Surprise, surprise: While the notices from the selfie-snapping fans and DC Comics associates at the “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” premiere were glowing, the actual reviews Warner Bros. held back until this afternoon are distinctly less so. The linchpin of DC’s new extended universe is as loud and glossy as you’d expect from a Zack Snyder production, but the first reviews find little to love besides Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman — and not nearly enough of her to love. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor comes in for the biggest shellacking, perhaps second to the (literally) crappy-looking CGI villain who dominates the movie’s third act, but in general the reviews are lukewarm at best. (Lots of C gradess and two-star ratings.) Interestingly, there’s a good deal of dissension about where the movie goes wrong: Some say it overreaches, some that it plays it too safe; some that it’s visually nondescript, others than it values flash over coherence. But no matter the numbers, they add up to the same result: A big, fat shrug.
Reviews of “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”
Andrew Barker, Variety
Tasked with colliding the two most archetypal of American superheroes while also answering critics of his last outing, “Man of Steel,” and perhaps most importantly, paving the way for an extended DC Comics universe of films on which much of Warner Bros. future bottom line relies, Snyder has set a Sisyphean task for himself. That this very long, very brooding, often exhilarating and sometimes scattered epic succeeds as often it does therefore has to be seen as an achievement, and worldwide box office should be sufficiently lucrative to ensure future installments proceed on schedule. But amidst all the grueling work of saving the world and shouldering a franchise toward the heights, it would be nice to see these heroes, and this series, take a few more breathers to enjoy the view.
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly (C+)
I get that this mano a supermano story line is a sacred text among comic-book aficionados, but Dawn of Justice doesn’t do the tale any favors. It’s overstuffed, confusing, and seriously crippled by Eisenberg’s over-the-top performance. As the megalomaniac tech mogul hell-bent on bringing our heroes to their knees, the actor is a grating cartoon of manic motormouth tics. He might as well be wearing a buzzing neon sign around his neck that says “Crazy Villain.” (If you don’t want to know anything more about his nefarious plot, stop reading.) Luthor schemes to weaponize some Kryptonian relics left behind by General Zod in Man of Steel and create a rampaging monster named Doomsday that, to my eyes, resembles a giant turd. Dawn of Justice starts off as an intriguing meditation about two superheroes turning to an all-too-human emotion: hatred out of fear of the unknown. Two and a half hours later it winds up somewhere very far from that—but at the same time, all too familiar. It’s another numbing smash-and-bash orgy of CGI mayhem with an ending that leaves the door open wide enough to justify the next 10 installments. Is it too late to demand a rematch?
Robbie Collin, Telegraph (2/5 stars)
That Wagnerian final brawl is exactly what you want in a film called “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” – but it doesn’t come close to compensating for the blithering chaos that preceded it. The first hour in particular is so haphazardly assembled, I honestly wondered if a reel had gone missing from the projection booth. Perhaps the kindest thing you can say about Zack Snyder’s film – a sequel to his superb standalone Superman movie “Man of Steel” (2013), but also the lodestone of a new DC Comics Extended Universe, around which further DC films will cluster – is that its ambitions wildly exceed its reach.
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out (2/5 stars)
If there’s any justice, dawning or otherwise, at the multiplex, audiences will reject Zack Snyder’s lumbering, dead-on-arrival superhero mélange, a $250 million tombstone for a genre in dire need of a break. It’s supposed to be the glorious ramp-up to a new crime-fighting franchise, DC Comics’ Justice League, but you’ll wish this strenuously empty movie had boned up on a few lessons beforehand: There’s zero humor or self-deprecation, as there was in Joss Whedon’s pitch-perfect The Avengers; no performance of unlikely depth, like the one Heath Ledger pulled off in The Dark Knight; and no animating spirit of decency, a trait Christopher Reeve’s Superman had in spades.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
You can feel “Batman v Superman” occasionally reaching out toward more than what its corporate interests have dictated — there are a few minutes of Affleck and Gadot verbally one-upping each other at a swanky society party, promising a sexy caper movie that never emerges, and Luthor occasionally stops being a cartoon when Eisenberg commits to some speeches about the nature of man and his gods, and how a being can be all-good or all-powerful, but never both. Such moments are fleeting, however, and are mere filigree on Snyder’s real agenda of blowing stuff up. As in “Man of Steel,” great swaths of real estate get obliterated by our protagonists, but it would appear that he heard the criticism that the previous film glibly traded on the horrors of 9/11 by showing ash-covered survivors crawling out of the ruins of Metropolis. This time, there’s always a supporting character (or Anderson Cooper) to tell us that the big bad battle is taking place in an area with no innocent bystanders.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
