I should take a moment to address the tragedy that befell Zack Snyder and his family recently. I am deeply saddened that he lost his daughter, and his departure from the DCEU should not have happened that way. Please consider that in this review, I do not mean to personally attack Mr. Snyder. I am only critiquing his film.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is the second installment in Warner Bros’ DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and pits Batman and Superman against each other as Lex Luthor develops his own scheme to destroy them both and wreak havoc on the world.
When this film was released last year, it divided audiences even more than the previous film in the DCEU, Man of Steel. You can check out my review for that here if you haven’t already. While some enjoyed Batman v. Superman, everyone else thought it was all right or awful. I can understand why some people would love this movie, but it is riddled with a multitude of flaws, both from the entertainment and filmmaking perspectives. Without further ado, here we go!
Let’s start with the editing. BvS is a disaster in this aspect; the editing is so appalling, the majority of the first act should be shown in editing classrooms as an example of how not to put a film together. When you go to the next scene in a film, there has to be a solid thread that connects them. A film as unintelligible as this prevents the audience from focusing on the plot because it constantly jumps from one two-minute scene to the next. For example, we see Clark watching the news of a criminal branded by Batman getting assaulted in prison, and then we are introduced to Lex Luthor with no transition of any kind. These two scenes are not connected to each other in any way in terms of character or story, and the same is with most scenes in the first act. Now, you could argue that these two scenes are related to each other because Superman and Lex Luthor are arch-enemies, so why shouldn’t the film go from a scene with Clark to introducing Luthor? That would make sense, if Clark’s scene had anything to do with Luthor at all. The severe incoherence of the first act prevents the audience from fully enjoying the movie. It jumps from scene to scene so quickly, the viewer has trouble focusing on everything. Whether you can follow each scene or not, this is a dreadful way to edit a film. If you can’t successfully tell a story, then you are unfit for the position.
Zack Snyder can’t tell a good story through characters, only with slow-motion and great visual effects. The man should not be a director; he would do best as a cinematographer. Various scenes throughout the film prove that. Snyder rushes through what are meant to be character-developing moments so he can get to the next cool shot. Let’s look at the party scene in which Bruce and Clark first meet each other. The entire scene lasts eight minutes, at the most, briefly focusing on Bruce and Clark’s conflict. You don’t believe their struggle is validated because only one side has a justifiable reason for hating the other, and that is Bruce’s. He hates Superman because he caused the deaths of numerous innocent civilians during his battle with Zod, including people who worked for him. Understandable. But what about Clark? He hates Batman because he terrorizes criminals and gets them killed. That’s real rich coming from the guy who murders his enemies. Immediately after the party, we are given a lengthy montage of Superman saving people and newscasts either praising or criticizing him. The majority of the shots of Supes saving people is executed in slow-motion and pretty visuals. Snyder gave very little attention to the story, but put his all into making pretty hero shots. In fact, that is one of the reasons we unnecessarily saw Bruce’s parents getting murdered again—so Snyder could deliver a five-minute long sequence of nothing but slow-motion and perfectly re-created comic book shots. Considering the fact that we have had two Batman origin films that are still being talked about today, almost any other director would know that the general public is aware of Batman’s origins and skip it entirely. Instead, Snyder wasted his skills on a needless scene that did not advance the story or the characters in any meaningful way.
The DCEU’s representation of their heroes are some of the worst adaptations ever put in a superhero film. They are so horrendous, the only reason you call them Batman and Superman is because those are the names the writers gave them. An experienced critic said something about this very film, and that is, “Just because you give them the same name, it doesn’t automatically make them the same character.” Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman do not deserve praise by default just because they are the characters they are. These are not the same heroes audiences have come to know over the last few decades. No matter what Zack Snyder says about how he “didn’t change Superman,” this is a terrible reworking of the character. Regardless of what Superman’s comic origins are, which Snyder refers to in the link above, general audiences and the majority of comic book fans respond better to Superman when he represents hope. What better way is there than to portray the world’s greatest protector as a symbol of hope that fills everyone with optimism? Nothing about Cavill’s Superman is hopeful, despite what that symbol on his chest is supposed to stand for. Most of the people we see in Batman v. Superman are highly critical of him. They are not filled with any kind of happiness at all. Why shouldn’t Superman be a symbol of hope? In this franchise, he does nothing but depress most movie-goers with his perpetual frown and bleak, colorless tone.
Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense why some fans enjoy seeing their favorite heroes murder people. Sure, “Superman” might not have had any choice other than to kill Zod in order to stop him in Man of Steel, but when he first appears in BvS, there is no reason for him to murder the terrorist holding Lois at gunpoint when he is first seen in this movie. There is no way that guy’s spine was not obliterated when Superman flew him through two solid walls at the speed of a locomotive. Secondly, Batman shouldn’t kill people, either. No matter what past incarnations of Batman have him explicitly murdering criminals, the morals of his character are more important than creating senseless action for its own sake, such as when Batman chases criminals in the batmobile. What makes Batman a hero is his refusal to kill. That aspect of his character always set him above the bad guys he puts away. When you take that away, Batman becomes no better than the crook who killed his parents. What is a hero if they are on the same level as criminals? They are definitely no hero, so why should anyone care about the DCEU’s “Batman” and “Superman?” They shouldn’t. Therefore, the characters and their story fail.
Lois Lane as she is portrayed in this film by Amy Adams makes her the second worst love interest in the history of superhero films. She is only in BvS to tell the audience that Lex Luthor is the villain. Freaking eight-year-olds know he’s the villain. In the beginning, Lois’s journal gets hit by a bullet, and she has said bullet examined. She gets it traced back to LexCorp, and Luthor is revealed as the mastermind behind the attack in Africa. I totally did not see that coming because nobody else could have possibly been behind a plot to frame Superman with his archenemy in the film. Hint, that was sarcasm. Lois’s only other role in this movie is to be saved by Superman. I believe he saves her three times; first from the terrorist, second from when Luthor pushes her off a roof, and then third from drowning. How did she almost drown again? Oh, yeah, from trying to get the kryptonite spear that Batman was going to use to kill Superman out from a pool that she herself threw said spear into. Yeah, Lois is really stupid in this movie. The writers needed her to almost drown, so they had her retrieve something she got rid of. Adams is a very good actress, and she shouldn’t be wasting such talent on a character as dumb as Lois Lane as she is portrayed in the DCEU.
Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is one of the worst comic book movie villains of all time. Regardless of whether you want to call him Lex Luthor Jr., Snyder and the writers gave him the same name as Superman’s archenemy. Just like with this movie’s Batman and Superman, this is no Lex Luthor. Last time I checked, Luthor was a clever, collected calculating, criminal mastermind whose schemes were sensible and clear. In BvS, Eisenberg portrays Luthor as an awkward, squealing, bipolar moron who devises a plan that depends on unpredictable events and inexplicable circumstances. How in the hell did he figure out who Batman and Superman are? Someone as brilliant as Luthor would be able to deduce their secret identities, but it doesn’t make sense if he knows out of nowhere. The script randomly states that Luthor knows who they are without any setup or explanation. Furthermore, how does he know how to access the crashed Kryptonian ship from Man of Steel? Where did he get the idea to bond Zod’s corpse with his own DNA in the ship’s pool of mutation water? How did he even know the water could mutate a body? These aren’t simple nitpicks; these all revolve around the creation of Doomsday, who gets no setup at all and is only there to prematurely kill off Superman. In the end, Luthor is unfathomably omniscient and just plain annoying.
The subplot of Superman being accused of killing people in Africa goes on for way too long. Plus, nobody cares about it. In the beginning of the film, Superman saves Lois from a terrorist, and Lex’s men are on the scene and they murder a bunch of civilians by shooting them in the head. Then, a woman from the village travels to Washington, D.C. and testifies to a congressional committee that Superman killed all of those people. First of all, who the hell would believe that Superman would use a gun to murder people? He can do a dozen things with his bare hands to kill people if he wanted to. Secondly, this entire subplot, which takes about an hour to be resolved, goes nowhere. Superman goes to the Capital to give his side of what happened, and it is wasted with Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch stuttering as she realizes that a jar of Lex Luthor’s piss next to her means that Luthor is about to kill her. Before Superman can say a word and actually contribute to the story for a change instead of just react to everything, the court room blows up and he does nothing about it. He doesn’t try to put out the fire or save anyone who was injured. This is yet another instance of Snyder wanting to show a cool shot without advancing the story or the characters. Keep in mind, this is the same scene from the trailer that was built up to be Superman’s testimony on what happened at the end of Man of Steel. Instead of even trying to portray Superman as a hero, that he was trying to stop a threat to the planet, Snyder and the writers wasted that opportunity on a C-level story nobody cares about that fails to give Superman any significant development.
The Justice League cameos are criminally shoe-horned into the movie, and it brings the movie to a halt for four minutes for the sole purpose of setting up Justice League. Bruce emails Wonder Woman a hacked hard drive he stole from Lex Luthor that contains logos and Quickplay videos for The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. This is the laziest way any writer anywhere could possibly squeeze in easter eggs. As another example of deplorable editing, Wonder Woman looks at the email right before Batman and Superman fight, the one thing that everyone went to see this movie for. Just imagine the scenario here–you grew up with Batman and/or Superman, and you have always wanted to watch them fight in a live-action movie. Then, that movie is finally released three years after its official announcement. You may think the first hour and a half is boring or passable enough to watch. The stage is set for their battle, and right before you are about to see it after decades of waiting, you are shown teaser trailers for characters of this cinematic universe you have no attachment to nor do you know anything about. To put the Justice League cameos at this point in the movie is an awful story and editing choice. It would have worked better as a post-credits scene or it shouldn’t have been in the movie at all.
