Since the dawn of time, before mankind even existed, there was a question that resonated throughout the universe. One question that the Gods themselves couldn’t conjure up an answer to: “Who would win in a fight? Batman or Superman?”
Okay so we’re exaggerating a BIT, but this question has been pondered for centuries, and we’ve never gotten a solid answer. But we’re now in an age where we can just make films to decide the outcomes of crap like that, and that’s exactly what happened. Or, what we thought would happened. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice pits the Man of Steel against The Dark Knight in the” gladiator match of the decade”. Well, sort of. We’re here to break this film down to it’s core and touch on all the rights, and all the wrongs in this review, so buckle up because it’s going to be a long ride.
[WARNING: Major plot spoilers ahead. Go watch the movie, Then come back. It’s simple.]
The plot behind this film follows the events of Man of Steel, Almost 2 years after the battle of Metropolis. Batman fears that Superman, if left without close guard, could become a dictoral, unchecked power that will eventually decimate or even enslave mankind. After what he saw, who could blame him for thinking this way? Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) was present the day that Superman (Henry Cavill) battled General Zod to the death in the city of Metropolis. He saw people get killed, buildings get obliterated, and not once did Superman stop to think “i might be killing a lot of people crashing through all these buildings.” Batman doesn’t like this obviously, so he takes up the mantle of the Gotham Bat once more to strike fear in the criminals of his city. Once this continues to happen, it causes Superman to fear that Batman’s way of vigilantism is a threat and the polar opposite of all he stands for – which is “true” justice. The guy has a symbol on his chest that means hope, so you can kind of understand where he’s coming from as well. So basically Superman doesn’t trust Batman and thinks you can fight crime in the light without having to be too violent, and Batman doesn’t trust Superman and thinks his brutal vigilantism is the way to go. These ideological differences, among other things we’re going to touch on, lead them to fight one another.
This movie starts off with a scene we’re all too familiar with. The death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Not too much time is spent on this because fans have seen that way too many times by now, so they jump into a scene in a desert where Superman comes to the aide of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who – like in the comics – always find her self in the middle of trouble. Unfortunately for Supes, the people don’t appreciate him just storming into their neighborhood leaving destruction in his wake, like how he did in Metropolis. They’re getting tired of him just destroying things and not answering for anything. Following all that, we’re introduced to scenes where Batman begins (pun not intended) his merciless vigilantism once again, and once Clark Kent / Superman catch wind of it, he’s not happy.
Right off the bat, Lets talk about how the movie looked. It was visually stunning. Watching this film from beginning to end was like viewing a moving portrait. Snyder always has a way of making certain colors stand out because most of his films are usually consist of having very neutral colors, and a few bright ones. The cinematography was striking and rich, and you’d be doing yourself a favor to view it in IMAX format at its best. Snyder succeeded in once again creating visual poetry in a massive superhero film, which is no easy thing to do more than once.
While the film looked amazing on the big screen, it lacked substance, and the story suffered for it. For a movie where one event was supposed to lead to another, everything felt so disconnected and without structure. It’s like a bunch of writers each came up with their own section for the movie and just tried to put them together without actually trying to make sure everything followed a coherent story. A big chunk of Kryptonite was randomly found in the middle of the Indian Ocean, next thing we know it’s brought to America where it’s to be weaponized? Also, we’re just supposed to believe that Luthor was able to find information about these metahumans and took the time to developed logos and “codenames” for them, and these individuals just evevtually decide to don both? Seems a bit far-fetched. Finally, a scene that had almost no place in the movie at all was when what looks like The Flash (so many fans probably aren’t going to be able to tell who that is) comes back in time in what looks like the form of a dream to tell Bruce Wayne to find “us”, and that he was “right about him”, also that “Lois Lane is the key.” This moment is never touched on again, and Wayne never even follows up on Lane, so what was the point? We’re guessing that scene won’t even become important again until the Flash solo film in 2018. It looked like the screenwriters had a good vision for the film at first, but then lost track of what they were doing, leading the story to become a bit disarranged.
Lets talk about character development. There wasn’t a lot of that in this movie at all. We were told we’d get to see a different version of Clark Kent, one that’s “true” to the comics. When it all boiled down though, Kent hardly got screen time, and when he did, it was mostly him contemplating his actions as Superman. He did more brooding in this film than Batman (as if that’s even possible). They kill him off rather quickly too, with him being “killed” trying to get a story during the final battle. Obviously, while Superman can return to life with no issue, it’s going to be hard selling the fact that Kent will return from the dead somehow in later DC films. One of the things that was expected from this movie was a more experienced Superman. Man of Steel showcased an unexperienced Superman who didn’t do much to make sure civilian lives were safe when he went into battle. This was improved on, even if only a little.
The myriad of supporting characters delivered their roles decently. Each character served their purpose in driving the story forward to an extent. One qualm we had was how Lois Lane was somehow magically in the middle of every major battle, always unharmed though, and while at the beginning of the film she helps further the plot, she later just becomes a damsel in distress first, and a reporter second. We don’t get a lot of Senator Finch (seeing as how she met her demise kind of early on in the film during that dreadful scene in the capitol), and we’re wishing there was more of her.
