Batman V Superman **
One Liner Review:
An entertaining movie with good action and interesting ideas, but some definite flaws in the storyline.
A movie that has a lot going for it, yet definitely makes mistakes, this film should have been better. The mistakes, (such as a dream sequence that both makes little sense and also waits too long to confirm it’s all a dream,) were definitely avoidable. Still, there’s plenty to like on the table. There are interesting characters and creative scenes. The way that these mythological creatures are grounded in reality, mixed in with senate hearings, wheel chair bound victims, importing regulations, and things like that, definitely work. The first half of the film is far better than the second half, where things start to get murky a little too easily. Still, the action is fantastic, and the story isn’t half bad. Zack Snyder delivers on the visuals and excitement the way no other director could. The conveniences and missteps in the story do add up to make for a sometimes head-scratching experience, but more often than not, its the action-packed, just go with it and have fun, way about this movie that keeps us glued to the screen.
Batman V Superman, the follow up film to Man of Steel, is an okay movie. It isn’t nearly as good as that first film was, and makes several mistakes that it really should have been able to avoid. Still, there’s a lot to like here. The story is pretty good. The characters are fine. And like most Zack Snyder movies, the action is some over the top good, exciting fun.There have been a whole slew of complaints thrown at this movie and a good majority of them are unfounded. That Batman kills people doesn’t matter at all. In fact, I’m not even really sure where that argument comes from. Those who claim that the movie is too overstuffed with plotlines are way off. The amount of storytelling here (other than the dream sequences) is just fine. The problems that this movie does have are much more simple than that.
The first thirty minutes of the film are fantastic. They are where the movie is at its best. First we open with a quick credits take on the Bruce Wayne, parents murder scene. We’ve experienced plenty of versions of this scene before, and so luckily Snyder gives us the quick take on it, and yet still manages to add something new. The necklace around the gun (which I’ve heard comes from The Dark Knight Returns comic and animated film, but at least has never been in a live action movie before.) From there, things start to really get good with the sequence of Bruce Wayne in a car, speeding into Metropolis as the climactic fight that took place at the end of Man of Steel, now unfolds from a different angle. This sequence is exciting and riveting. Ben Affleck, as Bruce Wayne, speeds through car accidents and explosions. He runs into building collapse bursts of smoke and rescues a little girl. He even speaks with someone who is in one of the buildings that is about to come down. This is just one of many cool scenes in those first thirty minutes. Another one features Superman going to Africa to save Lois Lane when a news report turns into an undercover C.I.A. operation. All good stuff, done very well.
Another scene that happens in those first thirty minutes or so is the discovery of Kryptonite in the Indian Ocean. It starts with some boys pulling up a rock and moves onto the beach where a man hammers the rock and breaks it apart to reveal the green precious stone. At this point we are starting to realize that every scene is happening very fast. I don’t mean rapid cutting and slam bang editing like Michael Bay movies, but just no wasting any time. Every scene gets to the point pretty quickly. This is a good thing. Batman V Superman is a two and a half hour movie, and despite that lenghty running time, pacing is never a problem. Perhaps that is in large part due to how many characters are on screen here. There’s Bruce Wayne interacting with his butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons,) and Clark Kent (Henry Cavil) interacting with his boss at the Daily Planet Newspaper, Perry White (Laurence Fishbourne.) On top of that, there’s a sentator presiding over the Superman hearings, a maniacal tycoon / scientist Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg,) and even the mysterious appearances of Wonder Woman sprinkled throughout the film.
If all of that sounds like too much, it actually isn’t. All of the pieces gel together nicely. The story in the first half of the film is mostly about the senate hearing. Holly Hunter plays the senator who is being pulled to the side by Lex Luthor who wants a number of things from her. He wants her to prosecute Superman and restrain the hero. Then he also wants the Senator to help him import the kryptonite that was found in the Indian Ocean. Some of the dialogue and motivation here gets a little murky. Lex Luthor talks about how his father used to have to give roses to tyrants and it is a speech that happens way too fast to really establish why he hates Superman so much. Still, it’s not such a big deal. Of the characters on screen here, including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Senator, Lois Lane, and all of the others, Luthor is the weakest of the bunch, but he’s also not that bad. He’s got the annoying laugh, but there’s also something menacing and kind of scary about him.
