Let’s just get right down to it: this film is a mess; a mess that a lot of people will no doubt enjoy, but a mess all the same. Does this mean that it’s a bad movie? I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s bad, but it’s not that good either. The film currently holds a 30% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 250 critical reviews. It also holds a 73% fresh rating from the audience based on over 150,000 user reviews. Where do I stand? Somewhere in the middle. It’s not as bad as the critics are making it out to be, and it’s not as good as the audience is making it out to be. So what’s the problem? After all this is a movie pitting Batman against Superman, and to be fair it does live up to its title. Batman and Superman do indeed fight, and we do get our first glimpses at the dawn of the Justice League. We get to see Lex Luthor begin his journey as a major villain, as well as an epic battle between his deformed creation Doomsday, and our budding Justice League consisting of Batman, Superman, and…oh yeah, Wonder Woman. She’s in this movie, too. Hence we reach our problem: there is simply too much going on in too short a space of time.
The pacing is all over the place. This film contains character development that should be happening over the course of an entire movie, happening in one act. We jump from scene to scene to action sequence to action sequence with hardly any connective tissue. It’s as if a child was allowed to set the pacing of the film; everything has to happen now, now, now! Who’s to blame for this? Zack Snyder? The editing team? The studio? Probably all three. Warner Brothers wants their universe to be different, and that’s good; we need variety. The Avengers and the Justice League shouldn’t be the same aesthetically or tonally. However, Warner Brothers could have taken their cues from Marvel in one area: structure. Marvel spent several years giving us time to meet its heroes and more importantly, to care about them. Stan Lee once said, “every comic book is someone’s first.” What he meant by that is you cannot depend on someone having kept up with everything that has come before your issue to know what you’re talking about or to care. You have to lay some groundwork. It doesn’t matter if we’ve just seen three Batman films, if people know Wonder Woman from the comics or old TV show, or if there’s been a slew of DC animated films featuring these characters. You have to make me care about YOUR Batman. You have to make me care about YOUR Wonder Woman, about YOUR Lex Luthor and YOUR Doomsday. How do you make the audience care? Time. You have to spend time with these characters. You can’t just throw them all in a blender and set it on high. As flawed as The Dark Knight Rises was, when we reached the final sequence of Batman flying the bomb away and (seemingly) sacrificing his life to save Gotham, it’s an intensely emotional moment. Why? Because we’ve spent three films with the character. We CARE. Everything was so rushed in this film that by the time the titular characters finally come to blows, it’s no where near as satisfying as it should be.
Now, having said all of that, do I hate this movie? No. As I said it’s not a bad movie; it’s just ok. But a movie like this shouldn’t just be ok. It should be good. Really good. Visually, it is. It’s a very pretty film to look at some of the time. The action sequences, while not carrying the narrative weight they should, are well executed and fun. Ben Affleck as Batman is easily the best thing in this movie, and I can’t wait to see him in Suicide Squad later this year. Henry Cavill as Superman is more or less the same as he was in Man of Steel. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor doesn’t even bother to chew the scenery so much as devour it whole and then steal off of other peoples’ plates. Gal Gadot is appropriately badass as Wonder Woman despite the fact that her character probably could have afforded to sit this one out. The final battle is pretty spectacular to watch, and even manages to throw a curve ball that I honestly didn’t expect. Maybe if they’d done a better job building to it, it would have mattered more.