Review: the super bland “Batman v Superman”
THE SANTA CLARA
March 31, 2016
“Messy.” “Boring.” “Confused.” “Stupid.”
All week, bloodthirsty critics have devoured “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” spat it back out and described what an awful taste it left in their mouths. At first, it seemed like they were opportunistically going after low-hanging fruit. But after seeing “Batman v Superman” myself, I realized that I am not above these other critics.
Rather, I have learned that low-hanging fruit can be just as sweet as the fruit at the top of the tree. So let’s eat.
I’ll start with the director, Zack Snyder, whose six directorial efforts prior to this film can be summed up in one word: meh. Snyder is considered a “visionary filmmaker,” which is a fancy term for a director who believes that imagery should take precedent over storytelling. He’s very much in the same vein as Guillermo del Toro or the Wachowskis, but unlike them, Snyder has never made a decent film.
“Batman v Superman” is no exception. At its best, it is overly ambitious. At its worst, it is headache-inducing. The film’s all-star cast should have saved it from mediocrity, but many of them contribute to its downfall.
Ben Affleck’s much-hyped and polarizing turn as the Caped Crusader is actually surprisingly decent. He has the look, his voice is cement-mixer gravelly and his frowning face conveys Bruce Wayne’s signature brooding pessimism. However, much of Affleck’s performance seems surface-level. We don’t see the inner-struggle, the tortured psyche—and in a film as dark as this, it’s necessary.
Henry Cavill tries a similar approach in his role as Superman, though his particular brand of grimness and intensity seems misplaced and unconvincing. The film attempts to develop his character by incorporating his parents (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, both expendable) and his lady love Lois Lane (Amy Adams, always delightful), but their scenes have vapid subplots that weigh down an already overstuffed feature.
Perhaps the most divided response among critics has been in response to Jesse Eisenberg’s casting as Lex Luthor, or rather Lex Luthor’s son, a young tech mogul. His performance has been called “over-the-top” and “cartoonish,” though in a film as self-serious as this, I found his scenes to be refreshing palate cleansers.
His nuances are fascinating (particularly when he punctuates his dialogue with high-pitched “hmm” sounds) and his performance combines his role as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” with Anthony Perkins’s role as Norman Bates in “Psycho.”
Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a manipulative little twirp with a huge Napoleon complex and even huger daddy issues (he mentions he suffered his father’s “fist and abominations”). Eisenberg steals the show, and it’s the meatiest role of his young career.
The other performances get lost in the shuffle and are mostly forgettable, but a bright spot among the supporting cast is Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman. In portraying the 5,000 year-old Amazonian princess, Gadot becomes the oldest and sexiest cougar to ever hit the big screen. In addition to being a privilege to look at, she’s dynamic in her fight scenes and her Middle Eastern accent sprinkles her character’s dialogue with a sense of allure and ambiguity.
Many elements of the movie simply don’t cohere. The script is scattered (though some lines of dialogue, mostly those spoken by Eisenberg, are exceptionally epic), the score is distracting and the CGI is mind-numbingly monotonous. Also, Bruce Wayne’s various dream sequences and flashbacks come across as lazy and self-satisfying, even for someone like Zack Snyder, whose made a career off of films that are lazy and self-satisfying.
Most egregious of all is the film’s desperate and hamfisted attempts to inject Christian imagery into the scenes involving Superman.
Shots of a beaten Superman lying in a crucified position were more often than not followed by shots of Superman lying in someone’s arms (Pieta). A scene in space witnessed Superman sticking out his finger towards Earth (The Creation of Adam) and another scene witnessed dozens of people reaching out to touch their Christ-like savior after he had saved a child from a burning building. Snyder has never been one for subtlety, but the constant, Christian iconography was laughable in its overtness.
In the end, “Batman v Superman” lets me down. As Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor said, “It’s the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world.” But it bored me. I couldn’t be bothered to decide who I was rooting for. A battle this epic shouldn’t have been this bland.
Contact Jimmy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.