Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
★★ / ★★★★
The greatest hindrance of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” written by Chris Terri and David S. Goyer, from becoming great piece of work is its inability to iron out the main story and the accompanying subplots in such a way that all of them, by end of its running time of one hundred fifty minutes, feel complete and thoroughly satisfying. Instead, what results is at least three movies—potentially good ones—compacted into one rushed film. One feels the pressure the studio puts on itself to release a product—including other movies planned to stem from it—instead of focusing on the assignment at hand.
Action sequences become underwhelming eventually because the grim-faced tone does not change even on a subtle level. For instance, the hand-to-hand combat between The Dark Knight (Ben Affleck) and the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill), are certainly well-choreographed, but there is no personality and there is a lack of genuine ingenuity to how they fight. Thus, tension does not build during their confrontation. The battle is built up to be the centerpiece of the film but the result is so pedestrian that one is left in disbelief.
There is a tendency for characters to explain themselves constantly. Expositions lead up to more unnecessary expositions and platitudes so the material barely takes off. Superior pictures, regardless of the genre, are written, executed, and acted in such a way that inner turmoil is felt and understood without relying on voicing out feelings and thoughts on a constant basis. A litmus test of superhero movies: Does the work still function as an engaging dramatic piece when superhero elements are taken away?
Two new characters stand out but deserve more screen time. Initially, I found Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor to be a major miscalculation. My mind kept telling me that he would better off as The Riddler or some villain of that sort. But looking closely at his performance, he milks every moment of snark and intelligent lines. There is always something behind the eyes. In every scene, I could not help but pay attention to this interpretation of Lex Luthor and wonder what he might be up to. Although arguably miscast, Eisenberg’s commitment to the role won me over.
A more effortless but equally magnetic performance is delivered by Gal Gadot. Her interpretation of Diana Prince, whose secret identity is Wonder Woman, is sultry, mysterious, full of presence. She commands the screen even during moments when only half of her face is showing. The picture comes closest to being playful during Diana Prince and Bruce Wayne’s repartee, so for a few minutes the movie comes alive. Their allure and chemistry together is so strong that one smiles at the possibility of a movie with just the two of them together.
Directed by Zack Snyder, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a dark, brooding, and tonally flat transition to an expansion of a franchise. Although its ambition is admirable and it does offer a few positive qualities to offer, it is neither a film that is easily likable nor one that inspires the viewer to see it more than once. Since many details of the story are either unfocused or not explored under the most rigorous standards, the work offers no compelling message, or messages, about power, sacrifice, and mercy.