Directed by: Zack Snyder
Produced by: Charles Roven
Screenplay by: Chris Terrio
David S. Goyer
Based on: Characters from DC Comics
Starring: Ben Affleck
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by: Larry Fong
Editing by: David Brenner
Studio(s): RatPac-Dune Entertainment
Cruel And Unusual Films
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s): March 12, 2016 (China, Beijing premiere)
March 25, 2016 (United Kingdom and United States)
Running time: 151 minutes
Country: United States
Production budget: $250 million
Box-office revenue (as of publication): $873, 260, 194
Today's film up for review is Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, the follow-up to Warner Bros' Superman reboot Man Of Steel, but really, as the second film in what is now known as the DC Extended Universe (they are clearly patterning this after Marvel's successful model), is essentially a kickstart for their plans for getting together the Justice League. Just to give this a bit of context, although it grossed over $870 million, a whopping figure by any standards, it was still considered to have under-performed at the box-office (at least, perhaps, by the Marvel and Disney billion-dollar standards), suffering a historic dropoff in first to second weekend grosses and most notably, it was absolutely savaged by film critics and while more casual audiences may have enjoyed it, I can say that a lot people were also very disappointed. Me being me, because I don't really get excited about big movies anymore, I end up watching them in my own time, but I remember when this came out all the hype around it and my Facebook just blew up with various friends of mine getting genuinely angry about this movie. Along with the likes of Dirty Grandpa, it's a leading contender at the Golden Raspberry Awards this year, and to cap this little devil off, I really didn't like Man Of Steel and have a testy relationship with Zack Snyder as a filmmaker at best. While I like 300, I think he mishandled Watchmen and the only time he was ever given the responsibility of coming up with an original project he presented us the abomination that is Sucker Punch. So, with all this in mind, and avoiding it for about eight months, I have to say much as I tried to be open-minded, I went in almost prepared to hate this one. Long story short, because there is a lot of story, in the fallout of the destruction in Metropolis caused by Superman (Henry Cavill) in his battle with General Zod in Man Of Steel, he has become a controversial figure, and billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), based in Gotham City and who has been operating for two decades as vigilante crime-fighter Batman, sees Superman as a potential threat to humanity. At the same time, Superman's alter-ego Clark Kent learns and is appalled by the methods of justice employed by Batman, and seeks to expose his identity. I'm not going to go into all of this, but it's a bit of obvious, through various convolutions involving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), Lois Lane (Amy Adams), United States senator June Finch (Holly Hunter), Russian terrorist Anatoli Knyazev (Callan Mulvey) and more, plus the mysterious presence of an all-observing antiques dealer by the name of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), to quote Phil Lynott, "there's gonna be a showdown." What? Come on, I mean, it's in the title, get it? Good!
To start off with the good about the movie, although you might be of the opinion that I'm going to crap all over this one, I surprised myself watching it by finding that I was at certain parts actually enjoying it. By the time I'd finished, I said to myself, "you know what, it wasn't all that bad. It was decent enough." I think that the addition of Chris Terrio to the writing side of the film was a smart move. Much as I think David S. Goyer has done some good work in the past, his best work often comes from working with others. Man Of Steel was a solo job, and it turned out to be a complete and utter snoozefest. What Terrio adds to this movie is a sense of the exploits of these fantastical characters existing within the real world. It can be choppy at times, but you can tell that here they are really going for something with the thematic content, to explore the moral and ethical implications of what is occurring over the course of the film. Speaking of depth, I think that Henry Cavill has improved leaps and bounds in his part as Superman/Clark Kent. I was, admittedly, rather negative on his depiction of Supes in Man Of Steel, thinking has was dull and charmless, but he seems to have grown well into the shoes of the character, and carries himself with more confidence and weight, so good for him. I think that for all the negative press concerning his casting in the buildup to it, Ben Affleck was a good choice for Batman. His older, world-weary and slightly out-of-touch interpretation is a different version of the Caped Crusader than we've seen before on the big screen. The presence of Affleck gives legitimacy to the role, both from a mental and a physical standpoint. Other cast members are good in a supporting capacity, such as Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Holly Hunter and especially Jeremy Irons, whose casting as Bruce Wayne's long-suffering butler Alfred Pennyworth may be among the smartest moves made in the entire production, because every time he's onscreen he's great. Also, for all of my negative feelings levelled at the oftentimes too glossy, music-video feel that Zack Snyder enforces upon him, some of Larry Fong's work here is very good. Admittedly, there are the odd silly bits of gimmickry, but left to his own devices to shoot a film Fong can do just fine, because there are some gorgeous pieces of cinematography. I'm specifically thinking of colour contrasts and shot composition in scenes like Superman's congressional hearing. Some of the action sequences too look good and are engaging, so the film is not without it's stylistic flourishes. The score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is an interesting combination of two contrasting styles battling it out with one another not dissimilar to the conflict going on in the movie itself. Zimmer is, of course, one of the great masters of traditional film composition, but as we've seen through his career, not above expanding his horizons and experimenting with new soundscapes. As such, there's a harmony between him and Junkie XL, who outside of his work as a DJ and multi-instrumentalist has made a name for himself over the past few years in film composition, which is strangely intriguing aurally. It'd be interesting to hear what they can come up with in the future. I'd be a liar if I didn't say that there were times I was impressed by the overall production value of the piece. I can't really fault it from the standpoint of visual effects, production design, costumes, props, make-up/hair and stunts. It's a big, $250 million film, and, as it should be, the efforts of those who have laboured long and hard in those departments, have been put it up on the screen, so that's another positive. All in all, these strengths were enough to keep me relatively interested. It was a very pleasant surprise given all the negative things that I had heard about, I was at different genuinely entertained.
