Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Spoiler-Free Review)

Note: No major plot points are discussed, aside from what is seen in the trailers.

I wanted to. I really, really did.

I really wanted to love this movie. Batman is an icon, and Superman was a symbol. I don’t think any self-professed fan, whether hardcore comic reader or just a kid who grew up with the various animated series, would say they didn’t’ want to love this movie. Who doesn’t want to see Batman duking it out with Superman? Who doesn’t want to see crazy, insane Lex Luthor? Wonder Woman? I’m in. I’m sold! 

But at some point, the charge of a storyteller is to create or write characters that mean something to the audience. When we tell stories, our goal is to get the listener to care. “Batman Vs. Superman” attempted to get us to care about Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Lex Luthor’s assistant, Superman’s mom, Lois Lane, and… well, you get the idea. DC attempted Avengers-level character-cramming, after only one previous film: “Man of Steel.” But it turns out that you simply cannot tell a story of the scale DC/Warner Bros. are looking for in 2.5 hours. 

Aside from a very brilliant opening montage, which skillfully told the Bruce Wayne origin story and recapped the events of Man of Steel through Bruce’s eyes, I don’t think any other story elements were as clearly told. 

The premise, oh that sweet, sweet premise could’ve been such a wonderful commentary on power and corruption. How does a being, Superman, with absolute power answer to the government? Or should he? How does one stay truly good, when he has the power to wipe everyone out if he went rogue? The movie does a great job of getting us to empathize with Clarke Kent as he struggles within himself with this issue. He’s just a good guy trying to do good things, but the world sees him as a threat that needs to be controlled. But after about 30 minutes, the film no longer addresses this.

Bruce Wayne’s characterization is solid. It’s made clear why he wants to go after Superman; the guy played a part in wrecking his building in Metropolis. But when Lex Luthor enters into the scene, with his own evil mustachio-twirling scenes, the plot gets muddle. Is this about one hero’s revenge? Or is this about a villain manipulating them both? It turns out that this movie isn’t really about anything. The characters' motivations are never clearly known to the audience so you're just left baffled at the decisions they make. There are also side plots and cameos that really do nothing to advance this story. Yes, yes. They are meant to build the universe, but I feel that this came at the expense of telling a good stand-alone story.

This was Man of Steel 2, a Batman solo movie, a Wonder Woman origin story sort of movie, a Batman vs. Superman movie, and a Justice League prequel tv series all put together as one. Oh, and a Lex Luthor solo movie. There was just... so much going on. A bunch of random storylines kept together by a thin thread of dumb, overly destructive CG action does not a good film make. You thought the utter CGI destruction in “Man of Steel” was excessive? They doubled down on that stupid here. It was messy, confusing, and mind-numbingly nauseating.

None of it felt right, and none of it gelled. Batman was awesome. His suit and his sleuthing skills were top notch. Superman was every bit the empathetic hero we all wanted him to be. But we should’ve gotten more of these two, considering the title of this film!