The term “fight of the century” has been thrown around a lot throughout history. It has been used to describe monumental main event matches such as Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali, Georges St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva, or even “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock. But when it comes to superheroes, it’s hard to get bigger than the Dark Knight facing off against the Man of Steel. And that’s exactly what we get in Zack Snyder’s ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’. However, despite having its moments here and there, this fight didn’t exactly measure up to all the hype that was being built up around it (just like Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather).
Following the events of ‘Man of Steel’, not everyone sees Superman as valiant hero. In fact, some find him and his ways to be a threat to the world around him. Among those in that school of thought is Gotham City billionaire Bruce Wayne, who is better known to villains as the crime-fighting vigilante Batman. But as the Caped Crusader mounts his own vendetta against the Last Son of Krypton, eccentric tech genius Lex Luthor has his own plans in motion to take down the Metropolis Marvel.
‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ was leaps and bounds better than their first offering to the DC Cinematic Universe, but Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer’s second attempt was still riddled with problems. First and foremost, the trailers gave away pretty much everything. When Ben Affleck brought the first full-length trailer to Jimmy Kimmel, it seemed like the promotional campaign was relying on Batman too heavily to draw people in and act as a crutch for this underwhelming iteration of Superman. After seeing the movie, that proved to be true as the most interesting parts of the film ended up being the people around Big Blue such as Amy Adams’ Lois Lane.
Like its predecessor, the pacing of the story was so off. It took entirely too long for something interesting to really happen. The best way to describe the first hour or so of ‘Dawn of Justice’ is to compare it to a friend that is trying to tell you a story, but keeps getting distracted with other details that aren’t really important. Although, when you strip down all the useless details (in this case, dream sequences), grand flourishes (too many montages), and overly descriptive explanations of fairly straightforward things (Snyder’s signature masturbatory action sequences that don’t really have any rhyme or reason other than it looks cool), there were nuggets of a really cool story with thought-provoking themes. It’s just too bad that it was all buried under a whole lot of nonsense.
Though they couldn’t completely dig the film out of the rubble, there were a few performances that didn’t make ‘Batman v Superman’ a complete waste of time. Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne turned out to be much better than anticipated. Though some of the writing made me question whether Wayne had really been at this for over twenty years, the somewhat polarizing actor did a great job of embodying the hero’s brooding side while maintaining his extreme thirst for justice. This Batman was excellently complimented by Jeremy Irons’ Alfred Pennyworth. Always helpful but a bit sarcastic, Irons might even rank up there as one of the best versions of the character.
However, Wonder Woman had to be the best element of this equation (as evidenced by the huge round of applause from the theater I was in when she finally showed up in her trademark attire). Gal Gadot’s Amazonian Warrior was fierce and left us wanting more. A live-action Wonder Woman on the big screen has been a long time coming and so far it looks like it was worth the wait.
Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a completely different story though. The actor delivered a solid performance. His villainous ways really raised the stakes for our heroes. But at the end of the day, he was not Lex Luthor. Setting aside my bias towards Clancy Brown’s Lex Luthor in ‘Superman: The Animated Series’, Luthor to me is calculating and careful on top of being maniacal. While Eisenberg’s version had a solid plan, he was too whimsical and crazy, bordering on reckless. The actor basically put out his best Riddler in ‘Dawn of Justice’, which would have been fine if that was the character he was supposed to be playing. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but why go through the extra trouble of calling it something else?
Finally, after trudging through two hours of getting pretty much exactly what I had expected and not being particularly impressed by it aside from a couple kick-ass scenes here and there, the last half hour of the movie was a complete and total surprise. I won’t get into any spoiler territory, but we’ll just say that I almost literally cheered at the end of the film because of what happened. It was most certainly a ballsy move that made DC and WB earn my attention.
Although at the end of the day, even though it had it’s shining moments, the movie was just okay. At its worst, it was a sequel to ‘Man of Steel’ that relied too heavily on Batman and other factors to dress it up nice. At it’s best, it’s a good start. Let’s just hope that the filmmakers shaping this shared universe can capitalize on the good groundwork that they laid with this film and leave behind the bad stuff behind. Snyder and Goyer desperately need to trim the fat and streamline their story better in the future. I mean, there was no good reason for this movie to be two and a half hours long. At all. Too bad that there’s a three-hour R-rated director’s cut on the way. But going back to the matter at hand, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ just wasn’t a great movie. It wasn’t even really a good one. But people are going to see it no matter what I say. Just know that you’ll have to wait through a whole lot of crap before you get to the good stuff.