I can basically sum up my feelings towards this film with a sigh. The deepest, most guttural, exasperated and tired sigh that my body can produce.
Spoilers ahead within this review.
This film is mostly a jumbled mess of disjointed scenes that never seem to go anywhere. What I mean by this is that scenes begin, seem to be reaching a point, never each them and simply move onto a completely unrelated scene. It honestly feels like whoever made the decisions about the structure and length of scenes, whether it be the editor, the director Zack Snyder or the writers Chris Terio and David S. Goyer, had so little attention that they felt the need to constantly be jumping to new scenes. This film is filled to the brim with some interesting scenes, but because of its need to cram so much into its already bloated runtime and run through all it wanted to, the film never allows for genuine dramatic moments to breathe or have their full impact be played out; instead opting to have a large majority of shot scenes that serve a practical purpose to move the plot along, but not have any actual weight or drama.
A key example of this is the moment where Superman (Henry Cavill) is standing alone in the fiery aftermath of a terrorist attack masterminded by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to create more blame and paranoia around Superman and his actions. Now this moment on paper is quite genuinely effective and dramatic. However due to the bizarre pacing of the film and its general lack of depth, this moment is given only a few seconds. On top of that this moment in the plot gets rid of a bunch of side characters who had the potential to be really interesting, such as senator Finch (Holly Hunter) who was bringing up some really interesting questions about Superman. On top of that she was a complex character herself as she was not completely cut and dry about her questioning of Superman’s role in the world.
Speaking of Superman, despite sharing half of the title of the film, he honestly felt like he wasn’t there most of the time. Whether it Cavill’s wooden acting or Snyder’s direction of him, Superman never felt like he was emoting or feeling anything at all. You could read that as Superman being tired of the world, but for me this lack of emotion towards even his lover felt off. Additionally Superman also felt largely absent due to the large focus upon establishing Batman/Bruce Wayne. (Ben Affleck), thus stopping, in all honesty, a potentially very interesting story about the repercussions of his actions.
Yet, maybe this focus upon Batman was for the better as Ben Affleck’s stab at the dark knight was extremely entertaining and compelling. His take on the cape crusader is definitely one of the highlights of the film. He brings a natural charm to the Bruce Wayne character, minus the bizarre ‘not all men’ moment , and was quite entertaining to watch in the moments where he played Batman’s civilian identity. His performance as the bat of Gotham was also really good, bringing the right amount of intensity, darkness, intelligence, but also a sense of humour ,that was lacking in the Nolan version of the character, which arose in the final act of the film.
So Batfleck turned out fine, but what about Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor? Most people were against Eisenberg essentially reprising his role as Mark Zuckerberg, but I for one was quite looking forward to such a portrayal of Superman’s nemesis. In fact I still stand by the idea that this was probably the best way to update Lex Luthor for the 2010’s as Zuckerberg is the prototypical ideal of what a tech CEO is nowadays. Eisenberg’s portrayal was extremely entertaining for the majority of the film, but his manic mannerisms did wear thin by the end of the film and his initial charm did just devolve into snarky and pseudo-philosophical one-liners.
As for the secondary cast, they were actually some of the most entertaining parts of the film. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman was absolutely amazing when we did see her and I look forward to her solo film. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred was also entertaining with his sarcastic quips towards his employer being one of the more entertaining aspects of the film. The earlier mentioned senator Finch was also quite interesting as well. As for Amy Adams’s Lois Lane, her performance was competent, but I have to go against the grain of other reviews and say that she barely had any chemistry with Henry Cavill and their romance felt quite soulless, rather than touching.
Which honestly could have been due to the scripts overall lack in the dialogue department. Rather than organic conversations that a human being has, the dialogue between a majority of the cast felt like it was written by an algorithm that was designed to create moments for trailers and marketing. What I mean is that the dialogue felt mostly wooden and comprised of big lines, rather than natural conversation.
But what is a big summer blockbuster superhero without its action? I’ll give credit where credit is due, Zack Snyder crafts action scenes very well. The main fight between the two was choreographed wonderfully, yet only lasted around 10 minutes, thus making the title a lie, but I will blame that more on the film’s pacing. The final fight between Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman against Doomsday was also done very well, albeit with some shoddy acting due to Doomsday being CGI. But the best action has to be within the scene where Batman rescues Martha Kent. Taking visual and choreography cues from the Arkham series of Batman games, the scene was quite refreshing to watch as we haven’t yet seen this style of fluid action in a film in recent memory.
As for the visual style of the film, I think it’s version of Doomsday is the perfect metaphor for it: a gray, drab homogeneous mess. The whole film’s aesthetic felt quite dead due to its overall low contrast and muted colour palette. There were some shots that were quite gorgeous and photographic, but they were far and few in-between and due to their length, broke up the pace of the film at times. My sigh from the opening of this piece practically sums up how I feel about how the film looks.
Leaving the cinema, I wasn’t enraged, I was just severely disappointed, despite going in with very low expectations. There is some good in the film I won’t lie and on paper the plot is fine, except it’s pace stopped it from being nothing but mediocre. If the powers that be made a proper sequel to Man of Steel where the plot points of Superman facing the consequence of his actions were given the proper time to develop; then having a proper Batman v Superman film where the fight was more than 10 minutes, the two heroes fought out over more than a single evening, thus giving more breathing room for is story, it would have been a far less mediocre watch. But instead we got a disjointed mess of scenes that go nowhere, some very wooden acting, a great secondary cast and Batman, a visual style akin to a white wall and some maybe okay action scenes. I just hope the last act is an indicator of what future films are going to be like, because right now, with this effort, DC is losing out against Marvel.