Volume 5, Issue 12!
“Movie Review: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”
Three years. Three years of casting rumors, movie announcements, news of the studio being afraid of the finished project, and of fans wondering if Warner Bros could pull off their own cinematic universe based on the characters in DC comics. It’s been a long road, but we’re finally here. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has been released, and with it, the DC Cinematic Universe has begun.
And I wanted to love it. I really did. But in the end, I only liked it.
To call Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice “ambitious” is an understatement. This is a movie that’s serving as the sequel to Man of Steel, setting up a new Batman with Ben Affleck, and also prepping the world for the DC universe on the silver screen. But much of this set up is kind of unfocused, or worse yet, not really in the movie as much as it needs to be. Yeah, you’ll see Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg, but not at all like you think you will. In fact, I kind of feel like you shouldn’t have seen them at all, only mentions of them. The end result (with the exception of Cyborg), felt like they just grabbed Ezra Miller and Jason Mamoa for a half hour and filmed the first takes they had. They’re let downs from what we’ve been told from marketing and magazine articles, and I won’t be surprised if your average non-comic reading movie goer ends up feeling cheated.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Batman V Superman focuses on, you guessed it, Superman and Batman finally meeting (and duking it out) on the big screen. Naturally this is the strongest stuff of the movie, but they really only meet up for showdowns two times before coming together to fight Doomsday. Sadly I felt that there just simply wasn’t enough of Batman or Superman in the movie, which has a first hour that felt like some of the slowest moving and random scenes ever.
The film opens with the death of the Waynes (again), and I won’t lie, I had chills from it even though I’ve seen it hundreds of times. For some reason the cinematography, soundtrack, and voiceover from Ben Affleck was able to hit that spot in my Batman loving heart. Right after that is a great scene of Affleck’s Bruce Wayne running through Metropolis during the closing events of Man of Steel, rescuing as many people as he can. It’s a great sequence, and sets up our conflict really well, but after that the movie starts ping-ponging between Lois Lane covering a report for the Daily Planet, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor meeting with a US Senator to get his hands on some Kryptonite, and Perry White bickering at Clark Kent at the Daily Planet. They’re all jumbled together in a visual jigsaw puzzle. It’s very disorienting, and almost pulled me right out of the movie.
Honestly, it’s not until we get more of Bruce Wayne’s preparations to take on the Man of Steel that Batman V Superman really clicks, and a lot of that has to do with Affleck’s performance. He plays Bruce Wayne as an older, bitter Batman who’s been beaten down by 20 years of fighting crime in Gotham City. There are a few missteps with his character (which I’ll get to VERY soon), but for the most part Affleck is truly one of the best actors to play Batman. Hell, he might even be my favorite.
Except for one aspect.
Every Batman film has played The Dark Knight’s “no killing” rule loosely, but Batman V Superman has some of the most blatant “he probably killed that guy” scenes I’ve seen in a Batman film. Even in the “nightmare scene”, an admittedly visually striking scene that could’ve been an entire movie on its own, features Batman not only using guns and shooting at Superman storm troopers, but straight up snapping a trooper’s neck. It’s not Affleck’s fault that this occurs in the film, in the end it’s Snyder’s decision. While I know the easy out for this scene is to say, “it’s all a dream”, but I won’t lie, that scene legitimately made my heart sink. It felt like Snyder found a loophole to show that in “his” world, Batman kills too.
But it’s not all negative. There are some pretty cool moments in BvS, and they primarily revolve around the character that’s been hyped up just as much at Batman and Superman, but doesn’t share the title with them. Wonder Woman appears sporadically in the film as Diana Prince, but when she finally makes her appearance at the end in the battle with Doomsday, she ignites the screen. Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the Amazonian Warrior is truly spectacular, and her moments are absolutely worth the price of admission.
I also found myself being pleasantly surprised by Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, who has some really goofy moments, but also is more similar to the comic incarnation than any previous big screen Lex (thank god his plan isn’t a real estate one again). But my real MVP of the film is Jeremy Irons’ Alfred, who’s both hilarious and kind of a hardass. He’s way more hands-on than any Alfred before him, and while he looks like he’s only a few years older than Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, you get the feeling that he’s been raising Bruce since he was a child. Unfortunately the characters that I felt were weakest were Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill as Superman himself. I really like Cavill, and think he definitely looks the part as Superman, but this movie does him no real favors. Aside from a few good moments where he struggles with his place in the world, there isn’t really much for Cavill to do aside from look imposing.
As for the much-hyped battle between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight, it is awesome, but it took too long to get there. Lex Luthor is the reason why they fight, pitting them against each other in the hopes that they kill one another. Visually the fight is great and instantly iconic. However, it seemed like Snyder rushed to get the two on good terms. Shortly after Batman and Superman throw down they’re talking to each other and acting like they weren’t just at each other’s throats. It’s a weird shift in the movie that probably would’ve worked better with a little more character work between the two.
You’re all aware that Doomsday is the “big bad” of the film since he was in the trailer, and like I said earlier, Wonder Woman is THE reason this scene is as cool as it is. But if you know your comics, you know what it means for Superman when Doomsday arrives, and when Batman V Superman gets to this point, it feels less like a shocking moment and more like a “wait, we’re doing this too?” It felt like Zack Snyder thought this was going to be the ONLY Superman movie ever, so he better include every major moment of the Man of Steel’s life. It’s surprising for sure, and will make the opening of Justice League interesting, but it seemed more like a “let’s do this too” tactic instead of an earned moment in the film.
A lot of the things that I was worried about in Batman V Superman unfortunately rang true for me. It tries too hard to work as a sequel to Man of Steel, an introduction to Batman, and setting up Justice League, and on top of it all, there’s weird inconsistencies in the plot as well. Superman calls Batman “Bruce” right before their fight, and while I can obviously piece together that Superman probably used X-Ray vision on Batman at some point in the film (well, probably the only other time in the film that they meet), the fact that it’s never shown to us bothered me. Superman’s X-Ray vision wasn’t shown in Man of Steel, so why not show it in this film? It’s also revealed the Lex Luthor pretty much knows who all of the metahumans are, including Superman, but does he know who Batman is? Cause he sees Batman at the end of the movie, but doesn’t call him Bruce. But earlier in the movie he sends blackmail to Bruce Wayne as a way to goad him into a fight. It’s these weird inconsistencies that have stayed with me more than say, the awesome Batman fight in the warehouse, or seeing Superman save a person in a burning building during the Day of the Dead ceremony. In a weird way, I almost wish that Dawn of Justice was either cut into two films, or that Warner Bros. just said “eff it” and released the upcoming 3 hour Blu ray “Ultimate Cut” as the theatrical version.
BvS feels like Zack Snyder read Dark Knight Returns and then said, “I got it”, despite the fact that there are numerous different stories starring Batman and Superman that he could also pull from. The end credits, which list a huge amount of comic creators who have worked on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman over the years, show us that Frank Miller’s take on the DC universe is not the gospel. There are thousands of stories to choose from to help craft your story.
Despite everything I had heard and feared, I was really pulling for this movie, and I’m pretty devastated that I’m not as into it as some people are. I’m happy for those that thought this movie was everything they wanted and more, but it just didn’t click with me. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset. Maybe I was hoping for something more. Maybe the trailers and clips gave too much away. Hell, maybe I need to see it again. But whatever the case, for me at least, Batman V Superman was not what Batman, Superman, or fans of the DC Universe truly deserved.