Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.
Directed by Zack Snyder, the over 2 hours 30 minute Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice feels like a patchwork of ideas mashed together into a film that works on some levels and fails on others. Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer share writing credits and the film feels like moments geared towards comic fans in a sequel of a movie for a film trilogy that hasn’t happened yet. The film feels like we missed something, an interesting twist to comic films that both works and fails here.
The plot is in some ways good and bad. Integrating the events of Man of Steel perfectly, the film sets up why Batman would distrust Superman and why the world would be mixed in their trust of a god like being without a check in place. In comes Lex Luthor, a tech giant channeling a mix of the Joker and X-Men villain Arcade in a new take on the character. Luthor wants to create a deterrence, and if the film left it at these three it’d be a much stronger narrative, but it also mixes in Senate hearings, plots to setup Superman by Luthor, some kidnappings and eventually Wonder Woman and Doomsday. The film could have easily been two films, a criticism of The Dark Knight, another film Goyer had a hand in the story. You can feel Terrio’s hand in the political and moral aspects of the film. He worked with Affleck in the solid film Argo.
The film attempts to do too much, but with Snyder’s name attached, subtlety isn’t something we should expect. The film is not just a battle between Batman and Superman, but also an assault on the sense, both visual and audio. While many crap on Snyder’s style, I enjoy the look of his films, he can set up over the top action and deliver in empty battle. Where Snyder fails here is creating a greater visual contrast between Batman and Superman, the light and the dark. While that theme is discussed over and over in dialogue, we don’t see it visually, a missed opportunity and the director’s biggest fail in the film.
When it comes to the actors, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot steal the show. Due to the screen time and focus of the film, the movie feels more like a sequel to an Affleck Batman film instead of the follow up to Man of Steel. Affleck’s Batman is excellent as a mix of scary boogeyman and an actual detective who is weary, tired, and grizzled after 20 years of fighting crime. Irons Alfred is a voice of reason and mechanic who sees the weight on Bruce’s shoulders. As I stated Eisenberg is a different take on Lex Luthor, a crazy genius. And finally Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is mysterious until the end of the film where Wonder Woman really makes her presence known and in many ways saves the day. I’ll admit seeing Wonder Woman on the big screen kicking ass put a massive smile on my face and gave me warm fuzzies inside. She’s the most surprising part of the film. But is not all great. Her introduction to Bruce is rather flimsy, it’s not until she dons her costume does Gadot work, and it’s hard to not cheer as she throws out her lasso.
Where the film fails is many of the holdovers from Man of Steel. Henry Cavill as Clark Kent only looks pensive, never once smiling. That lack of emotion, he’s almost a walking Blue Steel, creates a lack of chemistry with Amy Adams‘ Lois Lane. Adams, along with Diane Lane as Martha Kent, are woefully underused and play the damsels in distress too much.
But the film is really about what’s to come, an ambitious slate of films that’ll introduce us to the massive DC Universe on the big screen. It’s no spoiler to say we are introduced to many including the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, and much is teased as to what’s to come. Comic fans will be explaining all of this to their non-comic reading friends for weeks. And while some of those introductions are cool, the flashes to the future to come is a massive fail in many ways.
Then there’s also…. well that’s a spoiler… but my 90s comic reading teen self had flashbacks.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a missed opportunity in many ways, but it also has a lot on its shoulders and sets up what looks to be a possibly exciting future when it comes to DC Comics’ movie universe.
Overall Rating: 6.65