Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Batman v Superman" - Movie Review

   The good news is: Batman v Superman isn't as bad as most reviews seem to indicate.

   The bad news is: it's not a great movie.

   It wants to be and it tries really, really hard.

   It's loaded with excellent actors - Henry Cavill is larger than life and bristling with quiet strength as Superman, Ben Affleck brings real heft and angst as a (somewhat surprisingly) scene-stealing Batman, Amy Adams is a strong and intelligent Lois Lane, Gal Gadot makes a stunning Wonder Woman, and the rest of the cast is terrific (with a special shout-out to Jeremy Irons as the ascerbic and multi-talented Alfred).

     The special effects are stunning, from the high-powered fight sequences to the environments, from super rescues to street fights and city-shattering blasts. The visuals are so strong that they almost convince you that you're watching a good movie.

   Where it all falls apart is in the story and the characterization.

   The story picks up at the end of Man of Steel, reprising the massive destruction from that film's final battle, as Bruce Wayne witnesses the devastation. He becomes obsessed with the potential threat of Superman and finding a way to stop the son of Krypton. It's a goal Lex Luthor shares (for reasons that are unclear), and the discovery of a certain element from Krypton gives them a weapon to use in the war they're planning.

   But the film rambles all over the map, throwing in numerous dream sequences, over the top fight sequences (wherein Batman racks up a Punisher-like body count), a doubt-ridden Superman, a dark and depressing world devoid of humor and hope, and a final battle that doubles down on the same missteps that plagued Man of Steel.

   The filmmakers tried to cram way too much stuff into one basket, as they mixed in parts of comic book stories like The Dark Knight Returns, Doomsday,  the Justice League, and a badly misinterpreted Lex Luthor (who is depicted as being more of a lunatic than the evil genius whose mind makes him a match for the world's greatest heroes - here, he's a very rich blackmailer).

   There should be room for dark, serious superhero movies - but the problem is that the story gets the characters wrong, the battle promised in the title is over the top and unbelievable (the moment that ends the fight is almost laugh-out-loud silly), and the film is weighed down with its own grim, joyless attitude.

   I counted two laughs in the whole movie (Alfred gets one of them). The film doesn't have to be a laugh-a-minute, but it needed something to alleviate the relentless sense of doom. It came close when Wonder Woman makes her impressive entrance. She's the only character in the movie who seems to enjoy what she does, and she shines here.

   Look, I love these characters, and I've enjoyed their adventures for decades, in many different forms - from Silver Age silliness to grim and gritty conflicts and everything in between. There are so many good stories to be told using them - but this wasn't one of them. (It's also disconcerting to realize that this is a movie starring Superman and Batman and it's not suitable for young children.)

   This is supposedly setting up future Justice League movies and other spinoffs, and that's fine - but let's hope, in those films, they put as much emphasis on the story as they do on the spectacle.

   And lighten up, Francis.

Grade: C+



Anonymous said...

Yup. That's right on target....

Dwayne said...

I think that's a little harsh. A solid B+. The dream sequences could be cut, but other than that, I think this movie moves forward at a nice clip.

Anonymous said...

When I leave the theater after Marvel movies I am smiling and in a good mood as I walk to my car. I replay in my head what a fun experience it was.

After BvS, I walk to my car grateful I don't have a loaded gun in the glove compartment, since I'm moody and borderline depressed. This flick, and MOS, are both so dark and non-uplifting. They could do so much more with these iconic, much-loved characters.

Next time I'll wait till the latest Snyder abomination is on TV for free.