Sloppy production and bad writing tarnish potentially intriguing premise
The last two decades have been a watershed moment in the history of comic book heroes. They have transitioned from the status of pre-pubescent pulp fiction to something worth paying attention to. Some of the most well-known superheroes are being reanimated by people who know how to handle them properly, such as Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon. So when it comes to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was expecting the film to be put in good hands. But of all the people who could have been chosen to direct this movie, DC really made a bad move when they hired Zack Snyder, who despite his smart treatment of Watchmen is more broadly known for flashy CG spectacle.
A little backstory: A few years after where Man of Steel left off, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is bitter after many he knew were killed in the destruction of Metropolis left behind by Superman (Henry Cavill). One thing leads to another and the two duke it out. The reason why they even fight is not clear—but don’t worry, that is the least of my trouble with this movie.
To be fair, however, the politics surrounding Superman are what stand out most about this movie. Earth’s partisan squabbles have been replaced by something bigger and more consequential—an exo-politics, so to speak. Superman is an issue which surpasses all others. His grip on the fate of humanity makes him the political issue. For some, he stands for everything they don’t like rolled into one super-menace. We see protestors wave signs at him that look eerily like those used by the Westboro Baptist Church. The providential weight of the questions Superman raises are Earth-shaking. It’s a shame that such an interesting look at the agency of superheroes was plopped in the middle of an otherwise-bad movie. Because beyond this point, it’s all downhill.
The general production of BvS is among the sloppiest I’ve seen for a superhero flick. It’s hard to explain, but there were so many little details in BvS that simply didn’t make sense, even for fiction. For instance, there is a scene near the beginning where Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) is sitting naked in a bathtub when Clark Kent arrives home and then jumps, fully-clothed, into the bathtub and kisses her while messily splashing water everywhere. In another scene, the camera cuts to a desert setting, and the screen reads, vaguely: “Africa.” These details might make for some minor gripes in smaller doses, but the sheer density of error in BvS testifies to general laziness on Snyder’s part.
The barrage of clumsy mistakes which litter this movie are exacerbated by often terrible dialogue, which typically exists solely for dishing out stupid one-liners. Much like The Avengers did for Marvel in 2012, BvS is intended to set up for a new Justice League franchise, so the introduction of new characters was expected. But we literally see one shot of every team member (except Wonder Woman, who is featured prominently). Forget shoehorning, this movie doles out cameos like a t-shirt gun at a high school pep rally. As for Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg was woefully miscast for this role, and not just because he has a full head of hair. I think Snyder was going for a Kylo Ren-esque vibe, but instead we get a villain who is so cringe-worthy and embarrassingly un-suave that I could not take him seriously.
The sheer diversity of ineptitude is important when reviewing BvS, because it goes to show just how big of a mess it is. Rather than making a movie which has enough craft to substantiate its subject matter, BvS deals immense disrespect to both a timeless franchise and a concept which fans have been eager to see for years. While Snyder showed promise in his previous superhero films, BvS reiterates his own stereotypes of pandering to people with oversaturated effects.
This may be the first nail in the coffin for DC, and I’m honestly ashamed that this classic canon was treated with so little tact and artistic direction. Honestly, Snyder: Think before you direct.