In the weeks leading up to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I decided to watch the DC animated television shows and movies that made me fall in love with these superheroes when I was younger. The promise of Wonder Woman also had me reading every Wonder Woman comic book I owned all over again. Potentially productive time was spent in the streets of Gotham, the island of Themyscira and on Mount Justice.
Suddenly, the expectations I had been desperately trying to keep from reaching insurmountable heights were rising.
These interpretations of the DC characters reminded me of the wonder and awe they incite. They are characters you want to root for. They are characters that may struggle trying to do the right thing and aren’t immune to failure. Their abilities are not what make them heroes; it’s their humanity. They manage to be relatable yet untouchable.
It’s easy to love them.
However, Batman v Superman isn’t about these characters. It’s about their bleaker, more “realistic” counterparts.
And I would have no problem with them if the story were any good.
The sequel to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman starts right where its predecessor left off. In the aftermath of the destruction of Metropolis, Bruce Wayne decides to bring the Batman out of retirement and defend mankind from its greatest threat: Superman.
Before I get into what doesn’t work, let me clarify: Batman v Superman isn’t a terrible movie. All the performances are solid and Zack Snyder gives us incredible fight sequences. The film fulfills its promise of being a visual spectacle.
But anyone who respects the source material and their own intelligence cannot overlook the weak storytelling. Not even Wonder Woman and her glorious Amazonian presence could save this movie’s plot debacle.
The story does not allow anyone to fully enjoy the spectacle. It is so dense that the film doesn’t give audiences a chance to take in what is actually happening, it’s focus sharply shifting onward. This leads to a detached viewing experience, with events having no real impact on the audience.
The hostility between Batman and Superman is underwhelming and makes one want to shake Batman for his ineptitude. Storylines are forgotten. Characters conveniently ignore glaring clues that their comic book or animated counterparts wouldn’t. Instead of explaining the logic behind Batman’s actions, the film just gives us another scene of him grumbling about taking Superman down. Have I mentioned that Batman is the most developed character of the film?
More importantly, the audience doesn’t deserve the ending. Without giving anything away, let me just say that the infamous comic book they decided to adapt as a way to end Batman v Superman felt rushed, cheap and only there for shock value.
Yes, they went there.
If only we cared.
Batman v Superman doesn’t just disrespect its characters; it disrespects its audience. For a movie that had the time, money and talent to produce a good film, it disappoints. It is as if it’s goal wasn’t to tell a good story but to set up future movies. Instead of Batman and Superman being each other’s villain, the film gave us Lex Luthor and Doomsday. Instead of giving us a Batman and Superman film, it gave us a Batman film featuring Superman.
This was Zack Snyder’s chance to prove he could balance multiple characters and story arcs within a cohesive DC cinematic universe. What we got is an unfocused, superficial film.
Zack Snyder has promised fans a three-hour “ultimate” cut of the movie that will be released for home video later this year. If this three-hour version fills in plot holes and makes the transitions from one scene to the next less jarring, it will confirm what I already know. The story is too long, unnecessarily complicated, and tries to do everything in one movie.
The bottom line is this: Batman v Superman makes me thank Hera that the Wonder Woman film is not directed by Zack Snyder and worry for the Justice League films that are.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released March 25, 2016.