Batman V Superman: mess of epic proportions

Batman V Superman: mess of epic proportions

Marvel, the rival comic book company of DC, has been dominating cinema on a critical and marketing basis with both “Avengers” films taking in $1 billion in sales as well as franchises such as Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man frequently being awarded high review scores. In response, Warner Bros., the parent company of DC, made the creative decision to copy the Marvel formula and create an overarching cinematic world connecting each of their films called the “DC Extended Universe. Director of “300” Zack Snyder was then attached to a film titled “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” in order to accomplish this goal.

Rushing into the fray, Snyder forces Superman, Batman and Wonderwoman into this film in order to set up the world they envisioned. The concept was ambitious but the end result was anything but well executed. With Superman being the only character with a full length film taking place in this new universe, the production team was seemingly under the impression that its massive running time would them to explain the latter two’s motivations, backstories and purpose in the new plot. Alas, this attempt was in vain, as Snyder did not craft a film bordering on underwhelming.

It was completely underwhelming.

Imagine all of the worst parts of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” compiled into one: unexplained character arcs, excessive foreshadowing and abrupt conclusions that only make sense in future installments. Strip away any humor and then the film will be Snyder’s ambitious BVS. The movie meanders through plotlines that never quite hit an emotional high, barring the last 15 minutes of the movie. Characters motivations are never explained. Even major players such as Wonder Woman forget why they are present.

The biggest injustice to what sounds on paper as an incredibly promising premise is that it plays its cards so seriously that it forgoes enjoyment in the process. By all means, that statement is not meant to imply that films should juggle light heartedness and intense topics a la Marvel, but only to remind studios that regardless of how bleak a movie gets, the audience should still leave the theater feeling satisfied. At the end of the day, films are still experiences, and even far darker flicks such as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight are worthwhile endeavors. The same cannot be said for this three-hour-long slog through a thick, overstuffed plot.

For what feels like the first hour, the audience is treated to nonsensical nightmares that Ben Affleck’s Batman has to endure. They are soelly for arbitrary exposition and hint toward sequels. While well shot, it does not help that a film mostly hated for stuffing foreshadows down the audience’s throat counters that by shoving even more in there.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is an intriguing character, both mysterious and alluringly shady – but, as I’m sure you have assumed, she exists only to give hints about future films rather than be a complex character with real motives and a reason to be present.

The titular battle is actually due to miscommunication rather than opposing values. Had they decided to speak rather than murder as heroic superheroes are wont to do, the entire plot line would have changed, and their abrupt shift from mega enemies to super buddies would make more sense. Longtime fans of the two will be pleased to know that the scene itself is incredibly entertaining and both action and cinematography is well done throughout the entire movie.

All that thematic progress is undone with Henry Cavill’s Superman. Superman’s character arc is set up to be an internal conflict cultivated by Lex Luther, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, but instead culminates in an uncharacteristic climax where both he and Batman sound more hypocritical than rational. Batman is depicted as little more than a paranoid billionaire espousing War on Terror style philosophies about killing all possible enemies (“If there is even a small chance he’s against us we must eliminate him first” he says to Jeremy Iron’s humorous butler Alfred at one point) and the incorruptible Man of Steel himself considering murder as a way to solve his problems. Hardly super, and hardly logical.

Scenes with the megalomaniac Luther manage to ruin their complex subject matter by feeling contrived and, much like the movie itself, needlessly complicated. It is rather easy to get bored during Eisenberg’s Joker-esque speeches about gods and demons that feel more like rambles than useful character progression. The  maniac characterization makes him far less formidable of a foe and more of a mad scientist laughing stock. Earlier renditions of Luther are physically imposing, calm and calculated, while this eccentric Eisenberg taken straight out of a Silicon Valley sitcom has poorly explained motives that will no doubt require entire movies for themselves to be properly told.

The presence of Superman’s nemesis Doomsday should be no surprise to longtime fans as he was introduced in a trailer (a decision which is still baffling to this day –Doomsday was the closest thing to an interesting plot twist BVS would have). Much like Wonder Woman, who Israeli model Gal Gadot plays with great skill, his appearance is unnecessary. Unlike Wonder Woman, he contributes nothing to establishing the DC universe. The purpose of his character, also revealed in trailers, is to provide a danger that gives the characters ample reason to unite. Problem is, given the comic book history of Doomsday (see Death of Superman), the decision to use this specific character results in a uselessly complicated plot thread involving Luther. Any other third-tier villain could accomplish this same thing – instead, director Zack Snyder is more concerned with blowing through confusing subplots rather than telling a cohesive story.

Ultimately, the fault lies not in the actors nor the screenwriters but in Zack Snyder’s  overbearing direction. Rather than focus on crafting a cohesive story, he opts instead to play a game of catch-up with Marvel and attempt to establish an entire universe in the process. Even the excitement of seeing the three most iconic comic book characters unite on big screen is overshadowed by the bloated story and the inappropriate amount of plot devices used to foreshadow the future. Critics do not detest this film as most fans have decried – they pity that such potential was squandered in Snyder’s attempt to make a franchise rather than a quality movie.