Despite the rather middle of the road reception to director Zack Snyder’s previous entry into this franchise, "Man of Steel," hopes were high for "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." After all, it’s Batman and Superman, the two most famous superheroes of all time, in the same movie. How do you screw that up?
Flash-forward to March 25th, 2016, the day "Batman v. Superman" was released. The Rotten Tomatoes score? A mere 30% positive. Suffice to say, the film wasn’t the groundbreaking smash hit the studio was hoping for. The Internet’s reaction has been deeply divided, with some deriding it as the worst thing to ever happen to comic book movies, and others claiming that those who hate it just don’t like it because it’s not a Marvel movie.
So, I walked into this movie somehow simultaneously expecting the best and the worst. What I got was neither—rather than loving it or hating it, I just thought that it was okay. There were parts that were really really good, and there were parts that were really really bad, and on the whole it just ended up being mediocre. When you’re making a movie called "Batman v. Superman," mediocre is probably not what you’re aiming for, but hey, it’s better than a complete and utter trainwreck, right?
For the most part (exceptions to be discussed later), the movie was well-acted. Jeremy Irons turned in a wonderful performance as Alfred, Henry Cavill did perfectly well as Superman, and pretty much all of the supporting cast did a great job. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot were considered controversial choices when it was first announced that they would play this movie universe’s version of Batman and Wonder Woman. Now that the movie has finally premiered, those performances are now being hailed as among the best parts of the movie. Ben Affleck nails the part of Bruce Wayne and is surprisingly effective as the Caped Crusader as well. His motivation is also the most sound—the opening of the film shows the ridiculously destructive final battle from "Man of Steel" from Bruce Wayne’s perspective, and it’s completely understandable why he would consider Superman a threat after witnessing the destruction and unintentional loss of human life that he caused. Wonder Woman, finally making her onscreen debut, was perhaps my favorite part of the entire movie in her brief appearances—Gal Gadot absolutely kills it, and managed to make me even more excited (if that was possible) for her upcoming solo film despite my lukewarm reaction to this movie.
The action is also extremely well done—well shot, well choreographed, and in many parts, simply badass. The Batman/Superman showdown (when it eventually arrives) was everything even the most diehard of fans could have hoped it would be. In fact, all of Batman’s fight scenes were a step up from what’s been seen in the past—I’m not kidding when I say 99% of the Batman stuff in this movie is legitimately great. More later on that remaining 1%.
While Batman/Bruce Wayne’s motivations were clearly spelled out and made perfect sense, the same cannot be said for either Superman or the film’s villain, Lex Luthor. Superman doesn’t like Batman, because….he’s a vigilante? Despite Superman being a vigilante himself? Lex Luthor wants them to fight each other, because...he has a superiority complex? It’s just not clear, and that murkiness stands out against the clear-cut reasoning behind Bruce Wayne’s motivations. Lois Lane, while well-acted by Amy Adams, also comes across as a character the writers simply didn’t know what to do with. She isn’t really given anything meaningful to do, and ultimately seems only to be there to act as Superman’s damsel in distress.
The finale is where the film takes a rather unfortunate downward turn—and no, I’m not referring to the actual Batman v. Superman fight, which as I stated above, was excellent. The film feels the need to shoehorn in another villain in the last 30-40 minutes: Doomsday, an abomination created by Lex Luthor to kill Superman. This entire section of the film feels like a contrived reason to get Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to team up, and as a result, ends up feeling like it belongs in an entirely different movie (like, perhaps, the upcoming Justice League movie?) It doesn’t help that it extends an already long movie—it was at this point that I started checking my watch—and ends up overshadowing the excitement from the awesome Batman v. Superman fight, a fight which one would think would be the climax of a movie called, y’know, "Batman v. Superman."
Jesse Eisenberg was flat-out cringeworthy for me as Lex Luthor. He didn’t come off as intimidating, diabolic, or even like a crazed maniac à la The Joker: his performance was, simply put, weird and at times incomprehensible. The unusual casting choices paid off for Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot, but not so much here.
While Batman was undoubtedly one of the shining lights in this movie, there was one choice that has already caught a lot of heat from fans, and for good reason—Batman straight up kills people in this movie. From his inception, Batman has always had a strict, no-kill policy, and to throw that out the window is a pretty bad decision, to put it mildly. There’s not even a reason given as to why Batman now kills, which makes this choice even more egregious—this is a movie that introduces a new villain over 2 hours in, we couldn’t have spared 2 minutes for Bruce Wayne and Alfred to have a conversation about this?
Also, I understand that these types of movies are pretty much required to set up the forthcoming movies in their franchises, and it was announced beforehand that Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash would have cameos. But did we really have to introduce them via an email that Wonder Woman receives? Really? An email?That's the best you could come up with? That's how you're going to introduce the rest of the Justice League?
All in all, Batman v. Superman is an enjoyable movie, but it’s mistakes are many and large, and in most cases, seem as if they would be easy to fix. And had they been fixed, this really could’ve been something great. While it may be a fun ride, in the end, the movie comes across as a rather unfortunate missed an opportunity.