You know how I complained about Marvel making mediocre movies because they know we’ll shell out the money to see them? I have the same beef with DC.
In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) we get the first installment of what DC is hoping will be a cash cow in their extended universe. Witness to the destruction wrought by Superman’s battle with General Zod at the end of 2013’s Man of Steel, Batman vows to bring down the so-called hero who left so many dead and injured in his wake. Meanwhile, Superman, as Clark Kent, wishes to expose Batman as the dangerous vigilante that he is. The two come face to face at a gala honoring Lex Luthor where we’re introduced to a woman after the same information Batman seeks to steal. This, as is later revealed, is Wonder Woman.
There are a number of issues with the movie, as I see it (spoiler alert!). First of all, the idea that Batman would be so self-righteous as to condemn Superman for the innocent casualties of his battle seems awfully hypocritical. Batman is hardly the goody-goody we generally know Superman to be and it’s not as if Superman went around slaughtering innocents for sport. This hypocrisy becomes even more salient during the movie’s climactic battle with Doomsday, wherein Batman lures the creature across Metropolis with no regard whatsoever to the damage it inflicts. Second, the movie employs several dream sequences as a manner of throwing us off course. They tease us with their first costumed meeting in effort to create dramatic tension, but it does little more than act as annoying filler. Third, when the two superheros do meet, Batman all but surrenders once he learns that Superman is after him only because Lex Luthor has captured Martha Kent and is forcing his hand. Cue the superfluous flashback to Batman’s origin story which the writers should assume we all know by now (write up to your audience, please, not down to them). It seems as if Superman failed to do his research beforehand. If he had, he could have just gone, “Hey Batman, they got my moms!” And Batman would have said, “Aw, hell no! We gots to save the mommies.” (In my head, this would have been an improvement.)
For those of us who were concerned that Ben Affleck couldn’t be a convincing Batman, rest assured that he does not mangle the role. He does not, however, add anything special to the Dark Knight and it could have easily been any other actor filling in for Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. Gal Gadot does a fine job of bringing Wonder Woman to the screen, but she was rather underused and the filmmakers seemed more intent on proclaiming to the audience, “Hey, we have Wonder Woman!” than fully incorporating her into the story. In fact, Jesse Eisenberg, as Lex Luthor, is the only compelling actor in a major role in this film. His portrayal of Lex as a slightly off-kilter entrepreneur is different from our usual conception of the character, but Eisenberg sells it and I’m curious to see where they’ll go with him. (“Plot twist: Lex becomes the Joker,” I said to my companion after his final scene.)
I don’t know enough about the comic source material to judge the movie on those grounds, but simply judging it as a movie based on good storytelling, Batman v Superman fails to stand up. I didn’t find it terrible…just lazy. It’s disappointing to think that this is the type of superhero movie we have to look forward to for many years to come.