The movie that we have hoped for and been teased with for years is finally here, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now, the big question is it any good?
Reviews for the film are all over the map. Some reviews call it one of the worst films ever while others say it’s one of the best superhero movies and it’s true to the characters. I wouldn’t say it’s either of these extremes. I enjoyed the movie much more than I expected to. While I enjoyed Man of Steel, it was a deeply flawed film, especially in the second and third acts. While I don’t think that Batman V Superman has as many fundamental flaws, it’s far from a perfect film.
The movie opens almost comically with an intercut between young Bruce Wayne at his parent’s funeral and the fateful night. It’s completely unnecessary for many reasons including the fact that we all know who Batman is and where he came from. I understand the reason for a clean reboot away from the Nolan films, but it’s also possible to do a soft reboot much like the Hulk movies did between Hulk and Incredible Hulk. The Nolan Dark Knight trilogy was highly successful and is still very fresh in most moviegoers minds. We don’t need to see the pearls dropping on the street again. It’s also a completely unnecessary opening scene because we revisit that fateful night in the middle of the film and it plays much better than it does in the beginning.
We then jump ahead to a grown up Bruce Wayne who is witnessing the finale of Man of Steel as Metropolis is flattened. I like seeing Bruce Wayne’s reaction to the events, but it’s odd to see him so affected and broken up by his co-workers and not members of his family. I do like that they tied his anger towards Superman and a main conflict of the plot is centered around what happened at the end of the previous film. Although I’m growing tired of the 9/11 imagery, it’s forced and heaped up pretty heavily here in these first few minutes of the film.
One of the best things about the movie is the casting. The returning cast from Man of Steel continues to be good, Ben Affleck makes a great Bruce Wayne/Batman. He plays up the angry, paranoid side of the older Batman. It’s not quite Dark Knight Returns Batman, but it’s definitely pulling from that and similar stories. Gal Gadot is a very enigmatic Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Her role is small, but she carries herself as an outsider, not sure if she wants to return to this world or not. Once she gets into the outfit and joins the fight she is a definite high point of the battle. We only get a small amount of her in the film, almost like a teaser for next year’s Wonder Woman movie.
Then there is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. I liked what they did, but it’s very different from the Lex we know from the comics. This Lex is more like Eisenberg’s role in The Social Network. He matches the tone of the film. I don’t know if a classic Lex would’ve worked in this film. He makes a choice and sticks with it throughout the film. This is one of the more controversial choices and will probably be one of the least popular things in the film.
The story alternates between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. Kent is wanting to run more investigative stories on Batman, believing him to be a dangerous criminal vigilante. Wayne wants to investigate more into Superman and how he can stop him. He is even lying to Alfred about his investigation. It’s another odd choice that it seems Batman is investigating an unrelated crime until we discover it’s actually Lex Luthor and Kryptonite.
Superman is under investigation due to his actions and it’s now come before Congress. This plotline is pretty interesting until it all ends in a terrorist bombing, and then it’s never really brought up again. It does feel like a very realistic look at how our current society would react to a Superman. Some question his motives, others say he’s a menace. Again, this isn’t the most popular choice, but it feels the most real.
A lot revolves around what to do with Superman. Lex wants to use Kryptonite to kill him, and then after Batman steals the Kryptonite Lex moves on to creating Doomsday to kill Superman. Batman blames Superman for problems stemming from the destruction of Metropolis and on, it has even caused Batman to escalate his actions in Gotham. Batman wants to face him and Superman is forced into the confrontation by Lex Luthor.
Along the way, Batman is having nightmares of his past and a possible future. The future vision is unclear if it’s a dream or if it’s somehow influenced by heroes from the future. We get an appearance by what we think is the Flash warning Batman. It appears to be a warning about Superman, but it could’ve been interpreted differently. This seems to be the impetus he needs to assemble the Justice League. We get a few cameos for Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash which are fun teases at what is to come.
Much has been made in the marketing and promotion of the film about the fight between Superman and Batman. In reality, the fight is actually a bit of a letdown. Batman is clearly in over his head and Superman has been forced into the battle against his will. Unfortunately, Superman only makes a few attempts to talk it out and then quickly everything falls apart and turns into a fight. You could say Batman planned some of it, but he was clearly outmatched the whole time. Superman comes across as more of a bully and Batman as just a thug who wants to torture and hurt Supes.
The movie wraps up with our heroes finally making an agreement that they are not really enemies and Lex unleashes Doomsday. Doomsday follows every CGI-monster trope that has been established since the first Lord of the Rings movie. If you’ve seen the Hulk in action or the recent TMNT movie then you will see a lot of familiar actions. It’s a mostly uninspired monster and the whole fight lacks any real dramatic weight until the end, and in classic video game fashion, we see him regenerate his life bar every time the heroes manage to hurt him. I loved to see Wonder Woman in action and she has some great moments in the fight.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is an overlong, bloated action fest, but it delivers on many of it’s promises and gives fans a lot to enjoy, though it could use further refining and editing to really tighten the story. I really enjoyed this version of Batman, except for the fact that the filmmakers continue to make him a killer. His body count gets pretty high in several vehicular chase scenes. Wonder Woman makes an interesting enigma that I really want to see more of. The eventual Justice League movie is going to have to explain quite a lot based on the end of this film.