There are movies that are so highly anticipated that, whether you want to or not, you just have to sit and anticipate them. I maybe didn’t want to think about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice anymore, but I had to because it was so anticipated. I didn’t particularly enjoy Man of Steel (less if I think about it too much) and was worried about this movie as a DC Comics fan, a Batman fan, and a movie fan. There were lots of ways this movie could have let me down. Now I’ve seen it. I’m not gonna beat around the bush: This is not a perfect movie. It’s not the savior a lot of people were hoping it would be. But I actually enjoyed it a whole lot more than I expected to.
Everybody knows the basic story of the movie so I won’t spend too long rehashing, but for the sake of critical due diligence, here’s a quick run-through: Superman (Henry Cavill) tries to do good but bad stuff happens around him and there are people who think he’s a menace. He, however, thinks this Bat from Gotham is the real menace. Batman (Ben Affleck) is beginning to go too far in Gotham City and is becoming obsessed with the idea that a man from outer space could kill everyone if he wanted to. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is trying to figure out who’s trying to frame Superman for bad stuff. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) wants to bring Kryptonite into the country to create a contingency plan against Superman. There are other characters as well. (This is literally as vague as I could make the story part of this review… there are surprises I wouldn’t dare spoil.)
First and foremost, I think Zack Snyder‘s ambition for Batman v Superman is a lot bigger than most of us had anticipated. There are a LOT of moving pieces to this movie—some would say too many. For better or worse, they have decided to use this one movie to set up the entirety of the DC Cinematic Universe, which means a lot of things have to happen on top of telling a single story about characters. As a result, things often feel rushed and go unexplained, and a lot of decisions feel unmotivated.
We spend a decent amount of time with Batman, but I could have used more. We spend an abysmally little amount of time with Superman, even though he’s ostensibly the second lead. Somehow in two movies we still don’t really get a sense of him. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is absurdly twitchy and his plans are pretty roundly unexplored until it’s time to implement them.
Okay, so I’ve said all of these things. But, it’s almost no use even trying to review this version of the movie from a plot perspective because we already know that a whole extra hour will be put back in for the director’s cut. One would imagine that this stuff will be integral to those pesky things like character development and building of relationships.
By now, it probably sounds like I didn’t like the movie, but that’s not the case. I liked quite a lot about it, first and foremost being Ben Affleck as Batman. I completely buy him as the embittered man who’s been fighting against evil little by little for half his life, and who resents a space alien who comes down and picks and chooses who to save. The opening sees him running around Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel‘s climax (the big Supes/Zod battle), which worked really well in endearing me to this Bruce Wayne right away.
Gal Gadot was another standout. She isn’t a huge part of the story, but when she appears, it works. And folks wanting to see Wonder Woman on the big screen doing badass things certainly have that.
I also very much enjoyed the look of the film. I had the pleasure of seeing the movie on a true IMAX screen, which was immersive. The few scenes that were shot with those special ultra IMAX lenses are pretty breathtaking.
The film also, in case you’re worried or wondering, goes out of its way to explain that the bigger, city-leveling moments in the movie happen in relatively deserted portions of Metropolis and/or Gotham City, to stave off any of the problems people (justifiably) had with Man of Steel. (That said, I hope you don’t have a rigid stance on Batman not killing people.)
Mostly what I enjoyed was the sheer audacity, the cajones Snyder and the others must have had in order to put in as much as they did. Two separate announcements were made prior to the movie to ensure that no major spoilers were given in these reviews and reactions, and there’s a reason for that. I worry that a lot of THOSE ELEMENTS will be lost on a non-comic-reading audience that make up the bulk of the movie-going public, but it’s kind of awesome that they’re putting these Easter eggs in for us. If you know them, you’ll know them when you see them. Ultimately, this is current DC Comics on the screen, writ large.
I do feel like the movie was mis-marketed. A lot of what could have been cool surprises have been included in ads and trailers from the start, though some of them are still pretty special when you see them on the big screen. But how exactly do you market a movie that’s got everything in it? Like the title of the movie itself, they couldn’t really decide which angle to go with, and so went with every angle. The title is unwieldy because the movie is unwieldy. Never before have I seen a movie that I went into knowing not only that a lot was cut but exactly how much and that I’ll get to see it eventually. It’s actually amazing the movie works at all given that.
And much like the movie, I feel like this review has become all over the place and messy in parts. As a theatrical release, it’s certainly entertaining. It’s got enough action. It’s got some pretty engaging moments and images and even whole scenes. But there are also huge gaps in reason and logic that I can only hope get explained down the road in the longer cut.
But, yeah, if you’re just interested in seeing Batman and Superman square off, you’re definitely going to see that.
There were sparks of greatness in the movie that didn’t quite flame up all the way like they should have, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I can’t believe I’m actually EXCITED to see an extended Zack Snyder movie. I hope it’s worth the wait. Go in with realistic expectations and you’ll probably have a good time. After all, it’s still a movie where man-gods punch each other.
Image: Warner Bros
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!