Friday, 15 July 2016

Review - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition)

NOTE: This is a review of the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman, which contains about an extra 30 minutes footage. I haven't seen the theatrical release, so that may account for my difference of opinion with most critics of this film.

Finally got around to watching Dawn of Justice. Gotta say, after all the hate that's been levelled towards this movie I was.. kinda pleasantly surprised to not hate it? There's no question that it's massively flawed. It tackles way too many things, takes itself way too seriously, misreads the characters making Batman into a thug (he straight up wastes so many dudes without batting an eyelid - HAH batting) and Superman into Batman, and refuses to pause for breath or take moments of levity which would provide some much-needed contrast to the relentless wall-of-noise the film (along with Zimmer's hyperdramatic score) throws at its audience.

On the other hand, this is a beautifully shot movie which fully embraces the mythopoeic nature of its source material in a way which distinguishes it from Marvel's offerings, and its many iconic set-pieces are by and large extremely impressive, well-executed and impactful. The problem is with everything that happens to connect those set pieces. Rather than developing our characters, establishing pathos, and giving them plausible motivations for their actions, the film relies heavily on weighty "themes" to hold everything together - God vs Man, Power vs Responsibility, Angels and Demons, Falling Fallers Who Fall and are Fallen, etc. - which is fine when these themes actually dovetail with the story you're trying to tell, when the film actually has a perspective to offer on those themes, a "moral" if you like. Dawn of Justice doesn't, though - all of its lofty ruminations are ultimately in vain when the thing that finally unites God and Man is the fact that their mums both happen to have the same first name. One gets the feeling that if Snyder hadn't crammed so damn much into this movie, he might have been able to tie its parts together a little more convincingly. As it is, one feels that one could randomly reshuffle many of the film's scenes with little consequence for the storytelling.

Ben Affleck is a *superb* Batman, and his scenes were the highlight of the film for me, wanton slaughter notwithstanding. The same goes for Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Jesse Eisenberg unfortunately overacts the role of Lex Luthor something dreadful, apparently attempting to channel Heath Ledger's Joker via Mark Zuckerberg in a manner that is unlikely to win any Oscars but will surely guarantee his continued typecasting as "generic mad genius". Henry Cavill is, again, well cast as Superman, but again spends most of his time moping rather than actually being Super so it's a little hard to tell.

On the one hand.. this is a joyless movie. It's pretentious, incoherent and too-often collapses under the weight of its needlessly self-imposed literary burdens. If this were a solo Batman movie - and it's very clear that Snyder is attempting to emulate Nolan's style - that might work, and indeed the Batman-driven scenes are the best parts of the film. On paper though this is Superman's story, but he never really gets to offer the much needed counterpoint of hope and heroism to Batman's cynical grimdark; instead we get both characters presented through the same gloomy lens and that corrodes the core of Superman's character.

On the other hand, it's hard not to be swept away by the sheer mythic spectacle of it all and I can't help but have a begrudging appreciation for Snyder's boldness in deconstructing Superman before his fans - if he'd just taken a bit more time to build him up before tearing him down, or if he had some inclination to put him back together again afterwards (like "sure let's tackle the problematic aspects of this character, BUT in the end hope is a pretty important thing which is ultimately worth clinging to and sometimes we do need heroes to inspire us") it might have worked out a little better. Hell though, for all its nuttiness, I enjoyed it. 7/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment