any representation of Lex Luthor I’ve ever seen.
The first hour of this two and a half hour movie is painfully boring, as characters reiterate plot points from “Man of Steel” and try to build tension between Batman and Superman. The way that the writers chose to build that tension, however, is by making both characters into morally dubious jerks.
Superman is implied to be responsible for the deaths of thousands in the previous movie, while Batman has suddenly decided to start killing people and branding his victims with a bat symbol; like the Jigsaw killer if he won the lottery.
Ironically, the first good action scene in this movie, which features a car chase in which Batman blows up at least a dozen people, is ruined by the appearance of Superman, who stops the chase without bothering to find out what the bad guys were carrying, which would have saved him a lot of time later in the movie.
Watching Superman and Lois Lane, competently played by Amy Adams, make googly eyes at each other is boring, but the movie tries to spice things up by having multiple confusing dream sequences that make Batman feel more like a crazy person than a hero we can root for.
The story is a complete joke that resembles a bad romantic comedy. The writers may as well have featured a scene with Superman running down the hall yelling “let me explain!” while Batman runs away yelling “No! I won’t listen!” The whole conflict between the two is basically a huge misunderstanding that is resolved with literally two words that causes them to suddenly become staunch friends and allies. The title of this movie is also basically a lie, since Batman and Superman only fight each other in one scene that lasts about five minutes, and although it is a fun five minutes, we did not need an hour and a half to get there.
Many of these problems can be laid directly at the feet of the film’s director, Zack Snyder. Yes, “300” was a good movie, but since then he’s only shown us the decent “Watchmen,” the mediocre “Man of Steel,” the really mediocre “Sucker Punch” and now this train wreck. I can’t be the only one wondering if Snyder just got lucky with “300” and doesn’t actually know how to direct movies.
In spite of all the well-deserved criticism, there are some things about this movie that I liked. All of the action scenes are pretty and fun to look at, and I like some of the cinematography, even if there is a depressing grey filter over the entire movie. The music is also well done, even though the booming orchestra implied that I should be way more invested in the fight scenes than I actually was.
The problem is that action scenes are basically a formula now, and I didn’t really care enough about the main characters to really root for them. All I could think about was how high the civilian body count was getting, and since the characters spent about 10 minutes destroying a city, I can only imagine that it was in the tens of thousands.
For all my criticisms though, there was one sequence near the very end of the movie that almost redeemed this film. I won’t spoil it, but DC made me think that they were going to do something so impressive and so gutsy that it would have blown any one moment from a Marvel movie out of the water. Then, literally in the final two seconds, they ruin it, and we’re back at square one.
You might think that I’m being overly harsh on this movie, but you know who really should have been harsh on this movie? DC, because they had to know that the eyes of the world were upon them, and this was their chance to break into Marvel’s de facto monopoly on the superhero film market. Despite pushing the release date back, DC failed on every level to even make a case that they could compete with Marvel.
About 20 people stuck around in the theater to see if there was a scene after the credits, but I don’t really think that DC has a clear vision for where to go from here. Sure enough, there was no post-credits scene, and we’re left to speculate on the future of this troubled comic book world. It’s too late for DC to reset the way they did after the awful “Green Lantern,” but the truth is that this movie is almost as bad.
We can only hope that the upcoming “Suicide Squad” is at least decent, because if that movie also bombs, it might forever relegate DC to being the second fiddle to Marvel’s consistently high quality productions. Until then, DC has done nothing to show that they understand what makes films compelling or redeem themselves as moviemakers.
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.