Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

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Posted March 28, 2016 by Josh McCullough in Movies

 

*This review contains mild spoilers*

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Written  by: Chris Terrino, Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jessie Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Lawerence Fishburne

Batman v Superman has proven to be one of the most divisive superhero movies of all time, even before we saw a single second of the film. Coming off of the equally controversial Man of Steel as well as attempting to set up not only Justice League but the entire DC cinematic universe, the movie is of course going to be under a lot of scrutiny. While reviews have so far been mixed to negative, I have to admit I found myself thoroughly entertained throughout the entirety of the movie. While Batman v Superman may not exactly be a traditional blockbuster that Warner Bros. execs may be hoping for, I definitely think there’s a lot to enjoy here, though what you get out of it will come down entirely to personal preference.

BvS‘s plot is packed to near bursting point, although the core story is rather simple.  Superman (Henry Cavill) has become a controversial figure in the public eye due to the ramifications of his actions in Man of Steel, with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) in particular becoming suspicious due to witnessing first hand the victims of the Zod attack. While his paranoia grows, Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) attempts to import kryptonite to use against Superman, all the while trying to turn Batman and Superman against each other. While the main plot on paper isn’t anything too dense, there’s so many side plots going on from Lois investigating a mysterious bullet to Clark questioning his role as Superman to Batman investigating metahumans that the movie threatens to become an Age of Ultron affair. Thankfully, quite a lot of these elements manage to come into play in the later half of the film, and I was entertained enough scene to scene that I didn’t find myself getting distracted or frustrated with the pace of the movie. There are definite downsides to this however, include a dream sequence that feels unbelievably forced in (I actually burst out laughing because I thought I’d become delirious). I’ve heard a lot of people compare the structure to an actual comic book, and while that is fine for fans, it really isn’t something that entirely works in a movie, especially when the payoff to some threads are at least a year and a half away. There have also been some odd cuts too, with one just recently released better explaining a character’s motivation and addressing one of the problems I’ve had, leaving me eager to see the director’s cut in hopes some of these loose elements play into the story better. The rapid fire story also leaves less times for characters to interact, so by the time Superman and Lex have their big stand-off, I couldn’t help but feel a proper rivalry hadn’t been established between the characters. The ending too, feels very weirdly out of place, especially given that this is intended as the start of a big universe. While fans have started to come up with different reasons it might be there, it seems a little pointless to me, but I’d like to keep this review as spoiler free as possible.

Batman v Superman Superman

“I hope Snyder catches my deep side”

While the plot is pretty packed, what I do appreciate is that it strives to be more of a Man of Steel sequel than a Justice League prequel. The movie doesn’t shy away from some of the more divisive elements of that film, and carries on some of the character development quite well. It’s what saves the moving from falling into the trappings of something like Amazing Spider-Man 2, it feels like a natural next step from Man of Steel rather than an attempt to play superhero catch-up like people feared. I caught this as part of a double bill of both films and they definitely work well together to compliment each other, and I’m excited to see things develop further into Justice League, as long as the film manages to hone in more on it’s main plot and continue to improve then I’ll be very happy come 2017. Superman’s character is still a little bit problematic though. He’s still pretty wooden, with Snyder choosing to focus more on religious imagery to explain Superman’s character rather than have him act like Superman. Cavill is a very naturally charasmatic actor, and I can’t help but feel Snyder wastes some of his talents. Just a few scenes of Superman saving people with a smile, or even allowing him the chance to defend his actions of speak of his motivations to grant his character a little bit of depth. They do present his struggle more realistically at least, I could understand why this would Superman would be more hesitant and unsure given the tough situations that arise during the movie, but this doesn’t save him from largely being a plot device in the movie. A real shame given Superman is my all time favorite hero.

BvS batman

Can we have a Batfleck solo film.. like now?

