|| Since I went into Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice with very low expectations, I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, it’s a movie best seen by buying your brain some popcorn, maybe a soda, and sitting it on the seat next to you. You really won’t be needing it, as the less you think about the movie the more enjoyable it becomes. Which is a bit odd considering they actually try to pander to intellectualism with (far too many) symbolically laced dream sequences. The best I can explain it is that instead of making a comic book into a movie, they tried to make a comic book into a series of live action comic panels. Or, I think more accurately, what executives imagine comic panels should look like.
Overall it feels like multiple movies were smooshed into one on an accelerated timeline. I recognize that the ultimate goal was to set up the coming Justice League movies, but in lieu of character development we get angsty brooding. Instead of adding addtional complexity to either character though, it makes them come across as just trying to be complex. It really just doesn’t work. Part of that has to do wherein their conflicts lie since, as written, almost all of Superman’s conflicts must be internal. He is, after all, basically invincible, so the only thing standing between him and world domination is his own moral compass. We get very little insight into that though because his morality is never in doubt. The only choices he allows himself are to do nothing, or continue his heroics. Agressive vigilantism, a la Batman, is never even remotely considered though, so there’s never a brink he needs to be pulled back from. Batman’s brooding ennui is similar, except he has become so cynical that he is compelled to destroy Superman because Superman might turn evil. While we are shown some justification of Batman’s slide towards vengeance, it’s legitimacy is tenuous at best.
Wonder Woman rounds out the the hero side, and unfortunately the biggest takeaway I had from her character is that Hollywood, and DC in particular, still doesn’t have a clue about writing strong female characters. She is given only a couple of lines as a mysterious stranger before revealing herself at the end. According to the little background the the movie gives, she has a wealth of experience, knowledge, and empathy far exceeding either that of either Batman or Superman. That this deep well is left virtually untapped was particularly disappointing. Although technically not a super hero, Lois Lane could have also easily been given more depth, and not fulfill the damsel in distress quite so often either.
I also thought the choice they made in Luthor’s character to be particularly ridiculous. The thirty year old, narcissistic tech genius billionaire is fine, but we really didn’t need it wrapped in a Jokeresque psycopathy. That is, after all, what the Joker is for! A young tech genius who was so jealous of the power and control that Superman and Batman had that he was driven to destroy them would have worked significantly better. His concern would have then been channeled through his own greed and narcissism, but playing out in a cold, methodical way. As performed, no one should have taken him seriously and/or access to anything remotely important.
At a bigger level, Batman v Superman does offer some great cinematography and special effects (even though it looks like they ripped off a Lord of the Ring’s Cave Troll at one point), and it does try to deal with weighty themes. Chief amongst them is the question of at what point does too much power, however benevolently wielded, become too much. (I am gathering from the Captain America: Civil War trailer that this will be a similar theme in that movie, so it will be interesting to compare and contrast the two.) Batman v Superman also touches a bit on the extant to which saving one person at the detriment of (many) others is acceptable, but ultimately shies away from actually addressing it.
While there are positives to the movie, and it will certainly sell a lot of popcorn, it’s frustrating to see so much time, money, and energies go into a project of this scale with such a weak story. I don’t pretend to understand all the dynamics in the creation of the story as told, but it certainly didn’t feel like making the best story possible was the highest priority. As I said, I fully understand that getting to the Justice League movies was their priority with this movie, but I still think they could have taken the time and put in the effort to write a better story in getting them there.