6.5 out of 10
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman
Directed by Zack Snyder
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review:
Cool action, a strong performance by Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman make Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice worth checking out on the big screen, but story issues and a downer ending hurt the film somewhat.
This is the sequel to the 2013 film Man of Steel.
After the devastating battle between Superman and General Zod that leveled Metropolis, the world isn’t sure what to make of the Man of Steel. Some see him as a savior. Others see him as a major threat to the security of not just the United States, but the world. But for Bruce Wayne, there’s no doubt that Superman is an unstoppable time bomb waiting to go off again. During the battle, his office in Metropolis was destroyed and many of his employees were killed or seriously injured. So for Wayne, and the Batman, there’s no question that Superman must be taken out.
As Batman plots his strategy for taking on the perceived alien menace, billionaire genius Lex Luthor also sets his plans in motion to fight the alien threat while benefiting from the Kryptonian technology left behind in the battle. He discovers that kryptonite will destroy the cells of any Kryptonian. Eager to create kryptonite based weapons, he attempts to sway the US Government to help him. But as he runs into roadblocks, Lex takes actions to show that he always gets what he wants no matter who is standing in his way. And he plans to use Superman and Batman as pawns in his quest for power.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.
I’ll start out by saying that I’m a lifelong Superman and Batman fan. They started my love of comics and superheroes and I’ve passed that passion on to my kids. My kids and I greatly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and eagerly went to the screening of it. While we went in ready to love it, we left the theater with mixed opinions on it. There was a lot to love, but there was a lot to not like. Let’s start with the positive.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is at its best when the action is unfolding. The fun doesn’t really kick into gear until Batman and Superman finally do battle. While that is pretty late in the film, it does pay off. It’s as brutal as you’d hope. But Batman gets a fair amount of solo action in this story and it’s enticing enough that you walk out of the theater wanting to see more of an Affleck Batman movie. A chase featuring the Batmobile was my younger son’s favorite scene. And the obligatory scene of Batman taking out an entire building of thugs was brutally and beautifully choreographed. There’s some hardcore action there. You start to forget that you’re watching a Man of Steel sequel.
Speaking of Ben Affleck, he’s a solid Batman. Physically he works for the character. He also handles the action well. Each Batman actor brings something new to the role, and Affleck captures an aspect of the character we haven’t seen much on the big screen before – burnout. He’s tired of fighting. He feels like one criminal pops up after another. He’s dealt with endless setbacks. He’s tired of heartbreak (as we see in a cameo of Robin’s costume). He’s just had enough. So when Superman comes into the picture, all of that anger and frustration ends up laser-focused on our beloved Man of Steel. And since they perfectly mesh the Battle of Metropolis with the beginning of this movie, the two dovetail well together. In fact, one of the most exciting scenes of the film doesn’t feature Batman in costume at all. It’s when Bruce Wayne races headlong into mass destruction when every other person on the street is running away from it. That may be the best scene to paint the picture of Bruce Wayne’s character ever put on screen. And when that scene is played out, you really understand Batman’s concern and his motives for wanting to fight Superman. Affleck sells it well.
Another new addition to the cast is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. It’s shocking how little she’s in the film, but when she appears you want to see more of her. There’s a mystery about her and her background. And when she finally gets to fight, you really see her relish the battle. It’s one of the best portrayals of her Amazonian warrior spirit since the “Justice League” cartoons. It’s also cool to hear her with an accent. I love Lynda Carter, but I don’t think I ever realized how out of place an American accent was for Wonder Woman until I heard Gal Gadot.
Most of the rest of the cast is strong as well. Henry Cavill continues to be a good Superman and Clark Kent. Laurence Fishburne provides some welcome comic relief as Perry White. And Jeremy Irons makes his mark as Alfred. If you’ve ever wondered how Batman maintains his wonderful toys, you see Alfred more working with mechanical equipment than you do tea sets and linens. He’s less of a butler here and more of an accomplice to Batman.