Speaking of which, we get a couple of big debuts in this film on the path to the Justice League which are sure to be big talking points. The most debated has of course been Ben Affleck as Batman. While he received a huge backlash at first, he slowly won people over, and now that the film’s out I can officially say he’s my favorite onscreen Batman. Unlike other interpretations that have focused on making him realistic, there’s a lot more creative license in this to make him more like his comic counterpart. His movements are brilliantly unreal, the way he stalks the shadows and takes down entire rooms of people feel like they’re ripped straight out of the Arkham games. For the first time, when people describe Batman as a devil, I bought it, he’s an absolute force of nature and looks like he’s been ripped straight out of a comic book, whether in his traditional costume of the Dark Knight Returns based armor. Even better is his relationship with Alfred (Jeremy Irons). You definitely get the sense that these two have had a long partnership together, with Irons getting some nicely humorous lines to add a nice bit of levity to the film as well as being a voice of reason for Bruce, something the audience will be very much in favor of, especially given this new Batman’s willingness to kill (something which may upset hardcore fans, but which is at least provided explanation for by Irons to soften the blow). Even better, this movie provides more insight into Batman’s psyche than any movie before it. There are quite a few horrific sequences showing Bruce’s nightmares that caught me off guard, and while I do fear the movie uses dream sequences a little too much, especially considering how much is going on it risks making the movie a bit confused, they work well into showing why Batman is a paranoid character. The movie definitely delivers the Batman we deserve, and I’m feverishly awaiting a Batman solo movie set in this universe.

batman-v-superman-trinity

I won’t lie, it’s absolutely thrilling to see the trinity onscreen together.

The real standout debut however comes from Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. She weaves her way into the flm nicely early on, acting as an interesting foil for Bruce Wayne, but when it finally comes time for her to step into her superhero persona, she looks like she’d having an absolute ball. Given the complaints of grim and scowling heroes, Diana’s arrival in the third act fight scene is an absolute joy, she jumps into a battle against impossible odds with a smile on her face and absolutely brings a huge sense of wonder and adventure to the movie. If it’s any indication to what her solo movie will be like, then I am 100% on board for that. I actually wish it was coming out this year instead of the Suicide Squad movie, as her debut has gotten a lot of people talking, and I think it will be a big deciding factor of the future of the DCEU, as it’ll show the franchise has life outside of Superman and Batman. My only complaint is that her debut was spoiled in the trailer, if they hadn’t shown this, it would have been an absolutely jaw dropping reveal that got me pumped for an epic final battle. Unfortunately the trailers spoiled way too much, leaving very little room for surprises outside of the Justice League cameos (which have already been discussed pre-release)

Batman v Superman Lex

No. Just no on every conceivable level.

The unfortunate weak link in the cast however is Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, quite possibly one of the worst portrayals of the character I’ve ever seen. As the trailers have indicated he goes for more of a younger, quirky, psychotic form of villain than the traditional Lex most people are familiar with. While an evil Mark Zuckerberg is not entirely a bad idea on paper (especially given Eisenberg’s spot on performance in The Social Network) the writers don’t seem at all to want to give Eisenberg anything serious to work with, instead making him feel more like the joker. Absolute nothing remains of the traditional Machiavellian Lex, leading me believe that the dad Eisenberg keeps mentioning would be a much better villain than what we got. Anytime he did something actually threatening or evil, it felt more inconsistent than shocking given how overly silly he was. Even more bizarre, there’s no real reason given as to why Lex hates Superman other than the comic book version does. While there have been some fan theories on why (which I won’t give here for spoiler reasons) even if they do turn out to be true, the potential revelation comes far too late in the movie and isn’t given enough attention to give the character any real depth. On the bright side, the next time a discussion about a controversial casting choice comes up and someone says “but Heath Ledger’s Joker turned out great!” we can respond with “yeah but Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor though”. I can not stretch enough how terrible an interpretation of Lex this was, and I’m hoping we can somehow retcon this Lex and have his father return to take on the mantle.

bvs doomsday

Dodgy Doomsday design aside, the fight scenes are an unbelievably epic spectacle.

