It is fitting that the much publicized battle between the two titans of the DC Universe takes place in an abandoned building. Similar to gladiators performing in an empty stadium, Batman and Superman, at least in the latest incarnation of the Zach Snyder era, have not earned their audience. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice may have been touted as the film that establishes a new direction for DC Extended Universe, but it lacks the structural foresight needed to show that DC is truly ready to combat Marvel’s dominance at the box office.
What this film proves though is that, in DC’s haste to make up market share, they completely missed the most important component to Marvel’s success. Marvel built a bond with the viewers over a series of films. By time The Avengers rolled around, audiences had spent enough time with the characters to understand the group dynamics and their individual plights.
While it is nice that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does not burden itself with another superhero origin story, it rightfully assumes the audience already knows who Batman is, the film stumbles in its attempt to build an entire universe on the back of one film.
Picking up in the middle of the events of Man of Steel, the film focuses on how the arrival of Superman (Henry Cavill) has impacted the world. Though his global spanning heroics are praised by many, there is a contingent of society who views the powerful alien as a potential threat. One such individual is business mogul Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) who plans to uses his influence to acquire Kryptonian technology to make a weapon that can takedown Superman if need be. Another individual not pleased with Superman’s arrival is billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who, aside from moonlighting as the vigilante Batman, is still enraged at the death and destruction that was caused by Superman’s battled with General Zod (Michael Shannon).
The biggest problem with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and there are many flaws in its overstuffed running time, is that the film builds towards a fight where the outcome is as predictable as a non-pay-per-view WWE match. Considering that the audience already knows that the two heroes are ultimately going to team up, this is not a spoiler as the numerous trailers have pointed this out, their actual fight feels surprisingly lifeless. The stakes never feel as dire as they should. This is especially evident when considering the almost comical way the fight is both triggered and resolved.
By cramming so much into the film, Snyder creates a tale that feels pieced together by committee rather than voiced by a singular vision. The film plays like a collection of ideas, while potentially interesting on an individual basis, thrown together with complete disregard to cohesive storytelling. Furthermore, it completely misuses its supporting characters. Lex Luther is the second greatest villain, after the Joker, in the DC universe, and he is reduced to nothing more than a spoiled brat in this film. A genius portrayed as a court jester. His plan to turn the world against Superman is actually quite clever, but Snyder never lingers on it long enough for Luther’s brilliance to shine through.
Snyder is so focused on the brawn aspect of the comics that he completely misses the importance of the brains versus brawn dynamic that makes the Superman and Luther rivalry so compelling.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice also drops the ball in its handling of Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Once an intelligent and strong-willed journalist, Lane is reduced to a serial damsel in distress. Snyder is so concerned with pandering to fans–such as Batman’s clairvoyant dream about Darkside, Batman’s vision of Flash from the future, and numerous other comic book references-that much of the basic character development for Lane, and several other individuals, falls by the wayside.
The production is not all doom and gloom though; Zach Snyder’s visual eye has always been his strongest asset as a director. There are numerous sequences in which the imagery onscreen transcends the foibles of the plot. Plus, to his credit, Snyder does a wonderful job of setting up the upcoming Justice League and Wonder Woman films in a few key scenes. In fact, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is easily that best thing about the film. Despite not being given much to do in the film, when she does jump into action, Wonder Woman is a glorious sight to behold.
Unfortunately, much like the majority of the things in this film, the few moments with Wonder Woman only further expose the production’s excessive overreaching. The greatest praise that could be audible heard leaving the surprisingly silent theatre was the individual who stated that “its fine, I guess.” Considering all the various franchises at stake, being mediocre is simply not enough. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice may not be the worst superhero film ever to hit theatres but, thanks to is frequently missed opportunities, it is an extremely disappointing one.