Review: BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Review: BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

The first cinematic team-up of Batman and Superman is ambitious but overlong chaotic mess.



(*Note: This review contains minor spoilers.*)

Two words: August 2001. That was the particular month and year where Warner Bros attached Wolfgang Petersen (2000's THE PERFECT STORM) to direct WORLD'S FINEST: BATMAN vs. SUPERMAN from a script written by SE7EN scribe Andrew Kevin Walker (which was later revised by Akiva Goldsman). Familiar names like John Travolta, George Clooney, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Christian Bale were favoured at some point. But after months of false start and whatnot, Warner Bros still struggled to get WORLD'S FINEST: BATMAN vs. SUPERMAN off the ground. The movie was eventually scrapped, even though Bale did go on to portray Batman in the Christopher Nolan-directed DARK KNIGHT trilogy. Fast-forward to 2016, the once development-in-hell project has finally seen the light of the day, with MAN OF STEEL director Zack Snyder making the DC fans' dream come true by bringing Batman and Superman together to the big screen for the first time ever. Now, the all-important question: does Snyder delivers? Yes and mostly no.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Following the events of MAN OF STEEL, the indestructible Superman (Henry Cavill) is seen as a threat to mankind by Batman (Ben Affleck), especially after what he did to the city of Metropolis. While Superman and Batman are on the brink of a war against each other, a new threat has emerged in the form of an eccentric billionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).

THE GOOD STUFF

Blessed with a large US$250 million price tag, BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE has a certain epic quality in the movie. The movie gets off to a promising start while the collaboration between Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL has brought a memorable electric cello score to the Wonder Woman's theme.

When Ben Affleck was first announced as the new Batman in Snyder's DC Cinematic Universe, a lot of people weren't too happy about the casting decision. After all, he was the one who ruined DAREDEVIL back in 2003. But that was a long time ago. These days, he has improved a lot as an actor. Here, Ben Affleck is adequate enough playing a grizzled and sadistic portrayal of Batman. Henry Cavill, who made a lasting impression playing Superman in MAN OF STEEL, does a decent job reprising his role for the second time. But best of all is Gal Gadot, who steals the show in her limited screen time as Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman. Jeremy Irons, in the meantime, adds a nice touch of sardonic wit to his tech-savvy butler character as Alfred.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The scene where Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) finally made her spectacular entrance as Wonder Woman.

THE BAD STUFF

In MAN OF STEEL, Snyder and David S. Goyer made a bold decision retelling the oft-told Superman's origin story with a revisionist angle inspired from Christopher Nolan's narrative playbook. The result may divide many critics, fans and viewers in general, but MAN OF STEEL was surprisingly effective enough as a great Superman movie. Now, in BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, Snyder along with Goyer and newcomer to the DC Cinematic Universe franchise, Chris Terrio (best known for writing the Oscar-winning adapted screenplay for ARGO) tries to stuff too many things within its two and a half hours running time.

First, they addressed both Batman's tragic past involving his parent's death (an overused plot device in the Batman movie universe that should have been omitted by now), as well as his subsequent rage over Superman's reckless action that claimed many innocent lives in Metropolis. Batman, being a traumatised superhero figure? It feels all too familiar to Christian Bale's version of Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy. Sure, Affleck has his moments but Bale plays the role better.

Superman, on the other hand, is dealing with a personal dilemma of his own. Again, he questions about his alien existence whether he is fit to blend with the mankind or just a global threat that could wipe out the entire human race. Mind you, MAN OF STEEL has pretty much covered that angle in the first place.

Oh, wait... there's more! The movie also introduces Lex Luthor. As you know, Luthor is one of the most crucial characters and among the main adversary in the Superman mythology. But Jesse Eisenberg's interpretation of Lex Luthor feels more like an unnecessary filler in this movie. Instead of making him as an important or even relevant central villain to the story here, there's hardly any solid motivation behind Luthor's action. To me, he appears in this movie just for the sake to generate chaos. In fact, he's more like an overgrown spoiled brat who annoys a lot with his overly theatrical acting style. I get it. Maybe Eisenberg tries to inject a different spin on the Lex Luthor character that distinguishes him from the previous incarnation played by Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey. But unfortunately, his eccentric behaviour seriously gets on my nerves each time he appears in this movie.

Next up is the abrupt introduction of Doomsday. Personally, I love Doomsday's appearance in The Death of Superman comic book. However, this cinematic incarnation fails to bring any impact to the overall storyline. With Doomsday largely wasted here because of character overload, it would be better if he is introduced in the future MAN OF STEEL sequel instead. Last but not least is the teasing prelude of the Justice League (after all, this movie is served as a prequel to the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE, due in 2017). Prequel or not, I still find the idea of introducing too many characters in one movie is always a recipe for disaster. It feels too rushed for me as Snyder and his creative team could have taken things slow to introduce the characters in different stages. As you can see, the overall result of cramming too many things at once jeopardises the flow of the movie. Editor David Brenner could have benefitted the movie a lot from its exposition-heavy storyline with a few trimmings here and there.

As for the supporting characters, I found Amy Adams is mostly neglected to a damsel in distress. Definitely a far cry from the same character where she played better in MAN OF STEEL. Other recurring cast members like Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane, who all did great within their limited screen times in MAN OF STEEL, are sadly underused in this movie. While employing recognisable veteran actress Holly Hunter seems like a good move, her supposedly interesting character as Senator Finch doesn't give much room for development.

On the technical front, I'm surprised the movie fails to impress much this time around. Like MAN OF STEEL, the action is mostly shot in a handheld style to give you a sense of "you-are-there" visual urgency. While cinematographer Amir Mokri did a splendid job in the past, the same cannot be said with Larry Fong, who worked in many Snyder's movies such as 300 and WATCHMEN. Fong's handheld shooting style feels too jittery for its own good, which makes it harder to enjoy the action sequences during the IMAX 3D presentation. Even most of the action choreography here, such as the nighttime chase scene involving a Batmobile, is messy and confusing. Then there's the major highlight of the movie: Batman vs. Superman! I'm sure many people -- including me -- has waited for so long to see two of among biggest superhero icons of all time, fighting against each other on the big screen. The trailers did show a lot of promises, but what I saw here in the movie doesn't get me that excited.

FINAL WORDS


Although BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE doesn't exactly lives up to its high expectation, the movie still has it's few moments. Now, if only Zack Snyder could improve his shortcomings when he returns to direct two JUSTICE LEAGUE movies in 2017 and 2019.

* This review is written courtesy from Warner Bros Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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