A few years ago, I discovered a webcomic called Axe Cop, which is a series of stories told from the mind of a child, but illustrated by said child’s adult brother. As you might expect, the series is pretty random and hilarious, as it is told simply through the spontaneity of a child’s mind. Logic is thrown out the window and a parade of crazy characters are humorously crammed together with very little consistency.
Imagine taking a similarly non sequitur method of storytelling, but removing the charm and humor, as well as the innocence of knowing it stemmed from a child’s mind. Now take that empty shell and stretch it to nearly three hours of brooding and explosions, and you have something of an idea of what Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is like.
Perhaps I’m just a tad bit biased, since I’ve always been more of a Batman fan than a fan of DC itself, so I’ve always hated to see DC’s heroes crossover with one another (if I made a Batman vs. Superman movie, it would consist of Batman wearing a suit of pure Kryptonite, thus weakening Superman and allowing Batman to beat the Man of Steel into a pulp within the first five minutes, and then proceed to being strictly a Batman movie). But I did try to go into Batman V Superman with an open mind.
Now, I will admit the movie did have some good points: I feel the concerns over Ben Affleck being the new Batman can be set aside, since his performance was one of the film’s highlights, and it gives promise for the upcoming standalone Batman reboot. There were a few entertaining moments, and the fact that such things exist at all in the movie automatically makes it better than 2013’s Man of Steel. And I must say I did actually enjoy the titular battle between the two superheroes.
The problem is that it’s all too obvious that the movie is trying to replicate what Marvel has achieved with their shared cinematic universe, and it does way too much way too soon. The reason why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is working is because they built up to it. Marvel had five standalone movies released before they packaged the established heroes together for The Avengers, with each of those standalone films giving hints at what was to come. Here, we simply had Man of Steel, which was strictly a Superman movie, and now we’re diving head-first into the bigger DC universe in one go. The end results make Batman V Superman play more like bits and pieces of many different movies, as opposed to one big one.
We are given snippets of Batman’s origin story in the film’s first scene (which is probably the way to go with it, we all know Batman’s origin story so well that we don’t need to spend too much time with it). And we fast forward to the events of Man of Steel, where the reckless lummox known as Superman carelessly creates insurmountable collateral damage during his grudge match with General Zod, as a more heroic Bruce Wayne looks on.
This gives Bruce Wayne a reasonable fear of Superman. If ol’ Supes can cause that much destruction when trying to save people, what can he do if he turns against mankind? So Bruce Wayne/Batman makes it a priority to discover a means of taking down Superman, should the need come to pass.
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (who for some reason isn’t portrayed by Bryan Cranston) is hatching a scheme to take down Superman by framing him for various acts of violence and slowly turning mankind against him (adding fuel to Batman’s fire in the process), and discovers the powers of Kryptonite, and the effects it has on the otherwise invincible Superman, setting a bigger plot in motion.
The setup is decent enough, but once the movie starts to drop obvious hints and glimpses at future movies, it starts becoming a bit of a mess. Wonder Woman also plays a part in the movie, without ever having a real reason to be a part of it. Other DC heroes are also given cameos, because fan service. We even get a few mentions of the Joker, which only end up making us wish we were watching The Dark Knight instead. Also, Doomsday squeezes his way into this movie.
It’s not just the amount of characters and goings-on that are the problem with Batman V Superman, but its way of going about them as well. So many elements feel rushed, so many scenes feel episodic and clunky, and so much of what could have been a compelling story is drown in way too many sub-plots. One scene even depicts Bruce Wayne having a dream/vision of a potential future should his fears of Superman come to fruition. But instead of intrigue, the scene in question only ends up creating confusion, as it begins so abruptly and cascades so rapidly it may even produce an unintentional chuckle or two.
Another big problem with the movie is Superman himself, who comes across as an entirely unlikable hypocrite. He criticizes Batman for his vigilante ways, and as Clark Kent he makes it his mission to smear Batman’s name in the papers. Superman, who takes the law into his own hands on countless occasions, judges and condemns someone else for doing the exact same thing. At least Batman doesn’t have countless innocent lives on his hands due to recklessness.
I suppose being the Batman supporter that I am, I should be happy that Batman is inarguably in the right in this movie. The problem is that it still tries to depict Superman as a heroic savior-like figure, when his actions make him come off as a self-aggrandizing, hypocritical jackass.
Between the movie’s insistence on cramming in as many elements from the DC universe as possible, it’s plodding pacing and clunky editing, and one half of the titular combatants being downright unlikable, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is just a loud mess of a movie. There are a few diamonds in the rough (again, a Ben Affleck Batman movie actually has promise), but the film’s desire to compete with what Marvel has accomplished in a dozen films in one single movie makes it incoherent.
Simply put, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t a very good super hero movie. It’s especially not a good Batman movie. The fact that it lacks humor and charm also makes it a pretty bad Axe Cop movie.