Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review
THE DAWN OF SOMETHING
With the Marvel comics expanding its cinematic universe, with a plethora of feature films of the comic’s iconic superheroes under its belt with praise from both fans and critics. DC comics, the sort of rival to Marvel, has been making its own mark with its movie, especially with the recent completion of The Dark Knight Trilogy. That being said, the DC movies haven’t been as strong nor as intricately woven together as Marvel’s MCU (keeping the feature films separate from each other and existing in their own cinematic universe). However, Warner Bros., trying to tackle Marvel’s ever growing movie world of superheroes, gears up for DC comic’s cinematic universe, starting back in 2013 with the movie Man of Steel. Similar to Marvel’s 1998 Iron Man, Man of Steel told a solo story of a popular comic character (Superman) as well as acted as an entry point for DC’s movie world. While the movie had its criticism (will talk more on that below), Man of Steel was strong enough for Warner Bros to proceed with their plan to compete with Marvel’s MCU. Now, three years later, the next chapter and continuation of DC’s expanded universe (DCEU for short) arrives in theaters with the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Is this superhero movie worth the wait or is it an unimpressive comic book mashup?
During the ending events of Man of Steel, where Superman (Henry Cavill) battled against Zod (Michael Shannon) in the now shattered ruins of Metropolis, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) struggled futilely to rescue his staff inside the Wayne Financial Building, hopelessly watching them perish in the ensuing chaos around them. Two years later, after the Battle of Metropolis, Wayne’s life as a masked vigilante (Batman) has become an unhealthy obsession, seeking a weakness against Superman, who’s struggling to his place on Earth (his new home), while trying to balance his alter-ego identity as Clark Kent and his relationship with new journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Enter Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a rich and powerful businessman in Metropolis, who’s looking for answers to great mysteries located inside some recovered Kryptonian technology. With Bruce and his caretaker Alfred (Jeremy Irons), sizing up the pieces of Superman and Luthor together, Superman fights to define his position in life and on Earth, soon targeted for punishment by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter, who leads the charge against the godly alien visitor. All of these events erupt as Superman and Batman prepare to go to war with each other (both physical and in ideological beliefs), but who is the really enemy?
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Well, first, I’ll go on record and say that I’m more of a fan of Marvel than DC. In Lameman’s terms, I’m a fan of Captain America, Thor, and Star-Lord than Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern. Of course, I’m not talking about the comic book characters (not just character’s in the movies). That being said, I can’t deny the fact that I like the Marvel movies more so than DC comic features. Naturally, I like The Dark Knight Trilogy, but after the deplorable effort put into Green Lantern (I hate that movie), I sort of gave up on DC superhero movies, turning towards Marvel’s cinematic universe as it churned out superhero films with determining vigor (as if to mock DC comics and their movies) and cashing in on the box office success. This, of course, prompted Warner Bros to plan their own universe with DC comic book characters (seeking the big dollars that Marvel was getting) and thus Man of Steel was created. While Man of Steel made its money (and then some), it was faced with mixed thoughts from fans and casual moviegoers. Interestingly, I was probably one of the few people who actually liked Man of Steel (scouts honor and all that). Still, as I said above, I’m more of Marvel fan than a DC fan. Thus, when the trailers started to roll out for BvS (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for short or just Dawn of Justice) I wasn’t as hyped to see it as I was when I saw the trailers for Avengers: Age of Ultron or Captain America: Civil War. Of course, I was intrigued by the notion of Batman and Superman duking it out (as seen in the trailers) in a grand comic book fashion. Unfortunately, while their plenty of comic-book action, continuity, and nuances (and few others in-between), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a unbalanced feature that’s torn between anticipation (story) and execution (character). Its definitely the dawn of something, but of what is unclear.
