When I attend a movie screening, I go in as a writer, but also a fan of movies. I take with me a notebook even though the theater is often too dark to write anything legible. Notes are taken throughout the entire movie so I can write a review that will not only entertain you, but help you decide if you want to spend $13 on a movie ticket. Tonight, the notes for my Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice review left me confused trying to decide if Zack Snyder's version of two emotionally conflicted heroes at war was a disappointment or a success.
Batman v. Superman: Enough To Hold It All Together?
I've felt since the beginning when the movie and cast were announced that you just can't take an actor with 20+ years of baggage, both in his public life and in movies, and turn him into Batman. It's too big a role, and every time Batman is on screen, I thought to myself: "Oh, there is Ben Affleck pretending to be Batman. When he's finished, let's ask him how Matt Damon is doing." It's not to say he didn't do a good job in the role, except that he didn't. Coming off as robotic and angry rather that heroic left me expecting more.
Affleck's Bruce Wayne, portrayed primarily as sad and self righteous, was more believable. Wayne's interactions with Jeremy Iron's Alfred, the comedy relief in this broken heroes tale, help soften the character. We're reminded Bruce is an orphan left with a broken heart. His need to right Gotham's every wrong is how he copes with pain. After 30+ years, it's unlikely Bruce will settle down and take his own happiness into consideration. Affleck does a good job evoking this.
While in Africa chasing a story, Lois Lane is, as usual, in the face of danger, and Superman must come to her rescue. After doing so, he is accused of putting the Nairobi village at great risk and harming innocent people. There is some truth to the story, but it certainly isn't air tight. He has become accustomed to such finger pointing and tells Lois that the woman he loved was in danger, and he was able to save her life. This, in his opinion, is justification for his actions. Now the question is asked if Clark Kent can be in love and still act as Superman?
Amy Adams' Lois Lane was boring this time around. Snyder's direction caused her to play the "strong woman with a drive for answers above all else" act, which depleted her character's ability to show warmth and humanity when it was needed most.
An indignant Superman is the way Henry Cavill chose to portray the character throughout the majority of the movie. He attempts to follow the rules and laws of this planet until they hinder him from performing what he believes is his duty. Unfortunately, there are millions who are challenging him on this very issue. The main theme in Batman v. Superman is "Is Superman a god among men?" "Can Superman claim destruction in the name of protection?" "Can you be all powerful and all good?"
Alter ego Clark Kent comes off as a desperate journalist trying hard to prove Superman is doing the right thing. Sadly, the people around Clark have heard enough of his Superman justification, and his reporting on the topic has been called puff by Bruce Wayne. While this would be exasperating Cavill's performance left us wanting more.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is feisty, fun and powerful. Diana Prince is well aware of her alter ego, but handles the secret with great care. Her short, but curious, interaction with Bruce Wayne is enough to reintroduce her magical sword to battle after a long time in hiding. Gadot's Wonder Woman is nothing like the version we watched as children. Her limited screen time doesn't offer much chance for criticism, but in my opinion, she was on point. Finally, another female superhero you'll be proud to know.
Villains: A Necessary Evil In A Movie Lacking Strong Heroes
And let's not forget the movie's villains. Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg, has found a large amount of Kryptonite. His plan is to create a weapon to be used against Superman and those who could come from Krypton to do us harm, like General Zod's small army had done in Man of Steel.
In a scene where he chats with senators about his plan, Senator Finch, played by Holly Hunter, comments "for Homeland security?" to which he answers "No. For planetary security." The Kryptonite plot only thickens as Luthor is granted access to top secret information and locations where no evil genius should be poking around.
Jesse Eisenburg's Lex Luthor stole the show. His mumbly, stuttering, tic-filled demeanor gave us a look into the intricacy that is Luthor's sick mind. Eisenburg's ability to make you uncomfortable each time he fills the screen means he's doing his job and doing it well.
I've gone on and on about Callan Mulvey's role in Dawn of Justice. It was confirmed over a week ago he'd be playing Anatoli Knyazev, a Russian villain, but not much else was released. Even after a year of secrecy, we would still have to wait until the movie was released.
Luckily, we get a big helping of Knyazev soon after the movie begins. He has numerous appearances throughout the film in one form or another, and in each scene, Mulvey delivers just the right amount of nefariousness. I was pleased to see him get the amount of screen time he did. I feared his character would be fleeting and that wasn't the case.
Doomsday is an unwelcome surprise at the end of the film. I don't mean unwelcome as the super heroes are upset to see him, but that the character lacks any ability to interest us. He was created with the body of General Zod and the blood of Lex Luthor, which is confusing even as Luthor rants on explaining it to Superman. He grows inside a pod and into a gigantic hideous monster that is nearly impossible to kill. The problem is he's a one-dimensional CGI creation. He is but a vicious dog unleashed to create havoc and bring together the movie's heroes. Still, it would have been helpful if we'd been given a few minutes to know him before he began ripping up the city. He is the villain in the final battle, but really offers nothing to the film.
The fight scenes are disappointing due to Zack Snyder's inability to create an action-packed, grandiose battle that comes across as at all believable. Although CGI distracts from the characters fighting the battle the good news is you probably won't care since it's still spectacular.
Although there is a lot to say about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice that is "A+" material, it's still a fun movie that holds your interest. Another plus is Batman v. Superman is kid friendly. There is no sex, the violence is flashier than it is bloody or even upsetting and foul language isn't out of control if there is any at all.
Spend the $13 on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice because it will entertain you. Just don't expect to walk away with much else.