Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Pitting two of the greatest behemoths against each other in what’s a dream come true moment for comic book nerds around the world, it isn’t surprising that Batman v Superman was anticipated with great excitement & expectations, despite its predecessor not doing that good of a job of laying down a strong foundation for DC Extended Universe to take off. Man of Steel was a sloppy, bloated & underwhelming reboot of Superman mythology and placed more emphasis on spectacle than its plot or characters. This latest instalment corrects a couple of tiny mistakes that plagued the last chapter but all of it doesn’t amount to much in the end as this latest entry in DC Extended Universe is marred by one bad decision after another, and is every bit deserving of the mauling it received at the hands of film critics during its time of release.
A direct sequel to Man of Steel & the second instalment in DC Extended Universe, the story of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice takes place 18 months after the events of the first film. In the meantime, Superman has become a controversial figure because there is no one who can control him or his actions. Amongst many who view him as a threat to humanity is the prince of Gotham himself who, after watching the Wayne financial tower perish in front of his eyes during Superman’s destructive battle with General Zod in Metropolis, has been continuously looking for a weak link in Superman that he can exploit. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, an eccentric business mogul & hereditary CEO of LexCorp, is concocting his own devious plans to defeat Superman and unleashes a new threat upon the world when both Batman & Superman are duking it out against each other.
I guess the best way to proceed would be to simply point out what worked & what didn’t in the film’s favour. Speaking of what works here, one can’t deny the aesthetic quality that Zack Snyder’s visual style almost always emanates. Snyder is yet to find a firm grip when it comes to handling character arcs but many of his trademarks, which sort of disappeared in the previous feature, make a welcome return in this instalment. The opening credit sequence is a testament to what he can do when allowed free reign, for the sublime manner in which that segment flips through Bruce Wayne’s childhood is no less than bravura filmmaking and is a little masterpiece in itself. Unfortunately, everything after that is a downhill journey. Next up is Ben Affleck. The actor faced a lot of flak when he was chosen to don the costume of the Caped Crusader but he does a terrific job here to silence his critics.
The masked vigilante we meet in this film is unlike any previous rendition. He bears the scars of a veteran who isn’t afraid anymore to pull the trigger against his enemies, and is always aiming to break bones when beating the hell out of someone. This is a badass version of a Batman who has seen it all & has set his morals aside to instil fear in the criminal world. And Affleck illustrates it amazingly well, although there are still a couple of moments where he looks funny in the suit, unintentionally. The most striking of all is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She wanders around with a mysterious vibe and definitely could have used some flesh on her character but the moment she appears in costume, Gadot is a force to be reckoned with and easily outshines everyone who falls in her vicinity, not to mention that the accompanying electronic score further intensifies her screen presence, and is just as exhilarating.
Cinematography isn’t a major highlight but it still envelops the story with a dark, brooding layer plus the images retain their sharpness at all times. VFX team does a splendid job with what they are given but its overabundant CGI action never really comes as a surprise nor does it elevate the experience by a measurable extent. The background score by Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL is loud & deafening but there are also times when it fits the requirements & enhances the desired impact of those few moments. These were the middling aspects. Now, let’s talk about what doesn’t work in the film’s favour. First is David S. Goyer’s script, which he co-wrote with Chris Terrio. It exhibits the same issues that plagued Man of Steel as once again, the writers tease with some amazing ideas but never dig deeper than surface level to explore it in detail, which ultimately leaves its characters devoid of depth & its plot all muddled up.
The screenplay packs in numerous moments that add nothing except empty minutes to what already is an overlong flick, one example of it being those dream segments. Next up is Snyder’s direction as the so-called “visionary filmmaker” fails to steer the plot in the right direction or provide good enough pace to it. After the opening credits, Batman v Superman is just one scene stacked on top of another with no linear arrangement or smooth transition and, in addition to that, it often takes breaks from the unfolding events to indulge in some nonsensical hallucination for no reason whatsoever. Majority of the action is concentrated in the last act and before one can grasp on what’s unfolding on the screen, much of it is already over. Editing is an absolute mess, for its 181 minutes of daunting runtime is severely felt, the narrative lacks a streamlined flow, plus it leaves in tact several moments that should have ended up on the editing room floor.
Henry Cavill did a convincing enough job in Man of Steel to prove that he was the right choice to inherit the red n blue suit of Superman but here, his performance is cold & unworthy of any emotional investment. The issue obviously lies in the script as Clark Kent’s trajectory pretty much stays motionless, thanks to which Cavill doesn’t get enough material to work on and as a result, his performance suffers. Hamming all the way through is Jesse Eisenberg in the role of Lex Luthor and whatever idiosyncrasies he brings to this character only makes his work all the more annoying. Amy Adams is no delight as Lois Lane either as her character undergoes no change throughout the story. Also, the very stuff this movie was riding on, i.e. Batman & Superman going against each other, ultimately fails to live up to its hype, for I expected more from it. And last but not the least, its action-filled final act is so badly crammed & poorly handled that it fails to leave its desired impact.
On an overall scale, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is another middling chapter in DC Extended Universe that had the ingredients to deliver an extravaganza worthy of matching the greatness of its hype but it crumbles under its own hefty expectations to finish as another effects-driven, style over substance blockbuster. DC has been long desperate for a Marvel-like success but from the looks of it, it seems that they are going to have to wait a little more. Neither Man of Steel nor Batman v Superman are complete disasters in my eyes considering that both movies have a few interesting moments that are embedded with little gems but when it comes to their overall structure or narrative flow, they both lack a sturdy backbone. What brings these two movies down is the same set of problems and if these shortcomings aren’t taken care of in the next few instalments, then DC Extended Universe is doomed to fail. And unlike their past two flicks, it sure will be a memorable sight. To summarise it all in a sentence, Batman v Superman is fragmented, frustrating & forgettable.