Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Film Review

batman-v-superman-poster

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Written by: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

What’s it about?

In the film Man of Steel, Superman ended up fighting a fellow Kryptonian, a man named General Zod. Their battle ended up pretty much destroying an entire city. Batman is not amused, particularly since Superman destroyed Wayne Tower in Metropolis, killing pretty much all of his employees.

He views Superman as a threat to humanity and that with his current near godlike status, he could become a dictator, worse than Genghis Khan and Julius Caesar, Hitler and Stalin…because he truly does have godlike power. Lex Luthor, tech mogul and billionaire shares Batman’s concerns.

For his part, Superman views Batman’s brutal methods of dispensing justice as excessive and a domestic terrorist. And when they finally clash due to the machinations of Lex Luthor, the world is changed forever.

In review

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has finally premiered after almost 3 years of waiting, and what a journey it has been. From casting controversy over Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot as Batman, Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman, respectively, the film was always facing an uphill battle from the get-go. Critical reception has been rather poor, to say the least, whilst fans have been much more receptive to the film.

I won’t let my inner geek blind me from the fact that the film has issues. It does.

Stylistically, Snyder seems to be going more for a comic book feel, where scene changes are rather commonplace and abrupt. Unfortunately that doesn’t fly well, with the choppy editing and jumps to different scenes – with no apparent relevance – depriving the film of dramatic tension just as it begins to mount. If you’re paying attention, it will still be easy to follow, but the sheer volume of content needed to be packed in means that the pacing is uneven, some things aren’t fully explored, and a few subplots were redundant in the grand scheme of things.

Hopefully, the so-called ‘Ultimate Edition’, the Director’s Cut version of the film which features 30 more minutes of footage and is to be released on home media, will be able to rectify this.

Whilst Oscar-winning scribe Chris Terrio has crafted a fine screenplay (rewritten from an earlier draft by David S. Goyer), with ingenious references to Greco-Roman mythology re: superhumans, it does come across as a little hammy at times. One such instance is when Superman kneels before Lex Luthor.

Whatever one might think of Snyder as a director though, there’s no denying that he has passion and is very genuine about doing justice to the universe he’s been entrusted with overseeing, beautifully recreating many iconic moments in this film. Unfortunately, it’s this same passion that perhaps might have made the film a little inaccessible to more casual fans, with a cameo from the Flash being a particular moment where many people would have gone ‘WTF’.

It’s important to remember however, that these days cinematic universes tell a epic saga, spread out over many films. Star Wars is the best example of this, with the defeat of the Galactic Empire taking 3 films to come to fruition. For now, the DCEU seems to be following a trilogy that began with Man of Steel, followed by Batman v Superman and culminating in the two Justice League films. Scott Mendelson from Forbes said it best:

‘What does it mean if Civil War does retroactively improve Age of Ultron? Will we be at a point where we really can’t judge a franchise installment on its own merits because a future installment may well fix the flaws a couple years down the line?’

Just as Batman v Superman has retroactively improved Man of Steel, so too will the Justice League films likely do for Batman v Superman, as Captain America: Civil War will likely do for Avengers: Age of Ultron, by tying up any lingering plot threads.

The action is superb, although the climactic final fight lacks a certain…synergy between the DC Trinity and Doomsday, and was very video-game like. Somewhat surprisingly for a Zack Snyder film though, BvS is far more character and story driven than by action, and it shows with the depth behind the themes – plot holes notwithstanding. As we are treated to a far more brutal Batman, superbly played by Ben Affleck, the audience cannot help but wonder – how far is too far when it comes to doling out justice? Whatever the case, Batman has definitely been done justice, with Snyder and Affleck showcasing not only his physical abilities, but a fair bit of his analytical prowess. Moreover, Affleck proves himself to not only be a great Batman, but an amazing Bruce Wayne.

As for Superman, we see him increasingly doubting himself as the world questions his motives and lack of regard for his effect on geopolitics. ‘Every act is a political act’ one man claims in the film, and with a being of Superman’s power, this is very definitely true. As Superman struggles to live up to the expectations of those believing in him, Cavill injects a real soul into a figure oft perceived as alien – although he IS – and humanises and grounds him with magnificently.

Of course, we can’t ignore the other two big players.

Gal Gadot: Gadot brings grace to not only her superheroic identity, but also the civilian persona of Diana Prince. I won’t spoil, but Diana actually ends up having a few private interactions with Bruce Wayne at some point, and she acquits herself very well. Lack of screentime makes me hesitate to say that she will definitively be able to carry a great Wonder Woman film, but from what we’ve seen in BvS, the chances are good that she will. And with a couple of Easter eggs here and there, the audience is more than sufficiently teased for her solo film debut next year.

Jesse Eisenberg: most definitely one of the most polarising aspects of the film, Eisenberg’s take as Lex Luthor will no doubt be hotly debated, with him playing at times not only with the mad scientist aspect of Lex Luthor, but also with portions of the Joker and the Riddler’s personalities. His lack of imposing physicality didn’t help him any (it was a hot point of contention with the fans). Personally, I liked how he played Lex Luthor, although his motivations were a little murky due to – alas – screentime constraints. You’ll have to see it for yourself, but  what’s important to realise is that this is very much an origin film not only for the Justice League, but also Lex Luthor. A villain of Lex Luthor’s status cannot be neglected, and I’m sure that he will definitely appear somewhere down the line at some point. By then, he will have hopefully matured and grown into the more overtly calculating, imposing villain.

And it would be remiss of me not to mention the soundtrack. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL teamed up to give us perhaps the most emphatic, emotional score that has been produced for a long, long time. Hyperbole aside, it’s definitely an incredible work.

The gist

The day Batman v Superman premiered will be a day long remembered. It has seen the introduction of the DC Extended Universe. It will soon see the Justice League assembled. Batman v Superman is not a Marvel film; it’s not as fun, or light-hearted (though a fair bit of humour is actually in it). What it does have is a deep philosophical debate, and arguably is all the better for not emulating Marvel Studio’s modus operandi.

Epic and cerebral, BvS challenges your notions of what it means to be a hero, and whilst it may not please everyone, it’s a solid foundation for the DC Extended Universe. As I said before, it’s not perfect. It’s not a masterpiece, the movie of the decade (at least so far) that many of us yearned for. It’s bold and ambitious, and doesn’t always work. But that’s OK, because it was always meant to be a launching pad for the rest of the DC Extended Universe and that, it has done. The future is bright for the DCEU.

Tl;dr – definitely worth a watch. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is barely a week into its theatrical run – give it a look when you can.

 

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