Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot, Holly Hunter, Laurence Fisburne, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto & Diane Lane
Directed by Zack Snyder
I’m not a comic book guy but I do enjoy the current crop of films that are being produced. Yes, I’m that guy; the one that purists detest. It’s a self-enforced limitation. Outside of their film counterparts I will never grasp these characters with the same comprehension. I’m naïve to the broad scope of criticism that can be leveled at Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. All I can do is arbitrate from the isolated perspective of a film reviewer. I realise that restriction, and so I choose to play to my strengths.
I know that Batman is an intriguing character from previous on-screen depictions. He possesses depth like no other superhero, and while a measure of Superman’s characterization is constructed to better suit a new approach, the practicalities of the Bruce Wayne / Batman dynamic can be ripped directly from the pages of the source material.
But Dawn Of Justice misses this. There is a treasure trove of close to seventy years of fundamentals, all cast aside in order for the writers, Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck to portray their own Batman. It’s a risky move, and here it fails. But what’s further exasperating is that there was already an original blueprint from which they could follow on. The psychology that makes Batman intriguing is absent, and though I thoroughly understand the want for an archetypal creation when it backfires as spectacularly as it has here it’s the fans who are left ruing.
Some may disagree but Ben Affleck simply isn’t Batman. Not just in appearance but in psyche of this particular portrayal. The same goes for Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Like I said, I’m not a comic aficionado but surely the real psychology behind Superman’s arch nemesis delves deeper than a mad scientist adage.
Why am I prattling on about casting choices? Simply because it’s a gauge of everything wrong with Dawn Of Justice. As a retelling it abandons all that made these characters and events worthwhile, and as a film it ignores its simplest of tasks. Motivating factors from hero and villain to a hyped title fight that uses ten minutes of a one-hundred and fifty minute run time.
This self-manufactured cardinal moment should be the instigation for the pursuit of the DCEU. Instead the films ending is, in hindsight, inevitable, and thus this pivotal contest is reduced to and inconsequentiality to all that succeeds it. Ultimately, Batman vs. Superman and Dawn Of Justice as a whole is left a fruitless endeavor.
The build-up to said contest, tentatively motivated at best, only to quickly pass it over, made the films run time seem furthermore a bloated mess. Which is true to form for director Zack Snyder. This, in tandem with a climactic moment that the film cedes before concluding makes Dawn Of Justice feel like even more of a truck stop on the highway to something far more important.
But here comes the conundrum. Why in the hell did I like this film so much? In true Zack Snyder fashion it’s needlessly inflated for purposes unknown. The one facet it’s built upon falls flat and it doesn’t deliver in any other way. So why enjoy the clunky teasers for what Dawn Of Justice precedes? Maybe because the kid in me just wants to see heroes beating up bad guys. That might be the key. As a big, dumb action film it nails it, but beneath the surface it’s severely lacking.
So where does this leave the DCEU? The fact is beforehand DC was already at a disadvantage. The misfire of Dawn Of Justice puts them further behind the ball. There is an alternative who will put the same concept to the test in April. Not only has that alternative managed to be far more original with the concept, their practices are also better. And much like the dystopian future that Batman foresees in Dawn Of Justice, that can’t bode well for the DCEU.