“Dawn Of Justice” tries to be so many movies all at once that maybe it’s not surprising that at least one of them is actually pretty good. Yes, you heard it here first, folks…this film isn’t nearly as bad as the critics are saying. The second half of the film, in fact, is very well done and is legitimately action-packed. As absurd as the journey was in getting there, it’s admittedly pretty cool once you finally get around to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all joining forces to kick some ass. Directing elaborate battle scenes is right in Zack Snyder’s wheelhouse, so given that basically the entire last 60-70 minutes is two huge fights, it really saves things.
The first half of the movie, however, when Snyder is trying to portray actual human conversations and ideas…yikes. One of the worst 60-70 minutes of movie I’ve ever seen. I can’t tell if the plot machinations required to have Batman and Superman actually facing off against each other were either too lengthy or completely unnecessary altogether. This universe’s Bruce Wayne, you see, automatically assumes Superman is a threat based on the destruction the Supes/Zod battle in “Man Of Steel” left in its wake. In a smarter filmmaker’s hands, this could actually be a clever way of addressing that movie’s glaring flaw of why Superman seemingly didn’t care about trashing half of Metropolis to beat Zod. In, well, Snyder’s hands, the battle takes down a Wayne Foundation building and instantly turns Bruce against Superman.
This is where you could point out that Batman’s traditional comic book character is, of course, “The World’s Greatest Detective.” You might note that Batman doesn’t actually do any *detecting* to confirm his hunch that Superman is bad news, he just immediately acts on it. You also might infer that Bruce’s already-infamous “if there’s even a one percent chance he’s against us, we have to take it as a certainty” line is an example of TRULY LOUSY DETECTIVE WORK. In the comics, Batman is certainly cautious and/or paranoid about his dealings with superhumans, yet he doesn’t jump to conclusions since comic book Batman is actually smart. Snyder movie Batman, not so much. Between this, Batman using guns and actually seemingly killing people, one wonders if Snyder has ever actually read a Batman comic before. Anyway, my point is that since Batman is already anti-Superman, you didn’t need this elaborate setup on Lex Luthor’s part to pit them against each other.
So on the one hand you have Batman’s character being assassinated, and Superman (for the second straight film) having no character at all. I still don’t know if Henry Cavill is a good actor or not since he’s given absolutely nothing to work with; we know BvS is wasting Amy Adams since we know what she’s capable of, though with Cavill, it’s a crapshoot. I think Clark/Superman has less than 50 lines total in the entire movie.
And since we’re talking performances, ye gods, Jesse Eisenberg. On paper, the idea of redoing Lex Luthor as a younger tech billionaire is not necessarily a bad one, and having Eisenberg in the role as kind of a Social Network spoof also isn’t bad. In practice, this was a disaster. Eisenberg is all the hell over the place with this part, kind of a poor man’s Jim Carrey Riddler reading a Wikipedia entry on god metaphors. This is a career low for Eisenberg. For the love of Zod, is it so difficult to do Lex Luthor properly on screen? Gene Hackman made him a sleazy car salesman, Kevin Spacey made him Frank Underwood as a sleazy car salesman and now you have Eisenberg stinking it up. This shouldn’t be so hard, people!
After all these critical paragraphs, I remind you that the movie isn’t half-bad. Well, actually…it literally is half-bad. If you sneak into a theatre at around the 75-minute mark, you should be fine. You might get there in time to see the VERY ham-fisted references to the other Justice League members, though they weren’t really that bad. In fact, the Justice League stuff as a whole was a strength with Gal Gadot pretty much nails it as Wonder Woman. It’s not a stretch to say she was the highlight of the whole production. Maybe it helps that this is the first time we’ve seen WW on the big screen, or that her comics history has been revamped so many times that she’s a blank slate characterization-wise, but it seemed to me like she came off by far the best of anyone in the movie.
Two more comments before I forget this movie ever existed…
* as someone who works in the journalism business, I’m pretty sure editors-in-chief of major city newspapers don’t walk around the office personally adding headlines to every story. Perry White is a micro-manager.
* it amused me for some reason that Gotham and Metropolis were situated right across the bay from each other. It reminded me of my favourite joke from Road House, which was that Dalton and Brad Wesley live literally about 100 yards away from each other, separated by a pond. The comics universe is never totally clear on where both cities are “actually” located in their fictional America (both are kinda versions of New York, or there’s some thought that Gotham is in New Jersey and Metropolis is in Delaware), so I guess they might as well be neighbours. Though, if they’re that close, you’d think Superman would’ve encountered Batman well before now. Maybe that’s why Batman is really upset; Superman just flies over to Gotham and easily dispatches all the criminals, leaving Batman feeling upstaged.
Batman: Here’s the Joker, he’s pure evil, he’s easily the most dangerous….
Superman: I just knocked him out cold with a flick of my finger.