By: Traves Bezenar
Few things are as polarizing in popular culture as the battle between DC and Marvel. For decades the two giants have waged war against one another on paper and now on film. Likewise, fans on both sides of the aisle have been at war heaping praise on their respective brands while piling hate on the other. Whether or not the praise or hate is deserved is a matter of personal opinion but when it comes to “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”, it’s my opinion that at least some of the hate is deserved.
I knew going in that critics had unilaterally panned the film and that even many of the hardcore DC fans were upset with the way some characters were portrayed. With all that in mind it’s fair to say that I went into the theater this evening with low expectations and for the most part I was pleasantly surprised.
Truth be told there are a lot of great things about “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”. The cinematography in much of the movie is fantastic. For instance, both sections of the two part opening scene are beautifully shot (more on that later). There are however sections of the film that fall into the typical Zack Snyder style and color palette (Think “300” and “Man of Steel”) but they're few and far between, so I’ll give them a pass in this case. Overall I was surprised by how vibrant the majority of the film was considering how often Snyder relies on muted yellow tones to set the mood.
Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, and Gal Gadot were also big points of admiration in this film for me. Affleck nailed the character of a haggard and disenfranchised Bruce Wayne extremely well. From the first scene of him racing against the traffic as Metropolis fell in ruin around him, I knew I was going to love his portrayal. Meanwhile, Irons offered the perfect counterbalance to Affleck as a rugged yet optimistic Alfred Pennyworth. Then during the third act Gal Gadot makes her onscreen debut as Wonder Woman and is immediately established as an equal to both Superman and Batman.
Sadly not all the acting is on level with the three I already mentioned. Henry Cavill fails to connect with the audience on any meaningful level. Clark Kent feels less like a relatable everyman trying to do the right thing and more like a pompous placeholder. In the same vein it was hard to connect with Cavill’s Superman because he seemed genuinely disinterested in everything happening around him. A lot of people have already come down hard on Jesse Eisenberg for where he decided to take the character of Lex Luthor and for the most part I would agree, it didn't work well. But, I admire him trying something new with an established and beloved character. His version of Lex certainly comes off as menacing but not in the way most were expecting. Eisenberg’s, Lex is much more spastic and animated than past renditions of the character and while he does leave you felling uncomfortable, it's too much like Heath Ledger's version of The Joker to feel genuine.
The plot of the movie also suffers from a lack of direction. It felt like there were three or four movies worth of story left half told. They should have focused on telling one cohesive story instead of attempting to create seven franchises out of one film. Along with the many dream sequences, flash forwards in time, and flashbacks the viewer can easily become confused as to what is canon and what isn’t. I even found myself asking if certain scenes were foreshadowing to future movies or the nightmares of Wayne’s tortured mind. However, my main gripe with the film is the heavy handed Jesus Christ metaphor throughout the majority of the film. It’s not enough for them to tell the story and allow the audience to draw the correlation themselves; no, Snyder does everything but hit you over the head with a bible to drive the similarities home.
If you’re looking for nothing more than a fun night at the movies with friends or a spouse than I would recommend seeing “Batman vs. Superman”. But if you want a fully flushed out story that’s true to the characters and lore than you can skip this one. I won’t lie and say that it’s a bad movie. I actually enjoy it. But, I will say the film treats its audience like children by spoonfeeding them action scene after action scene to cover up plot holes, bad acting, and a cliched, predictable story.