The dream sequence that Batman has is the first scene that is truly a mess. It is just unnecessary in a thousand ways. I suppose it leads to something that happens in the final moments of the film, how Batman knows that something is coming, but that could have been established in some much better ways. The dream sequence takes place in the desert. First Batman, wearing goggles, gets involved in a standoff with guns aimed at him. This turns into a fistfight. Then flying demons start coming out of the sky and attack everyone. That’s just part one. Part two has Batman tied up in an underground bunker when Superman arrives and pulls off Batman’s mask. Superman also has some words for him. Part three is a quick moment where the Flash is being hit by some kind of rays and says some things to Batman about what’s coming and what has already happened. None of it makes any sense, but the worst thing is that it just keeps on going and going without ever telling us its a dream. If you didn’t know this was a dream or haven’t read about it before seeing the movie, it would be confusing as all hell. The fact that it keeps going only makes it worse. A movie that throws you into a dream needs to tell you that it’s a dream fairly quickly. This film has one dream sprial into another into another, all before the audience realizes that none of it is actually happening.
Luckily the dream sequence is the worst thing about the movie, and things pick up again afterwards. Most of what comes next moves smoothly. There’s the sequence at Lex Luthor’s house where Batman is trying to get into Luthor’s secret archives, and sneaks around putting bugs into place on the walls that will download all of Luthor’s files. One thing I love about this sequence is that Superman can overhear the conversations Batman is having through radio transmission with his butler. And of course there’s the great moment where Wonder Woman gets involved, if only for a brief moment, and punctuates the scene. From here we get a fantastic action sequence where the Batmobile gets a car chase like only Zack Snyder can do. This is possibly the best Batmobile action scene in any Batman movie (although the flying on rooftops bit from Batman Begins was pretty cool as well.) Snyder goes all out here, utilizing special effects and really giving us a chase scene on steroids as all kinds of machine guns come out and the Batmobile uses cannons to blast through anything and anyone in its way.
The Senate hearing is pretty much the midpoint of the film. There’s a character who has had a number of quick scenes so far, as a former employee of Bruce Wayne who is now working with Lex Luthor. This character was once a security guard in the Wayne building that came down at the end of Man of Steel. He lost his legs. Bruce Wayne, in fact, is the one who pulled him out of the rubble. We see all that at the start of this film. Later on, he gets out of his wheel chair and pulls himself up onto a Superman statue before spray painting and defacing it. The man finds himself in prison, being bailed out by Lex Luthor who plans to help this man get cleaned up and then testify at the senate hearings. Superman shows up outside of the senate buidling. Everything things to be right on track, until something unexpected happens.
This propels us into the second half, where Luthor has found a way to import his kryptonite and shows it off to the government as a last line of defense against Superman, if it ever comes to that. He makes a deal with them to give up some kryptonite in exchange for access to the alien spaceship from Man of Steel, as well as the dead body of General Zod. Luthor starts experimenting. At this point we still haven’t gotten any Batman vs Superman fights yet. That’s a problem. All we’ve gotten is a dream sequence where Superman pulled off Batman’s mask (this should never have been their first on screen meeting,) and then the Batmobile scene which ended with the two of them barking threats at each other. While the Batmobile chase was great, these threats were pretty dumb and over way too quickly. They pointed out some clunky dialogue.
Now it’s time to head into the final acts. Lex Luthor does some things to get the two superheros at each others throats and they all feel way too contrived. Instead of fighting because of the fundamental differences in their philosophies, with Superman going after Batman because he doesn’t like the vigilante brand of justice that Batman serves up (like the trailers promise us,) he goes after Batman for some altogether different reasons that are cooked up by Luthor way too quickly. For a guy who always knows where Lois Lane is, even when she’s halfway around the world, you would think Superman might also have an ear to his mother’s whereabouts. The use of the mother as the situation that first pits the two Superheroes against each other is dumb, but it gets even worse when it also becomes the situation that leads to their reconciliation.
Just like the dream sequence, where if the movie continued along that path, it would have been a disaster, all of this mother business is luckily not the end. We still get quite a lot of climactic scenes. First there’s Batman in the warehouse and then the Doomsday fight, which is pretty thrilling. Snyder goes all out for that one, and Doomsday not only looks fantastic, but is a force to be reckoned with. Snyder knows how to use special effects. He might not be the best storyteller in the world, but he’s certainly a visionary. He doesn’t use effects for realism, (the way someone like Matthew Vaughn does,) but instead, uses them for spectacle. This movie might not be as good as Man of Steel, but it is still an enjoyable experience. If certain ideas were handled just a little differently, it could have been a fantastic film. Like The Amazing Spider Man 2, this movie was hurt by a trailer that revealed way too much (Wonder Woman and Doomsday should have both been left for surprise. Had that have been the case, the audiences would be loving this movie, celebrating it for what it included that they did not expect.) If the dream sequence had been cut out and the mother idea had been either scrapped completely or else explained a little better (something about Batman realizing that Superman has human qualities,) then it could have worked. Still, despite the movies flaws, it has so much going for it, that the good definitely outweighs the bad. The action is great and the storytelling has a lot to admire. This is a worthwhile, yet flawed movie.