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Douglas Pratt

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.

 

One Response to “DVD Geek: Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice Ultimate”

  1. Richard says:

    I enjoyed the movie :)! Accurate review!

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“In some ways Christopher Nolan has become our Stanley Kubrick,” reads the first sentence of David Bordwell’s latest blog post–none of which I want or intend to read after that desperate opening sentence. If he’d written “my” or “some people’s” instead of “our”, I might have read further. Instead, I can only surmise that in some ways David Bordwell may have become our Lars von Trier.”
~ Jonathan Rosenbaum On Facebook

“Jonathan has written a despicable thing in comparing me to Trump. He’s free to read or not read what I write, and even to judge arguments without reading them. It’s not what you’d expect from a sensible critic, but it’s what Jonathan has chosen to do, for reasons of a private nature he has confided to me in an email What I request from him is an apology for comparing my ideas to Trump’s.”
~ David Bordwell Replies

“Yes, I do apologize, sincerely, for such a ridiculous and quite unwarranted comparison. The private nature of my grievance with David probably fueled my post, but it didn’t dictate it, even though I’m willing to concede that I overreacted. Part of what spurred me to post something in the first place is actually related to a positive development in David’s work–an improvement in his prose style ever since he wrote (and wrote very well) about such elegant prose stylists as James Agee and Manny Farber. But this also brought a journalistic edge to his prose, including a dramatic flair for journalistic ‘hooks’ and attention-grabbers, that is part of what I was responding to. Although I realize now that David justifies his opening sentence with what follows, and far less egregiously than I implied he might have, I was responding to the drum roll of that opening sentence as a provocation, which it certainly was and is.”
~ Jonathan Rosenbaum Replies

“In my own mind, I’ve always been a writer and the fact that I act is, well… it’s been very enjoyable and I love doing it. It has been good for me, but in my own mind I’m just a writer with a bizarre activity—acting—that I undertake.”
~ Wallace Shawn