Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review

Rating: 2 Stars

The following review contains spoilers.

This review is for the Theatrical Cut of the movie.

Overview:

After Zod’s attack on Metropolis, killing thousands, Superman is a controversial figure. Some praise him for stopping Zod, and some blame him for not doing more to stop the destruction. Bruce Wayne, billionaire and part-time vigilante serial killer, was in Metropolis during the fight and believes Superman could be a threat to humanity. 18 months later, he hasn’t done anything about it yet, but he’s taking the idea very seriously.

Lex Luthor, billionaire and part-time Jim Carrey-as-the-Riddler, also believes Superman is a threat to humanity, and has a plan to stop him. By utilizing “Kryptonite” harvested from the World Engine, which has been chilling unsupervised in the Indian Ocean since the attack, he believes Superman can be injured or even killed. He also plans to embarrass Superman by staging a slaughter at a terrorist camp in Africa. He also plans to manipulate Batman into fighting Superman by sending Bruce Wayne angry letters pretending to be someone who was crippled in Metropolis (though why he thinks Batman could beat Superman is unclear). He also plans to gather together the world’s “metahumans” and apparently manage their personal brands and merchandising rights or something. He also plans to embarrass Superman by blowing up a Congressional hearing he’s attending. He also plans to create an unstoppable killing machine to kill Superman and then presumably kill everyone and destroy our society. He also plans to redecorate his dad’s old study. Listen, the guy has a lot of free time.

And why is Lex doing all this? Because knowledge is supposed to be power, and Lex has knowledge but Superman has power, and that seems unfair I guess; also because God is not all-good; and also because his dad abused him; and also because the Kryptonian computer gave him too much information and made him crazy; and also because he was always crazy.

Meanwhile, Superman, middle-class journalist and part-time mopey Jesus, is just, like, frustrated that he’s out there doing super hero stuff and people keep giving him a hard time anyway. What’s the point in doing all this dumb junk if he’s not getting constant praise? Everyone should just shut up and let him do what he wants! Dang!

Will Batman and Superman figure out what Luthor is up to and stop him from whatever it is his actual plans are or will they kill each other first? DAWN OF JUSTICE.

Best Parts:

The early sequence of Bruce Wayne running through Metropolis trying to figure out what’s going on and save as many people as he can is a great take on the Man of Steel climax and could theoretically provide a great basis for Batman’s distrust of Superman if the rest of the movie had been executed properly.

Nearly all of the action scenes (with one major exception being the Doomsday fight) are visually interesting to watch. The fight choreography when Batman takes out Luthor’s thugs in the warehouse is very impressive. Even the “Knightmare” dream sequence when Desert Batman is fighting against Superman’s Army and some flying bug men (or is he allied with the bug men? I couldn’t tell) looks really cool even if it feels meaningless. The early moments (before Batman is swinging Superman around on a chain) of the Batman/Superman fight are fun to watch.

Affleck, Adams, Gadot, and Irons all give good performances.

Worst Parts:

The only reason the story of this movie happens is because of Lex Luthor. He is the driving force of all of the conflict, including the late-stage revelation that he somehow manipulated Batman into wanting to fight Superman. None of his plans make any sense, his motivation is completely muddled, and the performance is insanely over-the-top. I was open to a new interpretation of Luthor as a quirky tech businessman instead of a suave old-school corporate businessman, but they don’t do anything with it. It’s just a t-shirt and a haircut and nothing else. He hates Superman because Lex Luthor always hates Superman, pushes Batman and Superman to fight because that’s the name of the movie, and creates Doomsday because someone wanted to do a half-assed adaptation of the Death of Superman comic. He’s a thoughtless, empty mess of a character.

Batman kills people in this movie. He doesn’t just allow people to die or fail to do his best to save them, he actually has a machine gun mounted to his airplane and he uses it to gun down thugs. Batman is usually shown killing people in his movies, and I always have a problem with it. Batman and Spider-Man are the two super heroes who should never take a life, because it runs completely contrary to their essential characterization. It’s more aggravating in this movie because it’s the first appearance of Batman in a planned movie universe that’s already mapped out for several more years. This isn’t a one-off we can sweep under the rug; this is our Batman now. And if he kills henchmen, how could we ever have a Batman movie in this universe where he’s trying to catch The Joker or Two-Face or someone else way more dangerous than a hired goon? Just shoot them on sight. Why not?

Jimmy Olsen is a CIA operative who is executed at the very beginning of the movie. Lex Luthor’s bodyguard Mercy, one of the coolest characters created in Superman: The Animated Series, has nothing to do and is unceremoniously killed by her own boss. Clark Kent is killed and, though it’s obvious Superman will come back to life pretty quickly, I don’t expect Zack Snyder would bother trying to bring Clark back. In this universe, Superman is a mopey alien Space Jesus who throws people through walls, not a humble Kansas farm boy with incredible powers who’s trying to make the world a better place. Clark Kent is viewed by Snyder as a burden getting in the way of totally boss action scenes where buildings explode, and I’m sure he’s happy to be rid of him. This is our Superman universe now.

Instead of having a post-credits scene teasing the Justice League, they jam in several minutes of Justice League surveillance videos into the second-half of the movie grinding anything resembling momentum to a halt.

Doomsday looks terrible. The fight with Doomsday is not interesting. Superman and Doomsday double-impaling each other is a lame way to end things and only happens because Superman has to die. Superman logically would throw the spear or toss it to Wonder Woman, or better yet this entire scenario should never have been included at this early stage. The Death of Superman was an impactful story because it happened to a universally-beloved character who’d been around for decades. This movie Superman is a character who’s been around for a couple years and who people have mixed feelings about at best.

Theoretically Batman holding himself back from killing Superman after realizing Superman is a person with a mother is not a bad idea, but it’s undermined by Batman being an established killer to begin with, and it’s further undermined by hanging the whole thing on a Trivial Pursuit-card that both of their moms are named “Martha.” Also, who calls their mother by their first name? When they’re delirious and near-death? It’s supposed to be a major moment and it comes off as silly.

Batman, World’s Greatest Detective, can’t figure out that the “White Portuguese” is a boat and not a person until he finds a picture of it on Luthor’s computer. Like, did he even Google it?

The music is so bombastic and dramatic at every moment that it might as well be Batman’s theme from The LEGO Movie.

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