Let’s be clear. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an amazing spectacle of a film. The very nature of seeing these iconic figures on the screen together generates excitement. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, have been a part of American pop culture for decades and have practically become mythological figures. Because of the legendary status of these characters and the epic nature of this film, it’s going to make millions at the box office. As you watch this latest rendition of America’s favorite superheroes, it’s very apparent that the filmmakers were really trying to make a big, spectacular, entertaining film. They tried really hard to create a crowd pleasing piece of pop cinema. If anything, this film should be praised for its ambition. However, watching Batman v Superman is a lot like having too much food on your plate. It tastes great, but you shouldn’t eat so much food at once.
Just reading the title of the film; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, tells us that this film has four things to accomplish. One, it has to reintroduce us to a new Batman. Two, it has to catch us up with Superman since the events of the Man of Steel. Three, it has to create conflict between between these two behemoths, and four, it has to set up the superheroic team up of the Justice League. This movie has a lot to accomplish in under three hours and it does most of these things perfectly. The character of Bruce Wayne/Batman was by far the best and most consistent part of the whole film. Bruce Wayne has a huge dislike for Superman based on the events of the movie Man of Steel. The movie does a great job of showing us the rage that he feels towards the criminal element or any other suspicious character. From Bruce Wayne’s point of view, Superman is just another threat to be dealt with. Ben Affleck’s performance of Bruce Wayne is the best we’ve seen onscreen. He shows us the complex nature of the playboy millionaire. He’s smooth, intelligent, clever, womanizing, but we also sense the embittered world weariness of the character.
Henry Cavill has some great moments as Clark Kent/Superman. He plays Clark as a very serious news reporter who’s focused on his relationship with Lois Lane, played with a subtle grace by Amy Adams. He also shows the conflict that Clark feels regarding his role in the world as Superman. The world loves Superman and is also afraid of him. He is unsure of wether or not he wants to be the world’s protector. This film brilliantly plays on the religious symbolism of Superman as the savior of society who is sometimes hated and persecuted. While Metropolis has a statue created to honor him, government officials want him to stand trail for the lives lost while he was saving lives. While Clark Kent is questioning his fate, he takes notice of a masked vigilante in Gotham City who violently takes Justice in his own hands. We begin to see the seed of a conflict of ideals that would make the two heroes collide and it starts to get really exciting. We begin to see why this is Batman vs Superman. It’s because these are two different heroes with two totally different ways of dealing out Justice. That’s the image that we were given in the film’s marketing and as the film progresses, that image becomes blurry.
The Superman and Bruce Wayne/Batman scenes are some of the best elements of the film. It’s practically a cinematic geekfest when Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne meet for the first time. It’s also the first time we see Lex Luthor with Bruce Wayne and Superman. In the comics, Lex Luthor is a rich and powerful businessman with an intimidating presence and intellect to match. With the casting of Jesse Eisenberg, this is a new interpretation of the genius millionaire. The problem is that this Lex Luthor is younger, non threatening, and is almost the comic relief of the film. Luthor is played as a quirky hipster with nervous ticks. Eisenberg seems to be doing an impression of The Riddler. His performance stands out like a sore thumb in a film that wants to be dark and grounded and at the end of the film, it gets a little bizarre. His performance would have been great in another movie as a different character. In this, there was too much of a contrast between his performance and the tone of the film.
So when our two heroes eventually duke it out, it’s fantastic! It’s the perfect comic book style confrontation. It’s a great spectacle and what we waited the whole movie to see. Now this is one of the elements that have mixed reviews; The reason Batman and Superman actually start fighting wasn’t believable for me. The fight is somewhat instigated by a cheap device that’s used in a lot of movies. All the set up about how these guys believe in different ideals goes to waste. Not only that, but the reason they stop fighting each other wasn’t believable…to me. Let’s just say that I unintentionally noticed a coincidence in the beginning of the film and I totally saw that moment coming. I knew that this coincidence would make them stop fighting. So, maybe I ruined it for myself. The actual fight itself was thrilling to watch.
At a certain point in the film, you realize that your watching a Justice League movie, and to be honest, that was awesome! Even though the presence of Doomsday felt a little bombastic and over the top, it was fun to see Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman taking on the big monster. ( Who sounded like the Hulk and looked like an angry Ninja Turtle. ) Gal Gadot does a fine job as our most popular female superhero. Her reactions during the fight scenes are priceless and her chemistry with Bruce Wayne is engaging. I wouldn’t say she was the best thing about the film. That prize goes to the Dark Knight himself. Once you realize that you’re now in a Justice League film, the best thing to do is relax and enjoy the ride. The other Justice League members are revealed in a particular way that I didn’t mind at all. Watching the three most iconic superheroes on screen kicking ass was pure, sweaty, comic book loving awesomeness. I was having a great time until something happened that came way out of left field. It definitely hit me dramatically, so the moment was effective but kind of unnecessary. Fans that are familiar with DC Comics may scratch their heads and think, “Why is this happening now?”.
That brings me to my main criticism of the film. It simply tries to do too much too fast. It’s like watching five movies at once. What it does, is take all of the popular story points from the comic books and mashes them together in ways that don’t always fit. But that’s also the exciting part. It’s amazing to see some of the greatest moments in comic book history being played out onscreen. Even if some things are being played out prematurely, it’s still cool to see onscreen. That’s why reviews of this film are so divided. What appears onscreen is entertaining and looks really good but it’s put together in a way that doesn’t always make sense. The logical left brained movie goer may like this movie less than a right brained creative type who likes awesome visuals. I liked this film but it’s not in my top ten of favorite superhero flicks. I wouldn’t put it up there with The Dark Knight or even The Watchmen. I would also like to point out that Zack Snyder is a great visual storyteller when he’s working with a great script. The real weakness of this film is the script and how the film was edited.
Again this film should at least be praised for its ambition. It looks great, has strong iconic characters, amazing visual style, and takes big risks. It hits you with everything and at the end of the day, it’s still a good time at the movies depending on your expectations.