DC and Warner Bros. have finally delivered on their promise on a Man of Steel sequel, while also building towards a larger cinematic universe that includes the likes of Batman & Wonder Woman. For their second outing, they’ve chosen to pit their two titular characters in what I perceived as an illogical film, that relies almost solely on fan service and ignores a narrative to make the movie accessible for those who may not be in on the heavy handed references that are peppered throughout the story. Fleeting highlights include the Bruce Wayne/Batman scenes, Wonder Woman’s entire screen time, and how the movie directly addresses the death and destruction concerns from its predecessor. It seems as half of this movie is an apology letter for the hanging threads in Man of Steel, yet future films in the universe will also be apologizing for several scenes and character choices throughout this one. The end goal for Batman V Superman is setting up the Justice League but the film trips over itself in the process and results in only being loud, aggressive, and something I don’t feel comfortable recommending to casual moviegoers. If you’re a fan of either Batman or Superman characters, then this movie is for you, but if you’re still undecided, then you may want to sit this fight out.
Batman V Superman is full of imagery that is taken almost directly from comic books, and I feel that’s a good place to start for the film as a whole. As a weekly comic book reader, it was cool at times to see these iconic moments come across the screen, but in the same vein, it was too on the nose to be enjoyable. While Zack Snyder is no stranger to fan service, it hinders the film from becoming something greater and transcending its predecessor, which I find to be a bit more enjoyable after watching this. His forte is (and always will be) style over substance, and no one can deny that he stuck to his guns yet again.
In those regards, this movie takes drastic liberties on reducing narrative and dialogue to just assuming that characters in the film already know everything. Several examples include Lex Luthor knowing both Batman and Superman’s identities, Lois Lane and the spear of destiny, and ultimately, the Knighmare scene which was overly specific for a nightmare. Again, I think this goes back to fan service and it left many viewers asking questions about that what exactly was happening. This trend in the film is what I refer to as “Amazing Spider-Man” syndrome, because it parallels what happened in the second ASM movie. They have filmed nearly 2 movies worth of content, but attempted to condense it down into just once, requiring a lot of edits to be made that are both questionable and ignorant. In particular, the ending scene of Batman and Lex Luthor is placed directly in-between another pertinent, emotional moment, thus splitting the scene in two for no apparent reason. A decade ago, it could have been seen as forgivable, but with precedent and the quality of these films getting better all the time, it is one of several amateur looking mistakes that reflect poorly on the finished product.
There are several glimmering pieces of hope in this film, two of which are both future Justice League members. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman is an inspired choice, and while I don’t care as much if he kills villains (which he does, a lot), I do care that he’s an intimidating, formidable force that everyone is afraid of at one point in the film. His brutality and precision are impeccable and this version of Batman is one step closer to a great definitive version we need. On the other hand, what little screen time of Gal Gadot we get as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, is a sight to behold. She plays the female version of Wayne as an antique dealer and espionage expert, but at the same time can kick general major ass. Her solo film is higher on my radar than any other DC property for the foreseeable future, unless they announce a Batman movie. Lastly, another point where I give the film credit is the fact it does answer a lot of concerns I had with Man of Steel’s destruction. Yes, that was the general complaint overall, but in my review of that film, I did hope for answers and acknowledgement of that disaster, which this film is truly a sequel of. For that, I stand by my previous statements and give credit where it is due.
On the flip side, other characters don’t resonate as well. Jesse Eisenberg starts off great as Alexander Luthor, but slowly devolves into just a generic villain and his transformation into the iconic bald version was cheap. His scenes suffered a lot from the erratic editing process as well, mostly his portions with the crashed Kryptonian spaceship. By the end of the film, his erraticness was to much and paled in comparison to the better characters. This resulted in Doomsday, which also is there mostly for fan service and is highly under-explained. Too many people give us quick assumptions of what the creature can do or what it is, but I’m still not sold on what happened with him. A great DC comics villain is thus thrown quickly to the wind, before he can truly be the threat the film needed. There also tend to be too many moving pieces that get relegated to small roles and passing appearances, all of which should have been either removed or expanded to help bring the larger vision to life. I’m disappointed more in what could have been, as we see greatness and potential but have the proverbial rug yanked out from underneath us at the last moment repeatedly.
The film opens and closes with a funeral, ultimately setting the tone for probably 4/5ths of the actual movie. While we do see glimpses of greatness and potential, the final version presented on screen is full of confusing motivations, poorly mixed audio, and only a brief version of a fight scene that should have been a majority of the film. Batman V Superman won’t be the kryptonite of the DC cinematic universe, but instead a branding of how much potential can be wasted in a short amount of time.