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Movie Reviews

Scott & Max on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Maximilian Rivera March 31, 2016
Scott on Story: There’s definitely a thread of a story here that is vaguely followed, but the way that story is told leaves a lot to be desired. The film falls victim to poor writing and lazy storytelling to get the job done. The dialogue of the characters is largely uninteresting; whereas the Marvel films are witty (sometimes a little too much) and the characters have clearer motivations, BvS has mostly dramatic, clumsy dialogue that does not feel grounded and real. Lois Lane flies around the globe on a mission to drive the action. She’s in the Middle East for unexplained reasons, and then continues globetrotting to drive the plot. It pretty much always feels out of place. The film also uses numerous semi-prophetic dream sequences to drive the plot and they feel very out of place to me. I like the idea there, but they are awkward in execution, though I think the editing is partially to blame there (more on that later).

Max on Story: When you get right down to it, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a film with large, lofty goals. Whether it accomplished these goals seems to have created a divide between critics and fans, and something tells me we’re gonna be talking about it for quite a while. The largest fault in the writing is that the story meanders and drifts without a strong focus for the first half of the film. While touted as a Man of Steel sequel, Superman spends the first half of the film being reactive. While the story drifts during the first half of the film, I felt a cinch towards the end that brought everything together. It’s interesting to note that David S. Goyer had a part in this, as well as the Nolan trilogy, and that Chris Terrio (Argo) did the re-write. Some great talents, but it still got away from them.

Scott on Form: The editing and pacing of this film are probably its weakest area in my book and bring the film down for me. The beginning of the film consists of a lot of plot critical but largely unrelated scenes that are jammed together with little buildup or time to process what is happening. It’s hard to follow exactly where the narrative is going. The story is progressing fast at the beginning and the scenes run together so quickly that it’s hard to take in everything that is happening. The pacing and editing gets a lot more coherent in the second half of the film as the characters paths entwine, but the whirlwind of action at the beginning hurts the film as a whole. The effects were splashy and a bit over the top for my tastes, but that’s more personal preference.

Max on Form: If Zack Snyder has one gift, it is making punchy visuals that stay with you. Just as in Man of Steel, there are moments of comic bliss scattered throughout this movie. Some of these even feel natural, and not as staged as the back-to-back fighting scenes you get in Avengers films that seem so tired now. Of course, the editing itself isn’t a problem per scene, as there are plenty of tight and rhythmic cuts that play to the story.  But there is a good 20-30 minutes of bloat that could have been trimmed off the entire film. 

Scott on Acting: Anybody who thought Ben Affleck was a bad fit for as Bruce Wayne/Batman, will be proven wrong by BvS. Affleck is great. He’s plays both of his roles (if you treat them as separate characters) great and is the standout performance of the movie. He is joined in Wayne Manor by another fantastic newcomer to the series in Jeremy Irons. His Alfred is sort of a hybrid between Alfred and Lucius Fox from Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and it’s great. I can see how Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor will be polarizing, but I liked it. I think with some better writing he would have really shined. And I do not want to spoil anything but when Gal Gadot is on screen she is fabulous and I am looking forward to seeing a lot more of her.

Max on Acting: Sadly, the worst acting in this film came from Henry Cavill. He’s not a bad actor, and I appreciated his hesitant portrayal of Clark Kent in Man of Steel. But Superman seemed to fade in scenes where Lois, Lex, Batman, and Wonder Woman took the screen with him. It’s with Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Batman that we see characters leaning in and making decisions. Beyond that, some awkward dialogue did bring down a few moments, but the performances as a whole were strong with what they were given.

Scott on Sound: The music in the film individually is all fine, but they try to give each of the heroes their own themes and since the movie (especially in the first half) is all over the place, the music changes a lot and is noticeably disjointed. Each characters theme is distinct enough to standout on its own. I especially like Superman’s theme (returning from Man of Steel) and it’s probably the best piece of them all. In BvS Batman stops growling and instead has a computer enhanced voice. I like it a lot better than Christian Bale’s snarling from Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

Max on Sound: The sound design did what it needed to, but most of the score was underwhelming in comparison to the film’s predecessor. With that being said, the Wonder Woman theme stood out as a triumph for me. As soon as she stepped into battle, I knew this was the musical number I would remember an hour later, a day later, and weeks later.
Scott’s Verdict: This movie could have been so much more. After Man of Steel and now this, I definitely question Zack Snyder’s guiding hand in the DC Cinematic Universe. This movie was ambitious and tried to do a lot, but weak storytelling, jumbled pacing, and poor editing make it little more than a star-powered popcorn flick.

Max’s Verdict: While flawed, I found myself loving moments in this film. And while there are moments I disliked, I find this teetering over the love side ever so slightly. Why? Because the fun I had outweighed my reservations. I’ve been waiting since I was a kid to see the Trinity on screen, and the third act of this film brought me that. I find myself forgiving the first half for this reason. However, that can only take you so far, and the upcoming full on DC cinematic universe will need a lot more to carry it forward.

Scott’s Grade: C+

Max’s Grade: B-

Max is a marketing copywriter by day, filmmaker and screenwriter by night. He resides in Charlotte, NC, and loves his dogs, watching movies, building LEGO sets, and eating food. Lots of food.You can find Max at his personal website and twitter.