This review contains some spoilers for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, though, I am leaving out the most significant spoiler that wasn’t in the trailer. If you want to remain thoroughly unspoiled, please avoid reading this review until after you see the movie.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a bad movie. That’s almost a critical fact at this point. As of the writing of this review, it has a 29% critical rating on RottenTomatoes.com, and it has had the largest drop in Friday to Friday sales of any comic movies in history (I have issues with the way that these types of facts are reported, but the point remains that this is still a big hit to the film). So the movie is bad. I’ll talk a little bit about why, but there are plenty of reviews bashing it. I don’t need to add mine to that pile. They’re mostly right. Go read/watch them (If you want a particularly angry one, check out MovieBob’s review). What I want to talk about is what the potential effects are of this film being so bad, and whether or not it will serve as a death sentence for the rest of the DCEU either in that it will prevent them from being made or just in that people will be disinclined to see them.
So, here’s the deal. I saw it last week, and when I walked into the theater, I was expecting it to be a complete disaster. It wasn’t a COMPLETE disaster. There were some parts of the movie that were actually pretty entertaining. It was (as most comic fan reviewers have pointed out) awesome to finally see the trinity on screen together. Almost everything Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White says is gold (though, I suspect that has more to do with Laurence Fishburne than the actual writing). Gal Gadot was great as Wonder Woman. And, maybe most importantly to ME, there is a scene in the film that is so alive and ridiculous that it looks like it was torn right out of a comic splash page: Doomsday struggling against Wonder Woman’s lasso of lightning, firing lasers out of his eyes and mouth while Superman rushes in with a kryptonite spear. Everything about that shot made me go “Hey. Maybe DC/WB isn’t as afraid of comic books as I thought.”
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie continues to use the same old dingy washed out palette with the same disregard for what makes these characters great. So, the good parts of the film pretty much end there. I’m not going to recount all the ways this movie fails, but I want to discuss the most significant one to me: The plot just doesn’t make any sense. I can forgive a lot when it comes to film adaptation. I can forgive Batman killing people in this movie (not without some effort on my part, but I can get there), I can forgive Jesse Eisenberg’s ridiculous Lex Luthor, and I really don’t need everything about a plot explained to me. In the end, I just need a plot to make internal sense, and there weren’t enough pieces of a plot to do that. The movie felt like a series of disconnected vignettes that eventually came together in the end to all be part of Luthor’s plan to get Batman and Superman to fight so that he can get his friend Zack Snyder to make a movie about it (or at least this is the justification I have decided to come up with, as the movie gives NO ACTUAL RATIONALE AT ALL FOR LUTHOR DOING THIS). This whole thing makes no sense to me, and I found myself totally lost. But the action sequences after that point are pretty cool. So there is that, I guess?
The question that I am more interested in is this: what does this mean for the rest of the DCEU (as WB has decided to call their movie universe)? Well… first of all, we are going to see at least 2 more movies, even if this film made zero dollars. Suicide Squad is shot, in the can, and coming out in a few months. Wonder Woman is shooting now. Those movies are going to come out no matter what. And, as it turns out, BvS didn’t TOTALLY bomb at the box office, so we don’t need to worry about the worst case scenario. We will see a few movies in the DCEU no matter what, but are they going to be worth seeing? Has this movie tainted this franchise in a way that will mean we won’t get any decent films out of it? I don’t think so. Let me explain why.
The one thing Batman V Superman was actually pretty good at was acting as an extended trailer for the rest of the DCEU. It showed us some clips within the movie that included three major members of the Justice League: The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. The method of including these in the film is clumsy, at best, but we DID see them! We also got a good look at Wonder Woman, and I have no complaints about her, nor does anyone else I talked to. We even got some weird scene with the Flash going back in time to warn Batman about protecting Lois, or something. That scene, like most of the movie, didn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s there! What all of this means, though, at least for me, was that it worked to get me excited for those solo movies, even if I didn’t like this one. I really loved what we got of Wonder Woman in this movie, as little as there was of it. She seemed confident and fiercely independent, just like she should. She was a badass, and not only was she NOT just there for the boys, she legitimately didn’t care about them or what they were doing. She only showed, because she had to step up and save the city from Doomsday, since she couldn’t trust Bats and Supes to do it. And her entrance during the fight with Doomsday was the only time our theater cheered. I just wish we got to see more of her, but we will in her solo movie. And since that movie is not being directed by Zack Snyder, nor is Suicide Squad, I feel like those movies, at least, are in pretty good hands. Where I am concerned is with the Justice League movies. Snyder is still in control of those, and that could very easily go very badly, if he sticks to his current vision of these characters.
Overall, though, Batman V Superman is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not even the worst superhero movie I’ve ever seen. It’s frustrating, though, because it could have been good. If these characters were treated with more love of the source material and the film was written and directed in a way that made the plot make sense, we could have had a really great movie. It’s hard to make a comic fan really dislike a movie that has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in it for the first time ever. But Zack Snyder and Warner Bros managed to do it. So, congratulations? But as bad as this movie is, I am still hopeful that we will see some good things coming out of the non-Snyder films in the DCEU. I suppose we will find out in August with Suicide Squad.
As a side note, Zack Snyder has said that he will be releasing a 3+ hour long R-rated director’s cut of Batman V Superman on DVD. It’s possible that version of the film will be less confusing. I feel like there must have been some key scenes cut out that made this plot make more sense (because I can’t imagine this level of confusion was intentional). However, with the knowledge that THAT film will exist eventually, I see no reason why ANYONE should go and see this one. If you are going to hate it, but must watch it anyway, you will probably hate the extended version less (I’m hoping), and if you are going to like it, you will probably like the extended version more.
That being said, if you ABSOLUTELY MUST see a movie this weekend (I don’t know… maybe you have a date or something? Or you just need to get out of the house? Or you have an obsessive need to eat popcorn?). Whatever your reason, don’t see this movie. See a good one, like Zootopia.