I’ve been wary of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice from the get-go, having gotten burned by director Zack Snyder with the mess that was Man of Steel. From the moment it was announced, I’ve greeted the film with caution and snark. However, here’s my deep dark secret: I REALLY wanted this movie to be good. It’s Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman on the big screen, together! I was excited to see it, and no one in the theater last night was hoping for an awesome superhero movie more than I was. I wasn’t expecting it to be good, but I was hoping that it would be.
It was not. From the moment it started, it was super grim and so, so serious. And ridiculously dark, both tonally and visually. The movie spans a few months, and I don’t think that there was a single sunny day in the mix. Nearly every scene’s colour palette was muted and drab; it could have been black and white and not looked all that different. As for our stalwart heroes, they were both moping and broody and generally unpleasant. That vibe sort of fit for Batman, but it was a bad look on Superman.
Both heroes were also straight up dummies. No spoilers, but the bulk of the film’s conflict could have been avoided if Batman and Superman had just had a conversation instead of assuming the worst about each other and getting angrier and angrier. Plus they were clearly being manipulated by Lex Luthor all the while, and didn’t even notice because, again, they’re dummies. All of the furious planning and their eventual battle becomes increasingly idiotic as the film progresses, and all the while you know it’s going to end with them teaming up anyway, making everything feel both stupid and pointless.
Snyder also throws some religious themes in the mix that he must have thought were clever and deep but that ultimately made no sense. Luthor bloviates as some sort of anarcho-atheist, railing against the supposedly god-like Superman, hyping the confrontation with Batman as god versus man. It all falls very flat. Superman’s just not a god, no matter how many dramatically lit, serious shots of Superman impassively saving people Snyder puts in the film. First, that’s not Superman; Superman smiles when he saves people. And second, no hero is more human than Superman. That’s been the crux of the character forever. He’s an alien, but he was raised as a human and embodies humanity’s best qualities. The religious subtext, so unsubtle that it’s basically just text, is a failed attempt to make the movie more important and serious than it is. It just doesn’t fit, and Snyder’s increasing heavy handedness with it goes nowhere.
Essentially, both characters are just fundamentally wrong. Batman shouldn’t be stupid enough to get tricked into a fight with Superman, and Superman shouldn’t be angsty enough to lose his sense of who he is. Batman should be smart, Superman should be happy, and they are neither. Thus, we end up with a very dumb movie.
There are many more unpleasant things in the film. Batman basically kills a bunch of people, sometimes with guns, so that’s messed up. There are a lot of murders generally, really. Also, don’t get too attached to the female characters. And prepare to be annoyed by Lex Luthor, though I will say that given that Batman and Superman are so serious and dull throughout the film, Lex is one of the few characters that seems to have an actual personality, however irksome it may be.
But let’s get to the good stuff. Perry White and Alfred are pretty fun, and I think that Affleck could have been a decent Batman in a film that didn’t turn him into an angry moron. You all know who I really care about, though; let’s talk Lois Lane and Wonder Woman!
First up, Lois Lane! I thought that this was almost a great movie for Lois. Again, I’m going to try to dance around spoilers here, but Lois was in the thick of things for most of the film, launching a key investigation and playing an important role in the film’s final conflict. However, she never quite gets the job done, on any front. All of her brave feats turn into damsel in distress scenes in which Superman has to save her; he does so at least three times. It’s fun that Lois has such an active, often heroic role in the movie, but I would’ve liked her to see her brave plans through to the end more.
Her relationship with Clark was endearing and sweet, even though the whole movie gets weird and dark once Batman and Superman start feuding. They’re adorable together at the beginning of the movie, and Lois tried to keep Superman focused on his true heroic nature as things got progressively darker, with mixed success. Things got a little overdramatic by the end of the film, but the conclusion was a bizarre mess as a whole. Amy Adams still did a lot of teary eyed on-looking throughout the movie, but ultimately Batman v Superman was a consistently solid showcase for Lois, though her exploits didn’t reach the heights of her initial scoop in Man of Steel.
Wonder Woman, however, stole the dang show. With Batman and Superman busy being dummies and acting out, Wonder Woman was the only real superhero in the film. Gal Gadot is both intriguing and stunning, and her early background appearances as Diana Prince were eye-catching and far more interesting than the goings on in the foreground. She outsmarted both Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne, nabbing a piece of tech that Bruce was using to hack Lex, but Diana was no thief; she was just trying to take back something that had been stolen from her, and later she returned Bruce’s tech to him. Even when engaging in sneaky espionage, she was honourable and honest.
And then, Wonder Woman. This will get into minor spoilers, but if you’ve seen the trailers then you know how things end up, Doomsday-wise. Wonder Woman in the Doomsday battle is a complete delight. She’s an Amazon, so she knows what to do with monsters, and throws herself into the fight. Literally, she LAUNCHES herself at Doomsday. While Batman and Superman are getting pummeled and jumping out of the way, Wonder Woman dances around Doomsday and lands blow after blow. When she gets knocked down, she smiles and gets right back into the thick of things. Throughout the battle, she uses her bracelets to block Doomsday’s eye blasts, defends herself with her shield, slices away at Doomsday with her sword, and then nabs the monster with her lasso. It’s all SUPER AWESOME.
Wonder Woman is basically the only character in the movie having fun. She’s sneaking into places as Diana Prince and outsmarting everyone, then having a blast on the battlefield as she fights Doomsday. There’s a joy and a confidence to Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman that so perfectly captures the character for me, and I can’t wait to see her in her own film. We get a tease of her World War One past in Batman v Superman, but just a small look. If Gadot can bring the same spirit to Wonder Woman, it could be an amazing movie. She was the best part of this movie, by a considerable margin.
So overall, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a fairly stupid, overly dark, not particularly enjoyable film, but it’s worth seeing for the amazingness that is Wonder Woman. We get a quick look at some other heroes too, which is sort of fun, and the stage is very clearly set for who the Justice League will be facing in their upcoming film. It seems like it’s going to be an even darker fight, which is uncool. This universe is so deeply unpleasant, apart from Wonder Woman, and I’m not looking forward to Snyder’s next outing, at all. I don’t need him to grimdark and angst up a bunch of my other favourite characters. But so long as Wonder Woman is in it, I’ll be there.