There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the critical reviews for the sequel to Man of Steel: most reviewers hate this movie. However, I tried to ignore such reviews to the movie so I could do my own objective review, with limited success. With that being said, let me talk about why I think reviewers despise this movie, and then I will go into what I liked and disliked about this movie.
I will try to avoid spoilers, but be warned from this point forward of potential ones.
We live in an interesting time when it comes to movies and television. It used to be that movies and television were expected to be standalone and separate from one another. Television shows were expected to have each episode be a self-contained story with very limited narrative arcs between episodes, if there were any at all. The only linking elements between the episodes were the characters themselves, finding themselves in a brand new situation each week, but having this universe were expectations and rules were in places based on the characters. Movies had the expectation of entirely standing alone, and if you were going to do a sequel, you better make sure that sequel can stand on its own as well and not rely too much on what came before. The Godfather Part II works because it explores the new problems Michael Corleone faces, with very few lines and scenes that remind us of the events of the previous movie. Usually those lines and scenes also did the job of enhancing the plot and characters of the current movie.
Those rules have changed. Now there is this desire for interconnectivity, with TV shows starting to be written like long movies, and now movies are borrowing a few things from television shows.
It started with shows like the The X-Files, where most of the episodes were standalone stories, but a few had this narrative arc about an alien conspiracy that required the viewer to watch previous episodes to understand what was happening. Now, shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad require viewers to watch each episode in order to understand what is going on. With the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now there is this desire to create movies,(and in some cases TV shows as well), that are tentatively connected to each other in, depending on which movies introduce new characters and which are sequels. Warner Bros. is no exception to this, and with success of Man of Steel, announced a cinematic universe that connects all their DC Comics superheroes. I think that is why critics had a problem with this movie: instead of being standalone, it is meant to be the next step in something bigger.
Also, critics seemed to have problem with the attempt to make a superhero movie that is grounded in reality and attempted to be philosophical. However, from a business perspective, Warner Bros. didn’t have a choice with that approach. The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, while having dramatic and emotional weight, also have this tone of lightheartedness and humor that is uniquely its own. Not that Batman vs. Superman didn’t have humor at all, but tonally and stylistically, Warner Bros. had to tell this story in a way opposite of the Marvel stuff so accusations of plagiarism did not emerge. So there has to be this understanding when watching this movie. While we are dealing with superheroes, we have to address the real-world consequences of superheroes in this movie.
Now, let me get to what I like about this movie:
1. Zack Snyder is a director with a unique aesthetic to his movies, which I really like. Same thing applies to directors like Guillermo del Toro and Neill Blomkamp This movie was an attempt to be between a realistic movie and a comic book, and it succeeding on the front due to Snyder’s unique style. Most scenes looked like they could have been comic book panels. Also, the action sequences were fantastic, especially the Batman fights. My only problem was I wish we saw more Batman fighting bad guys.
2. The acting was great across the board. Each actor did a faithful portrayal of each character, while adding something unique. Ben Affleck did a great Bruce Wayne, and I can’t wait to see him in future movies. Jeremy Irons was a great Alfred. Jessie Eisenberg did an interesting approach to Lex Luthor that worked in some places and in others did not. He did a Luthor that was a puppet master in the shadows for most of the time, which I appreciated. He also was a Luthor that suffered from numerous undiagnosed mental disorders besides psychopathy, like obsessive-compulsive disorder of some kind. In some cases, this eccentric approach worked and in others it did not. Gal Gadot looks like she will be a promising Wonder Woman, but she really didn’t say enough dialogue to really get a better impression.
What I didn’t like about this movie:
1. I feel like their were two questions that were asked before writing this movie: How do we depict the fallout to the events of Man of Steel, and how do we foreshadow and connect to future movies like Wonder Woman and Justice League? Those are fine questions to ask when plotting the structure to the movie, and in some cases it worked, like the beginning of the movie with Bruce Wayne in Metropolis and when Wayne has a very weird dream sequence. However, at many points, it felt the attempts to address those questions smothered the characters and plot of the movie. It almost got to the point that Batman and Superman didn’t really have a good reason to fight in the first place, which would have defeated the purpose of the movie.
2. While the attempt to make this movie look like a comic book largely worked, at many points it was jarring. Because this movie was trying to jam so much into it, the cuts between scenes were very quick, making the flow of the movie very confusing. Some short scenes could have been cut because they lasted a few seconds, or had more stuff added to them to give them more dimensions. This chunkiness was very apparent in the beginning of the movie.
3. Lois Lane’s role fell overemphasized, especially at the climax of the movie. She really didn’t need to be in the middle of all that chaos.
4. While the philosophical bent to the movie was a good approach, it felt like the attempts to be intellectual prevented the dialogue and imagery from being emotional and naturalistic many times. It also kept the viewers from learning more about the characters that we need to build a relationship with. If Bruce Wayne has been fighting crime for 20 years, what has happened to him in more detail to make him so jaded? We get that Lex had a bad relationship with his father, but more should have been added to understand why he does the evil, manipulative things he does. How is Alfred so useful to Bruce? Again, this is problem you face when try and cram so much into one movie.
This movie is being misjudged because it is not being placed in the right context. However, it is not a perfect film by any means as it flounders trying to achieve its mission because of it epic scale and many characters.
By: Stone Phillips