Right, no matter how hard I try this review was always going to contain spoilers; so be wary. I will try to give away as little as possible but I can’t guarantee this will be spoiler free, in fact I know it won’t, so if you still haven’t seen Dawn of Justice stop reading know.
Ok, do you want to keep going?
Then I will start…
I think this is the most angry I have ever been after exiting a cinema, because this film is the most boring thing I have ever seen (and I have seen ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘American Hustle’). I was bemused as to how dull a film that contained Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, three of my favourite heroes, could be. Just to warn you, my anger at this film is going to show in the rambled disjointed-ness of this review, so I apologise in advance.
Our general feeling as we exited the screening was one of confusion, disappointment and anger towards a poorly directed missed opportunity.
I suppose I should start with the good before I move on to the bad:
The cast do ok with very little to work with, but the Batman side of things definitely out-shone the Superman contingent. Cavill and Adams weren’t particularly bad, they just didn’t have much to work with, which is surprising considering a key theme of the film is whether or not Superman is a threat. This film should have shown us the effect of the investigations upon Clarke Kents’ moral compass, and his desire to fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way. We get a bit of him questioning whether it is worth it, but all that results in is more mopey-Superman. I don’t feel Cavill had enough screen-time to get his teeth into the film.
Affleck’s Batman is the stand out performance by far, despite looking like a walking sack of potatoes. You are able to buy into why he perceived Superman to be a threat, and he has the potential to be a very good batman, as well as a very good Bruce Wayne (we see more examples of Wayne infiltrating areas than we do of Batman). This is by far the most brutal Batman we have seen, a particular highlight being the warehouse infiltration sequence his ability to clear a room full of henchmen was pretty damn cool. However, as with many aspects of this film, this was already shown to us in a short clip, and, in our books, Batman kills far too many people. Another highlight was right at the very start of the film which showed Bruce Wayne driving around a crumbling Metropolis desperately attempting to get to the Wayne Enterprise building during the Zod/Superman fight. This point-of-view-like piece gives us a human perspective on the damage caused, as we see Waynes’ reaction to his friends and colleagues dying following the destruction of the skyscraper as a result of the Kryptonians fight in the sky. This really helps the viewer understand why Batman would want to go to war with the Man of Steel.
Jeremy Irons’ take on Alfred is also very good, and he is certainly one of the more entertaining characters. The Alfred/Bruce dynamic more resembles an old married couple than a butler and his employer. There is a fair amount of banter between the two which lightened the tone slightly, with Alfred being particularly snarky and, for want of a better word, sassy. Alfred isn’t seen very much, this is probably a reason as to why he was so enjoyable, but it would have been nice to have seen a bit more of him.
When we eventually see Wonder Woman she is a badass, showing why she is the best warrior in the DC universe. The issue is, we don’t really see enough of it; in the disjointed fight we probably only see one or two Wonder Woman sequences, but Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has peaked my interested in her solo film.
And the bad…
In the cinema we were sat next to a kid who was around 12 wearing a superhero t-shirt, arguably the target audience for the film. Now, we all go into these films because they satisfy our inner child whether we want to admit it or not, but funnily enough, the kid sitting next to us yawned throughout the entire film. This is a movie with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in it and the kid was barely paying attention. This perfectly encapsulated what is primarily wrong with the film- it is incredibly boring. The first 1 hour 45 minutes of its runtime is dominated by exposition and set up, quite effectively putting us and the rest of the audience to sleep. The only moment of note in this section was the Clarke Kent/Bruce Wayne face off and Lex Luthor’s place, but, again, we had already seen that. Even as we move into the final act nothing new happened. We were subjected to two fights, both of which we knew would happen, so there was really nothing to look forward to at all. Anything fun that did appear had already been seen thanks to the seemingly never ending stream of trailers.
