“Sometimes, when the corn was planted, it shot up too soon. The roots hadn’t taken hold, so the stalk couldn’t support its own weight. The corn would turn sour.” These are the words of Jonathan Kent—adoptive father of Clark Kent—from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s comic miniseries, Superman For All Seasons. Zack Snyder would’ve done well to heed the farmer’s advice, because his recent and highly-anticipated movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice immediately goes sour.
As the title (should) suggest, the movie revolves around the impending conflict between two prominent heroes. Taking place two years after Snyder’s previous blunder, Man of Steel, controversy surrounds Superman’s (Henry Cavill) presence. While some regard him as a hero and friend to mankind, others fear his alien strength and destructive capabilities. One of those people is an aged Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), currently 20 years into his career as the nocturnal vigilante Batman, who believes that Superman poses a threat to humanity. The two, with their individual ideas of justice not exactly agreeable, realize that eventually, their conflicting ideals will literally clash within a world that may not be big enough for the two of them. Meanwhile, CEO Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) orchestrates a devious plot against both of the heroes while Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are just kind of there as needed.
The film’s problems begin almost immediately with the first of many of Bruce Wayne’s dream sequences shoehorning in an origin story that most people should be familiar with. It then shifts rather roughly into what structurally appears to be two different movies awkwardly spliced together: one telling the story of Bruce Wayne seriously mistrusting Superman and the other being what could have been the beginnings of Man of Steel 2 where Clark grapples with the destructive consequences of his heroic actions before sharing a fully clothed bath with his gal pal. No signs of improvement ever really appear from there, as proceeding scenes never really seem interested in expounding on any major character development.
In trying to balance two headlining protagonists, Snyder fails to make either of them interesting. Batman spends most of his time brooding and growling a bit too much (even for Batman), while we learn incredibly little about what drives this markedly more violent version of the Caped Crusader. And in lieu of substantial character development, Superman is subject so much ham-fisted Jesus symbolism that one has to wonder if the movie being released around Easter was an active choice.
Lex Luthor is played more like a Riddler infested with Lovecraftian clichés as Eisenberg’s cracking voice goes from intelligently maniacal to flat-out spastic at the drop of a hat.
And to reiterate, the two female leads (if you can call Gadot a lead) are just there. Lois ends up stumbling into scenes that she has no reason to be a part of and Wonder Woman, despite an appropriately heroic entrance, barely takes up the screen for more than three minutes at a time.
No dramatic moment in the film feels earned with so much trying to be stuffed into an already bloated and plot hole-riddled two-and-a-half hours. Even the titular fight doesn’t see much emotional payoff as it boasts little justification and surprisingly sluggish action sequences. The actual fight of the movie in which Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman team up (which is in every commercial and doesn’t qualify as a spoiler) even retroactively discounts any drama attached to the previously-billed fight between Bats and Supes, making us wonder why we would ever care about the core selling point of the movie. Backed by a remarkably awful soundtrack that doesn’t seem to know how to sync up to the moment, everything about the movie is a chore to try and digest.
And as terrible as it is as a movie in and of itself, it fails even harder as the backbone of a larger universe. In trying to set up the many movies and heroes that will follow it, BvS stuffed in as many cameos as it could. Most of these resulted in jarring scenes that force you to notice the hero they’re trying to promote, scenes that could have been removed completely while maintaining the film’s abysmal quality.
Batman v. Superman has generated copious amounts of hype and controversy leading up to its release, but none of it ever feels worth it. As soon as the dust settles in Gotham, the heroes have engaged in a tussle less exciting than a middle school fight at the flagpole and the only losers are the ones who wasted their time and money to watch it.