When Director Zack Snyder was given the keys to the Superman franchise in 2013 fans were rightly skeptical. The man has made his living on macho gore-fests like 300 and Watchmen and his recent output hasn’t exactly imbued the general public with confidence. So when his saggy, bloated bore fest Man of Steel was released everyone was disappointed, but the previews were good so it made a fortune.
And lately that’s exactly what Snyder has produced: Extremely intriguing trailers. Sucker Punch in 2011 garnered tons of intrigue with its steam punk aesthetic, beautiful women kicking ass and rockin’ soundtrack but the movie was less feminist manifesto and more Donald Trump fever dream. 300’s trailer single-handedly etched his name on the A-list. Man of Steel’s trailer is a beautiful, Terrence Mallick knock-off that set up his vision of Kal-El as a potentially insightful superhero think piece. The final product was decidedly less so.
Which is why, amidst the hype surrounding his sequel – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – the naysayers were loud, proud, and most people were used to it. What becomes an overstuffed snoozerama begins intriguingly enough. After we’re treated to the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents for the 100th time on screen we find Mr. Wayne (Ben Affleck) flooring it through the streets of Metropolis as destruction rains down from the battle of Supes (Henry Cavill) and General Zod. This sequence (one of the film’s best) sets up the Dark Knights hate for the God among men as he watches his employees die and the city crumble (one man loses his legs, another girl watches her Mom’s building crumble to the ground – this movie is borderline ok for kids.)
In fact – Snyder’s initial hour of setup kind of works, even as he consistently undermines it with subplots. The world is coming to grips with the existence of Superman, some see him as a savior and others hate his presence. One of those men is Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) – a gangly, Mark Zuckerberg in the Social Network douche nozzle who is using his family inheritance for r&d that isn’t exactly above board. He loathes Superman and uses every conceivable moment to orate about power and how it’s scary to have a handsome alien around.
While Superman ponders his existence with the help of his girlfriend/confidant/fearless reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) – Bats is devising a plan. Affleck’s Wayne is a seriously tortured soul, the first Batman to openly kill onscreen (a total betrayal of his characters moral center.) While we’re never really given a motivation, Affleck has a convincing scowl so we know he’s sad. Wayne is much more a vigilante detective than he’s ever been – following a sex trafficking ring down the rabbit hole to find the source while simultaneously figuring out a way (with the help of his trusty butler Alfred – played by the randy Jeremy Irons) to fight an unkillable God-alien.
Sound fun? Well, it SORT OF is until the Warner Brothers mandated world building starts and we’re introduced to Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot,) Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash, Mama Kent (Diane Lane,) and a boat load of other plot points that are so unnecessary this movie could be legitimately 45 minutes shorter. By the time we get to the fight the title promises its possible most of the audience will be asleep.
The worst part is Snyder finds moments of weirdness and flights of cinematic fancy that are truly awe inspiring in IMAX. Batman has multiple tortured dream sequences that are so good it makes you wonder what a more focused script and director could have done. DP Larry Fong filmed pieces of the film in IMAX and I can’t deny how incredible they look – it almost made the run-time bearable.
Truth be told – BVS sucks. I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt but the Red Bull induced CGI-mayhem is exhausting. A decent turn by Ben Affleck and some very expensive looking set pieces don’t come close to saving it. I don’t defend Marvel often but this makes their world building look tight by comparison. Marvel built on the backs of self-contained story arcs that used tiny-post credit easter eggs to hint at a larger vision.
Here we get the opposite, an attempt to circumvent that fun with character after character after character and their tiny role to play. It’s barely a story, barely a fight and barely a movie. It does one thing though – cement Zack Snyder as the heir apparent to Michael Bay – the hack with the huge budget unleashing his endless bullshit parade.