The main issues facing the writers of a superhero smackdown like this are concocting a reason why, given all the evil out there, they have to fight each other and devising a way to level the playing field when one of them is essentially immortal and the other is actually just a really buff guy with a costume and lots of gizmos. Screenwriters Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer (all three of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight blockbusters) have sort of solved this by devising ways to make Superman more frequently vulnerable than he’s ever been before, but the villain here, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, is so intensely annoying that, very early on, you wish Batman and Superman would just patch up their differences and join forces to put the squirrely rascal out of his, and our, misery.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire (C+)
“Batman v Superman” has reasons for seeming unfinished, which is particularly frustrating given the potential for the material. Fans of Frank Miller’s quintessential eighties series “The Dark Knight Returns” will recall the astounding climax in which the same characters wrestled for supremacy against far more engaging reasons for the pair to face each other. Devoid of such inspired rationales, “Batman v Superman” reduces its premise to the world’s most expensive child’s play. But Snyder’s an accomplished stylist who can at least make the dumbest movies justify their heft. His “Dawn of the Dead” remake remains his best effort by reducing the formulaic premise to a series of tense sequences. “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” similarly energized the animated fantasy genre by increasing the intensity of its action. Likewise, filled with motion-heavy sequences rich in light and color, “Batman v Superman” doesn’t lack for inspired visuals. The palette is rich with engaging contrasts. Superman drifts in space against a rainbow-colored earth; the hulkish doomsday monster that Luther dreams up looks like a Golem on steroids. The climax erupts in a symphony of neon light and shadows.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx
Snyder is one of the interesting visual directors working today. I think he did legitimately great work in movies like 300 and Watchmen. And even a terrible movie like Sucker Punch was at least fun to look at. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, visually, Snyder’s least-interesting film. It’s like all the “controversy” surrounding the plot of Man of Steel got to his head and he decided to play it safe. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the equivalent of aiming for the fairway instead of the green, then shanking the ball out of bounds anyway.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
There probably could be a really interesting movie about the ideological divide between Batman and Superman, but on the basis of Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder was not the man to make it. He has no feel for the finer points of morality; the questions he asks are too straightforward and the resolution he arrives at after all that talk and too few setpieces is way too simple. Instead of playing up the differences between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight, Batman v Superman flattens them. For all his high horsing about Superman’s transgressions, Batman mows down loads of people in his Batmobile and Batwing (both equipped with enormous machine guns), and he beats up bad guys with alarming ferocity (he paralyzes at least one guy for life, if the poor dude survives at all). At times, Affleck’s Bruce Wayne seems less worried about Clark Kent’s powers than jealous of them. This Batman may be right about this Superman, but he’s also a hypocrite. If he’d stop trying to kill him for two minutes, he’d realize how much they have in common. Batman and Superman have no reason to fight. These two “heroes” deserve each other.
Don Kaye, Den of Geek
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a big, unwieldly mess of a movie, but it is not an un-entertaining one. There are elements that are surprisingly strong – notably in the casting – and other aspects that suffer either from a patchwork script or the need to jam a whole lot of world-building into one movie, even one that runs 150 minutes. It’s very much a Zack Snyder movie in many ways – there are a lot of interesting ideas left to sort of flounder on their own that he still manages to imbue with gravitas, yet never completely follows through on because he’s too busy moving on to the next thing. And yes, it’s dark: there are maybe three jokes in BvS, and the atmosphere is relentlessly ominous and oppressive.
Donald Clarke, Irish Times
Like far too many contemporary comic-book adaptations – oh, for the primary colours of Donner’s Superman or Raimi’s Spider-Man – Snyder’s film believes itself to be “dark”, but this is the superficial darkness of the Goth pop that sounds behind slammed teenage doors. What’s wrong with these super-beings and flawed millionaires? They’re forever moping on tall buildings in the pissing rain. Cheer up, for Christ’s sake!
James Marsh, Twitch
Andrew Pulver, Guardian
Affleck, whose appointment to the Batman role was so controversial among the Comic Con crowd, acquits himself pretty well: more careworn than any previous Batman, but bulked up enough to cope with the combat scenes. He leads a principal cast of considerable pedigree, packed with past Oscar winners and nominees (including Irons, Holly Hunter and Amy Adams). Director Zack Snyder, returning from “Man of Steel,” applies the degree of visual polish that the contemporary superhero film demands, even if subtlety is not his strong point. And Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gets the introduction she needs to trigger the required interest in the inevitable standalone feature. All in all, job done, just about.