Friday, March 25, 2016
Review: BATMAN V SUPERMAN
I do not own the above image. Copyright Warner Brothers/DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.
After the moderate success of 2013’s MAN OF STEEL, Warner Brothers thought it was best to combine their entire comic book catalogue into one movie, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, in order to keep up with rival Marvel/Disney. This also allowed WB to relaunch the Batman franchise with relative ease. The move was also seen an overreaction to the success of THE AVENGERS. Did the move work? Not really.
My theory behind my positive reaction to MAN OF STEEL was the belief that producer Christopher Nolan held Zack Snyder back from doing frenetic camera movements & extreme close-ups all the time. With Nolan no longer over Snyder’s shoulder most days, I feared BvS would allow Snyder go back to his usual self. My worst fears were realized in the second scene of the movie where the destruction of Metropolis is shown from Bruce Wayne’s view on the ground. Every shot, from Bruce weaving in & out of traffic to the quiet moment at the end, is shot in a way where the camera appears to be moving in four dimensions. I’ve ridden roller coasters at Cedar Point that made me less nauseous. Snyder also uses the darkest color scheme possible for the majority of BvS but when it comes to the numerous explosions, he uses the brightest yellow he can find. I’ve never squinted more during a movie in my life. Later on, there’s a car chase where over half the shots are extreme close-ups, most of which are of Batman inside the Batmobile. In fact, I don’t believe the whole Batmobile is shown in a single frame. Why build these gadgets, which the fanbase loves as much as the character of Batman himself, if you aren’t going to show them?
I found myself asking, “what is the difference between Snyder & fellow schlockmeister Michael Bay?” The scripts they work with. Chris Terrio (ARGO) and David S. Goyer (DARK KNIGHT trilogy) are given the unenviable task of creating a screenplay that not only contains what seems to be more than two movies worth material required to move this franchise up to where Marvel has The Avengers but to also organize it in such a way that is a half step above understandable. Unfortunately, not even a master screenwriter like Charlie Kaufmann could crunch two 110 minute movies worth of material cohesively into a 155 minute movie while making room for those audience pleasing action scenes. Terrio and Goyer have to take so many short cuts during the first hour & a half that the reveals & Easter eggs are cheapened & ineffective. Once the bloated foundation is laid down as flat as it possibly can, however, the movie slowly begins to work until the third act finally gives us that battle we’ve been promised. And those final 40 minutes, other than one last stupid rescue moment, are what the whole movie should have been: fluid & alive.
Each of the actors is at least acceptable in their roles. Henry Cavill still works well as Superman, juggling with his nobility while showing that unhinged rage when necessary efficiently. He does, however, get his butt handed to him when his Clark Kent goes mano-a-mano with Amy Adams as his perennial damsel-in-distress Lois Lane. In their first scene together, Snyder shows his borderline misogynist side by having it performed with Adams naked with little soap in the bathtub; a scene which, as I pointed out to my wife as soon as it ended, was much better portrayed in shoulda/woulda/coulda been Batman helmer Darren Aronosky’s THE FOUNTAIN ten years ago.
Skeptics can breathe easy as Ben Affleck is almost perfect as Bruce Wayne & is effective as the Dark Knight himself. Affleck incorporates the perfect amount of suaveness to Wayne & is a very imposing figure as Batman. But he too is out-staged by a figure close to him. Jeremy Irons makes it appear that he was born to play Alfred. But what else would you expect from the classically trained Oscar winner? Gal Gadot is also perfect as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, proving once again that she was one of the few brightspots of the FAST & FURIOUS franchise.
But the highlight of the movie has got to be Jesse Eisenburg. I’ll let you catch your breath for a moment before you keep reading. Just hear me out: I do agree with the consensus that his character’s motivations are foggy at best. But Eisenburg as Lex Luthor is that single daisy growing in the charred field that is the first half of BvS. He is over-the-top but in a partially restrained fashion that worked for me & keeps to movie chugging along until the story is strong enough to take over.
As wonderful as the cast & the third act are, the rest is the polar opposite. Overstuffed & incoherent for much of its runtime, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE falls into the trap that the Marvel Cinematic Universe falls into as of late: setting up future projects while sacrificing a tight, cohesive product presently on-screen.