Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Review)

Directed by Zack Snyder, US, 2016

Part of me can’t believe I’m writing this, but I didn’t hate this movie.  Given the number of characters introduced, the hot mess that was Man of Steel (2013), and the amount of negative press the film has gotten thus far, I expected it to be horrible.  Legendarily horrible.  Sean Connery in Zardoz (1974) horrible.  Instead it wasn’t awful.

Ben Affleck makes a fine Batman, and Gal Gadot makes a fine Wonder Woman.  Gadot is underused, but she makes the most of her limited screen-time.  Affleck nails the “older Batman” role with a fine balance of weariness and general Batman-ness.  Even the final battle sequence avoids the indulgences of Snyder’s previous action movies.

That being said, it’s not a great movie.  Henry Cavill is still soulless and dull as Superman.  Jesse Eisenberg is a bit off-putting as “all of a sudden Lex Luthor is Marc Zuckerberg.”  I liked the “Lex Luthor is more of a Nelson Rockefeller type” that the comic books had in the 1990’s.

Overall, the Superman characters are fine.  Not perfect but fine.  This is, after all, mostly a Batman movie.  The real issue with the film, why it’s merely okay but not great, is that there are long stretches of boredom.  Case in point, I actually left the theater for about ten minutes during the first act and missed absolutely nothing.  It was almost like Snyder was overcorrecting for the non-stop “boomfest” that was Man of Steel.

Overall, Batman v Superman isn’t a bad comic book movie.  It’s better than probably a third of the comic book movies out there.  If you just need a decent diversion this weekend and an excuse to go to the movies, you can do much worse.

You might like Batman v Superman if: You just feel like seeing a comic book movie and you’re fine if it’s mediocre.

You might not like Batman v Superman if: You are expecting it to be great in any way, shape, or form.

(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder, 2013, US

By D.G. McCabe

My kingdom for a decent Superman movie.

When I last checked Rotten Tomatoes, Man of Steel was sitting at 56%.  I don’t know what movie those 56% percent of critics were watching, because it certainly wasn’t the same one I saw this evening.  It’s bad.  How bad you say?

It starts off promisingly enough.  With Christopher Nolan working on the screenplay and production, you get a little bit of Batman Begins…oh wait, Superman isn’t Batman.  Superman doesn’t walk the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu.  There is enough complexity in the character already without having to turn him into Bruce f’ing Banner already, and a lot of that complexity is hereto unexplored in film.

Still, I could get behind a reluctant, nomadic Superman if the director, Zack Snyder, would have followed through on that concept.  It’s too bad he doesn’t.  And after two hours that feel like five, you realize that Snyder should stick with ridiculously stylized movies about shirtless, ancient Greek meatheads.

The second half of the movie consists of nothing but smash smash, boom boom.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve defended smash smash, boom boom at times, but usually I expect that crap from Michael Bay films not a Superman movie.  There’s a difference between “all I want to see is giant robots fighting each other” and “I’m looking at my watch to see how long this never ending action sequence is.”

And the dialogue.  Maybe this crap was fine on TV’s Lois and Clark, oh wait, that show is bloody Shakespeare compared to this crap.  Now, Nolan’s scripts sometimes hit you over the head with exposition a bit too much (“That’s why the military invented dream sharing” from Inception for example), but I expected more of him.  After plenty of mustache-twirling villain exposition and lots of “release this against Superman” or “unleash that against Superman” I started laughing like I was watching friggin’ Anchorman.

Apparently, Nolan and Snyder decided to farm out the second half of their screenplay to an eleven year old who got into the coffee again.  So Superman fights the bad guys and smashed up the town, then they move to the city and then he’s gotta fly to the other side of the world and fight this other thing and then he’s gotta go back to the city and fight Zod in the big climax and boom!  Boooooooooom!

After sitting through this BS, it made me want to do to this movie what a completely out of character Superman does at the end of it.  Apparently there are two sequels on the way from these clowns, let’s hope they learn from their mistakes instead of doubling down on crappy dialogue, complete lack of romantic chemistry, and stupid jokes like Star Wars Episode II did.

You might like Man of Steel if: You have no interest in the Superman character, or wish that he was Batman, or you have completely merged video games and movies in your mind.

You might not like Man of Steel if: You have any knowledge at all about the character of Superman or you just don’t have the endurance to sit through a ninety minute action sequence that doesn’t even look all that great and never f’ing ends.

(c) 2013 D. G. McCabe