Zack Snyder’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a bad film. Not a good film weighed down by some reasonable flaws. Not an okay film that is occasionally enjoyable. Just a bad movie, plain and simple. The plot is a mess. The dialogue borders on self-parody. The directing is juvenile. It’s awful, and it harms everything it touches. The only person that walks away from this movie unscathed is Wonder Woman, and she’s immortal.
“Batman v Superman” picks up right where “Man of Steel” left off, with Superman destroying most of Metropolis while trying to stop General Zod. This time, though, the sequence is shown from the perspective of Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, a mere mortal too helpless to stop the 9/11-evoking carnage. The film that follows focuses on Bruce’s descent into anti-Superman paranoia and rage, eventually leading to the promised climatic showdown between Batman and Superman.
Or it would, if the script were much better. Instead, the actual film that follows is a sprawling mess of overly complicated plot strands which occasionally intersect. Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman are actually manipulated into fighting each other by Jesse Eisenberg’s tech-bro Lex Luthor. Holly Hunter appears as a U.S. Senator investigating Superman. And Amy Adam’s Lois Lane gets caught up in a CIA cover-up plot that is insulting to basic human intelligence — and completely redundant. Literally, the cover-up plot only exists to establish the reason people hate Superman, which is already established in the opening, when he leveled a freaking city.
But don’t worry: Zack Snyder, self-proclaimed cinematic genius that he is, solves the problem of having way too much plot by cutting each scene really fast. Did Lex Luthor just blow up the U.S. Capital? Who cares? That scene only lasts three minutes. We’ve already moved on to the next abysmal plot point.
Who knows, maybe bombastic meaninglessness was the aesthetic Snyder was going for. Maybe that’s why everything is shot for maximum visual Impact with a capital “I.” Maybe that’s why a funeral scene features bagpipes, guns and a slow-motion shot of a cannon shell hitting the ground. Maybe Snyder intended to shoot the solemn death of a main character like a pumped-up action scene. Or maybe, deep down, Zack Snyder is still a fourteen year old boy that wants to make something with emotional resonance and poignancy, but keeps getting distracted by how he could make this scene look super cool by shooting it in slo-mo.
Here’s the real tragedy: Snyder really wanted to make a great film. He took creative and original choices with this huge blockbuster movie. Alas, they don’t pan out. He lacks the visual sophistication to make a movie that can carry any emotional or thematic weight. And he lacks a fundamental understanding of how to handle the characters with which he has been entrusted.
During the press tour for this film, Snyder bragged that it would be better than Marvel movies because he was dealing with characters that were “iconic”. But there is a reason Batman and Superman are iconic characters in the first place. They represent opposing views of the world, opposing ways to confront evil and injustice. However, under Snyder’s vision, these two characters become grim warriors who only believe in sheer brutality and strength. In the film, Lex Luthor calls their inevitable showdown a match between night and day. Yet, a more accurate description would be a match between night and slightly darker night. This is a fight between a grim, dour god who shows little care for human life and a wrathful man that actually derives pleasure torturing criminals.
Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman.” Take your kids. It’s fun for the whole family.
Contact Raymond Maspons at raymondm ‘at’ stanford.edu.