Zack Snyder, known for his adaptations of “300”, “Watchmen” and 2013’s “Man of Steel”, has a reputation for being a divisive director. Snyder advocates for spectacle and visual style over substance in many of his works.
In “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” he only further cements that shallow reputation.
Following up “Man of Steel,” “Batman v. Superman” opens with a refreshingly brisk take on how Bruce Wayne became Batman. Characters like Batman are so ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist, that lingering on his origin is completely unnecessary. As good as this introduction may seem, this is where the first of many red flags is raised. The film is littered with dream sequences and visions that are either propping up some sort of bizarre metaphor, or very clearly setting up the countless sequels DC Comics hopes to accrue.
Truly, this film is trying to convey a sense of depth with poor attempts at world-building and a tone bereft of joy or levity. As a result, the philosophical and deep nature Snyder is trying to convey just seems smothered and buried under a mountain of stylized effects and visual splendor.
“Dawn of Justice” takes egregious liberties with established titans like Superman and Batman. There’s a balance that needs to be struck between taking characters in different directions and completely sullying what makes those characters who they are. That’s a balance Zack Snyder has failed to even out.
To Snyder’s credit, the film is an aesthetic achievement, albeit muddled by the darkened scenery at times. The down to earth action is done well, and the titular fight is more brutal and exhausting than contemporary superhero battles. Look beyond the visual style, however, and everything starts to fall apart.
“Dawn of Justice’s” pacing is nothing short of incoherent. Aforementioned dream sequences coupled with strikingly surprising events make the film’s slow moments seem completely inconsequential and out of place. Character motivations seem to come out of nowhere, and by the end of it all, you’ll be left scratching your head and questioning just about every single story beat.
Even the most jarring and “bold” sequences don’t quite add up in the grander scheme of what the story’s trying to convey. There are liberties taken with established heroes like Superman and Batman that seem completely backward to who they are in their comic book counterparts. It’s one thing to differentiate your work from the source material, but Snyder takes it about five steps too far.
Criticisms have been made to the pre-release material and trailers showing too much of the movie already (and they do). Even going in completely blind, it’s not clear what you’re going to get out of this. Seemingly, this film is for the already initiated DC fan, someone who will look at the flashbacks and visions without batting an eye. Where does that leave the rest of us?
It leaves us with a bloated film that’s further stuffed by shoehorned world-building, excessively aggressive liberties on iconic heroes, and a third act that completely falls flat. With all the spectacle and visual flair found in the film, I left the theater with a myriad of questions that the film couldn’t be bothered to answer.