Where to begin? That’s a good question to not only philosophically apply to the process of writing this review, but one that you feel was not addressed in the process of the creation of this film or franchise. It feels like absolutely no part of the script was challenged by anyone with any real critica thought, and when it was, it was by a producer from the studio, rather than a creative force trying to achieve more creative integrity for this so-called film.
It is a so-called film. It fails as a film quite frankly. Dawn of Justice is the more appropriate aspect of the title, and to call it Batman v Superman is somewhat misleading. Yes, we do have a fight between them at some point, but without spoiling too much, that conflict, yes, drives the plot, but is also the most contrieved plot you’ll ever see in a superhero film. Again, sorry for calling it a film. What this product actually is a 2 hour, 40 minute YouTube trailer for the DC multiverse. To make matters worse, it fails to be that very trailer.
I have difficulty recognising many aspects of this trailer, because the failure to properly stucture an engaging story make almost every aspect of the alleged plot jarring, forced, or at best, pointless.
With the tone set, maybe its time to chat about what’s actually going on. Not that that’s easy to do.
Okay, let’s try and understand the ‘storytelling’ that Ben Affleck keeps proudly disucssing in interviews; very much his way of hidding the fact that there’s more padding in this episode than there is Attack of the Clones. An extremely long-story-short; Bruce Wayne has already been Batman, and feels the urgency to return from his retired state because he has first hand witnessed how much of a threat Superman might be to the peace of the world, and simultaneously, Lex Luthor Jr has a God-complex, wanting to end Superman’s God-like state by any means necessary. If I say anything more, I fear I will be spoiling it for what few fans there are left of either character/franchise.
There is almost nothing of merit beyond the performances. Affleck is great. For me, the backlash against his casting was a confusing occurrence. He is engaging, and finds a very honest, real, battered, wartorn version of Bruce Wayne to engage us with. Between Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Henry Cavill, and Affleck, they just about hold things together. There’s been a lot of praise towards their performances, but I don’t feel like they’re strong or pin-pointed enough to validate the film/trailer. The main cast are mainly moping. It’s hardly an exciting transformative performance for any of them. There’s been significant praise for Affleck and Gadot in particular, but looking back, I’m struggling to cite the scenes where their performances truly did anything like saved the film. The most controversial, but therefore, actually interesting performance, comes from Jesse Eisenberg’s version of Lex Luthor Jr. Somewhere between an impression of Heath Ledger’s joker and a John Simm tribute act, this Luther is eccentric, erratic, and full of inconsistent quirks and gestures. It is completely out of touch with the rest of the whole damn thing.
However, that’s actually a good thing.
The main flaws all eminate from the desperate attempt to cram world-building instead of doing anything interesting with the characters. Short of the characters repeatedly saying ‘the world is a dark place and these are dark times’, the film takes the engaging tones of grimness and darkness and gritty weighty reality we saw in the trend-setting Batman Begins and Casino Royale to the same extreme that Batman & Robin took the campy cartoon live-action Batman. It’s not dark any more. It’s murky. It’s dull. It’s like a filmmaker’s first go at creating a thriller without having a mystery or reason to make us interested. Suspense is never achieved, the world is never breathing beyond the linear and childlike problem-and-solve structure of the story. Spending a whole episode on world-building is cynical and too manufactured for my own liking, but to make it so dull and totally fail at it is intolerable.
The reason I thanked the heavens for Eisenberg’s off-putting and over-the-top Lex Luthor performance is because simply, it is the only thing of any note in the film and is actually interesting. I can hear the cries of praise surrounding Wonder Woman’s introduction, which would be valid, if she did anything of any interest or had any other plot relevance than just being there to establish a wilder world out there. The credibility of the idea that this a film goes out of the window when in one sequence, the entire agency of the character is generated around a sequence where Wonder Woman finds out about the forthcoming Justice League members from seeing what she sees in the data Bruce Wayne has nicked from Luthor. This isn’t even George-Lucas levels of contrivity. The characters aren’t explaining the plot to eachother as much as just trying to justify another story to follow.
This was the 20th or so time that my friend and I had our heads in our hands beholding this nonsense. This Youtube trailer literally gets so boring 2 hours in, that someone inside it feels the need to offer clickable annotations to watch some other trailers.
Were there moments of potential and hope? Yes. Jeremy Irons. Lois Lane’s investigation. The car chase. However, any moment of hope was immeadiately kicked out the window by another reminder of the monstrously, confusingly bad plot choices, directing decisions and manufactured product-building. I can’t even pretend that there’s great action sequences with great special effects to behold, because such sequences are so incoherent that you can barely see the fights happening. There are lightening-bolt special effects which are so jarring and messy that I would honestly urge you to pretend that they made the effects on an app.
Two people behind us were lighting a spliff to cope with the film. The fact that they felt the need to walk out says it all really.