If you are a major DC comics fan, liked this film, or haven’t in fact seen it yet, stop reading now. There will be spoilers, there will be rants and there will be very little nice things said about it. Believe the critics people, they’re nearly unanimously right this time; BvS is pretty bad – or at least it does a lot of things badly – and I’ll do my best to explain that vague sentence a little better below.
BvS is, as the pretty terrible subtitle suggests, supposed to serve as a springboard to launch the DC cinematic universe. The irony is that this is an overlong film, with an overlong title and the cause of it all lies within said title. This film is Batman VS Superman and Dawn Of Justice; it is basically two films in one with both suffering from lack of attention. Let me cover the plot a little – following on directly from the ending of 2013’s Man Of Steel (also directed by this film’s director Zack Snyder) and starts by showing those events through the eyes of Bruce Wayne who sees one of his company’s many buildings destroyed by Superman and Zod’s slugfest and vows to bring Superman to justice for being the false god he sees him as. Along the way, Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman get brought into the equation as well as something that is apparently Doomsday (who is apparently a rather significant Superman villain) and…look, who cares. Half of the plot I can describe, a quarter of it I think I know through the limited knowledge of comics I have and the last quarter is pure and utter garbage.
This is the problem with any film that passes the 90 minute mark these days – they’re not justifying the running time. In recent memory I can list Django Unchained, Skyfall, Avengers : Age Of Ultron and now this as examples of films where the running time seems to have come from arrogance and overconfidence in what counts as entertainment. It is blatantly obvious what could have been removed from this film to streamline the process, and the audience should never be aware of such things.
As I said above though, the persistent problem with this film is in how confused and muddled it all is. Warner Bros/DC took a good gamble in just throwing Wonder Woman into the mix without an origin beforehand, why not do the same for The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg? Why wasn’t this Justice League – Part One? Or, that being said, why not just leave it as the titular duo facing off against each other? The only reason this film is so crammed, and as a result so bloated and overlong, is due to studio intervention and/or an inability by Snyder and the screenwriters to kill their darlings and trim the script.
There’s a lot of good in the film, certainly, but with the next installment coming next year in the form of Justice League – Part One my fear is that we’ll get more of the same. That film will properly introduce us to Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg and given how much bloat BvS wound up with even when audiences are widely familiar with two of the three heroes, JL will likely wind up being four hours long. I’m not just ranting about the length of the film here though, don’t get me wrong. I’m ranting about how pointless the length is. A good 15 minutes in the mid section is dedicated to what I assumed, and Google has now confirmed, is setup for the next film. A further five minutes or so peppered throughout the film does the same. The film opens with yet another recreation of the deaths of Martha and Thomas Wayne (played by Lauren Cohen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in what has to solely have been a troll on fans of The Walking Dead through some clairvoyance on Snyder’s part) which takes another 5 minutes or so. That’s nearly thirty minutes off the bat that could have gone.
What’s more, there’s apparently a 3 hour long R rated director’s cut coming on the home release. Now, it can happen that a longer film can have a better flow but I really don’t see how in this case. The good? Bat-fleck, owns it and easily rivals Bale for best onscreen Wayne and Batman. The score, absolutely sensational. The visuals, in general pretty stunning but the infuriating love of low lighting Snyder has exhibited in the past returns. The bad far outweighs all of this though.
Why don’t Batman and Superman ever try to talk their shit out in the two years after Man Of Steel? Why has nobody christened the “Gotham bat” as Batman in 20 years? Where is Commissioner Gordon? What the hell does Batman smoke before he dreams? Why is Superman so goddam moody? There are way too many questions that stem from this film and they are due to a rushed and unattended production from page to screen, ironic given that this film is 15 years in the making.
Ultimately there’s a 90 minute fun action romp in here with some good production but this is one of those cases where the filler is not just annoying, it’s downright frustrating. I wasn’t waiting for this with baited breath, I’m a Batman fan and was curiously excited to see a new take on the character but the rest I could take or leave. Those who anxiously waited for it might be bitterly disappointed, or might see something I don’t. Look, at least it’s been made and Warner Bros are pressing ahead with a full cinematic universe. Time and lessons learned may improve things as they go but for now, it’s all a little meh.