The first thing that I heard about this film was quite a while back when it was announced that Ben Affleck was to be cast as Batman in the upcoming production. Immediately my social media feeds exploded with scathing comments about how bad this film was going to be and how since Mr. Affleck had already ruined on beloved superhero franchise, it would probably also do the same to Batman. As usual, I just sat back and took a wait-and-see stance because I refuse to judge such things until I actually see them. When all the negativity died down, and I saw previews, I did get excited to see this film.
This afternoon, we piled into the car and headed for the theater. My first knee jerk reaction when it was over was to ask myself, “what did I just see?” Both Chrissy and Diane asked me if I liked it and I had to admit that I wasn’t sure at that moment and that I would have to give it some thought. Now I find myself sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out how to review this film.
The film starts out with the same thing I have seen in every single Batman movie I have ever watched; a rehashing of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents as the leave the theater (now I have to also point out that I have not watched every Batman movie, so I cannot say if this takes place in every movie, just the ones I have seen).
Following that grim opening, we join Bruce as he witnesses some of the battle from Man of Steel and the destruction that is being wrought as the Kryptonian ship begins to reform the Earth into one that is more suitable to General Zod’s ideals, as well as the problems that are being caused as Superman and Zod settle their differences. Many buildings are being destroyed and I would imagine that hundreds of people are being killed. As Bruce arrives at his office building, he witnesses its destruction and the deaths of many of his employees. He looks up to see Superman fly near the area and is clearly not one of his admirers.
Eighteen months after the events of Man of Steel, we follow Lois Lane and a photographer preparing to interview a presumed terrorist somewhere in Africa. The terrorists discover that the photographer is actually a CIA agent who is carrying a device that allows cruise missiles to be targeted on the location of the camp which leads to a gun battle between the terrorists and what must be other CIA agents. Many are killed before Superman arrives on the scene to save Lois. Despite Lois’ protests, Superman is blamed for all of the deaths casting even more of a shadow over his image, which is already being scrutinized because of his power and due to fear of the unknown.
As time goes on, we witness a smear campaign being engineered by Lex Luthor that is casting a bad light on both Superman and Batman, not only to their public images, but also stirring bad feelings against each other. They prepare to confront one another at some point when Lex raises the stakes by kidnapping Martha Kent just before Superman figures out what is actually going on. Lex tells Superman that he will have Martha killed unless Superman kills Batman within a certain amount of time. Batman prepared to face superman by creating an armored suit, a tear gas gun that fires kryptonite gas shells, and a spear with a kryptonite head. Also unknown to everyone, Lex had created a monster that uses the his DNA mixed with that of General Zod that he will unleash to destroy whomever survives.
The battle unfolds with the two heroes gaining very little in the way of winning until Batman manages to subdue Superman with the kryptonite gas, but just as Batman is about to run Superman through, he mentions the name of his adoptive mother, Martha, which causes Batman to pause, because his mother was also named Martha. Batman finally figures out what has been happening and vows to save Superman’s mother while he goes to confront Lex who unleashes the monster.
Having saved Martha Kent, Superman and Batman now joined by Wonder Woman fight the creature. Superman retrieves the spear that was intended for him and he finally manages to impale the monster with it, but the monster also manages to kill Superman at the same time.
In the final scenes, Lex is arrested and imprisoned, and there are funerals for Superman/Clark Kent. Bruce Wayne confides to Diana (Wonder Woman) that it is his intention to put together a team of metahumans to protect the planet in place of Superman. But, at the very end, we get a hint that we may not have seen the last of Superman as we hear a faint heartbeat coming from Clark’s coffin, and a handful of dirt that Lois dropped on it begins to levitate.
I felt that the cast, for the most part, did a pretty good job portraying their characters, but I have a few reservations in this area. While I was very enthusiastic about Henry Cavill in Man of Steel, I found that I was less so with this film. Superman came across as brooding and somewhat unsure of himself and needed some unkind up by his mother and a vision of John Kent (excellently portrayed once again by Kevin Costner). I found that I didn’t like this Superman as well as I did and would have liked to learn a little more about why he was so pensive this time around. Ben Affleck did a pretty good job as Batman and I was not disappointed in his performance; he was most certainly the brooding character that one would expect Batman to be, and his portrayal as Bruce Wayne was also quite good as a self confident multi-billionaire playboy, although beginning to show his age as well as the lifestyle that would go with being a crime fighter and corporate magnate. Gal Gadot was amazing as Wonder Woman and I look forward to seeing her in future installments of the newly forming Justice League, but at the same time would have liked to have seen a little less story exposition and a little more character development for her. I found Gadot’s performance, such as it was, great and a welcome addition to the franchise. I liked Amy Adams’ portrayal as Lois Lane but thought that she was once again treated as window dressing and someone for Superman to save and be in the right place at the right (or wrong) time. They could certainly do a better job with Lois in the future. One bright spot in the cast was Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor, the evil genius arch enemy of Superman. His performance was just enough over the top to be believable as a real person but not too much so as was Gene Hackman’s was in the Superman films featuring Christopher Reeves (don’t get me wrong, I loved Hackman’s Lex character which was appropriate for the type of films that those were).
One problem I have with Batman vs. Superman is the length of the film itself. It was just too long, yes I felt that it was longer than necessary with far too much exposition all material. I felt that we could have gotten to the meat of the story far sooner than it did. There were a few times that I found my mind wandering and I even nodded off a couple of times to be awakened by a loud noise.
I went into the theater expecting to see a Marvel style comic book film with a lot of action, a few wisecracks, and some really good story, and this is where I guess I found myself so befuddled as I left the building. This is far closer to a Sci-Fi Action Drama than it is to a comic book film that is severely lacking in character development and way overdone in the area of story development. It didn’t take long to figure out that Lex was playing both sides against the middle and an awful lot of this film was dedicated to that aspect. There were a few moments of levity, but most of this film was very dark and contemplative to the point of distraction. But once the action finally started (I didn’t time it, but I would say that last 40 minutes of the film) it was pretty good. I normally hesitate to rate things on a whatever out-of whatever basis, but in this case, I would have to give this one a three out of five, calling it an interesting and not bad, but not great film. I don’t think that comic fans would like it very much, and those that may not be very familiar with the characters might find themselves lost; foreknowledge of this universe is going to be something the viewer will find they need.
Well, there it is…Qaplah’!