This review is jam-packed full of spoilers and theories. Read at your own risk.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m not a Marvel comics fan, I’m not a DC comics fan, I’m not a Image comics fan. I’m a fan of good comic characters treated correctly.
Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not as bad as the critics are saying. Currently, the movie has a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s an insanely low rating. I’d give this movie a “C” because I found the movie to be slightly better than Man of Steel, but not as good as Dark Knight Rises. To sum it up, it’s good, had a lot of potential, but not great. Throughout this review I’ll point out some of the many missed opportunities that could have made this movie great.
If you are a comic book fan, don’t expect this movie to be an adaptation of any single comic book series or graphic novel; however, there are small moments and themes that are pulled, to a degree, directly from the source material. Such as this one:
The beginning of the movie starts out with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Yes, we’ve seen this before, many times in fact, but this time around it looks amazing. The scene plays out in that slow-motion-picturesque-way that Snyder is known for. Snyder definitely brings his A-game to this opening scene because a lot of detail is crammed into it. You need to pay close attention to this scene because there is a call back to it later on in the movie.
The movie then jumps to Superman and Zod fighting overtop of Metropolis from the perspective of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). As shown in the trailers (and Jeep commercials) Bruce is racing towards the destruction being caused by Superman and Zod. If you remember, there is a moment during Man of Steel when Superman and Zod are fighting in an office building, and Zod uses his heat-vision for the first time. Turns out the office building use to be a Wayne Enterprise building before Zod shredded it to Swiss cheese. By the time Bruce arrives at the office building, it has already been destroyed, but Bruce is able to help an employee caught in some rubble.
The Wayne employee rescued by Bruce is named Wally (something), and his legs have been crushed by a steel beam. Immediately, I thought this was a nod to the rumored pitch that I think Kevin Smith or Geoff Johns gave about a Flash comic, or movie, where Wally West gets his legs blown off resulting in Wally receiving leg replacements that give him super speed. Even though I knew actor Ezra Miller was cast to play The Flash in BvS, I thought this Wally character was going to be a temporary Flash or something. As the movie progressed, I realized I was wrong, way wrong (more on that later).
The movie then jumps forward 18 months after the destruction of Metropolis and the storyline begins to jump from one event to another very rapidly. We learn that pieces of kryptonite were found near the world-engine that Superman battled in the Indian Ocean in MOS. From what I could gather, the exploratory group that found the piece in the Indian Ocean was funded by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).
LexCorp collected some kryptonite fragments found near the ship that crashed in Metropolis during MOS, and experimented on them. One of the experiments was that they exposed Zod’s body to the kryptonite. How LexCorp was able to get access to Zod is never really explained. Regardless, it is discovered that when the kryptonite comes in contact with Zod’s body, Zod’s body becomes vulnerable to it. Hence, Luthor theorizes that the kryptonite can be weaponized to kill Superman, but he needs the large piece of kryptonite found in the Indian Ocean to create a god-bomb to wipe out Supes.
Luthor is of the belief, based upon mythology and his own personal experiences, that “gods” such as Superman cannot be all good. According to Luthor – with great power comes great corruption. And for that reason, Luthor is suspicious of the all-powerful alien called Superman.
Luthor has never been portrayed, in the comics or in the movies, as a young, schizophrenic entrepreneur. The idea isn’t bad, but you couldn’t help but make the connection that Eisenberg was basically (when he wasn’t stuttering or mumbling incoherencies) acting like he did when he portrayed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the movie Social Network. I get it – Eisenberg gave the performance asked of him exactly, but maybe the studio could have used another actor. It would have been nice to see, if the rumors were true, what Bryan Cranston could have brought to the role.
The next scene is of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in Africa meeting with a village leader that the US government believes to be a terrorist. Lois and her camera-carrying co-worker, Jimmy Olsen (who is really an undercover CIA operative), are frisked before meeting the village leader. During the frisking it’s discovered that within Jimmy’s camera is a homing device. The village leader’s guards waste no time in blowing Jimmy away with a gunshot to the head. Jimmy’s screen time is roughly 30 seconds long and means absolutely nothing. In the movie it is never spelled out that Jimmy is Jimmy Olsen. You have to wait for the credits to roll until you can connect those dots. Unfortunately, this was a poor way of handling the character. I don’t mind that he was a CIA operative, but to off him so quickly made me feel nothing for what I witnessed.
The village leader’s guards end up killing a bunch of the villagers by shooting them and then fleeing the scene to leave the leader and Lois alone. Superman ends up rescuing Lois by smashing the leader through several walls of concrete. I’d imagine the leader died, but that’s never addressed. Likewise, Jimmy’s death is never addressed. Also kind of odd is that Superman doesn’t go after the guards that just murdered a bunch of people. Superman comes across pretty selfish in this scene – kind of like he did in MOS when he kissed Lois in the middle of a destroyed Metropolis. The below video was edited to make the scene more life-like, which puts a whole new spin on this “romantic” moment.
The next scene is of a representative of Africa testifying at a Senate meeting about what happened at the village and she basically blames Superman for the deaths of the villagers. I couldn’t help but wonder why. The villagers were shot, not burnt to a crisp by heat vision. Why anyone would think Superman had something to do with it is beyond me. Maybe in the extended R rated cut we will see that the representative was paid off by Luthor to falsely accuse big blue of the deaths.
Again the movie cuts to another scene. I’ve read the reviews about how the movie was poorly edited and, to a degree, I’d have to agree. Too many times the audience is introduced to a ten minute scene only for it to cut away to another ten minute scene. The movie never seemed to be fluid. The number of cut scenes didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the overall movie it was just a noticeable annoyance.
The next scene introduces us to the fact that Clark and Lois have a romantic relationship and may be living together. Quite a jump from their relationship in MOS. The progression of their relationship from MOS to BvS feels like a missed opportunity. The Superman/Clark Kent dynamic is all but lost. What makes Superman/Clark Kent character interesting is how Superman tries to balance the two sides of himself. You see a little bit of that when Clark is interacting with Perry White (Lawrence Fishburne), but you never see the more interesting aspects of Superman interacting with Lois as Clark Kent. We all know the glasses is a bit of a silly disguise, but it’s a comic book movie, it’s a time to suspend reality for a bit and just enjoy what it has to offer. Remember those moments in Superman when Lois and Clark interacted? They brought a bit of levity to the movie and humanized Superman making him more relatable. Levity is what BvS needed, for sure.
One of the bullets fired during the African village massacre is discovered by Lois lodged in her notepad leading Lois on a journey to identify the killers based upon the make-up of the bullet. While Lois is busy doing that, Clark is interested in doing an investigative journalism piece about Batman being too aggressive. Batman/Bruce Wayne is definitely aggressive, but more importantly, comes across as a determined vigilante that will scare the hell out of you, or kill you if you end up on the wrong side of the law. I wasn’t sure that I’d like Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne but after seeing this movie, I’m convinced that he’s the best big screen Batman/Bruce Wayne to date.
We come to find out that Metropolis and Gotham are separated by a large bay area which leads to Batman and Superman crossing paths. Batman is following a lead that a possible weapon is going to be smuggled into Metropolis by Luthor. Turns out the weapon is the kryptonite that Luthor isn’t given permission to bring to the United States by the US government. Why the US government wouldn’t want to have the kryptonite brought to the US is beyond me – according to Africa Superman’s murdering villages. Wouldn’t you want the weapon to stop him?
End of Part 1…Part 2 to follow