By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com
DVD Geek: Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice Ultimate
Zack Snyder’s script for the 2016 hit/flop, Batman v Superman The Dawn of Justice, isn’t all that bad. The villain tricks two superheroes into believing that the other has been a careless murderer, and if you think Superman could whoop Batman with his little finger, you’re forgetting Kryptonite. Snyder’s adaptation boasts an Old Testament undertone, set against a futuristic, yet present-day. Snyder’s execution, however, is ill-advised and lackluster despite the fact he made one of the finest comic book movies ever, Watchmen. This was a problem with the theatrical release, but the core flaws remain in the three-disc Blu-ray, Batman v Superman The Dawn of Justice Ultimate. The theatrical version, included on both the DVD and one of the BDs, runs 151 minutes, while the Ultimate Edition, featured on the other BD disc, runs 183 minutes. The additional footage brings more to the story, expanding scenes, adding action (and violence—Ultimate Edition was changed from ‘PG-13’ to ‘R’), and creating a better balance for the film’s pace.
BvS has been criticized for being humorless, and there are only three jokes or so in the entire expanded feature. As much as we thrive on the clever banter in many of the other superhero movies, a film can still entertain without that sort of thing if it achieves a compelling vision and delivers a strong dramatic conflict where you can see into the souls of the characters. Snyder fails to achieve that alternative. Henry Cavill carries over his Superman character from Man of Steel, a film I found to be very entertaining and satisfying. Since his character was already well established in that film, however, there is not much that can be added to his personality or psychology in this one. He still has more flair and humanity than Ben Affleck, who fills in stiffly as Batman. Affleck’s character is given very little depth, despite dream sequences that are supposed to show his emotional suffering. Normally, a director and actor can work around such limitations, since that is what good acting is supposed to be about, but Affleck offers nothing—no zeal, no introspection, no feelings at all. Christian Bale was probably smart to duck out on the part.
Near the end of the film, after a couple of teasing glimpses early on, Gal Gadot shows up as Wonder Woman.’Her entire presence reeks of a promotion for sequels and spin-offs. You know nothing about her other than she is hot, and has some kind of glowing lasso that can take down monsters. The personality will have to wait for another movie, and besides, she is overshadowed by the film’s one true saving grace, Amy Adams, who provides the spine of the film. Like the comic book series from so long ago, the film really should have been titled, “Lois Lane,” as Adams provides not only the movie’s heart, but its only identifiably normal persona. Without her, the film would be a complete waste of time, but with her, you’re willing to stick around and watch all the other stuff.
The villain is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, who has been faulted, one supposes, for not bringing enough machismo to his part, something even Gene Hackman managed to do in his rendition of the role back in the Seventies, however much of a buffoon he otherwise was. Frankly, we don’t care as much about tradition as others, especially when it comes to comic books. Next to Adams, Eisenberg’s villain is the softest and most accessible character. Snyder fails him by not drawing a little more eccentricity out of his behavior, but his character growth is effective and by the end, he is the only one among the principals who shows real promise for whatever sequels may come.
And the rest is hardware and effects, which ought to be Snyder’s forte, but is reduced to the most common denominators and is rarely enlivening. All comic book movies these days suffer from competitive escalation—the big effect scenes have to be bigger and more amazing than the ones in other movies. One reason Ant-man succeeded was that it just kept to its own little thing, adding a few interesting and engaging visuals, but avoiding a grand spectacle. But with some movie entitled Batman v Superman, a grand spectacle is expected. That’s probably why Snyder got hired, for his abilities as a visionary, but those abilities failed him. A few of the action scenes are engaging, but none are memorable, and the big battle at the end, except for the sequences involving Adams, is neither original nor particularly inventive. Its level of spectacle was surpassed several years ago.