Directorial duties for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice go to Zack Snyder, who previously directed Man of Steel and other superhero and iconic movies like Watchmen and 300. Having previously directed the movie’s predecessor (Man of Steel), Snyder make Dawn of Justice as sort of quasi-sequel to that film. Continuity is present as the film continues Man of Steel’s thread, showcasing the film’s ending battle (via Bruce Wayne’s POV), which is sort cool opening sequence for Dawn of Justice, as well as the discussing and examining the loss of life and destruction of Metropolis during that fight (again continuity). Dawn of Justice is also an origin story of sorts, placing the character of Bruce Wayne in the movie and explaining his background. A lot of it is familiar stuff (seeing Bruce’s parents die, him discovering the bat cave, etc.), but it’s a necessity to establishing the character in this movie and in the DCEU. Additionally, Snyder continues the trend that he started in Man of Steel, keeping the tone of the feature very serious, dark, and little grim; something different from Marvel’s lighter and comedic superhero installments. Whether you like that or not, its interesting (to me at least) that Dawn of Justice keeps the tone and uses it.
As lot of other reviewers have said about this movie, Dawn of Justice follows more of the veins of Watchmen than Avengers, with a lot of speculation and ideological thinking about the need and consequence of having Superman around. The film spends of a lot time debating that question, with various characters asking if the Earth needs a being like Superman. It’s an interesting question to ask, but Dawn of Justice plays with that question a little too often, weaving into its narrative throughout. In truth, the narration in the movie is pretty straightforward and therein lies the first problem. Dawn of Justice has a lot of moving parts to it (woven threads of Superman, Batman, Lex Luthor’s master plan, the setup for expanding the DCEU) as a lot of time for character development is pushed aside as the movie thrust them forward towards a collision course with each other during the film’s third act. However, getting to the big battle, a viewer must sit patiently for good chunk of time before that scene takes place. Again, those expecting something similar to the Avenger movies are going to be disappointed with Dawn of Justice.
As for the third act itself, it’s sort of a mixed bag. Yes, I’ll admit that it’s pretty cool to see Batman and Superman fight each other, with each one using their gifted hero abilities (i.e. Superman using his powers and Batman using his gadgets). So it’s a darn right titular battle between the superhero duo, but then the character of Doomsday shows up and sort of ruins. And here’s my next big pet peeve. The trailers for Dawn of Justice showed off too much of the “big scene” in the movie, including the appearance of Doomsday and (to a lesser extent) Wonder Woman, sort of diminishes the excitement and joy of actually seeing them appear on-screen. In the case of Doomsday, a viewer should say “Oh, wow. Doomsday is in the movie!” rather than “Oh, that’s how Doomsday got into the movie”. As for Doomsday himself, it’s pretty underwhelming to me with a lot of CG visual effect shots for a mindless bad guy (and yes I’ve read the Death of Superman comic. So I know who he is). As for Wonder Woman, while I like her involvement in the movie (more on that below), her appearance in the trailer deflated her appearance at the end when she stands alongside Batman and Superman.
All of this combines (a sort of flat story and flat characters and less excitable “big” action shots) cripples Dawn of Justice from being totally awesome and great as many fans and critics have been ripping the movie apart since its debut.
Of the cast, the big question going into Dawn of Justice is how Ben Affleck did as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Over the years, the character has been played by many actors like Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and most recently by Christian Bale. Thus, it a pretty big challenge as well as meeting expectations for Ben Affleck to take up the mantle as Batman in the movie world. To me personally, I actually like Affleck as Batman (probably the best thing in the movie). Like I said above, Dawn of Justice allows more time for the character of Bruce Wayne to grow and allows Affleck to grow with his persona and making it his own. Even when Affleck puts the whole Batman costume, he still pretty much kicks ass. All in all, Ben Affleck is a great addition to the fictional superhero character of Bruce Wayne / Batman on the big screen, proving to be a solid anchor for future installment in the DCEU.
With Affleck dawning the black cowl and cape on Batman, Henry Cavill returns from Man of Steel to reprise his role as Superman (or Clark Kent or Kal-El). Like in Man of Steel, Cavill looks and acts the part of the god-like alien being and does solid work. However, his character development was flesh out in the previous movie, Cavill’s Superman isn’t enough in Dawn of Justice to strengthen his character’s persona. Even with the movie being a semi-sequel to Man of Steel, Cavill’s Superman is tad too wooden and flat this go around. The same goes with his human alter-ego disguise of Clark Kent, who was introduced at the end of Man of Steel, as their not enough time to fully compromise a distinguishable character development for that role, making him less interesting. And yet, while Superman isn’t in the movie as much as Batman, Cavill still embodies his portrayal of Kal-El with enough humanity and worldly thinking to make him relatable.