I wouldn’t say either of us of hard-core comic nerds, and overall we are both fairly open minded to changes to characters, but what has happened to Lex Luthor and Doomsday is unforgivable in my book. Lex Luthor has been made into this floaty, twitchy, Joker-like, hyper-intelligent, mad-man, but in my book Luthor is a calculating genius who is able to become the President even while the Justice League are tracing his every step; almost the exact opposite of the current incarnation.
Just to warn those of you who didn’t listen to me earlier, there are going to be some serious spoilers here, so if you don’t want to know anything look away now…
Snyder has really mucked about with Doomsday. In the comics he in an unstoppable killing machine developed due to cloning experiments long before Kryptonians evolved. Doomsday developed into the ultimate killing machine over millions of years of experiments and ‘practice’, and was able to defeat the entire Justice League before he and Superman mutually beat each other to death. Instead, in the Snyder version, Doomsday is created by Luthor by mixing his DNA with that of the dead Kryptonian, General Zod. I think this origin cheapens one of the most iconic villains in comic book history in an attempt to maintain the illusion that Luthor is pulling all the strings. Doomsday is undersold and underused, the battle is overly dependent on poor CGI, and, due to the tedious nature of the film, the battle between Doomsday and the heroes is confined to a brief 20 minute slot. I personally feel that the character deserves so much more that the brief mutated cameo it got. Doomsday could have been much more useful in its own film later down the line, which could have included multiple fights showing just how dangerous Doomsday really is. In the comics, Doomsday and Superman beat each other to death, and I feel an easy option was taken here in order to keep the film’s runtime down.
Why do the heroes keep killing people? Batman has an absolute rule to not kill anyone, and Superman tries his best not to, but the first time we see Superman he kills someone by ploughing him through a series of brick walls, and as for Batman, he shoots many, many people, as well as breaking necks and kicking people into live grenades; this is not what either hero is about.
The final major point I want to make is that the whole thing could have been avoided had Batman and Superman just had a 2 minute conversation about the situation they found themselves in, rather than trying to kill each other from the start. The whole situation could be avoided.
Here is a list of the additional negatives we thought of, as I am aware this is getting quite long now… sorry about that.
– Batman not killing Superman because his mum is also called Martha (I just want to include my theory that Bruce Wayne and Martha Kent are going to get together and then, when Superman comes back from the dead, he has to deal with the fact that Batman is now his step-dad. Comedy.- Lewis)
– All the dream sequences (I personally liked the apocalyptic vision, it was just done in a terrible way- Lewis)
– Giving all of the best bits away in the trailer
– Not including the Martian Manhunter – a personal preference, as I think Martian Manhunter is a much more relatable character that is just as powerful as superman. He was also one of the original founding member of the JLA. DC just seem to have a bit of a vendetta against him unfortunately, which is a real shame because he is a kick ass character.
– Not connecting the TV shows and films together by using the same actors – again this is a personal preference by why the Arrow and Flash from their respective TV shows aren’t included and new actors used instead just confused me.
A major issue with the DC film universe is that Warner Brothers are attempting to run before they can walk, rushing into team-up films without setting up characters properly. So much was happening in Batman v Superman that everything felt rushed and incomplete while also being dull, which seems oxymoronic, but trust me, it’s not. Using the Avengers model, the film universe needs to be built upon successful and strong solo films to set up the characters, saving the need for incredibly dull first 2/3rds of a film which should have been incredible. I think this film could easily be split in two with the first being a solo Batman movie introducing this Dark Knight Returns inspired character, potentially with the plot focusing on Bruce Wayne preparing for the Superman fight, coming back out of retirement, obtaining the Kryptonite and also maybe some stuff about Lex Luthor. This could then have been followed by the second Batman v Superman film, potentially fighting each other and then fighting Doomsday at the end if they really have to.
I want to finish by saying that I don’t want to hate the DC films, I personally prefer the heroes and villains in the DC universe, I have only written this as an honest assessment of the film in the hope the next ones are better. Sorry for the length but there is a lot to be said. Anyway, hopefully Suicide Squad is better, and this DCCU can be turned into something good.
Ben, with a dash of Lewis.