Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ‘Spoiler Free’ Review – Zero Punching Power

After the success of 2013’s Man of Steel, DC and WB began an aggressive plan to roll out the Justice League in film form and compete with Marvel Studios the way they compete with Marvel Comics. This plan includes rolling out solo outings for each hero as well as a Justice League film itself. But it was going to kick off by drawing on the iconic Dark Knight Returns and forming what would become known as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The mouthful of a title notwithstanding, DC and WB rolled out an extremely controversial marketing campaign that many (myself included) complained revealed too much of the film. Now that BVS:DOJ has finally landed, the big question is whether or not it is any good. Sadly, the answer is that it is actually pretty terrible.

Let’s start off by talking about the overly complicated plot. The DC animated films have always had great plots that were deeply layered and even when you know the plot from reading the books, they still manage to keep an edge of mystery about what is actually happening. BvS, quite simply, does not. Here’s the plot – (A)Lex(ander) Luthor orchestrates a series of events to kill Superman and, for a reason they don’t explain, Batman. It takes 90 minutes for it to come to this point, and there are a myriad of plot holes as this tired storyline plods along. While still maintaining my spoiler-free status, the reason why Bats and Supes even fight practically negates the entire previous 90 minutes of story and also makes zero sense when given the display of Superman’s powers in that exact same scene.

The first real set piece of the movie is the actual fight that the movie is named for and that takes place over 90 minutes into a 150 minute film. Which means that, as I said above, the story plods along, doing more development of Batman than it does developing a cohesive plot. The vast majority of the film were scenes of Luthor squeaking out pretentious monologues about god and man, senate meetings on Superman and Bruce Wayne not being Batman. The biggest issue with the movie, however, is the title. Right now, pick up your copy of The Dark Knight Returns. Flip through the part that this whole movie is based upon – the fight between Batman and Superman. Don’t read any dialogue, just simply flip through it and admire the panels. That took longer than the actual ‘fight’ in the movie. The big fight scene that fanboys have been chomping at the bit about for more than a year is less than 5 minutes long and actually mostly feature dialogue and Batman having PTSD flashbacks. It was extremely disappointing to realize that the brilliant scene where Batman fights a group of thugs, while being an amazing action sequence, ends up being the best action sequence in a movie named for a clash of two titans.

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The problems with the storyline bleeds through into the rest of the script too. The dialogue in the movie is just awful. Henry Cavill, god bless him, tries so hard to make us like Superman, but he’s given literally nothing to work with. Amy Adams also desperately tries to make us care about Lois Lane but I’m not even really sure why she’s in the few minutes that she’s on screen for as she had no bearing on any part in the movie. Jesse Eisenberg played Luthor as a deranged sociopath, but apparently ‘deranged’ means pre-pubescent voice squeaks and twitches that are inconsistent scene to scene. The only two people that come away from this movie looking good are Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck. Gadot absolutely slays her role as Wonder Woman. As Diana, she’s sexy and confident, a powerful woman playing with the big boys. For the Doomsday fight, she absolutely kicks ass, doing more in the big final fight than Superman and Batman combined. Gadot has single handedly got me interested in a WW solo outing, she was that good. Gadot was only outdone by Affleck who was hands down, the best Bruce Wayne we’ve ever gotten. In every other iteration we’ve ever gotten, there’s so much put into being the Bat, Bruce Wayne is often overlooked. Affleck dominates the screen as the tortured and haunted Wayne, a man that is clearly obsessed and jaded by his years as the Dark Knight. While someone like Christian Bale or Kevin Conroy have done a masterful job playing the Caped Crusader, I haven’t really seen someone play Bruce Wayne so well that I’ve actually appreciated that Wayne and Batman are one and the same. The fact that Affleck has all but admitted that he and Geoff Johns are developing a solo Batman flick is something to genuinely be excited about!

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But here is where we have to get into the real hero of the movie. The real star that everyone is going to overlook. Hans Zimmer. Zimmer’s score is a damn masterpiece! As I stated earlier, there were lengthy periods of the film that were used as ‘plot development’ but since nothing really happened in the scenes, I began to get extremely bored. But, Zimmer must have also realized this because he would lace even the most mundane scene with epic, gripping and powerful music that made you pay attention. There was one scene in particular, where Luthor drones on and on about god that should have put everyone in the theatre to sleep. But the music that was in the background was so engaging and so impossible not to pay attention to that I actually leaned in forward in my seat so I wouldn’t miss anything. Not enough attention is being paid to how incredible the score of this movie was and Hans Zimmer is certainly not being given enough credit for salvaging at least half of this movie.