What Didn’t Work:
First up, what’s with the title? Why is it “v” instead of “vs.”? OK, now that that’s out of the way…
Let’s start with the story. Unfortunately, the only time this film works well is when there’s action. So for a movie that’s two-and-a-half hours long, that’s a lot of the film that’s not working. But let me be more specific. First off, they rely on a lot of dream sequences. While one featuring Batman facing a post-apocalyptic future is pretty cool, most of the others either don’t make sense or are of little value. And, frequently, the audience is left saying, “What is going on here?” because they are not introduced as dream sequences. They just start up with no lead in. More than once my kids were leaning over saying, “What’s happening?” Then there’s Lois Lane. She adds little to the story. You could cut her entirely from the film and it would have little impact on the remaining plot. The story also spends way too much time on the fear and angst of the general public. Yes, we get it. People are scared. But there are way too many scenes of pundits on the news debating Superman, protesters marching against Superman, and politicians giving speeches on how dangerous Superman is. It became quite tedious. Then there’s the ending which is quite a downer. I won’t give away spoilers here, but you walk out of the theater depressed rather than exhilarated.
Speaking of spoilers, our screening started with a video of director Zack Snyder imploring fans not to spoil the movie. It’s a worthy request and I applaud him for it. However, the trailer gave away the biggest spoiler of this movie – Doomsday. His big reveal should have been in the movie itself and not in the trailer. It was a colossal mistake.
If you were hoping to see the other Justice League characters in this movie, you’re going to be very disappointed. They have very, very little screentime here. It was entirely a setup for the next movie. So adjust your expectations accordingly.
I also need to address the subject of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. I love Eisenberg and I like what Snyder was trying to do with Luthor here. The idea of him being an unhinged tech billionaire is perfect and there are moments where that comes across beautifully. One scene where he rants at a party about power and the audience falls into awkward silence is masterfully done. In other scenes he gets uncomfortably close to people and touches them weirdly which immediately puts the character, and thus the audience, at unease. But whenever Lex acts like a clown is when his performance falls apart. And unfortunately he does the clown routine a lot. The end result is a mixed bag of a performance which has more to dislike than like.
There were technical issues with this film, too. Snyder relies on the shaky camera as much if not more than he did in Man of Steel. I started to get motion sick in the first 30 minutes of watching this movie. And when Batman was fighting, the camera was shaking so much that you could barely tell what was happening. The editing was also questionable. Characters would go from being in one scene at one location to a completely different one in the very next scene and there was no transition. You started to feel like, despite the 2 hour and 30-minute running time, that there were transition scenes missing. I’ll also add that IMAX is my go-to format when seeing a movie, but I didn’t feel the larger screen did anything particularly special for this film. The Batman dream sequence and the battle royale between the heroes switched to the larger picture, but there didn’t seem to be much special about it like there was in Star Wars: The Force Awakens where you felt like you were flying with the Millennium Falcon.
On the subject of the music, I loved Junkie XL’s score for Mad Mad: Fury Road. It’s one of the best movie scores in a decade. But I wasn’t as impressed with his collaboration here with Hans Zimmer. It’s generally background noise and the one time it is noticeable is with an incredibly shrill theme for Wonder Woman. I won’t be buying this one on iTunes.
I hate to say it, but this is a Batman and Superman movie that may not be appropriate for the whole family. Ben Affleck has said his young son won’t see it because he doesn’t want him to get nightmares. Now I see why. In one of Batman’s first scenes, the moment comes across almost as a horror movie as the Dark Knight terrorizes the criminals. There are shrieks in a dark building, Batman clinging to a wall like a monster, and other scary stuff. Jason from “Friday the 13th” might have felt at home in the scene. That’s cool for adult fans, but disappointing to anyone that wants to take young children to a Batman movie. I guess they’ll have to wait for The LEGO Batman Movie. But the opening scene between Clark and Lois features her having a long conversation with him while she’s naked in the bathtub. Again, great for adults but awkward for anyone bringing younger kids to the theater. Anyway, heed the PG-13 warning.
The Bottom Line:
Walking out of the theater after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I felt a bit let down, but more excited to see what’s ahead for Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and the upcoming Justice League movie. So it was a shame that I wasn’t more excited about what I just saw. I also bought tickets for two screenings this weekend and I’m honestly regretting it. I don’t want to see it twice more, much less once more. But is it worth seeing on the big screen? Absolutely. Definitely check it out in theaters with an enthusiastic audience and judge for yourself.[Gallery not found]