I believe the time is ripe to revisit this larger than life comic book movie, now that Zack Snyder's ‘justice league’ has been confirmed to not just exists out their in the lands of Hollyweird but has a release date tacked onto it as well. This film should’ve have been one of the biggest movies ever made, two pop culture icons finally sharing the silver screen together decades after they both made their separate debuts into the cinematic world.
However, to the dismay of multitudes of fans of the characters and fans of films in
general… it wasn’t very good. The critical reception was abysmal and word of mouth was spreading fast and that word was, well it wasn't all that good that's for sure. Of course like every film that’s come before it this one has its die hard fans and sympathisers who would gladly die upon the hill that is defending this rather messy film.
Full disclosure I like this film, in fact I like it quite a lot. I’m not ashamed to say I took many a trip to the cinema to watch it multiple times but I also see its flaws as well. Im going to take the time to take a look at a handful of the good and the bad that provide the building blocks to the house that Snyder built.
Alright lets get down to brass tax here and talk about the plot, its an absolute mess. I took far too many notes tracking the plot and how it develops trying to make sense of it all, there's a lot going on to say the least. Let's try and work through it all.
We're quickly introduced to the character of Bruce Wayne as he races through a collapsing Metropolis desperately trying to get into contact with the employees in Wayne tower. We're seeing the events of 'Man of Steel' from a different perspective highlighting the death and destruction brought upon by a feuding General Zod and Superman. Buildings are falling people are dying one of the Wayne buildings employees, his name is Wally, loses his legs. Bruce Wayne looks to the sky and sees raining fire, this is how he sees Superman and what he's capable of. Destruction.
Enter Superman, he begins to hear about the 'Bat of Gotham' and the methods he uses to fight crime, he's brutal and aggressive. Branding the criminals he takes down which leads to them getting horrifically assaulted in prison. Of course Superman doesn't agree with the methods he's been shown. He beliefs someone needs to put a stop to this, so he does sort off. He confronts Batman and says "hey! you stop that now, you stop it or I'll bury you". I'm paraphrasing a bit but that's the general feel of it.
The 'Batman v Supermaning' isn't that simple though, oh no not at all. Behind the scenes Lex Luthor (who's a complete weirdo) is pulling the strings and manipulating the image of the man in blue and red to the public with the end goal of demonising him causing the people to lose faith which in turn causes Superman to lose hope.
The way he goes about doing this is utterly bizarre, first of all he hires a bunch of thugs to massacre a village of people where Lois happens to be at the time interviewing a suspected terrorist, so the thugs gun down the village and then Superman shows up to save Louis and he's then subsequently blamed for killing all those people, even though they were gunned down, but Superman doesn't use guns... and the bullets used in those guns were completely unique to Lex Corp? (Yes I know it's explained in the ultimate cut, but this isn't the ultimate cut is it). So that's step one to the master plan. Frame superman for shooting people...
Step two consists of Lex getting in contact with good ole legless Wally, who is understandably very annoyed at Superman. Since he's got no legs. So Lex gives him a new wheelchair and tells him you're right Superman deserves to pay for what he did. So Wally goes to the capitol building in D.C. and demands Superman be held accountable for the damage he's caused. A hearing is called and the big man is called to make an appearance, and he does. This scene is very tense as he walks to the podium to face what's coming, its entirely undercut when the senator speaking notices a jar or piss that Lex left on her desk for her (it makes sense within the larger plot... I guess). Anyway, stubby Wally blows up instantly killing everyone in the room(the bomb was in the wheelchair). Superman stands amongst the fire looking very sad.
Batman was watching all of this on tv and decides that's enough I'm gonna bloody kill this guy (Yes Batman is a blood hungry killer in this film), since its all his fault I guess? So he steals the kryptonite from Lex corp and prepares to fight. Meanwhile! Lex kidnaps Superman's mother (Martha) and tells him you've got to kill Batman if you want to save her.
Finally after an hour and a half the long wait the long awaited fight happens! It's pretty good there's a lot of punching about and what not, its rather short but its a serviceable fight nonetheless.
Batman gets the upper hand pinning our American hero down, it looks like curtains for the Kryptonian. But wait what's this! He's muttering something under his breath, "Martha". Batman freaks out because that was his mothers name as well (I actually like this scene), anyway very long story short they stop fighting Superman explains what's going on with Lex, Batman saves Martha and they become mates.
It's not over yet! Lex isn't happy with how all this played out as he expected Batman to kill Superman, so he lets Doomsday Loose, then Wonder Woman shows up and they all fight the big dumb grey monster. Superman realises he needs to sacrifice himself to defeat the monster, and he does he defeats him and dies in the process. The death of Superman storyline happening already? Wow that was quick, we've only just met the guy in the last movie. It's enough to make your head spin isn't it.
Well that's just the main plot, there's a number of other things taking place while this is all going on. Like that sequence where Batman is in a nightmare land where there's sand and soldiers with Superman sigils and Superman is evil? And the Flash shows up from the future? And there's that sequence where Wonder Woman gets an email and it's videos of Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash, that was pretty dumb and nonsensical and just shoe horned in.
It's just all over the place and way too complicated and rather overwhelming, there's just too much going on. I tried my best to condense it all down as well. Granted I didn't do a very good job but its difficult to try and squash so many moving parts down into something bite size.
Like I said in the beginning I do really like this film and it has a number of good qualities as well which are underpinned by a glaring narrative issue. Let's list some good stuff! The musical score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is absolutely gorgeous, its emotional and impactful and just an amazing piece of music. It's also a visually beautiful film, Snyder brings his trademark dynamic look along with him to this production and it works so well, there's countless stunning shots peppered throughout this film each one as sharp as the last.
All the performances are great as well, granted there are a number of odd characterisations to be found (looking towards Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor) but other than that the performances are solid, especially Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman as brief as her appearance is, and I know the characterisation of Superman is heavily criticised in this film as being to mopey and always sad. The criticism is more than fair however, I like this portrayal of the hero showcasing how he handles the immense pressure of being seen as some sort of God by the ordinary people.
In regards to Batman v Superman: Dawn of justice. You should've taken us all by storm, you had the potential to conquer the world but it just wasn't meant to be. An overly convoluted plot and radically different characterisations were enough to sink this ship, taking with it gorgeous visuals paired with a near masterpiece musical score and solid performances. Zack Snyder's radical vision heavily crippled DC films that were in the pipeline, altering the course of this budding cinematic universe. However, despite all the negatives this remains one of my favourite comic book films to this day.