Luke Waltermire, Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This review contains only the mildest of spoilers and can be read before seeing the movie.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a movie that puts two things on the screen: money and potential.
However, despite its immense budget and baseline appeal of pitting two of the biggest names in comics against each other, the film collapses under its lack of innovation in the now well-worn superhero genre it helped create.
At one point in the film, a character states that “everyone was so caught up in asking what Superman could do that nobody stopped to ask what Superman should do.”
Though cliché, this quote says a lot about the film, which treads similar territory: Warner Bros. is so caught up in creating a franchise of “Justice League” films to combat Marvel’s “Avengers” series that they have forgotten to ask whether or not it was a good idea. This film seems to confirm it was not.
Simply put, the movie is boring. While the premise of Batman and Superman is inherently interesting — Batman believes in putting an end to criminals before they can hurt others, while Superman believes in saving the victims — the film squanders that potential with poor pacing and writing that rarely rises above “fine.”
Scenes that could be interesting are diverted, sometimes for minutes, to needlessly introduce new characters who will (ostensibly) star in their own movies one day, but have little bearing on the plot of the film the audience has paid to see. While these diversions can be interesting to comic die-hards, more casual viewers will likely be lost, as the film puts little work into explaining characters like the Flash or Cyborg other than flashing their names on the screen.
In addition, the cinematography is inconsistent. While constant camera cuts often leave fight scenes feeling disorienting and confusing, other shots linger for far too long, trying to create a feeling of contemplation within the audience that the film simply does not earn.
However, the film also has its share of positives. The special effects look excellent; the hundreds of millions of dollars put into this franchise-launcher can be seen in almost every second of it, as the powers of these superhumans and their battle settings look beautiful and fully realized.
The casting is also great: anyone worried about Ben Affleck’s ability to fill the cape and cowl should be calmed. While he is certainly playing a less brooding, more violent Batman than Christian Bale did in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, his unique take on the character is one of the high points of the movie. Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the famous superheroine Wonder Woman is captivating, as she excellently tows the line between mysterious and powerful.
Wonder Woman’s 2017 solo film is one of the most teased throughout “Batman v Superman,” and perhaps with good reason, as the foundation laid in this film for the character promises to make the upcoming World War I period piece an interesting one.
Jesse Eisenberg’s unique portrayal of the famous Superman villain Lex Luthor, a tech billionaire gone maniacal in this film, feels like the natural progression of the actor’s work in “The Social Network,” if Mark Zuckerberg had gone on to hate Superman rather than create Facebook.
The script gives Eisenberg’s Luthor more material to work with than it does most of the other characters, but it pays off, as Eisenberg plays the role similarly to Heath Ledger’s famous portrayal of the Joker in “The Dark Knight” in 2008.
Reprising their roles from “Man of Steel,” Amy Adams and Henry Cavill play an excellent Lois Lane and Clark Kent, as the two actors have clearly had time to grow into their roles and develop their chemistry as a couple.
Unfortunately, while Cavill’s Superman is often seen flying around the globe solving international crises, Adams’s Lois is given little to do besides acting as a plot device. While they shine on-screen together, the writers give Adams very little to work with in the scenes that she carries, setting her up to be a largely one-note character.
Maybe it couldn’t be helped: a movie like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” may have just had too many roles to fill. The film was expected to introduce and flesh out a compelling Batman to transcend Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, lay the groundwork for a whole franchise of “Justice League”-themed solo films, provide an identity unique from Marvel’s ever-present blockbusters and simultaneously redeem 2013’s middling “Man of Steel” — all in two and a half hours.
It may not have been possible in the first place to fulfill all these goals, but one thing is certain: “Batman v Superman” fails at accomplishing any of them. While its gorgeous special effects and unique casting create a super-powered world with the potential to be unique, mediocre writing and poor pacing make “Dawn of Justice” a film you can probably get away with skipping.