The fight between Batman and Superman could have been stopped in two simple ways. First of all, Superman can fly incredibly fast. For the sake of consistency, I’ll consider Superman’s powers as they have been portrayed in the DCEU. As we saw in Man of Steel, he flew from Metropolis to the Indian Ocean in minutes. Superman could have flown around the city using his x-ray vision to find his mother in far less than the hour Lex Luthor gave him to kill Batman. Secondly, Superman could have explained his predicament to Batman when he confronted him. Even when he said to Batman, “You don’t understand,” he could have elaborated. Instead, he pushed Batman across the roof. Of course, neither of these two things happened because we were promised “the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world.” There is a much better fight between Batman and Superman in a superior DC title. What was it called again? Ah, yes. The Dark Knight Returns, in which Batman and Superman’s conflict was perfectly set up, the audience was emotionally invested, we knew the characters, and their battle was far more imaginative. In BvS, Batman heavily relies on his fists and kryptonite gas in his attempt to kill Superman. How pathetic. The writers were apparently unaware that Batman has a vast array of gadgets at his disposal to overcome his enemies. The fight is so uninventive, Batman uses a damn sink to knock out Superman. A SINK! Seriously? What could have been the greatest on-screen fight in the history of superhero movies is bogged down to nothing more than an underwhelming, disappointing, brief scene that the audience has no emotional investment due to the severe lack of character development and lazily-written plot.
Well, guys, it’s that time. It is time to talk about the Martha scene. Batman and Superman’s fight ends with Superman begging Batman to “save Martha,” and Batman yells, “Why did you say that name?!” Words cannot describe the stupidity of this scene. Who calls their mother by their name? Any smart person would have simply said, “Lex Luthor is going to kill my mom.” Secondly, all of Batman’s hell-bent motivation for killing Superman is instantly gone because their moms have the same name. It is such a lazy way of ending their fight, it is infuriating. Somebody actually wrote that into a screenplay, then everyone else said yes on it, and it was filmed, edited, and put into the final film. Just, wow.
There is no reason to kill Superman. They only did so because Doomsday is in the movie, and they kill each other in The Death of Superman comic storyline from the 90s. Why should I care that this Superman died? All of his development was handled poorly, he didn’t prove himself as a real hero, and everyone knows he’s coming back for Justice League in November. What’s even worse is that he gets stabbed by Doomsday once and he goes down. In the comic, they have a lengthy, brutal, bloody battle and they both die. This came after decades of Superman comics and people cared that he died. But in Batman v Superman, who should care, and why? Nobody should, because this is no Superman.
After all that, let’s highlight some of the biggest positives of this film … and explain why they don’t save the movie by any stretch. Ben Affleck’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman is good enough, but Bruce Wayne himself is a moron. He kills criminals, unlike a real hero, and he becomes determined to kill Superman only after he has a nightmare about an apocalyptic world which Superman rules with an iron fist. Someone as smart as the real Bruce Wayne wouldn’t let their emotions drive them. As for the scene in which he saves Martha, of course the action and choreography is how Batman is meant to be, but it has no emotional weight. Batman once again kills criminals so needlessly, and just like with Superman, we don’t know enough about Martha to care if she lives or dies. Why should we care about how Superman would be affected if she did die? The action is great to see, but just like with everything else in this movie, it has no substance and therefore does not matter.
The one good thing about this movie is Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Gadot delivers a good performance, and she sells the character as a strong, courageous, determined warrior. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of her in the movie. She is only making a glorified cameo to set up her film, but perhaps she could have made this movie slightly bearable if the writers used her more.
If Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice could be summed up in a couple of words, it would be wasted potential. Everything in this movie was squandered. So many things could have been made a lot better. The fight between Batman and Superman, their characters, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and every other aspect of this film could have been done better under a talented director, creative team, and studio executives. Fans waited decades to see a movie about Batman fighting Superman, and it ended up being one of the worst superhero films ever made.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice gets an F
“Batman and Superman are very different characters, but they are both iconic and elemental. Finding the right story for them both is the key.”-Christopher Nolan, director of The Dark Knight Trilogy
Thanks for reading my review, especially if you read the whole thing! This one took me a couple of months to write, so thank you for taking the time to read it! To stay updated on all my content, follow me on FaceBook and Twitter! Be sure to like and share with your friends! If you want to know more about my life, follow me on Instagram!