Of course, the catalyst in the movie comes in the form of Alexander Luthor (or Lex Luthor) played by Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg, mostly notable for his role in Social Network, was already a questionable / controversial casting choice and now that’s clearly noticeable in the movie. Sure, his motivations and actual plan are downright terrible (pulling the strings for a lot of events in the third act), but the character’s performance is horribly deplorable. Eisenberg plays Luthor as a whiny young adult religious fanatic, preaching and quoting a lot of biblical sayings that just get repetitive and annoying. Even Eisenberg’s physical appearance is goofy, feeling lost in a movie played by more “mature” looking actors and actresses. I know DC is trying differentiate itself from Marvel’s lighthearted superhero films, but Eisneberg’s cartoon-ish performance of Lex Luthor is really out of place in Dawn of Justice’s gravitas premise. I really hate him in this movie.
In a somewhat similar fashion (but handled much better), the appearance of Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, is a catalyst for the movie, but in a different way. While Lex Luthor drives the narrative plot forward with his maniacal machinations, Diana acts as a sort of “entry point” for viewers towards the bigger picture for the DCEU. Personally, I think Gal Gadot is perfect as the both Diana Prince (introducing her as a “woman of mystery” like a Bond Girl) and as the fully-armored Amazonian Warrior (Wonder Woman). She definitely pretty and easy on the eyes and she handles the role well. While, of course, she doesn’t have a big part like Affleck and Cavill do in Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman’s appearance is a sort of fresh air for the dominant field of male superheroes in recent feature films. I can’t wait to see Gadot in her solo Wonder Woman movie in 2017.
Along with the appearance of Wonder Woman, there are several shorts of future “meta-humans (aka future Justice League members) that are briefly shown in Dawn of Justice. So yes, you do see Ezra Miller’s Flash, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, and Jason Moma’s Aquaman in the movie, but again their brief appearance (sort of like cameos) and hinting at their future involvement in this cinematic universe. However, like Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Dawn of Justice tries to make the movie larger by expanding its universe that it spends a little bit too much time on “future foreshadowing” setups rather than sticking to the storyline of the current movie. That’s another one of my pet peeves in this movie.
Following Cavill’s Superman is Amy Adams as the super sleuth journalist Lois Lane. Like last time, Adams seems to be at the heart of the story (and to Superman’s heart as well) as Adams continues to build on her performance of Lois with ease. Besides Amy Adams, there’s a couple of return minor characters from Man of Steel in Dawn of Justice, including Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White, Diane Lane’s Martha Kent, Harry Lennix’s General Swanwick as well as a couple of other ones, which I won’t ruin. The rest of the cast is more in the “supporting roles”, offering assistance to the main characters or driving the main plot forward. This includes Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch, Jeremy Irons’s Alfred (Batman’s aged butler and assistant).
The Son of Krypton faced off against the Bat of Gotham in the superhero movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Zack Snyder’s latest film has long been anticipated and the final result is a movie that similar to Marvel’s Iron Man 2; a film that setups its expanded universe, but is ultimately an uneven mix between character development and a satisfying story. On the other hand, the movie has its moments, some belonging to the appearance of Batman and Superman on-screen together, as Dawn of Justice has plenty of them to please comic book fans (especially DC fans). However, it’s far from perfect with numerous room for improvement and refinement. Personally, it was just an okay movie, full of a lot of superhero “big, bang, boom” appeal, but it wasn’t as fun nor as complexly dynamic as it could’ve been, while Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was downright annoying. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is an iffy choice at best and a rental at worst. How the rest of the DCEU feature will be received is unclear, but I hope that the future movies will take Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a cautionary lesson of a film’s balancing of meeting anticipations and proper execution. Here’s hoping to see their next film (Suicide Squad) will fare better than Dawn of Justice.
3.3 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice)
Released On: March 25th, 2016
Reviewed On: March 26th, 2016
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is rated is PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality