As one of the most anticipated movies of 2016, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice was a polarizing movie before it was even released. With the weight of a thousand fanboys on its shoulders, the pressure was on the production team to make something that could compete with Marvel’s blockbuster Avengers series without seeming like a complete ripoff. To that end, Batman vs. Superman somewhat succeeded. The film is definitely much different than anything Marvel has made thus far, and it does create a unique visual story that pays sufficient homage to the source material while still being something almost new. That being said, here some highlights of the film (followed by the inevitable lows).
One of the most troubling trends in movies these days is the glorification of destruction. In Star Wars, Billions of people are blown to bits without a second thought. In Transformers, cities are reduced to rubble by the end credits. Similarly, in Man of Steel, our titular character fights against the sinister General Zod by tearing Metropolis down, building by building. This trend usually gleefully relishes in the wanton destruction without questioning the aftermath. What about the dead civilians? How will society rebuild? These are issues that are somewhat addressed in Batman vs. Superman, which helps to make the film a bit more authentic. One of the most poignant set pieces of the film is a monument erected for the victims of the Superman/Zod matchup. I also enjoyed the opening sequence, which showed the epic fight from Bruce Wayne’s perspective, which made it much more visceral in context. Also, this film makes sure to let us know that the destruction we see this time is not as bloody, as each location is free (or mostly free) of civilian casualties.
Another positive about BvS is the fact that this film didn’t try to up the ante with more destruction and more fighting. So many sequels seek to outdo the original that they create unnecessary carnage and mayhem in the spirit of “raising the stakes”. Thankfully, BvS keeps the fighting and violence to a minimum, saving it for its extended climax.
If you go onto social media now, you will see that many people are deeply divided on how good this movie actually is. Personally, I mostly enjoyed it, but there were some glaring issues which prevented it from being great.
The first problem that plagues BvS is the fact that it is trying to tell too many stories at once. We are meant to follow Batman in his quest for revenge, Superman in his quest to find his place, and Lex Luthor in his quest to destroy both of them, because reasons. Since we have so much information to process, everything becomes a bit muddled, and it can be kind of hard to follow. All that, coupled with a bizarre, out-of-place dream sequence that supposedly shows us an alternate future, makes BvS overwhelming at best, downright confusing at worst.
The second major problem with this film is that it is trying to set up future movies without taking the time to craft a compelling story. Because this is the “prequel” to the Justice League movie, we are treated to sequences with Wonder Woman (who, not to sound sexist, feels utterly useless for most of the film’s runtime), as well as scenes showing us the other members of the JLA. Had BvS focused more on creating a cohesive, captivating story about two icons turning a rivalry into a friendship, it could have been a much better film.
Finally, since I don’t want to give away spoilers, the third biggest problem with BvS is the fact that every scene is treated like it has extreme importance. Every line is delivered with such intensity and with such drama, it’s hard to believe that these are real people. This heavy hand is also present in the film’s score, which is overbearing for most of the movie. Thus, despite trying to put these characters in our world (via news footage with contemporary celebrities like Neil DeGrasse Tyson), because everything is dripping with such melancholy, it’s hard to connect with the characters or the story.
Ultimately, Batman vs. Superman sort of collapses under its own weight. Were the filmmakers keener on making a simpler story without trying to weave together so many character threads, BvS could have been something great. As it is, however, it does leave you wanting more, but not necessarily in a good way.