Yawn of Justice: A sloppily executed disaster

Zack Snyder

Chris Terrio&David Goyer

Movie Review
BATMAN v SUPERMAN - Dawn of Justice: DCEU’S Death Sentence Wrapped in a Bow



Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer


Let’s just establish this from the outset: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a spectacular disaster. Inspired by but not based on two of DC Comics’ most iconic story arcs (Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns series among them), director Zack Snyder has done to BvS what a mammoth iceberg did to the RMS Titanic – He sank the unsinkable.

Viewers and critics alike had hoped earnestly that the Watchmen director would redeem himself in this follow-up to 2013’s controversially received Man of Steel. Instead, Snyder took a surefire formula for success – the first live-action film in the history of Hollywood to feature both Batman and Superman, among others – and ran it through the ground like hell on wheels.

Written by Chris Terrio and David Goyer, BvS is the second installment in a planned series under DC’s Extended Universe (DCEU). The film fails primarily due to its impatient rush to compete with a matured Marvel Cinematic Universe, resulting in a clumsy effort to squeeze multiple characters and storylines into one single film.

Following a visually striking yet overly slow-motioned sequence (Larry Fong) that summarizes Bruce Wayne’s origin story to the combined soundscape of Hans Zimmer’s blaring orchestra and Ben Affleck’s mumbled narration, BvS’s lead-in scene is a direct continuation to the events of Man of Steel.

Batman/Wayne (Affleck) arrives in a chaotic Metropolis amidst Superman’s struggle against General Zod. Anguished by his inability to rescue civilians from the devastation that ensues, Wayne’s silent rage is undeniable. Unfortunately, that’s about all we receive from him in terms of emotional depth. In fact, the most one can hope to draw from Affleck are a couple of heated grunts and popping veins while he performs a series of pull-ups and confusing sledgehammer-against-tyre workouts in sweaty preparation to defeat an indestructible, godlike being. Despite his shortcomings as a nuanced Bruce Wayne, however, he produces an effective Caped Crusader through an older, slightly wearied, but very determined Batman.

A stiff Henry Cavill (Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent) continues to portray this 1930s-reminiscent Man of Steel reasonably well, easily metamorphosing from chiseled, likable, principled superhero archetype to chiseled, sullen, jaw-clenching alien in this paper-thin adaptation.

With Superman’s shockingly negligent actions having resulted in widespread destruction, Batman overreacts rather bizarrely and vows to outright murder the Kryptonian, spouting hilariously exaggerated lines that will leave you scratching your head, wondering whether to laugh or to cry (“If we believe there’s even a 1% chance that he is our enemy, then we have to take it as an absolute certainty!”)

If Cavill and Affleck fail to deliver convincing interpretations of their characters, it’s mostly because the script rarely permits them to do so. Terrio/Goyer have turned what could have been one of the greatest action films of this generation into an incoherent, disconnected, 153-minute pouting battle, leaving little room for actors to exhibit depth.

While Broody McBat and Scowly McSupes hurl themselves into a hellhole of passive-aggressive WWE-esque dialogue, audiences endure gratuitous Diana Prince/Wonder Woman fillers (Gal Gadot), headache-inducing Lex Luthor monologues (Jesse Eisenberg), thematic inconsistencies, barefaced product placement, disjointed plotlines, sluggish action scenes, and lazily inflated Justice League references that irk rather than excite, until we are finally hit with what is – drumroll, please! – the most underwhelming gladiator match in the history of the world. That’s right: Batman v Superman falls short of the one thing it promises to do.

A silver lining surfaces – briefly – with Wonder Woman completing the Trinity in full armour. While Gadot appears to have been haphazardly placed in hurried attempts to set the DCEU for future films – not to mention the obvious objectification – it’s only towards the end of the film that she finally shines. Until that defining, heavily CGI-infused moment (Shaun Friedberg), however, Gadot’s pale and petite Prince is as dull as Affleck’s Daredevil, while her speech is miles away from mythical Amazonian or practiced American, making this casting choice a questionable one until future installments can prove otherwise.

Jesse Eisenberg confounds viewers in his portrayal of Superman’s megalomaniacal archenemy. In an evident effort to mimic Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Eisenberg ends up as a cringe-worthy combination of South Park’s Tweek and The Social Network’s Zuckerberg on cocaine.

One really begins to wonder why Nolan, as executive-producer on BvS, wasn’t able to stop this trainwreck from the outset. It wasn’t just the flat performances, contrived stunt sequences (Tim Rigby), utterly misguided casting (Jo-Edna Boldin), or unrefined editing (David Brenner) that hurt this film – it was doomed from the beginning with its disconnected screenplay, and not even Michael Wilkinson’s mostly sincere (though sometimes questionable) costume designs or the next-gen Batwing/Batmobile (Patrick Tatopoulos) could distract us from it. Hair and makeup (Stephanie Arble/Kristin Berge) are vastly different to original material, though whether this holds any storytelling motive still remains to be seen.

Superman constants such as Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Martha Kent (Diane Lane), and a spirited Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) return: Adams translates this sequel’s ambitious Pulitzer Prize-winner into an uninteresting, exasperatingly over-involved damsel-in-distress, while Lane’s Martha is warm and memorable.
Senator Finch’s (Holly Hunter) “unilateral” condemnations are repetitive yet somehow more engaging than our surly protagonists, and Jeremy Irons’ enlivened articulation of Alfred Pennyworth is refreshing.

While corny one-liners wouldn’t seem entirely misplaced in a superhero flick, with Terrio/Goyer’s repeated attempts to reinforce the ‘God versus Man’ motif through multiple references to classical mythology and religion, and, well, saying the words “God versus Man” over and over again, it must be understood that there is no place for cheesy dialogue in a screenplay that tries so hard to establish itself as hard-hitting and gritty. In fact, it is the creators’ own insistence at wanting to set themselves apart from Marvel’s colourful characters and Nolan’s accomplishment with ‘dark’ and ‘somber’ that sets this film up for failure.

Whether you’re a comic-book loyalist or casual movie-goer jumping on the superhero-bandwagon, this film will generate mixed emotions. One thing is for certain, though: Stan Lee can rest easy, because this DCEU ship has sunk before it even sailed.

   Tina Mohandas

Tina Mohandas is a songwriter, musician, tattoo artist, vintage motorcycle collector, and animal rights activist. Having conducted several successful events in London, she is the founder of Inferno Events in India, and co-founder of Bikerhood India. Currently writing her debut fantasy/sci-fi novel, she hopes one day to free every caged animal in the world.. .

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