Before going in, I read a couple of reviews that said that while there were complaints about too many reveals in the trailers, that there should be no worries as the majority of the film had yet to be revealed. That is a lie. That is a dirty, filthy lie. There is only one surprise to be had in this movie and that surprise is how many dream sequences were in it. This movie had no business having one dream sequence in it, let alone having several. This movie had 400% more dreams than it should have had. If you’ve seen both theatrical trailers and the TV spots for the movie, you have already seen the movie. Yes, there’s about 2 hours and 20 minutes more worth of footage, but it’s mostly just filler. Rest assured, there are no surprises in store for you.

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There certainly were a lot of interesting choices in this movie too. For instance, later this year we’re going to be treated to Suicide Squad where the opening scene promises to have Batman chase down the Joker and imprison him. They also spend an awful lot of time in this movie talking about how cruel Batman has become as he begins to brand the criminals he hunts down. Both of these are interesting points because throughout the movie, Bats racks up a fairly impressive body count. I’m talking at minimum a dozen. He mows someone down with a mini gun at one point. It’s going to be kind of hard to justify Batman not murdering every villain in his rogue’s gallery when he’s breaking necks and shooting missiles at nameless henchmen. The inclusion of the cameos of the rest of the Justice League were also an interesting choice as they all came with a handy logo attached so we would all know who they are. No talk about interesting choices in this movie would be complete if we didn’t talk about how many comic book references were awkwardly shoehorned into this movie. It was almost like they wrote the movie and then forgot about making reference to the books so they just did them all in post. The majority of them felt forced and very obviously awkward.

I won’t take long on this but I absolutely need to address the scripting decision. As I said earlier, Affleck is writing a solo Batman outing with DC’s go to scribe, Geoff Johns. This is very promising as Johns is not only very knowledgeable about the DC Universe but is a very talented writer to boot. In saying that, how Chris Terrio and David Goyer ended up writing Dawn of Justice¬†is beyond me. David Goyer has proven time and time and time again to be a lacklustre writer so how he keeps getting employed to pen DC movies is beyond me. I guess that’s how Terrio found his way in – to reign in Goyer’s disaster. But how did they come to that decision? Terrio wins an Oscar for writing a political thriller so he gets chosen over Geoff freaking Johns to write Batman with David Goyer?! Someone needs to lose their job over this.

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A lot of the problems of the film can be laid squarely at the feet of Zach Snyder. There is absolutely no denying that the movie is extremely stylish – it is a Snyder film, after all. But in another characteristically Snyder move, the movie oozes style, but severely lacks substance. There is no heart in this movie. It moves through the motions, it hits the notes it needs to but refuses to dig deeper than that. There’s no attempts to humour save for a few ‘ha ha your secretly a superhero’ jokes that simply weren’t funny. The characters say incredibly contrived lines that are used only to move the scene forward and feel just like that, but only when every character isn’t staring off into the distance, looking tortured. There’s nothing to connect you to a character, there’s nothing to make you feel empathy for a villain, there’s nothing to make you root for our heroes. There is also no flow to the film, as one disjointed scene bleeds into the next. We’re thrown to and from then and now, smash cutting from important plot points into dreams or alternate timelines or news stories. I’d also like to say that there was absolutely, 100% far too many Senate hearings than there should have been in a superhero movie. If Holly Hunter wasn’t recognizable, I would have sworn that someone accidentally cut in CSPAN footage. But, like I said, it sure looked cool!

Overall, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a major letdown. With a paper thin plot that had as many holes as a seive, dreadful dialogue and a bizarre lack of action, BvS felt like the clumsy attempt at launching Justice League that it turned into over the past year. Trying to do far too many things while not getting a single one of them right, Snyder fumbles and bumbles his way through a slick looking but ultimately souless experience. With the actual fight between Bats and Supes lasting maybe only 30 seconds longer then what you saw in the trailers and the big fight with Doomsday being incredibly boring, even the action scenes in between the dull, plodding scenes that did little to advance the plot lacked any real heart. Bolstered by great performances by Gal Gadot and a superb Ben Affleck as well as the score being a real saving grace here, they managed to keep the movie from being a complete wash, but only just so. BvS is off to absolutely blowing the doors off of theatres right now, pulling down an impressive amount of money this weekend, smashing records like it was going out of style. I’m happy to see DC didn’t crash and burn in their film outings again as I very much want to see Justice League get off the ground! But based on this dreary, disjointed and soulless outing, I don’t think I want to see a JL that is done by this creative team. This was movie was such a letdown, it’s spoiling future DC films that aren’t even out yet. You get one mulligan DC and this was it. Do better.


The Good

  • Superb Score
  • Affleck and Gadot’s performances
  • One fight scene (not the one you’re thinking of)
2/5

The Bad

  • Lacked any heart, ran through the motions
  • Littered with plot holes
  • Batman/Superman fight scene practically¬†non-existent