Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Lawrence Fishburne, & Holly Hunter
Batman created by: Bill Finger & Bob Kane
Superman created by: Jerry Shiegel & Joe Shuster
Written By: Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer
Directed by: Zack Snyder
“It’s not 1938 anymore”
3 years after Man of Steel and only 4 years removed from The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Brothers and DC Comics have unleashed what they hope to be the launching point for their DC Films universe with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Launching point being the key, because on its own, BvS is not nearly as fulfilling as it is in the context of a promised larger universe.
Say what you will about Zack Snyder (and many do), the guy knows how to beautifully shoot just about any scene that he chooses, and this film opens up to us while the opening credits roll with a scene that most of us have seen at least a handful of times; the crime alley murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne (Jeffrey Dean Morgan & Lauren Conrad) in front of young Bruce juxtaposed with their actual funeral scene and young Bruce falling down in to the Batcave. This is a choice that unfortunately belies the story that is about to be told and really holds no place in the narrative other than to set up a payoff at the end of Act 2 that could of and should have been done a number of other ways. It’s just the first of a many instances where you can see that the hands that started writing (Goyer) and scripting out this film are not the ones that thankfully came on board later and were able to turn what was a convoluted story into, well, a still convoluted story but one that at least can give us hope for the future of the DC Universe.
If you hadn’t seen Man of Steel, BvS gets you up to speed fairly quickly by taking us right back to the final battle with Zod and Superman in the middle of Metropolis. This is put into this film in a great way by basically taking the ground level view of what is going on, and from the view of the one man who is actually brave enough to run into the city in the midst of its destruction: Bruce Wayne – played for the first time, and with an undeniably great presence by Ben Affleck. And this Batman, is Snyder’s Batman. This movie makes no doubt that the Bat is the character that Snyder most wants to play with. If you weren’t aware from the copious marketing materials ahead of time, this Wayne/Batman is an older, weathered, harder, & a much more despondent character who is clearly holding on to his last grasp of his humanity and sanity with a mangled gauntlet. We see throughout the film -from the burned out remains of Wayne Manor and a spray painted Robin suit hung in memoriam – that this Batman has lost some battles over the years, and the arrival of the Superman puts a life spent fighting crime in back alleys and at night and in the shadows in perspective.
So if Batman is the dark knight, and the darkest one ever at that, then Superman must be a beacon of light in Metropolis and across the globe right? Nope. Continuing the look and feel of the Son of Krypton that we got last time, Zack Snyder declines to brighten up the Man of Steel (except for some very nice changes to the costume tones) and instead play it very ‘real world’. This Superman is burdened not only by humanity’s views on his actions from the finale of the first film, but also from all the actions he’s been taking since. There has been much discussion on how Snyder doesn’t like the character of Superman and of how these films are an example of that. I won’t go that far, but I will say that the lack of pure ‘hero’ moments, along with a score and vibrancy that would undercut them, is obviously missing. Yet, in reality, it is also probably the most real world thing in the film.
The other two major side players that we knew ahead of time that we were going to get are Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gadot), and boy are they played in opposite styles from a purely acting perspective. While Eisenberg plays his Lex like a rapidly unhinging young tech businessman (you can’t help but think The Social Network) he does so in what comes across as varying degrees of not really what we are used to for Lex, but instead more of a Edward Nygma/Riddler. That he was rumored to be in consideration for that role instead doesn’t come as a surprise, and while his Luthor is not much of a detriment to the film; in fact by finally having a Superman villain that isn’t out for real estate he may be the most complete villain for Supes, but he’s also quite under developed for any reason to why he comes across as so manic. The hints as to why are there, and if you are a fan of DC Comics (as I am) you are rife with anticipation, but the average moviegoer will have no idea to his overall plot I feel. Where Luthor is played in a Jokeresque over the top style, the manor in which Gal Gadot brings her character of Diana Prince to the big screen for the first time is with a soft and stylish grace that manages to completely steal the screen from whomever she shares it with. For a character that critics, internet trolls, political activist groups, and fans young and old had felt free to tear down from the very first casting announcement, seeing just how well Gadot played both sides of Wonder Woman gives this fan (and his daughter who literally jumped out of her seat) a huge burst of excitement for her stand alone film next summer (even with Chris Pine included)
Make no mistake; Batman v Superman has A LOT going on inside its 2 and a half hour run time. Leaving the theater though, I actually felt ready to go for another round right away. Where many of these comic films really feel their length (even Deadpool was pushing it at only 90 min), I gladly would have stayed for more. The 3 hour cut promised us to be released this July should be right up my alley. (Sorry Bruce) The story that Goyer and Snyder originally came up with to get the two biggest superheros in the history of comics together works, but only just. Though for a movie that were have been told for 2 years is occurring almost exclusively to jump start the DC Films Universe, I was expecting and ready for more set up then I usually would put up with before getting irritated (looking at you Age of Ultron).
Ok, the fight. For those who came to this with the expectation and anticipation of seeing the big 2 beat the hell out of each other, you won’t be disappointed. While the overall reasoning behind the battle could have (should have) been cleaned up, and even though what happens to Kal-El to get him to engage the Bat was not only unnecessarily insulting to a character and left me upset and pulled me out of the film entirely, once the bell rings so to speak, you get the fight that we’ve been waiting for and it truly does not disappoint. You can criticize Snyder for many things, but THIS is the Batman fighting in a style with a ferocity and passion that no previous film has come close to matching. The fight takes its time, has the back and forth that you would expect, and is thought out in the manner in which it is delivered. I would have expected to see Frank Miller get a little more credit for the result of this film, as Snyder (as he is want to do) directly recreated many scenes from The Dark Knight Returns for this film.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not by any means a perfect film. There are many decisions that DC could have made that would have made a more broad appealing film. And most of those choices would have people screaming that all they were doing was copying what Marvel had been doing already. Whereas Marvel has a benefit of creating a movie slate using mostly unknown C-list and below characters that people don’t have a long history of knowing, and thereby not having a character to criticize, the Trinity in comics has always been Superman, Batman, & Wonder Woman. These 3 ARE the torch bearers for comics and have been for nearing a century now. The good in this film certainly outweighs the issues that are there. As a launching point, where they go from here is going to have a hindsight reaction to this film even more so than the current ones. Bruce Wayne/Batman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman are clearly the stars of this film. Everything else in Snyder’s hands was simply window dressing (unfortunately that included Superman). If next years Justice League needs to do one thing right, it needs to ditch the credit to credit morose tone with something lighter and hopeful that will play to a wider range of people. Once we get the rest of the League (who are introduced to in this film abruptly but excitingly) we as audiences get the chance to once again experience a team up that could blow away our expectations. Lets hope that a movie with a script that doesn’t have to be rewritten, and an acknowledgment that dark and funny can coincide is on the horizon next fall.
While Dawn of Justice is for some critics a bland film, and for others a good film, for the fans it is geared towards, it is a great film.
Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice