(Warning: This review contains spoilers)
For nearly three years, the hype for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, much like Hulkamania, ran wild. So, being the fan of comic books that I am (most specifically of Batman) and a giant man-child, I quickly boarded said train of hype and rode it all the way to my local cinema. After all that time waiting to see Henry Cavill’s Big Blue Boy Scout and Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight play alpha male and come together with Wonder Woman to save the world, I walked into the packed theater ready to fall in love – mixed reviews and all.
Like all of Snyder’s work, this is a beautiful film. He’s paid a lot of attention to the details of the universe and its mythology by mixing some new elements with tons of direct pulls from DC’s vast library of titles. Batman v Superman is a very ambitious film and filled with fan service, but its story suffers for it. There are far too many plot points happening in this film, making payoffs hard to come by and losing any real sense of heart the film could’ve had. Obviously Warner Brothers is having to play catch up with Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point for their properties to stay relevant. But still, you’d expect a little build up and some hand holding or at the very least an above average story for the first go at their expanded cinematic universe.
That all aside, everyone turns in a solid performance in their respective roles. I was, however, slightly disappointed that Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman hasn’t evolved much from his wooden, brooding self in 2013’s Man of Steel. Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor starts off great, giving us hope for the character, but quickly morphs into a cheesy, over-the-top villain out of seemingly nowhere. His Luthor harkens back to Jim Carrey’s Riddler in Batman Forever instead of the methodical, evil mastermind Luthor is in the comics. Although, I’m not sure that was Eisenberg’s fault as much as it was the editors’ – given a recently released deleted scene from the film showcasing why he loses it after taking in the knowledge of of a looming threat to mankind.
Two performances that don’t suffer from poor editing or characterization are Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who was able to both steal the ending fight scene from our marquee characters and tell Princess Diana’s backstory of being an Amazonian warrior, and Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne. Affleck is without a doubt the best part about this movie and arguably the best live action Batman ever, even though he does some pretty uncharacteristic things like unabashedly shooting people in the face, breaking his two biggest rules: don’t kill and no guns. This is not to say that other on screen portrayals of The Dark Knight haven’t killed; Keaton kills roughly ten people between two films, Kilmer and Clooney kill around eight in their respective films, and Bale tops the death toll with about 25 people. All previous incarnations have blood on their hands and have also used guns in one form or another, just not as blatantly as in this film. There was something about seeing Batman run and gun people while trying to avoid capture in the movie’s “Knightmare” sequence that took me out of it for a second.
Does Batman v Superman live up to the all the hype that followed it since its announcement? Meh. Kind of. Honestly, it’s almost impossible to do after three years of hype and the public analyzing every bit of news from the set. It may not be a perfect film, or filled with the sometimes overwhelming sense of fun in the way Marvel’s films are, but it’s a nice breath of fresh air to feel our heroes’ actions have real consequence. Batman v Superman is a good film and a very solid start for DC’s cinematic universe. Even though I left the theatre somewhat disappointed, I also left excited for things to come in Justice League Part 1. Luckily, the film is getting a director’s cut later this year, adding an additional hour to its run time and hopefully clearing up a lot of the confusion it’s theatrical release caused. Something tells me this is going to be the film we all hoped for. Ultimately, to quote Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, “You flew to close to sun. Now look at you.”
I didn’t have high hopes for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. My interest level in watching handsome dudes brood at each other is effectively zilch, America’s desire for a new Bruce Wayne as often as a new President confuses me, and I have a tendency to assume the worst from majorly hyped blockbusters. With expectations this low, you’d think I’d have been at least a little pleasantly surprised. Alas, no.
Within the first ten minutes, we stumble upon a scene of urban destruction, partially at the hands of Superman. Sky scrapers collapse after being incinerated from above, covering businessmen and women in a snowy dust. Maybe I’ve slept through every action flick over the last ten years (plausible), but I cannot recall seeing a fictionalized event on film mirror a historical terrorist attack so hauntingly. I appreciate director Zack Snyder’s eye for sweeping realism, but I also felt a little emotionally manipulated. Darkness in a comic book adaptation? Awesome. Blatant comparisons to modern day terrorism? Kinda cheap.
But a bigger issue for me and other audience members, it seems, is the time management of Batman v Superman. On more than one occasion, it felt like we were circling the final chapter only to find we had quite a bit more ground to cover. It was all very exciting, for sure, but I quickly had a lot of questions about what exactly was happening and why. Assuming that was due to my ignorance of the source material, I went to Frankie for answers afterwards only to find him wondering about some of the same things. His guesses were infinitely more educated than mine, but why should an alert audience be forced to guess at all? I love pretty stuff, but instead of lingering on the same beautiful shots time and time again, I would have much preferred a razor sharp storyline. Snyder’s Watchmen accomplished both, but this is Batman and Superman we’re talking about. I can imagine a gaggle of studio execs breathing down his neck to the film’s ultimate detriment.
The cast does their best with what they’re given. Ben Affleck is a little less contrived than usual as Bruce Wayne, and Amy Adams is always a stand out. I was happy to see Holly Hunter and Jeremy Irons in the supporting cast; Hunter especially has some wonderful moments as Senator Finch. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is arguably the most memorable, if polarizing, element of the entire film. But predictably, Henry Cavill as Superman and newcomer Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman are utterly vapid. Gadot’s performance is one of the biggest let downs for me. She is essentially a beautiful object with lots of secrets and seemingly little help to offer. Not sure who is to blame here, but I’m hoping there’s better from her to come in the follow up films.
Batman v Superman is not great, it’s not terrible, it’s okay. Which is actually more frustrating. To truly fail or succeed, a strong choice has to be made. This film tried to make everyone happy which earned its mixed and mostly “meh” reception.
Franklin Love grew up in Parkersburg with hopes of being a Power Ranger. However, once he realized that was never going to happen he settled for something in the arts. By day he is failing his way up the corporate ladder at Game Stop, by night he is a writer, actor, podcaster and trying co-founder of a production company with one of his long time friends. He also enjoys comic books, hockey, binging on Netflix and video games and pizza – both hot and cold.
Scarlet grew up in Parkersburg where she spent much of her formative years reenacting movies and chasing after lightning bugs. She earned a B.A. with honors in Theatre from Columbia College Chicago last year and now lives in Los Angeles where she is pursuing work as an actress. She jumps at any chance to stay connected to her beloved MOV!