That being said, while I don't think that it's as outrageously bad as everyone else says it is, I can't go so far as to say that Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is a good movie, because for every bit as good as it can be, it is in equal measure an unholy mess. I alluded to it earlier in the synopsis that there was a whole lot of plot, and while it may be easy to dismiss that as the perspective of a lazy writer, the fact is is that not only could I have spent ages writing down anything resembling a basic outline, but that I also had to thoroughly scour the Wikipedia article to be sure that what I was writing was correct. There was so much plot that I had forgotten whole characters and sections of the film! Normally that is the stage when you kind of perk up and think "gee, maybe this is kind of overkill," but it keeps going, and going, and going, and going, and... you get the picture. Obviously, the drive is to lay the groundwork for the DC Extended Universe ASAP but it gets a bit out of hand, and you get the impression that cutting out certain subplots could have trimmed that waistline a little and brought the gluttonous two-and-a-half hour running time down to two hours (though of course, Snyder being Snyder, has instead went the other way and brought out a three-hour 'Director's Cut' out on DVD, whatever the hell Director's Cut even means anymore). Another point I'd like to bring up is that I thought that the whole interpretation of the Lex Luthor character was a real misfire. Now, Jesse Eisenberg is a perfectly capable actor, but the way the part is put down on the script is to have him modelled after the wave of the young, entrepreneurial tech wizards of the information age, but with a case of a determined, egomaniacal streak bordering in sociopathy. Unfortunately it comes across as a less-controlled, more blown-up version of Eisenberg's brilliant turn as Mark Zuckerbeg (who from what I understand is a lot nicer a person that his onscreen depiction). I know that's a fairly unoriginal comparison, but the fact is is that it does not feel right, I feel it doesn't fit into the mix of the overall proceedings. Speaking of which, one thing that did make me cross was the choppy editing. Admittedly, I'm sure a lot of this is written on paper in the script this way, but what needs to stop is all this cutting away in the middle of action sequences to other things that are occurring simultaneously. At least, if you're going to do it, time them appropriately, so that you're not distracting and detracting from what's happening. Instead, I found myself at various points waiting for them to cut back to whatever particular development I was more interested in. I can only imagine that poor David Brenner, being given such an insurmountable task of trying to make logical sense of all of this ended up like Bob Geldof's Pink in Alan Parker's film of The Wall, making strange designs out of different completely unrelated objects on the floor of his apartment. Finally, although this is a clear improvement on Man Of Steel (in retrospect, I actually think that film was worse than the 4.0/10 rating I gave it back when it came out. It was rubbish), it's all over the shop, and that's because of Zack Snyder as a director, and because of Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder as producers. Admittedly, it'd be hard for this mess to be faultless, but I think there is something there and that a more capable filmmaker could have handled this property much better. Snyder instead is incredibly over-indulgent throughout, wanting to do too much but as a result not getting a much of anything done at all. I know obviously that Deborah Snyder (his wife) and Charles Roven trust him enough to deliver a competent movie, but competence simply isn't enough and if I was his producer I'd be slapping him on the back of head and telling him to knock it off with some of that crap. We want great films, not competent ones, and it genuinely bothers me when someone like Snyder has his name emblazoned on the marketing material, trailers and posters as a 'Visionary Director' when real artists like Guillermo del Toro have had to struggle for four or five years at a time to get a project off the ground. Okay, rant over!
Well, as you can see, I've had a fair amount to say about Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Normally, a film of this standard wouldn't have registered as particularly significant to me, but because of it's high profile, the divided (at best) reception and the very nature of the beast itself, it stands out as an exception to the rule and is worthy of debate. Perhaps that is yet another positive. And, yes, I know some people might not be happy with my thoughts on this one, but I don't think it is a bad film. It's an unholy mess with a ridiculous amount of over-convoluted basil exposition nonsense, has a major character/villain whose interpretation is botched, choppy patchwork editing that can't do enough to hide the over-indulgence of Zack Snyder as a filmmaker, but it's still a decent film. It has two solid central performances, Chris Terrio's addition to the creative team keeps it grounded in a sense of reality amidst some admittedly preposterous moments, it looks good enough, there's an intriguing score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL and there is a high standard in the overall production value. It's all over the place, but at best it's a mildly entertaining romp.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.3/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Hungry (that's what it said in my review for Man Of Steel. Not in the physical sense this time, but mentally I'm hungry, always.)