Sunday, 27 March 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

With the world now fully aware of Superman's (Henry Cavill) existence, people are split on whether this alien is a hero or a problem. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is one such person who resents the Man of Steel and he sets out on his plan to take him down. Meanwhile, there's all sorts of stuff to with dream sequences, premonitions, meta-humans, multiverses, dead and naked Michael Shannon, and so on, all trying to set up future films and add needless complexities to something that has yet to even establish itself properly. Good luck trying to get any of it if you're completely unfamiliar with the comics.

So... Warner Bros. have finally put a live action Justice League into motion with this face off between Batman and Superman. And you think it is too late in the process for it to stop know, regardless of how it is received and performs.

It seems that my own opinion does align with a lot of the other opinions I've come across, which is that the film, on the whole, is an incoherent mess plot-wise that doesn't provide much in the way of fun and ultimately winds up being quite dull. I can't say that's a surprise. That's practically on par with the other Zack Snyder films. He's just not capable of making things look compelling on a narrative or character level.

However, the film isn't completely hopeless. It has bits and pieces that are either interesting or well-done. So I figured it would be best to tackle this film by splitting it up into the good and bad to look at them separately. Which isn't hard considering how the film struggles to make itself look like anythign more than a series of bits.

The Good:
This was one of the parts of the film that concerned people the most prior to release. And, for anyone who has seen Ben Affleck's attempt at superheroes before ('Daredevil'), it's not hard to see why. Fortunately, what we see of the character here looks good. Affleck doesn't embarrass himself and Batman is presented being enjoyably brutal. It did make me wish I was watching this Batman's solo film as he psychotically goes around branding, breaking, and killing those he doesn't like. The downside is that the film tries to get the title characters to fight yet, by forcing that to happen, Batman does look like an idiot in a way that didn't fit. An additional plus to this Batman is Jeremy Irons' Alfred, who sadly gets sidelined for much of the film. But hey, that's how most of the characters get treated here.

Wonder Woman
Finally! Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gets her big screen appearance and, despite very limited screen time, does enough make it look like her solo outing good be fun. Indeed, this Turkish Airlines-loving heroine got a big cheer from the audience when she pops up in full gear to battle Doomsday at the end (I'm not ruining anything there - it's all in the trailer). Her presence also coincided with the small bits of the film where there was a slight sense of fun creeping in. Sadly, the film didn't build on this (it goes back to being oh-so-serious). Still, things look promising for the Amazonian and I hope it works out.

The Visuals
This was the part of the film that wasn't in any doubt. Snyder may struggle to make his films compelling, but he often has little trouble making them look good. And I did think that a lot of 'BvS' stuck to that. While I wouldn't say I was fond of the overuse of CGI (more on that later), it did look like the source material it was adapting and there were a variety of designs and details that were nice to see. That said, there were times where the looked a bit too murky.

Certain Scenes and Details
This is a harder one to mention as I don't want to give away the parts of the film that don't appear in the marketing material. But I will mention that 'BvS' does offer the odd scene or detail that works. The downside to this being that these hint at a much better film that could have been. The other issue is that the runtime is around 150 minutes, so far more of these scenes would have been needed to offset such a bitter taste at the end.

The Bad:
Lex Luthor
It was a bizarre casting choice from the start, but I thought I'd not judge it until I saw the final product. Sadly, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor is a disaster, save for one or two miniscule moments. Here, he's basically played as every other Eisenberg character. More-or-less. You might think you'd walked into some weird sequel to 'The Social Network'. Now I'm not fussed if the film-makers want to provide an alternate take on the character. What I do want to see is a character that makes sense, and nothing about this Lex Luthor does. And a lot of that ties into...

The Plot
It's cripplingly poor. Very little makes sense. Much less if you have no grasp of any of the comic books referenced here. I'm familiar with some of the Batman stuff (I read some from time to time) but the wider DC Universe is beyond me (the only Superman I'm familiar with is 'Red Son', and that's completely unrelated to what goes on here as it is more a 'what if' than anything else). Generally. I do recognise various names and such (and I did recognise the part of the film that looked like the 'Injustice' storyline, though I don't know anything about Darkseid other than he's the DC version of Marvel's Galactus).

The film is so busy trying to cram as much as it can into the film without ever really explaining any of it that it forgets to let any of it develop. Whereas Marvel took a few years to establish various characters and their universe in solo films before combining them, this rushes straight into teaming people up while using up key storylines presumably too soon into the process (it would be like if 'The Avengers' did 'Civil War' right after the first 'Iron Man' film). Things are crammed together, with many elements shoehorned in for the sake of setting up future films. The most grating of which are the silly reveals of the likes of Aquaman.

At the end of the day, the film clunkily forces its way to what it wants (including the titular event) but never earns any of it. It also makes the teaming up of what are arguably the three most iconic comic book characters feel far less unique than it should be. It's more of a shrug.

Character Development/Motivation
Again, this ties closely to the plot, so I'll keep it short. Basically, what people do and say isn't the most logical. Why is Luthor doing that (as already touched on)? Why is Batman doing that? Why is anyone doing any of this? Because they must fight, that is why.

Nor does the film spend time tryign to establish these characters. We're given little reason to care about any of it and Superman is still a personality vacuum. There are moments where it might be trying, but not nearly enough as it would rather just return to the noise of action. Speaking of which...

The Noise
This is where the film seems happiest with itself. Big, loud, CGI-heavy action sequences. Which would be more bearable if we were given reason to care. But we're not. Making matters worse is the presence of the Nolan Batman films in my mind and how much better and more convincing those action scenes were. These just came across as messy, murky blurs of fire or buildings smashing.

The Fun, or Lack Of
To me, this is probably the most important part. I could probably live through all the other failings of the film had it got this one thing right. Going back to the Marvel films, they're not perfect. Indeed, I quite enjoy the 'Thor' films but they have plenty of problems. The difference is that I enjoy watching them. Which is something I can't say of this. This is just dour, save for one or two brief moments. And none of this was helped by the idiots in the row behind me constantly kicking (or leaning their feet on) the back of my seat for the duration of the film.

The Overall Opinion:
Well, as established in the early part of the review, 'BvS' is "an incoherent mess plot-wise that doesn't provide much in the way of fun and ultimately winds up being quite dull". It's really just noise drowning out components of a more compelling film (or collection of films) in its rush to try and catch up with what Marvel have done.

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