Aside from this though, there’s so much the movie does that surprised me and lead me to enjoy it much more than I could have ever expected given that I was one of the movie’s biggest skeptics. For all the talk about the grim, humorless tone, there were actually quite a few great lines that gave the movie a nice bit of levity. As stated, Irons’ Alfred has a lot of these, but the real surprise star was Lawerence Fishburne’s Perry White. While he didn’t have much to do in Man of Steel, his quick wit and sass provide a great few funny lines, making Clark Kent’s world feel a lot more like the upbeat and friendly place it’s supposed to be. For the rest of the movie, I think the more serious tone actually fits. I don’t want to compare it to Marvel movies since that’s unfair, however I do appreciate these movies going in a slightly different direction. It felt nicely unique, managing to straddle the line between serious, heavy stuff and boringly grim. For a lot of it actually, this felt like one of the most “comic book” movies I’ve ever scene. The movie is huge in scope, feeling like a massive opera with larger than life figures and bizarre mad science. It feels huge and at times silly. but really that’s exactly what the DCU is supposed to be like to me. During the final fight with Doomsday, despite the distracting over abundance of CGI, I couldn’t help but be sucked into a huge brawl the likes of which I never thought I’d see on screen. It felt like comic book panels coming to life before my eyes, with so many iconic shots and images that I got completely lost in the spectacle of pure escapism. Say what you will about Snyder, he knows his way around an action scene. Every fight in this movie is gloriously rendered, from intense batmobile chase scenes to the title bout, there’s a lot of action that’ll get comic book fans going. Special mention needs to go to the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. The Man of Steel score triumphantly returns, but the new scores for Batman and Wonder Woman make their introductions and scenes feel that much bigger and more powerful. Even Luthor gets a pretty catch theme that sells his character better than the actual script. It’s one of the first truly memorable film scores I’ve heard in a long time, and makes me dizzy thinking about what he’ll cook up for Justice League.

BVS-21584rv5.0.0 (1)

Sooold separately, sometimes it feels like I’ve been soooooold separately…

When it comes to the criticisms, I can absolute understand where the critics are coming from. There’s a lot to take in, especially for general audiences, the previously discussed cameos, especially the flash’s one, will likely not make much sense outside of hardcore fans. The movie does not really attempt to be crowd pleasing, instead going for a specific vision and running at it full force. It seems to want to be more specifically designed for comic fans than even the Marvel movies, but this is a bit of a double edged sword as shown by the divide between critic and fans reactions, especially for a franchise that’s still trying to establish itself. While I appreciate the movie going for something different, especially given how a movie like Fant4stic turned out after studio meddling attempted to make it more acceptable to the masses, it’s definitely not a safe idea for a studio attempting to build a franchise. However, this actually makes me more interested to see what’s in store for this franchise. BvS does a great job of setting up a world for great stories involving these characters that finally throws off the shackles of realism in favor of the bombastic DC style. While it may not be what many are expecting, it definitely feels unique and different enough that I’m willing to give this universe a shot and feel much more confident about the future of the DCEU than I did after watching Man of Steel.

In conclusion, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a flawed masterpiece. It’s a mostly glorious rendition of the DCU on screen with a few hiccups along the way. The movie goes for a more heavy, comic book fan pleasing tone that I definitely appreciated, but I could see it being a problem with more general audiences. At times the movie looks damn near perfect in terms of its comic inspired imagery, only offset by the occasional overuse of CGI and Snyder’s trademark muted colors. The plot can at times get a little much, and could definitely have benefited from cutting some of the side plots, but it’s at least not as bad as some other bloated superhero movies. It’s definitely divisive, and I can’t tell you whether you’ll like the movie or not, what I can say though, is that it’s definitely worth watching in order to find out what you make of it. It’s a movie I won’t soon forget, and it’s another DC movie that will give fans a lot to think about. There’s definitely a universe to build stories on here which I truly up we get the chance to explore.

 


About the Author

Josh McCullough

A writer at WTN Josh is a huge comic fan whose tastes edge towards the strange and surreal. If there's one thing he loves more than comics then it's Doctor who. Never try and argue with him that there's a better doctor than Sylvester McCoy. Any fedoras that would make good press hats should be sent to his PO Box.