Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) - review

Door Janreviews gepubliceerd op Saturday 26 March 11:29

In “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” two of the most beloved American superheroes go head to head: Batman wants to avenge his employees who died when Superman fought his enemy over Metropolis and Superman views Batman as a dangerous vigilantee who needs to be exposed.

This film starts with showing that Bruce Wayne was orphaned when his parents were shot in a hold-up. At the funeral, he runs away in agony and falls into some hole in his parents’ enormous garden. Without breaking a limb, he is startled by dozens of bats, but he rises to the surface again. Now when I say ‘rises’, I mean he literally levitated back to the grass. I saw his foot lightly move from the ground and I thought ‘It looks as if he’s flying like Peter Pan, but he’s probably just getting to his feet’ but then he literally started to move upward and I rolled my eyes for the first time and the film had only started two minutes earlier.

The problem with “Batman v. Superman” is that it tries too hard. We do not care about Bruce’s parents, because we do not know them! This is something that Nolan did correctly: he showed us that Bruce and his parents had a strong bond, so we would care if they died. Almost that entire flashback to the fatal hold-up returns toward the end of the film and it felt really unnecessary. The reference that triggered this memory for Batman was so clear that if they had shown just one frame, we would’ve been satisfied.

Another missed opportunity was a reference from a past conversation between Senator Finch and Lex Luthor that is followed by a disaster. Luthor tried to have Finch give him permission to make a deterrent for Superman, but Finch sees through this and tells him that she will not allow him to make a weapon of mass destruction. She tells him something along the lines of ‘I will not drink your piss just because it says “Granny’s Peach Tea”’. When Finch is speaking at Superman’s hearing, she notices a jar standing on her desk whose label is turned away from her so she can only read “Tea”. Instead of providing this little hint, showing Finch looking confused and then surprising us by what happens next, the screenplay makes her stop speaking, turn the jar toward her and look at it in confusion.

Speaking of Lex Luthor, I must say that I really didn’t like this interpretation of a villain. He’s obviously educated and has a twisted world view, but he is way too dramatic. I understand that they wanted him to be socially awkward and they wanted him to have some theatrical tendencies, but the film treated him too seriously. At one point, Luthor literally puts some sort of gummy bear in an important man’s (whose position I ironically cannot remember) mouth and his reaction looked so unrealistic, it was ridiculous. Also, his speech where he contrasts Superman and Batman is a few lines too long and it comes off as desperate. Not Lex Luthor being desperate, but the film makers being desperate to invoke tension in the audience.

Another instance where the dialogue was painfully awkward was when one of Luthor’s conspirators intimidates another character. Lois Lane recognises him in a train station where the song “Everytime We Say Goodbye” is playing, while he is mopping the floor. Later in the film, this conspirator says to someone who is very dear to one of the superheroes “Everytime we say goodbye, we die a little”. I did not make this up, someone really wrote that.

Let’s talk about nudity! Now that I have your attention, it was unnecessary. Lois Lane is taking a bath at the beginning of the film when Clark comes in to talk to her. After a short conversation, he suddenly steps into the tub with all his clothes on, making the tub overflow. That sounds like water damage to me, but you know, romance! The only purposes of this scene were to have some female nudity to please the mostly male audience and to have some lovey-doveyness between Superman and Lois Lane. This scene would’ve played out very differently if Lois had been fast asleep and Clark had woken her. A little while later, we see Clark making breakfast while only wearing pyjama bottoms. I’m quite sure that Henry Cavill had some sort of clause in his contract that said “My huge upper body must be shown at least once, I’ve worked too hard for this physique for it not to be shown”. A similar thing happens when Bruce is working out to prepare before the main confrontation with Superman. He’s not wearing a shirt, just to show the audience how muscular Ben Affleck has become to play Batman. This sequence is also awkwardly long. I guess nudity is never really necessary in a film, but in “Batman v. Superman” it just felt like they were yelling at us ‘Hey look, Amy Adams is really fit! Henry Cavill too! And look how much muscle Ben Affleck has put on!’

Something which I just did not understand was Bruce’s dream. He dreams that he is in some desert camp, killing a great deal of people while soldiers with wings surround him. He wakes up, but suddenly someone in a superhero suit comes out of his computer to warn him about Superman. Then he wakes up again! There is no explanation for this whatsoever. I probably don’t get it because I haven’t read any of the comic books. In another dream, there is a completely unnecessary jump scare that doesn’t even make sense.

Just like Wonder Woman was hardly in the film, she is hardly in this review because there is very little to say about her. In the comic books, she is a very muscular woman, but in this film she just looks like your run-of-the-mill model. Her costume does not feature any of the colours of the original costume and I don’t think her name is ever said in the film. The scene where she receives an e-mail from Batman (which Chris Stuckmann rightfully called ‘lazy writing’) is simply not structured well. It starts off looking like a short scene with the only sound being the background music, but then she starts watching CCTV footage and the background music fades away. Being from Belgium, I found the part where she proudly poses with a couple of guys in a picture that says “Belgium 1918” ludicrous. The picture also showed Chris Pine, who is confirmed to play her love interest in her stand-alone film.

Speaking of stand-alone films, “Batman v. Superman” is clearly intended to start the DC Comics version of Marvel’s Avengers universe. DC clearly also wants to make billions of dollars, but if they want to reach that goal, the quality of their movies will need to be a lot better.   

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