Snyder’s Directorial Powers Unable to Rescue Catastrophic Clash

Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

After three years of colossal hype, Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has finally arrived in theaters – but with an overstuffed script and a disastrous third act, “BvS” is far from great. However, its willingness to tackle mature themes of power, accountability and paranoia makes “BvS” a wildcard in the monotonous superhero genre.

“BvS” opens with the destruction of Metropolis (the ending of 2013’s “Man of Steel”) from Bruce Wayne’s point of view. Fast-forward two years later, and everyone’s angry at each other: Bruce Wayne blames Superman and doesn’t trust him, Clark Kent disagrees with Batman’s brutal and fear-inducing methods and billionaire Lex Luthor manipulates them both to pursue his own agenda.

Ben Affleck succeeds at playing a world-weary, mentally drained Batman whose moral compass has blurred over years of witnessing the worst of what humanity has to offer, à la Frank Miller’s Batman.

Gal Gadot makes a fine Wonder Woman, mysterious and sultry while still being fearsome. Jeremy Irons is a wise and comforting Alfred. And then there’s Jesse Eisenberg, whose Lex Luthor is very polarizing and sinister, which equates to a few moments of overacting. Everyone returning from “Man of Steel” does a formidable job, particularly Henry Cavill and Amy Adams.

At two and a half hours, “BvS” is quite the mess. Subplots are hard to keep track of, side characters aren’t fleshed out and the world-building feels rushed for the sake of setting up “Justice League.” The third act is simply terrible. Doomsday is the worst part of this film, an unconvincing CGI blob that makes the final battle with the trinity of heroes leave no impact.

“BvS” grapples with themes that most superhero films shy away from. Bruce Wayne’s inability to trust Superman echoes the Bush/Cheney 1 percent doctrine, making Batman’s vendetta against Superman a gray area. Luthor’s obsession with overthrowing Superman has a philosophical undercurrent of God versus man. Batman’s take on justice is the polar opposite of Superman’s by-the-book ideology, an interesting dichotomy that makes for an intense showdown.   

This is a Zack Snyder film through and through. Those who disagree with his dull color palette, grim tone and visual style should steer clear of “BvS.”

Even if it's not the showstopper it was anticipated to be, “BvS” should be appreciated for its singularity in a genre that doesn’t take enough risks. Try to find another superhero film that goes as dark and complex as this one – you won't find too many.