Welcome back to Movie Therapy. Catch up with the concept in our first three columns on The Last Jedi, Rogue One, Blade Runner 2049, and Alien: Covenant. This week, we’re tackling our first comic book movie, and I figured we’d start with the one that has divided people the most over the last few years: Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
How to explain the whirling, swirling vortex that is the career of Zack Snyder? There’s no way to do it adequately, other than to say he makes movies almost exclusively for 14 year old boys, full of musclebound dudes, busty babes, cool editing tricks, and a non-stop barrage of special effects to take over when he’s exhausted his storytelling potential. The film of his I actually admire the most is Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, because he was at least trying for something different and succeeding. One thing you can always count on with Snyder is that he’s consistent. You can feel him really trying his best to give the fanboys the greatest possible experience, often at the expense of the characters those fanboys came to see in action.
This is where Snyder often can’t maintain his footing, and it’s on display throughout Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The thing of it is, this film is far from unwatchable, especially if you, like me, have accepted Snyder’s limitations as a filmmaker before walking into the theater nearly two years ago. Man of Steel was such a colossal disappointment, not least of all because Snyder chose to focus on grounding Superman in this world that didn’t seem to want his help, that my expectations couldn’t help but bottom themselves out before entering the theater. And here’s the strange thing… I enjoyed watching it. It’s a really, really, really, really stupid movie. Really stupid. But I don’t regret watching it.
Ben Affleck manages, for the first time in a long time, to be the best thing about a seriously troubled movie. He clearly spent time with his Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio crafting and reshaping his scenes for maximum impact. They don’t all land, but his rapport with the fantastic Jeremy Irons is the highlight of the film. Henry Cavill does what Snyder and Goyer require of their Superman, which will certainly be a letdown for many, but I find him to be more a victim of lackluster writing and directing than a bad actor. Gal Gadot kills it in her handful of scenes, nicely setting up the character and making her the most interesting person in any room in which she finds herself.
I get the feeling that Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor will be dissected and post-mortemed for years to come, but I can’t help but wonder what anyone was thinking when they cast him. I think they were attempting to go the Mark Zuckerberg route with the casting, but Eisenberg didn’t want to play ball and kept doing all kinds of weird shit with the character. Here’s what I’ll say, I’m glad they established that this was Alexander Luthor, a character whose reputation isn’t exactly what I would call sterling, but I’m willing to bet they backtrack like hell on this character, especially if their plans to do an Injustice League carry forward.
Another major problem I have is the treatment of every other major female character besides Wonder Woman. Finding out that Lois Lane’s mission at the beginning of the film was set up by Luthor way in advance is proof enough that the gritty and determined reporter isn’t as gritty and determined as she seemed to think she was. I will say, however, that my favorite Jesse Eisenberg moment was his “The fastest road to Superman is Lois Lane” bit was my favorite moment of his, even though it borrowed heavily from Heath Ledger’s “Poor choice of words” Dark Knight moment. However, I’ll be the first to admit that it comes at the expense of damsel-in-distressing the character.
Diane Lane, despite getting the biggest genuine laugh out of me in the entire film, doesn’t fare any better. Apart from her “you don’t owe these people anything” speech, the only other thing she had to do was pose for some disturbing Polaroids with a gag in her mouth. And Holly Hunter literally drinks piss in this movie. Don’t get me wrong, she’s going for the gold medal in the “I Couldn’t Care Less About this Movie” category, but still. She’s got an Oscar, guys. Come on.
I’ve basically exhausted my praise for Batman v Superman at this point, simply to say that virtually everything else about the film just doesn’t work. It’s a catastrophic mess of ideas and conflicting viewpoints, all of which dissolves into a cacophony of noise in its final hour, but none of which I found disengaging. Please know that I’m not ignoring this film’s many, many, many problems. I’m simply saying that for a film for which I had very little hope, I found it to be an entertaining, mostly engaging flick that didn’t bore me while I was watching it. It’s not the rave of the century, but it’s much better than its reputation suggests.
What do you guys think? Is there enough good in this film to say it should be salvaged or do you just want them to chuck the whole DCEU setup at this point and just focus on standalone adventures and team-ups? Are you, for whatever reason, a superfan of this film? Let me know why, I genuinely want to hear from you! Let’s have a civil discussion below, if such things are possible!
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