Gal Gadot definitely shined in this movie as Wonder Woman. From when we first meet her character at Luthor’s little get together, up until the final battle where she really shows her worth, she served as the breath of fresh air the film needed to help balance out everything that was going on between Batman and Superman.
They shoehorned Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and The Flash (Ezra Miller) in this film in a kind of uncreative way. Batman stumbles upon Lexcorp files that show clips of four “metahumans” (including Wonder Woman herself), and forwards them to Diana Prince. She views the clips, and in them you can see instances where each member displays their powers, or in Cyborg’s case, him being experimented on. This was DC’s way of showing that each character exist somewhere out there without having to present them with an origin story first. This could’ve been done better. We were led to believe that their cameos would involve direct interactions with other cast members (no mater how small), but that’s not what happened.
One of the most controversial things about this movie was the eccentric Lex Luthor that barely resembles the comic books. He was still a genius though. He made it seem as though he wanted to help Wallace Keefe, a previous Wayne Industries employee who lost his legs in the battle of Metropolis, and he blames – you’re never going to believe this – Superman. Shocking, i know. Lex gives Keefe a motorized wheelchair so that he can present himself at the senate meeting. Unknown to him, Luthor planted a bomb within the wheelchair, which detonated inside the Capitol Building, killing everyone and making Superman look like the one to blame. He pieced together pretty easily that Superman had a personal attachment to Lois Lane, and used that to his advantage. Also, Luthor almost seamlessly finds out that Superman is really Clark Kent, so he decides to exploit a weakness: his mother. He purposely pits Batman and Superman against each other in hopes that Batman kills him with the stolen kryptonite. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is something of a young Mark Zuckerberg-esque tech genius, rather than an aged business industrialist and megalomaniac. This caused a lot of hardcore fans angst. While his character was probably the only one who provided any lighthearted dialogue and led the first two acts as the villain in the whole movie, this almost-blasphemous portrayal of one of Superman’s biggest rivals left a bad taste in some fan’s mouths.
On a positive note, Affleck’s take on Batman was possibly the best part of this movie. Ben Affleck is arguably the greatest and most definitive Batman to date. He played this role like no other, and the scene where he took down the group of thugs in the warehouse was probably the best we’ve ever seen from the dark Knight in film. This fight scene was almost reminiscent of the Arkham Asylum video games, which have some of the best Batman brawls around. His relationship with his butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons) this time in this film displays two men who have been through the thick of things together, and while we don’t see that on screen, you can appreciate the relationship they share in this version. His character is honestly the only one who really developed throughout the entire film. He changed his views on Superman after realizing their mothers shared the same name, and decided he’s not such a bad guy after all, and this led to their inevitable team up with Wonder Woman. While we may say this is the most definitive Batman, make no mistake, Batman is very brutal in this movie. In case you missed an explosion or a neck-snapping here or there, this Batman kills people. And with guns at one point (it was a dream sequence, but still). That idiosyncratic behavior is against everything we know about the character (read: the modern age version of that character), but it’s actually not bad to see, and it feels kind of necessary with the dour and dark tone of this film. Kudos to Batffleck.
Many were worried that the trailers gave up too much of what was going to happen in the film, but the people at Warner Bros. knew what they were doing. This movie still somehow had a boatload of action it didn’t show. The titular fight between the Son of Krypton and the Bat of Gotham was easily one of the best parts in the movie. You could tell Snyder really channeled in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as inspiration for this battle. However at times the action felt slow and dragged out, and worst of all it was cut short for the less-than-spectacular final showdown with “doomsday”. It was a CGI-fest filled with adrenaline-fuled action – that was a bit hard to focus in on due to some shaky camerawork – between the heroes and the oversized villain they faced. Luckily they beat him, but at the seemingly senseless cost of Superman’s life. Tragic, indeed.
As a sequel for Man of Steel, this film exceeds it’s predecessor, but not by a landslide. BvS is a beautiful disaster. While it paints a beautiful picture of cinematography that rivals almost every comic book movie that came before it, there’s still that small part of you that wishes your brain and your heart were treated as well as your eyes. The problem with the film is not the film itself, it’s the weight the film is expected to carry. We’re in an era where the stakes for superhero films have been raised so high, that fans expect movies to completely resembles the comic books they’ve read, as they usually should. You can only blame filmmakers for that. Not that it’s a bad thing, but when you have more to show, you have more to deliver, and Batman V Superman, a movie with possibly two of the most popular superheroes in the world, just barely delivered. Despite all this criticism, this is still an entertaining film nonetheless, and it’s worthy enough to see twice. They left a lot of questions unanswered, and with all the characters they’re introducing it makes sense that they’re having two parts to the Justice League film. We just hope Warner Bros. and DC can fix out the issues from both this film and Man of Steel to create a greater cinematic experience that fans will enjoy. We look forward to seeing the whole league on the same screen in 2017.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice receives a 6.9 out of 10 from Superhero Task Force
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is out now.