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April 23, 2024

Batman v Superman: Dawn of mediocrity

By TIM FREBORG | March 31, 2016


sue lukenbaugh/cc-by-SA-2.0 Henry Cavill renews his role as Superman in the follow-up to his previous film Man of Steel (2013).

However, to say that reception for the film’s production has been mixed would be an understatement. From seemingly odd casting decisions to character and plot oversaturation to accusations of DC trying to shamelessly copy the Marvel formula, suffice it to say, audiences, particularly longtime fans, seemed to be on the fence prior to the film’s release.

It’s easy to see why. Trying to juggle a huge number of pop culture juggernauts, Batman v Superman is an ambitious film, to say the least.

For better or worse, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are so widely recognized and understood they can easily be considered modern cultural icons. Of course Snyder’s newest film was going to be contending with high expectations, preconceived notions and wariness. The question is how well the film copes with this precarious position.

Well, it doesn’t completely crash and burn, although that’s really all that can be said.

The film opens with a brief recap of the final, city-shattering battle from the conclusion of Man of Steel, albeit from a somewhat different perspective. It then cuts to more than a year later when the world still hasn’t fully come to terms with what it means for a being like Superman (Henry Cavill) to walk among people.

Some view him as an alien menace, deserving of expulsion, while others see him as a savior, a hero or even godlike. In the former group are Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), owner of Waynecorp and secretly the masked vigilante Batman, and Alexander Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), owner of Lexcorp who seeks to use salvaged Kryptonian technology for his own purposes.

The situation between the two heroes rapidly deteriorates as Luthor’s data and actions drive the pair to blows. Yet, even as they fight, an even greater threat looms on the horizon, one that may take more than the Man of Steel or the Caped Crusader to confront.

Plot-wise, the film is very formulaic and exactly what one might expect from a film in which two well-known heroes come to blows.

Ideological differences and clever manipulation force their hands, and they fight before the real threat reveals itself. The film is even so bold as to tell the majority of the story in its trailer. At the very least, audiences will know what to expect.

To start off on the positives of the film, it does admittedly have some of the best choreographed cinematic action sequences I have ever seen. From its titular fight to all the other conflicts scattered throughout, every scene where the film’s heroes are doing what they do best is expertly crafted.

Every thrown punch, obliterating laser and rev of an engine packs a high-octane punch sure to get the audience’s hearts racing with excitement. In fact, viewed solely as an action movie with superhero fights, explosions and all that good stuff, the film holds up astoundingly well. Of course, we would expect nothing less from the director of 300. In these instances, the action stands at the forefront while a simplistic story serves more as the backdrop and can be relatively forgivable.

However, Snyder has eschewed such ideas of a simple story for one that is instead dark, extremely rushed and more overcomplicated than it has any right to be.

Despite having a solid foundation to build on from Man of Steel, Batman v Superman unfortunately introduces so many new characters and plot points that none of them is given nearly enough time to incubate.

Character motivations are established at a breakneck pace (assuming they are at all), making them feel flimsy at best and nonexistent at worst. Characters react in out-of-character ways, clearly for the sake of inciting more drama and ushering in a new action sequence.

Furthermore, from a character standpoint, there is a huge inequality among the cast in terms of character portrayal and development.

Some characters like the titular Batman are given an impressive amount of screen time yet very little in the way of growth or meaningful development (although admittedly, with a performance as impressive as it is frightening, Affleck plays the Dark Knight to perfection). Other characters like Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman are criminally underutilized. Her case is especially egregious because her character and performance are definitely the breakout moments of the film.

Unfortunately this problem of underdevelopment never really lets up, even in the film’s third act. I can safely say the ending of this film, while necessary to an extent, is an absolute waste from a storytelling perspective. So many interesting and excellent developments simply fly in and fly right back out, making for a highly unsatisfying conclusion.

That really is Batman v Superman’s biggest flaw: so many good ideas, interesting twists and developmental possibilities are thrown into the mix but simply tossed aside. No matter how good the fights are or how interesting the characters may or may not be, the fact remains it is left to be a film with an impressive amount of flash but very little real substance.

While its flash and expertly crafted high-octane action definitely make it an enjoyable film, I cannot in good conscience call it a good movie.

So, while I can recommend giving Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a watch, I cannot give it a seal of quality. Perhaps it is the film we deserve but not the one we need.

Overall Rating: 4/10

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