If only Zack Snyder films could make you forget all their flaws through their sheer ambition and visual effects whirlwinds…forever. Unfortunately, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s magical moments such as its intense opening scene set against the backdrop of Superman and General Zod’s climactic showdown in Man of Steel and Bruce Wayne’s post-apocalyptic dream sequence only serve their purpose for as long as they can. The cracks at the very foundations of one of 2016’s most anticipated films start to show right from the start.
We’ve seen this story before of Bruce Wayne’s parents getting murdered and the poor child running and falling into his future batcave, yet the film treats it as if the audience still doesn’t know the reason for Batman’s angst after the numerous films of yesteryear. The entire extended opening credits sequence is dedicated to this cause, and for some reason the sight of him floating up along with the bats back into the light feels so off it serves as a warning to the coming bombardment of out of place acting by Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander Luthor, clearly forcing memories of the Joker upon the audience. It’s a pain seeing acting talent wasted even as Luthor’s machinations leading to the titular epic throwdown are revealed piece by piece like a detective story—not to say it’s engaging by any means.
But there is hope just like Superman is a symbol of it. For every wasted actor such as the sparely used Tao Okamoto, the movie is propped up by the presences of the two main protagonists in Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, with particular praise given to the latter. Affleck does a good job of being Batman and the man behind it, but he is lacking a little refinement in his closeups. Gal Gadot is an exciting prospect as the scene-stealing Wonder Woman, and I’d like to see more of the wise and old Alfred just because he complements Bruce nicely and is his tech guy to boot.
The world is arguably one of the characters in BvS; celebrity reporters and even scientists fill channels with moral debates on Superman. Should he exist, and what implications does he have in our world? Who does he answer to and should he be held accountable for collateral damage (a la this May’s Captain America: Civil War)? A very interesting premise is never explored fully or resolved in a satisfying manner. It is, along with the promise of inheriting some of what made Christopher Nolan’s trilogy more than superhero films, devoured in a frenzy of action scenes.
And that action is what makes a Zack Snyder film tick. The visuals too, and the music make their way in the translation into a wider Cinematic Universe (poor Cyborg, he got the least interesting tease out of the three Justice League cameos). The pace is fast enough for audiences to forgive half the mistakes at a blazing fast clip because they’re constantly engaged with beautiful sights, sounds and those aforementioned magical moments sprinkled throughout. I worry though that in subsequent viewings the cracks will appear to widen.
I was a fan of Zack Snyder’s once, and Man of Steel restored some of that until the aforementioned subsequent viewings when I saw past the ambition and newness, and sadly I expect the same to happen this time around. We were all cautious in anticipating this epic showdown of two of the most iconic superheroes of all time, and we were right. With Snyder still at the helm for both parts of the Justice League film, the symbol of hope for the DC cinematic universe; its Superman, just found its kryptonite.