If you saw one movie last weekend, it was most likely Zack Snyder’s follow-up to Man of Steel. A cinematic event both hotly anticipated and highly divisive in the movie-going community, this iconic “match up” is something of an anomaly. On paper (both the story from David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio, and the various seminal comics they culled from) this big screen throw down was a grapefruit that Snyder and company should have knocked out of the park….but sadly, BvS is a bit of a mess. While the intent was to craft a reverent adaptation, what fans got was a sluggish affair – one mashed together so hastily that very little, if anything, was memorable after leaving the theater.
But what really went wrong? You could say that, like Man of Steel, this was a comic book movie without a fun factor (someone must have really thought David Fincher should have landed this gig). But while Snyder’s talent has always been his strong visual palette, this was so bogged down by dour cinematography that even a wham bam slugfest couldn’t make up for the nonsensical plotting. This had loads of potential, but was also way too serious for its own good.
While that was the point, Affleck is a tough sell in the role – he’s one of those people whose persona overshadows any of the characters he could play. On the other hand, Henry Cavill was well suited and certainly one of the good things about Man of Steel. Yet here he turns in an even more desaturated portrayal of the Big Blue Boy Scout…and he’s barely in this story.
Even Jesse Eisenberg, who usually can’t do wrong, is given a role that doesn’t really have any motivation. He also seems to have an innate Joker just waiting to break out which only complicates people’s efforts to understand, or (even as a villain) like him. But that could describe this whole production; BvS wants to be something other that what it is, but it can’t given the resources at hand.
All that said, it’s not worth harping on what is the most obvious offense which is that this is a rushed and studder step approach towards the Justice League (translation: an answer to Whedon’s Avengers). WB is so eager to give fans a DC ensemble piece that it is looking it to skip parts of the recipe in the kitchen. Even the look of the film suffered. While stylish and exciting from the first reveal – people were truly interested to see the new version of Batman (suit, cowl, Batmobile, et al) – for two plus hours, it all felt like a grey blur.
It’s just not fun when you want to have time with these good-looking visuals but can’t; it even makes the toys a tough sell which should tell you something. Also it doesn’t help that everything is dark, dark, dark – both the narrative and the aesthetics. Now DC has some fun and colorful characters (which is why, on TV, they are killing it in story and ratings) but even when Bryan Singer went all Johnny Cash on Xavier’s gifted youngsters, they were never unappealing. When the dust settles after 151 minutes, there is very little about BvS that is remarkable, and it’s a real pity.
The bad sadly outweighs the good and really, much of that comes from expectations – what we wanted versus what we got – and no one person is to blame for being disappointed. Case in point: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sure it was a massive hit, but it didn’t keep people from flocking to message boards with criticism and many fans were still left wanting. As they say, you can’t please all of the people all the time.
Complaints aside, people need to give Snyder a high five for doing his best – it’s clear he had a lot of people to please (in-house and in theaters) and he was hamstringed along the way, even in the visual department which is his strong suit. WB has some of the deepest pockets in Hollywood and it can be argued that they have more dollars than sense. It should have been a milestone in the DCEU, instead it’s merely a pit stop to the Justice League. The pawn sacrifice to get closer to it is perhaps the biggest crime. So where’s Batman to avenge this movie?