Non-spoiler review in brief. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate Batman V Superman, either. There were pieces of a good movie that never seemed to come together to become anything more. It also felt like it should have been a couple of films. There are too many plot threads to form a consistent theme, or point to the story.
I liked Ben Affleck as Batman. I think his performance as Batman was actually better than Christian Bale. It is just Christian Bale was paired with a better film maker. This Batman is much more Frank Miller inspired, but back when he was still good Frank Miller, and hadn’t gone crazy yet. This is an older, worn down Batman. He has fought his war on crime for 20 years, and he is not sure if he has made any difference. This is someone doing something different, and interesting with the character, as relates to movie portrayals, at least. Jeremy Irons as Alfred is perfect. He is the entirely British voice of reason in Batman’s life. In this, he is also the dissenting voice of the direction in this story. Batman here does stray a little too far into Punisher territory, but I do not blame that on the actors.
Superman…well, Superman suffers from the same problems he had in the last film. He should be the guy who inspires, not just hope that he will come save you, but inspire everyone else to be better people. He does not do that here. He is selfish in many ways, naive, and is encouraged to be selfish by many people. Yes, he still saves people, and people often see him as a savior, but he doesn’t inspire anyone. He makes them afraid. Some are afraid for him, and some are afraid of him. This movie is in many ways told around him, rather than about him. The actor, Henry Cavil, is fine. I think has the right range, and look to play the character. He could be a good Superman in a movie with someone else writing and directing. As it is, he is just disappointing.
Lex Luthor… What can I say about this characterization? It is a different take on the character. He is brilliant, but expressly crazy here. Luthor can be a mad genius, or played for comedy, but rarely do they make him truly mentally ill. Here he is. Jesse Eisenberg is going for more than manic, more than brilliant, he is deeply unhinged. Not comedic madness where sinking California for a real estate scheme seems a good idea, but with noticeable symptoms of actual mental illness. Unfortunately, this never amounts to much. He goes about his schemes, and only a bare hint of his motivations ever manifests. His plan makes little sense, and his actions all seem to have arbitrarily arrived.
Wonder Woman is the best thing in this movie. She looks like she is having fun in this movie. There is a joy in her appearance. She banters with Batman, is an international woman of mystery, and laughs at the thought of fighting monsters. Gal Gadot got a lot of flack when her casting was announced. I myself thought she didn’t look muscular enough. I wanted Wonder Woman to look like a tough amazonian warrior. I withdraw all of my complaints. She does a great job here, and I can’t wait to see her solo film.
All in all, I had fun at the movie. There were some nice visual moments, and some nice character moments through out. The fight…THE FIGHT..is entertainingly executed. The problem is that is all movie really has. It has single panel moments, but without the years of continuity to give those moments power. The storytelling is scattered. On top of that issue, you have Zach Sniders insistence that all this should be dark and joy less. Batman fights his war, but without the ethical restrictions which make that compelling. Superman is scary, and loses his sense of hope. It is not a coincidence that my favorite parts in this movie have Wonder Woman in them. She faces the darkness, and battle, with a defiant grin. She is the joy in a joyless world of DC movie heroes.
Should you watch it?
To this question I must shrug. It is skipable. The cast is good. The visuals are solid. It has entertaining bits, but it is also disappointing. This could have been much better. There are so many elements that just went nowhere. You could have made a movie about a dozen things that they start with, and never finish. Instead you get a muddled, dark mess. It isn’t that it is artless or bad. It is disappointing, and disappointment is always worse than bad. That said, if you go in with low expectations, like I did, you can find some surprisingly enjoyable bits.