DAWN OF JUSTICE
(US - 2016)
Directed by Zack Snyder. Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Tao Okamoto, Callan Mulvey, Harry Lennix, Christina Wren, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Ralph Lister, Kevin Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Michael Cassidy, voice of Patrick Wilson. (PG-13, 151 mins)
There's no getting around the fact that the awkwardly-titled BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is a disjointed, bloated mess that still feels incomplete even at two and a half hours (a three-hour, R-rated version will be released on Blu-ray in July, though I can't imagine that being much help). The reviews have been devastating and the toxic response from critics would lead some to believe that the film is some kind of cinematic Ebola. I'm not especially keen to engage in a round of "reviewing the reviewers," and some of the vicious reviews make their points in a professional, even-handed manner but it's obvious that a lot of the critics had their reviews pretty much written before they even saw the film. As if workshopping jokes for a Comedy Central roast of director Zack Snyder, many no doubt jotted down their snarky comments and nit-picky complaints and pithy zingers and constructed their reviews around them to fit the narrative that was constructed the moment the project was announced.
MAN OF STEEL. The response to BVS is indicative of a recurring problem in today's film criticism: the pile-on. A Hitfix article listing 20 "baffling questions" that BVS "refused to answer" gets several of the details completely wrong. Did the author of that article watch the movie or were they watching how the Rotten Tomatoes percentage was dropping? Does the author know that an unanswered question isn't necessarily a "plot hole"? Is BVS a good movie? Eh, it has its moments, but it's OK at best. There's plenty of legitimate beefs with a lot of what's here. But is it as offensively godawful as you've been led to believe? Not even close. Nevertheless, the pile-on is the most intense since Ridley Scott's THE COUNSELOR, a film so unjustifiably lambasted ("Meet the worst movie ever made," crowed one particularly smug review) that its reputation improved and a cult following had formed before it even left theaters. So here's BVS, and like the villagers storming Castle Frankenstein, here's critics, fanboys, and message board mouth-breathers victoriously celebrating an imagined defeat--this had a $166 million opening, so it's not as if a movie like this depends on good reviews--with the tone being set by the "Sad Ben Affleck" viral sensation over the weekend.
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, has been universally panned but everybody's still going to see it. The sizable crowd with whom I saw it didn't seem to hate it. They loved Wonder Woman. They laughed at the very few intentionally funny lines. There's the oft-mentioned disconnect between critics and audiences, and while it's got a surplus of flaws and dubious decision-making, it never succeeded in pissing me off at any point, and I can't say the same about MAN OF STEEL and its second-half implosion. Let's face it, whether it was the casting of Affleck or the decision to bring back Snyder or the various ways it deviates from the comic books (I've never been into comic books, so these filmmakers can do whatever they want with the material, I don't care), the trolls and the haters were never going to give this a chance. Going back to Tim Burton's BATMAN in 1989, has there ever been an initially positive response to any announcement of who's playing Batman? Do comic book fans ever not have a hissy fit and react to these kinds of things in a way that makes THE SIMPSONS' Comic Book Guy the most accurate. Representation. Ever? Critics don't need to sink to that level. The trolls and the haters will always be there because what else do they have? But they shouldn't be the ones making a living as objective reviewers resorting to clickbait tactics in a dying field whose continued relevance is constantly being questioned. Maybe it's lowered expectations, but this movie isn't that fucking bad, and if film criticism is going to continue to be a thing, everyone--from career reviewers to hobbyist bloggers--needs to step up their game. Leave the irrational pile-on to the IMDb message board denizens.