Movie Review: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter
Plot: Superman has found his place in the world, but the world isn’t sure how they feel about him. Bruce Wayne is particularly distrustful, and is also questioning the good he has done in the world. While these two heroes begin circling each other, Lex Luthor, Jr., has his own machination in motion.
Review: We’re not going to lie, our expectations weren’t super high for this one. We didn’t like Man of Steel, the marketing didn’t spark our interest and the movie felt heavily stuffed with new characters and plot threads. Sure, we wanted it to be good…we just didn’t see it working.
So here’s a brief spoiler free review. It was awesome. Buy a ticket if you haven’t already. It delivers.
Now if you’re not worried about going in completely clean, here’s a more in depth but also spoiler free review.
Batman is obviously the big addition to this universe and with the exception of a brief recap of the origin in the opening sequence he is arriving fully formed as a character. After the Nolan trilogy of films the back story to Batman is fresh in everyone’s mind, so it’s just the essentials here. This is an older, disillusioned Bruce Wayne living near a burned out Wayne Manor with a deceased Robin’s costume on display in the Batcave. He’s got the gadgets and he’s got the skills, but he’s worried that his mission to fight crime might amount to nothing in the age of Superman.
Supes himself is continuing his journey, seeking to do the best he can in a world while they fiercely debate whether he should be here or not. As Clark Kent and Superman he has growing concerns about Batman taking the law into his own hands. Meanwhile Lex Luthor, Jr., acting like a youthful tech billionaire, seeks to build a weapon to keep Superman in line. Throughout the first few acts these three characters find themselves drawn more and more into each others circles.
This set up sounds extensive but it is perfectly paced. We move from one character to the next and the film effectively draws the viewer into their own emotional journeys. Neither Superman or Batman are completely in the right or the wrong, instead growing increasingly suspicious of each other’s motives and position in the world and wanting to put the other in their place, this being helped along by an unseen manipulator. When they do eventually meet it’s like a car slamming into a steel pole. It’s a solid hour and half before the fight gets down and dirty and it feels like it was an inevitable conflict. This is, of course, the main reason we’re here and without saying too much, it’s an exciting brawl. Batman and Superman are both well realised, they never get away from Batman being a human fighting a god and Superman certainly isn’t holding back. Unexpectedly there is a clear winner to this fight, but nobody gets short changed.
A quick look at the trailer and the credits list will tell you that there are more than a couple of other Justice League members making their debut here. Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg get what we’re calling a ‘sneak peak’. They don’t impact on the story, but it’s a tease of where they’re going next with the franchise. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is freaking AMAZING. She pops up throughout the movie and only gears up for the finale but HOLY COW she is fantastic. Nailed the character. It’s a small role and we can not wait to see more of her.
That’s not to say we’ve got a perfect movie here. Exceeded expectations, yes, but not without problems. The story is fairly predictable, especially as we know there’s a bigger franchise in the works and there’s a bigger foe they’re going to have to work together to defeat by the time the credits roll. That bigger danger – Doomsday – has a rushed set up, relying on some ridiculously soft science to create him and then explained just as quickly. The US military go from seeing him, deciding they had no choice but to nuke him and then coming to the conclusion that he can’t be killed in the space of about 30 seconds so they can get on with the trio of heroes fighting him.
Then there’s what is undoubtedly going to be the most controversial aspect of the film – BATMAN STRAIGHT UP MURDERS PEOPLE. I’m a huge Batman fan because he’s a normal man in a world of gods and monsters who stands up to them (something recognised as being a key part of the character in this movie) and the fact that he refuses to kill the maniacs and murderers he faces makes him more appealing. He draws a line in the sand and refuses to cross it, in spite of psychopaths like the Joker who would delight in pushing him over even if it cost them their lives. Having Batman show such disregard for human life by running down, blowing up and burning to death criminals is a massive departure from the character. I don’t think it makes the character edgier or more modern, I think it’s a step backwards. After the blowback from Superman killing Zod and wreaking destruction across a city in Man of Steel it’s strange that they’d go in this direction with Batman as well.
Putting that aside, this is one of the best portrayals of Batman ever. Ben Affleck stands with Michael Keaton and Christian Bale as one of the most impressive performers in the role, and the design surrounding him is top notch. Everything Batman related, aside from the murdering, is a joy to see. There has been a lot of complaints about this casting because ‘he was in Daredevil twenty years ago and that movie wasn’t good and we’re going to punish this one actor instead of the hundreds of other people who were responsible for that film’, yet Affleck makes playing Batman look effortless. Everyone who signed that stupid petition to block Affleck from the role is going to feel a bit silly after this, no doubt similar those who campaigned against Keaton for the role and Ledger for the Joker.
Jesse Eisenberg was also considered an odd choice for the film, stepping in the role of Lex Luthor. He’s certainly a departure from Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey’s versions of the villain. This time around we have Luthor’s son, a billionaire genius living in his father’s shadow. In that context it makes a bit of sense for Eisenberg to bring a bit of Mark Zuckerberg to the part. He turned out to be more entertaining than expected, being a delightful shade of bonkers. He raised a couple of laughs and was menacing when needed. A different but not a bad version of the character.
So after the Bat-Murder and the predictable story, what have we got? An exciting superhero smash up with a surprising amount of heart. Excellent production values throughout and solid performances from the big name cast. Snyder’s unique visual style is reigned in enough to make the film feel serious without losing its style. Needless to say, we left the cinema happy.
Rating: EIGHT out of TEN