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Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Whelp, I finally got to see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice...meh. While not not as bad as I thought it was going to be, it was still really bad. The basic plot being that Bruce Wayne becomes vengeful of Superman after many of his employees are killed in Zod's attack and Clark Kent becomes distrustful of Batman's vigilantism in Gotham City. Lex Luthor works behind the scenes to manipulate the two into fighting each other. Throw in Diana Prince/Wonder Woman sneaking around and Lois Lane investigating a mystery bullet fired during an encounter with Superman in the desert and you've pretty much got the movie. I'll focus on the good elements first though, namely Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and roughly the first 30 minutes. Despite the way their characters are written or lack thereof, and in Gadot's case, not being given much to do, Affleck's performance was fairly good as he had the right intensity and darkness needed for the role so I look forward to how he performs in the solo Batman film that he's directing in the future. Gal Gadot has a nice mysteriousness to her performance and a backstory that, judging from the footage shown so far, could be explored pretty nicely in her solo movie. I have mixed feelings about her theme song though in that when played with the images on screen a few times is rather catchy, but overall, a rock guitar theme just doesn't feel like it suits the character of Wonder Woman herself, to me anyway. A good chunk of the first 20-30 minutes are beautifully shot and surprisingly atmospheric such as the opening with Wayne's parents' deaths and the suspenseful chilling first appearance of Wayne as Batman and I wish the rest of the movie was like that. That's where all the bad stuff comes in, however. Despite being somewhat coherent, the story and script is an absolute mess. While having some fairly interesting ideas and concepts like heroes being led astray and questioning whether the power Superman has is a gift or danger to the public, the execution is very sloppily done, making Batman and Superman look very bad as characters, which I'll get to in a moment. Random moments happen in the film just so other random moments can happen later on, and appearances or mentions of other superheroes in the DC Universe pop up purely to set up their solo films and the Justice League movie later on, including an appearance in a dream within a dream that is never dwelled upon or referenced again. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, given nothing to do, comes off as a rather obnoxious rip off of Heath Ledger's Joker, having no rhyme or reason to his schemes, other than he's clearly insane. Amy Adams as Lois Lane, gives it her best shot, but her character does not need to be in this movie at all. Well known great actors like Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are all right in their assortment of roles but largely forgettable (Lane is the most successful at being memorable and emotionally resonant, giving me the only genuine laugh, when she first meets Batman, and the only genuine drama, in the film's stone cold bummer of an ending. What's worse is that I found myself either reflecting on earlier films that these actors had been in or earlier portrayals of these DC characters that I wished I was seeing instead like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, Silverado, and Open Range, Holly Hunter in The Incredibles, Jeremy Irons in The Lion King and Die Hard with a Vengeance, Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix, and Diane Lane in Chaplin and My Dog Skip (heck if you wanted to go with the leads, Affleck in Daredevil, Argo, and Good Will Hunting and Henry Cavell in last year;s Man from U.N.C.L.E.) For the DC portrayals, there's Jackie Cooper as Perry White, Gene Hackmen and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, and definitely Michael Cane and Michael Gough as Alfred in the Nolan and 90s Batman movies. Getting back on track (sorry about that), I come to my two or three biggest gripes with the movie, which are the way that the characters are portrayed, Zack Snyder's direction, and the set up of the DC Cinematic Universe. With the characters of Superman, Batman and even Wonder Woman a little bit, I get what the filmmakers were trying to do in making the heroes and their world modernly dark in that they are heroes led astray, worn down by failures and or mounting evil, but we never go clearly enough into their backstories, so we never get a full sense of why they are like this (even if you've seen Man of Steel!) As a result, Batman and Superman come off more as whiny, selfish,nihilistic cruel jerks/a-holes. Superman is even fine with being a "God" at certain points, clearing threatening that he might kill his opponent if they're not careful. But the only character that makes sense when they're talking about Superman, or at least the Superman that a lot of people have grown up with is a secondary character speaking through a news broadcast, saying "Maybe he's not a god or a demon. Maybe he's just a guy who's trying to do the right thing." And that's who Superman is and is supposed to be! If the filmmakers wanted to make darker versions of Superman and Batman, have them be as they originally were: strong, enduring, kind, loyal, and smart with strong values, and make their worlds around them as dark and complex as possible to test them. They have their quirks and weaknesses and weren't always trusting of each other but they respected each other and kept going. Sometimes they did lose their way or give up in despair but they always had something or someone to help them get back on their feet. That's what a true hero is and that's why Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and other heroes like Captain America and Spider-Man (Sorry DC Fanboys) have endured to myself and many other people since we were kids. They had values and codes that they always followed and never gave up. Next with Zack Snyder's direction, again, he does offer some great cinematography and moments of pure suspense and drama, as well as going in certain directions or doing certain things with the characters that are intriguing, but overall, I still think he is way better as a cinematographer than a director because in every single film I've seen of his, he's either hired bad screenwriters, fiddled too much with the screenwriting himself and clearly doesn't know how to tell a proper story, and or he cuts out too many important story and character details that would make things clearer in editing, so his films always end up feeling rather lacking or overbloated. (He even messes up the continuity between films as well with Man of Steel ending with everyone knowing that Clark Kent is Superman but in this movie, only Lois seems to know who he is. Not to mention portraying the characters in a way where the audience is expected to know what the characters or doing or are the way they are because it was in the comics (but that only die hard comic book fans would know) Finally, my last gripe is with how this film sets up the DC Cinematic Universe that's meant to come up in the next few years. I can see the filmmakers trying to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and be similar in structure with solo and group films but also different by making their films darker and doing the group event movies first followed by the solo movies, which is an interesting idea. However, while leaving certain details to be answered in the solo movies, not enough character and backstory was given to the characters here in this movie to engage me, make me care about them, or look forward to seeing them in future movies. Plus the others are randomly dropped in there to set up their movies and the Justice League movies too. While some of the future movies do look good and are written and directed by other filmmakers, like the Wonder Woman and Batman solo movies along with Suicide Squad, I won't hold my breath until I get to see them (If they're anything like Batman V Superman though, my hospitality for the DC Cinematic Universe will be pretty dried up (and this from a guy who loves both DC and Marvel!) I'll stay optimistic though. For the time being, I'll wait for Captain America: Civil War and watch the Nolan Batman and Christopher Reeves Superman movies again, all of which do have well rounded stories and characters you can become emotionally engaged with. If you're a die-hard fan though and you want to see your favorite DC hero on screen, talking and fighting, as well as references to popular DC stories,in the comics, I say go for it, but for everybody else, I definitely say skip it! Final Rating: 2.3 stars out of 5

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