Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Like many of you other comic book fans, superhero nerds and "You da bomb in Phantoms, yo!" enthusiasts, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" was finally supposed to be DC's answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Zack Synder is back directing and is aiming to set up DC's Justice League in the coming years. Henry Cavill, who I thought was alright in that film that was "Man of Steel" a few years ago, Ben Affleck aka new Batman, Jesse Eisenberg as "Mark Zuckerberg" Luthor and Gal "I don't look Amazonian, but I'm Wonder Woman" Gadot are the four leads in this. Though you could totally see that Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, has more story and screen-time than her. Unfortunately for Synder, his track record is far from perfect and concerns that have been building as the trailers and tidbits have been filtering in are founded in a lot of places in this film. Nonetheless Warner Brothers have staked a lot in this build towards the Justice League. It's just too bad that what could've amounted to a great story, with meaningful characters and cool action, is turned into a bleak, dark decent into the egos and tragic backstories that overtake everything else in the film.

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" takes place in the aftermath of the General Zod and Superman (Cavill) battle in Metropolis at the end of "Man of Steel." Bruce Wanye (Affleck) is trying to get to Wanye Tower during the fight and watches and Metropolis is torn apart. Fast forward a year and a half and the world is either embracing Superman as a god that will save them or wondering if he will turn on them. Wanye is on the side that blames Superman for killing the thousands of lives. Tech mogul Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) is also under the same mindset, asking the supreme court to use newly found Kryptonite to have an ace in the hole. What follows is a cat and mouse game between Superman battling with his own identity on earth, Lex Luthor plotting a grand scheme and Batman fighting past his inner demons to take down a planet-wide threat. With Wonder Woman lurking in the background, the world will be forever changed after this battle is over.

This film goes by quickly and it's two and a half hours. Much of the first half of the film we're jumping around from location to location at blazing speeds like we're looking at different paintings while on a bullet train. Metropolis, Gotham, the desert, old Wayne Manor, along with flashbacks, dreams, phantoms and time bending. A lot of things happen, and it's though to keep an idea of where we are in the film at a given moment. It's like a machine gun of locations and scenes that could use major editing if an eventual extended cut is released, because watching this film could be pretty confusing at times. To go along with this blitz of scenery, we get a bland and similar character portrait of four characters. Lois Lane, who is eternal damsel in distress plot device and used a bait throughout the entirety of the film. Lex Luthor, who is more psychotic and unhinged, than I thought he'd be. Almost Joker-like at times for some reason. Superman, who is now earth's tangible god, is struggling over whether or not being a god is helping or hurting humanity. Batman, who is well, Batman. All of this makes for an incredibly bleak film that's very dark from start to finish. There's not much that the actors could've done with what they were given as everyone was as good as they were going to be all things considered. Ben Affleck is a great Batman and was the standout of the film for sure There's a few spots that will make you smile, but as a whole the tone is very grim and I really wasn't expecting it to be this downer. Either way the writing of these characters and the overall story is such a bad way to deal with everything that it brings up. Wonder Woman is around too, but we only get a glimpse into her powers and style. What we do see is pretty bad-ass desipte me not being totally down with her look. They shoehorned, into the middle of the film I kid you not, a scene where she looks at .AVI's of the upcoming Justice League cast (Flash. Aquaman and Cyborg). It was such a jarring, unsubtle and unnecessary scene, I wonder why it was included in the middle of the film. Take a cue from your successful rivals and be more subtle with your self promotion.

Most notably "Batman v Superman" brings up the idea of God, having a god, hating god or not believing in a god altogether. Not only that, if this god were real and in front of us, do (or can we) control him. Superman is now this earth's god. Saving people in dire need and keeping a semblance of peace seemingly anywhere in the world. The, of course, United States government is the lead on possibly corralling Superman. But it's never fleshed out as more than an outspoken senator trying to get Superman to come before the court. For a bit, we're shown what Superman has done in the 18 months since the first film. At times we're shown him saving a woman in a crowd of worshipers, while in others there's a huge crowd aiming to have his head. But this is all it ever amounts to. Batman tries to keep the "idea" alive, but as the film moves along it becomes less about this big world changing man and more and more about the plot moving forward and the bad guys being triumphed over. You could argue the slow ending after the final climactic battle brings the idea full circle, but if it hadn't been forgotten amidst the CGI beat down before the closing moments would have felt better than it did. I certainly don't think Superman, or one overall god, would be the man who unites the world into one kumbaya either. Though that idea is nice, I'd rather not have religious wars and attacks, I don't think one man alone will ever untie the world in a perfect way like this. All this is muddied because of the backstories and inner turmoil of Superman and Batman seeping into everything, so it's all a moot point anyway.

All in all "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" is a long film that feels completely rushed, has bland characters and only alright CGI. Even Affleck and the Wonder Woman dive in couldn't help a lot of this. The dark tone is at times overwhelming and the choices for the characters personalities is odd at best. I thought the drama build amidst all of this was good and if the character insight and development was better, it could've be great. The action, when it does ramp up near the end is pretty fun, though I wish they had chosen one iconic story instead of mashing two (The Dark Knight and The Death of Superman) into this film. Can we get Snyder away from superheros too, he peaked at "The Watchmen." I'm not sure if I actually liked the film yet, but I know for sure I didn't hate it. There's good things and a lot of missteps that people will no doubt harp on relentlessly. This is probably worthy of the hate it's getting, but that doesn't mean that it's that bad. This is a dark toned film with iconic characters and alright action. Let's just hope the rest of the build to Justice League isn't this middle of the road. 

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