Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was legitimately looking this forward to a movie that I found this dull. About halfway through this over two-and-a-half hour movie, I had to stop my brain from thinking about other things, like what groceries I needed to pick up at some point. For a good portion of its running time, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is just a bunch of superheroes and supervillains talking about being superheroes and supervillains. I am gobsmacked by just how dull this movie turned out to be.
On a day like today, when, once again, the world is filled with real chaos and real tragedy, I was really looking forward to some escapism: Frankly, I was begging for anything to take my mind off world events. And is there anybody better than Superman to do such a thing? Yeah, there’s no real life Superman, but for a couple of hours, it would be fun to pretend. I would have given anything to watch Clark Kent open up his shirt, to reveal that big “S,” then go off to save the day as the music swells. But this Superman isn’t that Superman. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a movie that so desperately wants to be dark and gritty, it forgets to have any fun. There is no fun in this movie. Even in a legitimately “dark” superhero film like The Dark Knight, there’s still fun to be had. Watching Christian Bale schmooze and booze as Bruce Wayne was a delight. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne attends gritty underground fights for fun.
New rule: Once a colony of bats literally lifts Bruce Wayne up in the air as a Christ-like figure, you’re probably watching a movie that takes itself pretty seriously. I like Man of Steel. (I have proof.) Remember that scene when Russell Crowe’s Jor-El led Amy Adams’ Lois Lane through a maze of doors? That was fun! For the life of me I can’t figure out why Zack Snyder decided to eschew any semblance of a good time. That, may still have worked if there was something going on during the first two-thirds of this movie.
Snyder is one of the interesting visual directors working today. I think he did legitimately great work in movies like 300 and Watchmen. And even a terrible movie like Sucker Punch was at least fun to look at. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, visually, Snyder’s least-interesting film. It’s like all the “controversy” surrounding the plot of Man of Steel got to his head and he decided to play it safe. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the equivalent of aiming for the fairway instead of the green, then shanking the ball out of bounds anyway.
The film opens with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne… again. (Honestly, have two fictional characters been killed on screen more often than these two poor souls?) After we live through that again, the movie flash-forwards to the events of Man of Steel, only from Bruce Wayne’s perspective. This is my favorite scene of the movie. Snyder does a compelling job of showing what these events would look like from the perspective of a citizen. For whatever reason, horrific events always seem more frightening when they are in the background. The World Engine, just floating up there, would be legitimately frightening if you could see it off in the distance. And here, Snyder captures that well and nicely sets up Bruce Wayne’s anger at Superman. This alien being shows up and next thing we know, cities are destroyed. Yeah, if I’m Bruce Wayne, I’m mad, too. We’re off to the races!