By EJ Clark (Chicago, IL, USA)
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Why was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice such a bad movie?

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on the big screen all at once is something comic book, superhero, and film fans alike have all been waiting for. It’s safe to say that this movie will end up being a box-office success and Warner Bros. will continue moving forward with the franchise. With the heavy hitting super heroes known as the DC Trinity all in one movie and a Justice League project being the end result, it’s hard to see how this project can go south. But why are the critical reviews so negative? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice overall was a very fun and enjoyable movie. It gives hardcore comic-book fans exactly what they’ve begged for and gives casual moviegoers the chance to become invested with yet another superhero franchise. It isn’t without flaw, but contrary to popular belief, the good outweighs the bad. So why is the popular opinion of this movie, from a critical standpoint, seen as being horrible? Ultimately because the tone is untraditionally dark, the ratio of story to action was unbalanced, and most importantly, people just don’t know what they want when it comes to superhero movies.

The movie that paves the way to Justice League begins with a civilian’s view of the destructive battle scene between Superman and General Zod in 2013’s Man of Steel. The viewer is then taken into Bruce Wayne’s point of view watching a local Wayne Enterprise building get demolished, trying to save them, and ultimately failing. Early on, this movie establishes the conflict between the two titular characters, and the tone of the film. The two heroes clash while Superman’s character and actions are brought into question. We see a mentally and emotionally battle-scarred Batman whose sole motive is protecting everyone from the threat that is a rogue Superman. The two join sides, team up with Wonder Woman, and lay the foundation for DC’s Justice League franchise.

If this were a Batman solo movie, the overall reception would be more positive because he’s a character that can get away with this darker, more grounded tone that Zack Snyder decided to go with (and because new-age Batman fans eat up almost anything with the bat logo attached to it). But this is following up with Superman’s story and he’s not that kind of character under normal circumstances. He’s the boy scout of superheroes, the poster child of moral compasses that all heroes aim to live by. But this Superman film’s dark tone gives the viewers an interesting take on the Boy in Blue. Snyder and co. made a character with unbelievable, god-like abilities more human than viewers have seen since the CW’s Smallville.

The dark tone did however, work wonders for Ben Affleck’s Batman. His portrayal of the Dark Knight exceeded the expectations of fans and critics alike. Every scene with Batman/Bruce Wayne is one to remember. Affleck’s acting, the camera movement and cinematography coupled with Hans Zimmer’s score made for a mysterious, and downright scary interpretation of Batman. One opportunity that could have been fleshed out more was the foiling of Batman and Superman. Snyder attempted to use Batman’s crime fighting methods and reputation as a way to highlight Superman’s supposed-to-be wholesomeness, but in all honesty it fell flat.

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Gal Gadot bringing Wonder Woman to life was exciting, but for a bit of a letdown of the movie. It was so much fun to see Wonder Woman in action and Gadot show off her inner Amazon, but of all the great portrayals in this movie, hers fell short of expectations because it wasn’t as believable as Ben Affleck playing Batman. Her role was small, but just enough doses for us to keep interest in what’s to come in her own solo movie, hopefully then we can see Gal go full circle with this character and give fans the more fleshed out Wonder Woman that they deserve. Wonder Woman mainly acts as the bridge from Batman to the “metahuman” world, and setting up as one of the founding members of the Justice League.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was really enjoyable to watch and I think he brought a very different vibe to the character while still giving viewers the murderous mastermind villain that we know him to be. Like Henry Cavill’s Superman, Eisenberg’s Luthor is young and inexperienced in what he does. What ultimately drives Lex in this film is what has always driven him, knowledge and power. The people that were expecting Lex and Superman to be fully developed characters when this is only the 2nd movie of a rapidly growing franchise are the ones who were let down by Dawn of Justice.

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Since Man of Steel, viewers haven’t accepted the route Zack Snyder decided to take with the son of Krypton. Many argued that the true Superman wouldn’t have fought so carelessly and end up destroying a big city, let alone kill an enemy. This Superman isn’t one that fans are familiar with yet, and if Batman v Superman doesn’t do anything for you, it should at least give answers as to why that route was taken. It’s to build this hero up into one that Superman fans are so familiar with, and it fuels the main plot of this movie. It poses the question that will linger on within these films, where do we as humans lie in this world filled with aliens and other godly beings.

The idea of gods amongst men and a very particular scene with Bruce Wayne teases that DC is going in the route of the video-game/comic-book series, Injustice: Gods Among Us. Holly Hunter plays the frontrunner of the political subplot in the film as Senator Finch, which too, gives us a tease of the Injustice storyline. This also gives the DC universe that grounded feeling they’re trying so hard to achieve, which can be challenging when there are characters like Superman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter that exists in this world. Hunter acts as the voice of reason and concern that most people would have when it comes to Superman and his actions, and she does a great job at bringing that to the table.

The real let down of this film, is seeing that fans and critics alike aren’t sure what they want from this movie, and could be argued as why this movie is on the receiving end of so much hate. People are forgetting that this isn’t the seasoned Superman we know from the comics & TV shows. This Man of Steel is a new hero who is still unsure of himself and unsure of how he is supposed to help the world. There’s reason for this and it all adds to the story. Normal everyday moviegoers got what they wanted; an enjoyable, action-packed, Easter egg showing movie that promised a good fight of who would win between Batman and Superman with the chance to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. Now there are points in the film where it can be overwhelming for the average viewer, unaware of the comics, but those are questions purposely posed to keep them invested and wanting to see the next installments. It’s the comic-book fans and critics who went into this film expecting something completely different which ultimately led to the letdown of their expectations of the film’s performance.

A lot of people went into this film knowing how Snyder’s Man of Steel was handled as far as tone, and were downright shocked this movie stayed true to that, which makes absolutely no sense. Then there are people who complained that there wasn’t enough action. Like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, this movie acts as an origin story for Justice League. It answers the questions of how and why the Justice League is formed. There needed to be more story than action, and the plot was compelling enough to keep viewers invested. Then there are others who just don’t want to admit that they were expecting a Marvel movie, a very funny, pop-cultured, colorful display of action and storytelling. I’ve actually read reviews from credible critics saying that a problem they had with the film is that it isn’t a Marvel movie. I love what Marvel is doing but their formula works for them and them only. It’s unfair for people to compare Dawn of Justice to Joss Whedon’s Avengers because there were 5 movies that consisted of bits and pieces to set up for what is safe to say one of the greatest superhero films to date.

Ultimately Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does exactly what the title promises and what it’s supposed to do. You see the two heavy weight heroes go at it morally and divergently until the showdown, and you get the steps to set up for Justice League.

I’m not saying this film is without flaw. There is indeed a lot going on in this film. The number of subplots can be overwhelming to the unsuspecting viewer, the actual fight between Batman and Superman should have definitely lasted longer and the scenes of Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg screams, “Hey, Justice League is coming! Look Marvel we can do it too!” As stated, the story did move a bit fast for the average person to follow. However, I saw this movie with two people who had no clue about the comic book stories, and were still able to follow the movie fluently. But if you go in this movie expecting what the title promises and take it for what it is, you’ll enjoy this experience.

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