Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
There has been a surprising amount of criticism for this film already. Having read the reviews and finally seeing the film for myself, I feel the criticism isn’t on the film itself but is relying heavily on the comparison to other films – with much of the negativity centered on director Zack Snyder. Now I will start out by saying I am a “fanboy” of comic book movies and especially of Batman. I was very worried about this film and went in with low expectations, although I was excited to see the Dark Knight on the big screen again. I was hesitant about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman. I have come to love him as a director, but haven’t been sold on him as an actor any time he basically isn’t his character from The Town. I also thought it was much too soon to be bringing the caped crusader back after Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale had perfected his story in a “real-world” scenario (which is how I prefer him). I was hesitant about Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and about how overstuffed the script was becoming with the introduction of the Justice League. Then there was the introduction of Doomsday in the most recent trailers…this I was definitely not excited about. I am apparently one of the few who loved 2013’s Man of Steel, I liked that it was a more grounded and realistic take on the character. The introduction of this Kryptonian monster they call Doomsday was bringing it too far into Marvel comic book territory for me. So this gives you an impression of my state of mind going into the film.
I am so very happy to say that while BvS is far from perfect, it is still a continuing step in the right direction from Man of Steel (my only complaint in that film being the final fight goes on for about two minutes too long). I do not want to go into the plot too much as there are quite a few surprises. The story here, while very busy, is very intriguing and I love how all this is brought into today’s world. What would the world be like if that attack in Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel did happen? Just like politics, everyone’s outlooks would be split down the middle. Some would love Superman because they saw that he was trying to save us; others would hate him because of the collateral damage that was caused; others would be frightened of him because of the powers he possesses. There is clearly a world divided here on whether Superman is good or bad and Henry Cavill continues his good work here as Kal-El, giving us a glimpse at the toll it takes and making him question his motives and actions. It’s an underplayed performance and it works, especially with much of the screen time given to Affleck’s Batman.
**MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD**
On that front, I have to say that this version of Batman is fantastic. While maybe not what many are expecting coming off of Nolan’s films, it does seem like a logical continuation of that character. In the years past, he’s lost many and is world weary and very pissed off. This Batman will kill if he has to. When we find him at the beginning of this film, he is disillusioned and angry. This is Affleck’s movie and his arc in it is easily the most interesting. You can feel the rage he holds not only towards Superman, but to criminals in general. This version is heavily taken from Frank Miller’s classic graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, in which an older, retired Bruce Wayne has to put the suit on again because Gotham is being taken over by thugs. He’s a brawler, a brute, and a Batman you really believe the criminals would be terrified of. After 20 years of fighting crime, he still sees no progress – mentioning at one point that if he takes away one criminal, another pops up – and so he must become “a hunter.” This is the perfect ying to Christian Bale’s yang. This is a Batman we have never seen before. Finally in a gray suit (my favorite bat suit yet) and with a fighting style that fits the character. I kid you not when I say that here lies the definitive fight scene for any Batman film.
Speaking of definitive, Wonder Woman makes her first big screen appearance here and Gal Gadot certainly makes an impression. Before the movie, my wife knew nothing about Wonder Woman and after, she was her favorite part of the film. As for the rest of the cast, Jesse Eisenberg impressed as a Lex Luthor of today – Silicon Valley start-up billionaire who is more than anti-social. He is creepy, diabolical and fun in all the right moments, although I know this won’t play well with those who will only accept the Gene Hackman version. Jeremy Irons, always one of my favorites, is a great Alfred. He’s the moral compass for Bruce and is more hands-on than any of the past iterations of the character.
With such iconic characters like Superman and Batman, you cannot avoid comparisons. One thing people should not be comparing it to is the Marvel Universe. Those are family-friendly, fun action movies that are completely forgettable. These movies are much darker and serious than those films. While this and Man of Steel are obviously not on the level of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, they do still tackle bigger themes and ideas. I will remember and think about these two films much more than any film Marvel has put out. I don’t remember anyone comparing The Dark Knight Rises to The Avengers when they came out. And why would you? They are completely different films, both great in their own right.
However, people will obviously compare this film to the older Batman and Superman films. To that I have to say this….look, these are all separate. If we had to watch the same exact version of the same character for decades, we’d all be pissed and miserable. Yeah, we had our dark Batman (Batman, Batman Returns); our goofy and ridiculous Batman (1966 Batman, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin); and our real-world Batman (The Dark Knight trilogy). Now we have our comic book Batman in Ben Affleck. As far as Superman goes, we had our romantic, good ol’boy in Superman 1 & 2; our goofy and ridiculous Superman in 3 & 4; and our real-world Superman in Man of Steel. I’m not entirely sure what we got in Superman Returns, but I think we can all agree we don’t want it again. I also think we can all agree we don’t want the goofy and ridiculous versions of these characters. If you prefer the Christopher Reeve films with all romance and no action (that has not aged well at all), then go for it, but that’s not how Superman has been in the comics for a very long time. I have to say that while I’m not the biggest fan of the character, it is nice to actually watch Superman and believe he has these powers, and Cavill is the perfect person to play him. We are finally getting a legitimate portrayal of these characters as they are in the comics. While it may not be for everybody, the fans will eat this up for sure. If it’s too serious of a film for you, go watch The Avengers again. There is always an audience for that, me being apart of it, but that doesn’t mean I need all of my superhero films to be fun and forgettable.
This film isn’t perfect, but even with all of my worries and hesitations, I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to seeing it again. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score is fantastic and heart pumping, notably Wonder Woman’s theme. Snyder does a good job here as always staging the action sequences, which isn’t easy for a film steeped in darkness. As far as the action goes here, Snyder really holds back until the last half hour of the film. There’s a quick car chase and the nightmare sequence we have seen glimpses of (which is extremely impressive), but no real action that picks up until Batman actually faces off against Superman. I really wanted to make note of this because I have seen so many reviews saying that the action is constant and over-the-top…something that is far from the truth. The first two acts of the film is really setting the third up, allowing us to get to know the characters and their motivations. While the last half hour really is an all-out war, it feels earned because it’s laid the ground before it – not unlike what they did in Man of Steel.
There has been a lot of talk here about the introduction of the Justice League, of which this film gives about two minutes of screen time. Although I have to say I am looking forward to it. This film really got me pumped for the eventual solo Wonder Woman film and Batman film (especially if Ben Affleck steps in to direct). If you have an affection for either Batman or Superman, go see this film. Expect more Man of Steel and less The Dark Knight or Avengers: Age of Ultron and you will be fine.
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality
Runtime: 2 hours, 31 minutes