DC has had an intense amount of pressure to compete cinematically with Marvel Studios on the big screen. Marvel has had an almost flawless track record at the box office so far and DC has now thrown their hat into the ring with a shared movie universe franchise of their own. While Man of Steel wasn’t universally praised, I did enjoy the film and their take on Superman was something I could get behind. I thought Henry Cavill was excellent as both Clark Kent and Superman and I was thrilled for where this series would go next. I was even more excited, and surprised, when they announced it would lead into Batman v Superman. While the characters have both shared many animated movies together, this would be the first live action film to bring these two titans together.
I know that currently, various websites, online personalities and other review outlets are just bashing this film to the ends of the earth. Do I think this is justified? Do they have valid reasons for their low scores? Is it really worth the 30% on Rotten Tomatoes? I would say that while the movie doesn’t deserve some of the low scores it is getting, it’s not a perfect film in any regard either as it has its fair share of problems. I will do my best to limit the amount of spoilers in this review, and mostly keep to discussing footage already shown in the various trailers and what I thought of each of the actors in their roles.
Batman v Superman sees a world that is split down the middle on the topic of whether or not Superman is a force for good, or an unchecked liability. Over a year has passed since the battle in Metropolis and you don’t get a good sense on where the city is at with rebuilding after half the city was destroyed during the chaos. I half expected the furthered plot after Man of Steel to be with a figure like Lex Luthor turning the world against him, but we don’t really get that here. The Lex that is in this movie is more of an awkward, skittish and fast thinking smart type, which Jesse Eisenberg absolutely nails. It’s just a shame that the character is just downright horrible. If the movie has one bad element to it then this is it. I just couldn’t get behind Eisenberg’s Lex, or should I say Alexander, as Lex was his father, or so we are told. His motivations are ok, but confusing at times. The movie doesn’t know whose story it wants to tell and it suffers greatly for it.
It’s also very clear that despite this movie following the events of Man of Steel, you can tell that Director Zack Snyder just really wanted to make a Batman movie, as he has given the Dark Knight the best material in the movie to work with. I will say that any naysayers of Ben Affleck being cast as Batman should be eating their words now after seeing his performance here. Ben Affleck is without a doubt the best Batman ever to be on film. This version of the Caped Crusader is not a rookie learning the ropes, he is rather an experienced veteran that has been donning the cape and cowl for many years now. His methods are more ruthless and his combat style is brutal. Every fight in the movie has him taking down guy after guy and I am sure that every one of them left with at least a few broken bones. Every minute he was on the screen I just had a huge smile on my face, he nailed it.
I found it a bit ridiculous that we are treated to another telling of the origin of Batman, albeit a very condensed version. We see his parents get gunned down in the street yet again, and this scene is shown to us twice. I wished that we had not seen it the first time as when it is shown the second time, it feels earned, it makes sense. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is also the best version of this character so far as you just completely buy into him in this role. Here is a Bruce Wayne that is almost bitter and mean, the years of fighting crime waning on him. You can also see the good in him, as Affleck manages to balance both with remarkable skill. His counterpart, Alfred, played by Jeremy Irons almost steals the show as he comes across as such a multifaceted and interesting character. I’ve never liked Alfred more than what this movie has chosen to do with him, not only is he tinkering on the Batmobile or building some of Bruce’s gear, he has a few hilarious moments that work within the serious tone of the film.
Henry Cavill is back as Superman, but sadly doesn’t have the best material to work with here. His scenes with Lois feel almost forced, and I just don’t buy into their relationship. For Lois being the most important thing to him, I just don’t see it. Cavill spends most of his time as a more moody Superman than what we got in Man of Steel. The world doesn’t know what to think of Superman and the more good he does, it just doesn’t seem to sway in his favor. I like this dynamic, but it is not shown at length because, quite frankly, there are so many different stories here all sharing the same movie.
Amy Adams returns as the ‘I won’t take no’ reporter Lois Lane and she is excellent in every minute she has in this movie. I was actually quite surprised at how much she matters in the overall story. Holly Hunter plays Senator Finch, who just wants to know the truth behind Superman and what he stands for. It’s a shame that they didn’t develop her further as I enjoyed what she brought to the movie. As for the rest of the cast, well… they don’t have much to do.
Finally we come to the big casting question, how was Wonder Woman? Relative unknown, Gal Gadot is mostly known as the thin framed beauty from the Fast and Furious franchise. I loved her character in Fast Five and was actually excited when I heard of her casting. While she doesn’t sport the body type widely known for Wonder Woman, she did pull off the character extremely well. Her dual identity as Diana Prince is on display and her scenes with Bruce Wayne have great chemistry. It’s only during the final act that we see her take on the role of Wonder Woman, taking to battle with her bracelets, shield, sword and lasso.
The whole point of the movie is building up the battle between Batman and Superman, and while the fight is good, we get there with a partial sense of false advertising. The fight isn’t really what it seems, but I think just calling the film “Dawn of Justice” would lose a bit without the Batman and Superman names in the title. When the characters do fight, it is enjoyable and if you think you’ve seen most of it already, you are correct. Whoever cut the trailers together was just so eager for everyone to see the footage that a large portion of their fight is already in the trailers. The battle between the two titans is extremely well shot and each of them have their own strong moments. The ways in which Batman attempts to take down Superman is extremely believable and effective. While the resolution to the fight is far too easy, I kind of buy into it a bit more than I think I should. It’s an effective way to set them up for their inevitable friendship.
The conclusion to the film contains a spectacle of a battle between Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the creature known as Doomsday. Where Doomsday had a bit of a third grader fan fiction type origin in the comics, being an indestructible baby created by a mad scientist, here he is created in a manner consistent with the events of both this film and Man of Steel. While there is a fair amount of story missing in the film to make this creature make sense, the battle is fantastic nonetheless. The conclusion to this fight is another spectacle altogether and fitting for what comes next.
Action wise this film is awesome, and that would be great if the entire film was as good as its action. The better part of the first half is mostly a drama that doesn’t quite have the same energy and passion put into it as the back half seems to have had. Director Zack Snyder is a visionary director, but fails to create captivating characters when they are not in interesting camera shots or doing impressive things. The editing in this movie is horrendous in most scenes, and the pacing is all over the place. There is also a scene involving files on a computer that seems to have been just randomly placed here to set up the next few films.
While the film itself has a lot of good things going for it, it somehow manages to fail to impress as much as it should have. Most of the fear that lead up to this movie was in the casting choices and not in the story telling. Aside from Lex this movie has a great cast and the future of this shared universe will be exciting to see it played out, especially with how the events resolved themselves by the end. I was beyond happy with Ben Affleck’s take on Batman and Gal Gadot was fantastic as Wonder Woman despite barely being in the movie, and thought that Henry Cavill was solid, but had the least interesting material to work with here. I wish the film did a better job of balancing the storylines, and the chemistry between Clark and Lois is meh at best. Regardless of the glaring flaws this movie contains, It is still very watchable and has some incredible moments. I had a friend ask me what I thought about the movie and I had this to say: Is the movie fun? Yes. Is it exciting and have great action? Yes. Is the movie well made? Not really, no, but it does have Batman.