Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Batman V Superman proves that building a cinematic universe takes time

Batman v Superman v Lex Luthor v Wonder Woman v DC Universe

 

As far as superhero movies go, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated by delivering one great movie after another. While it does have its flaws, Marvel has crafted a formula that works with their movies and pulls a variety of audiences to enjoy.

Now, it is DC’s turn to enter the multi-movie building universe business with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice acting as an official kickstart into the DC Extended Universe. Yes, Man of Steel was technically the first, but this movie attempts to immerse audiences into a shared universe. While there are spectacular moments, Batman v Superman fails to deliver a cohesive narrative as well as get people excited for an upcoming Justice League movie.

This movie takes place roughly two years after the events of Man of Steel. We see that Bruce Wayne, played excellently by Ben Affleck, was at the battle of Metropolis when Superman was fighting General Zod. Bruce witnesses the destruction that Superman has caused and begins to grow paranoid and concerned about an unchecked alien that could destroy the planet. Superman, played again by Henry Cavill, is dealing with his own emotions about whether the world really needs a Superman and if his actions do more harm than good. Elsewhere, Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is in the shadows formulating his own sinister plan.

There is a lot of ground to cover here as this movie has to establish Bruce Wayne/Batman in a different way than the previous incarnations, be a compelling Superman story, set up Wonder Woman, pave the way for the Justice League, and overall just live up to fan expectations. With all of this, it’s no wonder the movie could not deliver the experience everyone wanted and it makes one think that this could have been four or five really good separate movies.

As mentioned early, Ben Affleck kills it as Bruce Wayne/Batman. This interpretation borrows heavily from Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns from the actual age of Bruce Wayne to his costume. He really owns the role and does justice to the character putting on the persona of a billionaire playboy yet a tortured vigilante.

Affleck brings a new persona that differs from Michael Keaton and Christian Bale as being an older and more experienced Batman. He has seen stuff, been hurt, lost things, and you really feel the weight on his shoulders when he realizes that an alien has inadvertently hurt those close to him. Batman’s motivations are very clear to fight Superman, and Affleck’s portrayal really allows you to get behind him and he really delivers the Batman fans have wanted.

Henry Cavill is still good as Superman and delivers nearly the same performance he did in Man of Steel. I am not a huge Superman fan, but I do like where they took the character in terms of searching for himself and whether or not he is actually contributing to society. He is a darker and more brooding version than most people would like to be but it does work given the circumstances he is put under.

I also enjoyed Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, all though she is not in the movie much. Her alter ego, Diana Prince, shows up a little in the beginning and in the end she is in full costume ready to fight alongside our heroes( more on that later). She portrays herself as strong and independent and this makes me really excited for the Wonder Woman movie in 2017.

The action in this movie is also top notch…when there is action. The actual fight between Batman and Superman is brutal and is good enough to excite comic book fans. However, it is one Batman fight sequence in a warehouse that really steals the show and shows that director Zack Snyder really understands Batman’s fighting style. Also the final battle is really fun and tense especially when it portrays the trinity.

However, Batman v Superman is bogged down with problems. As I said earlier, the action is good when it actually happens. Most of the movie is spent around court hearings, soul searching, and conversations that really are not necessary to the movie, especially when they happen so often. This movie is two and a half hours long, but I felt it was longer than that due to scenes dragging out and then ending abruptly with no clear resolution or transition. There is a pacing problem as there is too much exposition and pointless subplots and not enough Batman and Superman confrontations that we were promised..

On that note, Batman and Superman really do not spend that much screen time together. For a movie called Batman v Superman, you really expect these characters, whether in their alter egos or costumed up, to run into each other a lot so that it builds tension between the two. However, the two titular characters seem to be each doing their own thing with one or two chance meetups. Since this movie is trying to build a shared universe, it could at least share more screen time with the two characters together.

Again, this movie is called BATMAN VERSUS SUPERMAN, so you expect there to be big fights and clear motivation to get behind when they fight right? Except, the fight is only about eight minutes long and the motivations of the fight are kind of stupid. Batman’s motivations are really clear and you understand why he wants to take down Superman, but Superman’s motivations are really forced not really lending gravitas to the fight.

And now, we come to the most obscure part of the movie: Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor. He is very twitchy and frankly over exaggerated. I can see where they were going with the character and it is a different and interesting take, but it is so over the top that it’s hard to find positives in this interpretation. He is the driving force to create conflict, but I can’t help but think that if his character was not included the fight between Batman and Superman could have had better motivations.

The final fight with Doomsday was awesome. Seeing the trinity in action together was great, but it is sad that these moments were spoiled in trailers. And it is worth noting that Doomsday is just merely a ploy to have an exciting third act, while it is cool, it may disappoint some fans that this fight was spoiled.

The other supporting cast was fine. Jeremy Irons was a solid choice for Alfred and I hope to see more of him in the future. However, Amy Adam’s Lois Lane did not need to be in this movie. The subplots mentioned earlier involve her character mostly and really grinds the movie to a halt. She is mainly there for expositional purposes, and if she was taken out it would have lended more Batman and Superman time which I would have rather seen.

In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a bad movie with great moments. The performance by Ben Affleck’s Batman is spectacular and really makes me excited for a solo Batman movie with this incarnation. The rest of the characters were good but some of them were not needed for the plot. While the action is great, it does not show up enough to keep the audience invested. The subplots take up too much time which could have been better spent immersing us in a shared universe. While it is not horrible, it is a flawed kickstart for the DC universe with so much ground to cover.

 

6/10  Dawn of Meh

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