My childhood wasn’t ruined, so I guess in the grand scheme of things I can mark this down as a W.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is the sequel to “Man of Steel” and the first time the titular heroes have shared a movie screen. Henry Cavill returns as Superman while Ben Affleck takes over the role of the Dark Knight. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lex Luther, Gal Gadot portrays Wonder Woman and Amy Adams returns as Lois Lane. Zach Snyder directs.
Like many people, I had mixed feelings about “Man of Steel.” It didn’t do much to separate itself from generic blockbuster territory, but there are nuggets of a great movie buried beneath all the rubble of its destruction porn of a finale. “Batman v Superman” picks up from where “Man of Steel” left off, and actually does a good job portraying how the world would react if suddenly an all-powerful being was among us. Some would see him as a god, others a threat; and it is this ideology that makes the first half of “BvS” so good. The rest of the film gets muddled for various reasons, but bottom line is this is a pretty good movie that just tried to do too much.
First things first, I am a Batman fanboy; he’s one of my childhood icons. I was on board with the Ben Affleck casting from Day 1, and ever since “Watchmen” (an alright film) I have said if Zach Snyder has one truly great movie in him it would be heading a Batman flick. And the Batman we are given is arguably the best we’ve ever seen; well let me rephrase, it has the potential to be.
Batman’s suit, car, Batwing and fighting style are all the best that they’ve ever been. The little 8-year-old inside of me was getting giddy seeing him run around punching the bad guys, even if this is a very brutal and “by any means necessary” Batman that mainstream audiences won’t be familiar with. Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is given little screen time but I loved what I saw, he plays that cocky-but-charming richboy perfectly, and I am excited to see him in future outings.
Another casting choice I defended since the get-go was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luther, and again I really dug his performance. That being said, if you watched the trailer, hated what you saw and were nervous, then your fears are confirmed, he’s exactly what he looked like he would be. He is the behind-the-scenes puppet master who is a little neurotic and twitchy but I really enjoyed his take on the character.
Really everyone in the film gives a great performance. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Jeremy Irons’ Alfred both are scene stealers, and Amy Adams will never turn in a bad performance, even if the film runs out of things for her to do and by the end she is running around simply to keep Amy Adams in the movie.
Which brings me to my complaints about “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:” there is *a lot* going on. Each character has their own side story, and some are just more interesting than others while one is just entirely pointless (and in a 153 minute movie, every extra second counts). I get you have to set up the Justice League, but how it is done is so lazy and obvious, it really may as well have slapped a banner across the screen that said, “we interrupt ‘Batman v Superman’ to bring you this ‘Justice League’ trailer.”
Some of the dialogue is a bit awkward too, and I blame that on half the screenwriters. The script is credited to David S. Goyer (who co-wrote 2/3 of Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy and solo wrote “Man of Steel”) and Chris Terrio, who won an Oscar for “Argo.” Guess which one of these men I’m going to condemn? Goyer (and Nolan for that matter) has never been able to write jokes or make humans sound like their having an organic conversation, whereas Terrio’s “Argo” script is lively and has quick banter. For example, it is very obvious which of these two men wrote the joke, “I knew you were a friend of Superman’s; you’re wearing a cape.” [eyeroll]
My absolute biggest gripe with the film, however, is the final act. First things first, and I’ll avoid specifics in case you’ve avoided trailers, the final boss fight is simply an excuse by the filmmakers to get Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to team up and throw down, and it is just a rinse and repeat of CGI “what the hell is happening” action that isn’t really that fun. Then when all that is over, the movie has not one, not two, not three, NOT FOUR but five faux endings; I’m not even exaggerating, this thing is Peter Jackson-level bad at how much it refuses to end. And all of it is for an outcome that we see coming, so it begs the question why waste our time and tack on 10 more minutes to the runtime (did I mention this thing is 153 minutes)?
Sadly, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” isn’t the masterpiece we were promised, nor is it as good as it could have been given the great mini-movies within it, but it is a step-up from “Man of Steel” and gives us a fantastic Batman (and we all are paying to see Batman, let’s be honest). The film delivers solid action (until the aforementioned finale), political and religious ponderings and an iconic fight between the two biggest comic book heroes of all-time. Worth the price of admission? Absolutely.
Critics Rating: 7/10