It’s no secret that, ever since Warner Bros declared that they would be starting a DC cinematic universe similar to Marvel’s, comic book fans have been taking sides. Yet, it seems like overall, there has been a lot more negativity shined on DC. A ton of people did not like the way Man of Steel (which was the first movie in DC’s cinematic universe) portrayed Superman as a much more serious character than he has been. There was also a huge outcry at the amount of destruction in that film’s final act, and even more anger towards the fact that Superman killed General Zod. I myself, though that
There was also a huge outcry at the amount of destruction in that film’s final act, and even more anger towards the fact that Superman killed General Zod. I myself, though that Man of Steel was a fantastic superhero movie (one of the best in fact) due in large part to director Zack Snyder, one of the best visual directors of our day. Now, Snyder returns with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the film that serves as the bridge between Man of Steel and the upcoming Justice League, bringing into the mix classic DC characters like Batman and Wonder Woman.
Eighteen months after the Battle of Metropolis and the world is still coming to grips with the idea of an all-powerful being like Superman (Henry Cacill) existing on earth unrestrained. Superman quickly becomes the target of multiple people including billionaires Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, who secretly prowls the streets of Gotham city as the masked vigilante Batman, aided by his loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons). The two men are engaged in a chase to find and control a mineral that has the power to end Superman once and for all. As tensions rise, Superman must decide what role he wishes to play on earth, and whether or not his adoptive planet would be better off without him.
Let’s start with the Batman side of the movie, because that’s where Batman v Superman shines. Anyone who was worried about Ben Affleck being cast as the Caped Crusader can eat their words, because he is hands down the best actor to have portrayed the character. This is a very different Batman than we are used to seeing in movies. He’s older, more experienced and also thoroughly fed up with the inefficiency of his “no kill” policy. If you are someone who thinks that Batman should not take a life, then stay clear from this movie, because he has no problem with straight up murdering people. The movie spends very little time giving us the Batman origin story we all know like the back of our hands, moving straight into showing us the climax from Man of Steel through Wayne’s eyes as he runs into the carnage trying to save as many people as he can. It’s a great introductory scene that sets up the building conflict between Batman and Superman rather nicely. Rounding up the Gotham side of things is legendary actor Jeremy Irons, who does as good of a job playing Alfred as can be expected from an actor of his talent. Some of the best parts of the movies are when he and Affleck are trading one-liners like an old married couple. If there’s anything that Batman v Superman did right, it’s to get me really excited for the upcoming solo Batman film that will be directed by Affleck.
Then, there’s Jesse Eisenberg who is doing a very different interpretation of Lex Luthor. He’s borderline Joker-esque in the way he projects his mannerisms and ticks, but once you adjust your expectations, his performance is quite enjoyable and off-putting in a very intimidating way. He’s often prone to delivering erratic, philosophical speeches that, while entertaining to watch, leaves me to believe that the writers (Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer) think they’re being a lot more deep and nuanced than they actually are. Rounding out the cast of new characters is Gal Gadot as the mysterious Diana Prince (AKA Wonder Woman) who is in precious little of the film, but commands the screen every single second she’s on there. I love the fact that they decided to let Gadot act in her native accent, as it adds further mystique and exoticism to her character. When she finally appears in full costume, it’s one of the more triumphant moments of the movie, and I’m very happy with how they decided to portray her character. She is a fierce warrior who clearly knows a lot more than the other two heroes, and the film hints at a very intriguing back-story that will no doubt be explored further in her solo movie.
It’s Superman’s side of the story that left me most disappointed. Henry Cavill is still doing fine work as both Clark Kent and Superman, but it clearly feels like he’s playing second fiddle to Affleck and Eisenberg. The one thing the movie does right by Superman has reinforce how important the women in his life, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), are to him and how integral they are to what makes Superman… well, Superman. The film is very interested in the question of whether or not Superman can be trusted to continue his actions without supervision, but that question is never really answered in a satisfying way. The senate hearing in which Superman is asked to answer for his actions is a mild disappointment, as it gets interrupted before anything of much importance can be said, and that particular plotline is dropped right after.
The major problem with the movie is pacing. The first hour consists primarily of set up, desperately trying to string together the separate stories of Superman, Batman and Lex Luther without really finding anyway of structuring these three stories in a cohesive way. At points, it felt like someone in the editing room randomly chose which scenes to put one after the other. There are a bunch of dream sequences that, while necessary to establish Batman’s motives for going after Superman, take up way more time than they need to. Even the way the film introduces the other members of the Justice League (Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg) was poorly handled and might as well not even have been included. Something that I have always appreciated from DC is the seriousness with which they approach their movies. Ever since Christopher Nolan came on the scene with Batman Begins, it became possible to take these characters and put them in a real world, with real consequences and weight. Characters don’t feel the need to make jokes in the middle of a life-or-death situation like they do in The Avengers, but rest assured there is enough humor in the movie to prevent things from getting too dour. Then there’s also that battle. You know the one the movie is named after? Well, while the actual fight between Superman and Batman is epic, it’s also way, way too short. Not only that, but the various machinations put into place by Lex Luthor in order to get the two fighting required a lot of suspension of disbelief in order to accept. In fact, the entire fight could have easily been avoided had they tried talking to each other instead of going straight to punching.
Yet, even with all these problems, once the fight with the movie’s real villain, Doomsday, kicks into high gear in the third act, Zack Snyder delivers what he does best: quality well filmed action scenes that will have your heart pounding in your chest. Much like with the ending to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman ends on a large-scale climax, where Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman team up to take down a big threat. It’s every fan boy’s dream, and I loved every single second of it. Wonder Woman explodes onto the screen with fire and vigor, Batman grapples from buildings and beats up bad guys with brutality and Superman punches and throws just like he did in Man of Steel. All of this, masterfully scored by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, as is the rest of the movie. For those last 30 minutes, the movie truly becomes everything I could have ever wanted.
I can’t say how badly I wanted to come back from the movie and write a 10/10 review for it, but sadly that’s not the case. There are just too many problems for any DC fan, big or small, to overlook. Scenes are poorly put together; the pacing is extremely jarring and the overuse of dream sequences becomes very tedious. Yet, there are a ton of truly great moments, moments where the film reaches the epic heights it aspires to, and it’s in these moments where watching Batman v Superman filed me with joy. Let’s face it; Marvel has put DC in a difficult position. They could not take their time to build a universe in the same way Marvel did, and so had to expedite things. And even though Batman v Superman is a rushed, poorly edited collection of great characters and epic action scenes, it did the one thing it absolutely had to: Make me excited for future movies in this universe. So bring on Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and all the other DC movies Warner Bros and Zack Snyder have lined up. Batman v Superman is merely an appetizer to the main course that will be Justice League, but it’s a tasty appetizer nonetheless.
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