tl;dr – It’s watchable, and even entertaining in parts, but mostly it feels like two good but incompatible films mixed together: like putting orange juice in your favorite cereal – both would taste fine by themselves, but putting them together has produced an odd mixture that makes you wish you could have them separately.
So this movie was kind of all over the place, and my review is likely to be too. All righty, well, let’s get started: perhaps the oddest thing about this movie is that the tones of the movie clash with each other in the same way that the titular heroes do. This can’t decide whether it wants to be grounded in reality, or if it wants to be an over-the-top comic book movie. I would have been fine with either, as long as it had only been one. While the fan of the do-gooder, boy scout Superman inside of me is still disappointed that he is nowhere to be found, I also understand that they are trying to make a more grounded approach to Superman. “What if such a being actually existed?” these last two films (Man of Steel & BvS) ask. And I think they ask the question well. If you can overlook the fact that this is not the Superman you’re used to, I think that they accomplish a fairly interesting character study. Likewise, the elements exploring whether or not Superman should have a role in world affairs is thought-provoking. Batman, on the other hand, is larger-than-life and comic book-y. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, this iteration of Batman reminded me heavily of the 90s cartoon. Batman was pretty awesome. There was one scene that I won’t mention for its spoilery nature that really showed in one shot just how awesome this Batman is. That said, I didn’t believe for one second that this Batman could exist in the real world. Which would have been totally fine if it was just his movie, but it wasn’t. He was sharing the film with a hyper-realistic Superman. It would be like if Harry Potter suddenly showed up in a Star Trek movie. I’m totally willing to believe in a wizard with a wand and magical powers in a fantasy film, but put him in a movie that emphasizes science and logic and he’d feel totally out of place. And Batman wasn’t the only one. Lex (I’ll get to him later), Doomsday, and all of the “Dawn of Justice” portions felt over-the-top and comic bookish. The movie really needed to decide whether it was going for realism, or the fantastical style of most comic books, because it couldn’t have both.
Another thing that painfully clashed was the music. I think Hans Zimmer is one of the best living film composers and, say what you will about Man of Steel as a film, I thought Man of Steel was one of his finest film scores. While his co-composer partner, an artist who goes by the name of “Junkie XL,” isn’t quite on the same level of talent, I’ve listened to a few of his film scores and found them enjoyable. But their styles don’t mix together at all. Zimmer’s work with James Newton Howard on the first two films of the Dark Knight trilogy was so unified that it was difficult to tell where one composer’s work began and another ended. Yet, here, the difference between the two composers is painfully apparent. I actually found myself getting frustrated any time we would hear one of the musical themes from Man of Steel, as they felt out of place. It’s like listening to a album by “Fun” when suddenly a Beethoven concerto starts playing, and afterwards you go right back to “Fun.” It’s the same as before: pick a style of music. One could argue that the conflict between the music styles is meant to be symbolic of the conflict between the characters, but if that was their intention, they might as well have served caramel-ranch flavored popcorn with the film so that you could taste the conflict between the caramel and ranch flavors. Just because it’s symbolic doesn’t mean that it’s enjoyable or well done. An additional piece of music that I thought was odd was Lex’s musical theme, which felt just as zany as the character. It was actually fairly reminiscent of Jack Sparrow’s theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which isn’t a huge surprise since Zimmer scored most of those, but it also felt out of place with the rest of the movie. Most of Zimmer’s other music in the film reflected the emotional feel of the Man of Steel score, and Junkie XL’s music was loud and bombastic, but Lex’s theme was just too zany. Once again, you could argue that was to match the zaniness of his character (which I’ll still get to next), but it just highlighted how much his character felt out of place in the film.
Speaking of Lex, as noted above, even with the comic book-y nature of much of the movie, he still felt rather out of place. While he certainly took inspiration from Gene Hackman’s portrayal, he also brought a new flavor to his performance and the final product is this bizarrely quirky character. And not the fun kind of quirky either. More like the really weird kid that you always tried to avoid in high school. Pretty much whenever he was onscreen, I couldn’t wait for him to get offscreen.
Despite the title, I hope you’re not too excited to see Batman and Superman fight. Don’t get me wrong, the fight scene was really, really cool. It also lasted about five minutes. Ten tops. Also, the reason that they end up fighting made me chuckle. It’s not a particularly bad reason. In fact, if you’ve ever read a comic that’s 30+ years old, pretty much any fight between superheroes happens for this exact same reason. My first thought was “Man this story’s been done a hundred times.” But then I realized: never in a movie (to my knowledge). So while it might not have been a heartfelt battle of ideologies (like a certain other superhero vs superhero movie coming up), it was a good enough reason.
Some good things! It was effective in getting me excited for the Justice League movies! Even if they are very similar to this film (which is certainly possible, as they have the same writer and director as this), they’ll still be enjoyable. However, I’m assuming they’re not going to focus those movies on the “realistic Superman storyline,” so it’s possible they won’t have such a weird clash of tones, so they could be even better. Wonder Woman, who was only in the film briefly, seems cool, though her solo movie next year will make or break how people perceive her character. They also tease some of the other Justice League characters. Batman, as I mentioned earlier, was very different than Christian Bale’s version, but he was also pretty cool. Oh, and the visuals were amazing. This was a visually stunning film.
Disclaimer: I haven’t read the specific comic storylines that they used as inspiration for the film. I am, however, familiar with what happens in those stories, and I was able to recognize that there was a lot of fan service in this film. Many of the elements and plot points from the comic stories actually make it into the film. Which leads me to…
The ending of this movie is probably going to be controversial. And I’ll admit I was genuinely surprised by the status quo of the DC universe at the end of the film. A lot of people are probably going to love it, and a lot of people are probably going to hate it. I thought it was … fine. I recognize why they did what they did, but I think a different ending could have been better. Also, did anyone else notice that the final shot of this movie was almost identical to the final shot of another comic book movie from 10ish years ago?
So, all in all, this movie was entertaining, yet also disappointing because of its flaws. There were elements of at least two amazing movies here, but it never truly reaches greatness because it never decides exactly which movie it wants to be. Essentially, if you were planning to see this film, go for it. If you were planning to pass on it, you don’t need to regret your choice. If you’re still undecided then… flip a coin, I guess?
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