Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★½


Viewed the Ultimate Edition (I’ve seen the theatrical release once, and as far as I recall, it was incompressible)

Zack Snyder doesn’t read comic books. And if he does, he sure doesn’t understand them. Or at least not what it is people enjoy about them. As if the characterization of Superman in Man of Steel wasn’t proof enough, Snyder proves with his depiction of Batman that he doesn’t care for the core values of these characters, nor does he care for consistency in characterization, even beyond that of the source material. Every directorial decision he makes comes down to one simple question: “wouldn’t it be cool if _____?” If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, all else is put aside. Logic and continuity come second to visuals and shock value.

I have a long standing theory that Zack Snyder is a cinematographer stuck at the director’s chair— and no one has ever bothered to ask him to sit in the right place. His movies look beautiful—he has a unique eye for action, and knows how to stage memorable sequences (that scene in 300, the warehouse fight in this film), yet he can never add any meaningful substance to any of them nor keep himself from contradicting himself. BvS: Dawn of Justice (what a terrible title) opens up with a promising scene that not only ties in to Man of Steel, despite that being made as a standalone film, but it also gives us a brilliant introduction to one of our titular characters, while also giving him motivations of some sort*. Of course, this quickly falls apart with even the slightest of critical thinking as not only is the sequence contradictory, it’s also flat out stupid.

Jack, the man seen in the higher floors of a skyscraper in downtown Metropolis, takes a phone call from Bruce Wayne who is in ground zero. Bruce tells Jack to evacuate the building, and he does as he’s told. Now my question is, what happens if Bruce doesn’t call? Does Jack tell all the employees to remain in the building? Can this man not think logically for himself? What good did he think would come from remaining in the building as Superman and Zod caused mass destruction to everything in site and why did he wait until Bruce’s phone call to take action?

The opening sequence exist for three reasons: to introduce Bruce Wayne, to give Bruce motivations for disliking Superman, and responding to the criticism lashed at Man of Steel for its lack of interest in civilian life. It succeeds in introducing Bruce, and momentarily succeeds at given Bruce reason for disliking Superman, but absolutely fails at responding to the criticism the previous film faced—in fact, it only confirms that Snyder learned nothing from it. The involvement of Jack and Bruce Wayne in the scene is meant to display that Superman’s actions have consequences, but Snyder really could careless. Once the opening sequence is over, we have an 18 month time jump that is placed in the film with the sole purpose of making it believable that the city of Metropolis could’ve recovered from the destruction and returned back to normal, yet immediately creates that same damage to the plot of the film.

What happened during those 18 months? What did Superman do throughout that time? What did Batman do throughout that time? Why are they only just learning about each other 18 months later? Why hasn’t The World’s Greatest Detective realized who Superman really is, or come around to the fact that he isn’t actually evil? Why hasn’t Clark Kent ever heard of Bruce Wayne, or heard of Batman for that matter. These are all questions that exist with out the time jump, but the existence of said passage of time only makes their existence all that much worse.

This film wants to be treated like prestige filmmaking, yet also spends the majority of its time setting up questions to be answered in films to come. Or perhaps that’s an assumption that gives this film too much credit. Perhaps the questions don’t come about on purpose and are only a result of a paper thin plot that is consistently shoved under the rug for an interesting visual flourish, or a distinct piece of dialogue that sounds intellectual on the surface level.

For as convoluted and nonsensical as this film may be, I can’t deny that it holds great entertainment value. Again, the visuals are great, Hans Zimmer single handily carriers this film on his back from start to finish, and Wonder Woman’s inclusion is one of the better aspects of any superhero film ever, even surpassing anything from her solo outing*. Unfortunately I may be a bit too pretentious as none of these things are enough for me to forgive this film for its nonsensical plot and consistent knack of tripping over itself. The bad vastly outweighs the good and frankly, this film falls short of its potential in every aspect. This should be the quintessential comic book movie, one of the definitive films of the CENTURY, and a record holder in all regards. Is this movie actually worse than Man of Steel? No, no it’s not, but it’s far more insulting to any moviegoer with even an ounce of self-respect.

* I’m not a big Wonder Woman fan but then again I’ve only seen that film once. I recall it being slightly better than Man of Steel but also falling out of favor with it when it settled for an equally poor third act.