STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Michael Cassidy, Patrick Wilson, Robin Atkin Downes, Harry Lennix, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Carla Cugino, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot
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.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice takes place after the events of the showdown between Superman and General Zod in Metropolis, where humanity is divided on how they see Superman’s place in the world. Some see him as a symbol of hope while others view him as a threat to humanity. One such person that sees him as a threat is Bruce Wayne, an alien who has the power to wipe out the entire human race that goes unchecked and dons his mask and cape to prepare to taken on the Son of Krypton.
With the spoiler free review out of the way and after just coming back from my second viewing at the cinema, I’ve decided to go into depth with a spoiler filled review of my thoughts on Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Obviously I’ll be going over some of the things I enjoyed in the film (which exist) and some of the things that I didn’t like (oh they exist too).
The films introduces us to the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents for the millionth time to give a brief for those that are unaware of little Bruce’s origins before giving us a rather thrilling sequence set during the Man of Steel attack on Metropolis from the World Engine and the bout between Superman and General Zod from Bruce Wayne’s point of view. It’s action packed, showing Bruce Wayne trying to get to the Wayne Enterprises office situated in the heart of Metropolis and save lives, the thing that people had a go at Superman for doing a lack of such a thing in Man of Steel’s final act. We get instantly Bruce’s motives for looking to take down Superman as he witnesses the building collapse, killing many, helping pull out a survivor and save a little girl, who now happens to be orphaned as her mother died in the wreckage. Cue Bruce Wayne’s daggers look to the sky as Superman and General Zod continue to battle in the sky.
From then after that scene for the first hour (estimated duration) until the Congressional Hearing at the U.S Capitol when Superman arrives, it just feels like scene cutting to scene without progression of the story to bring the few threads into a complete package. For example, Superman saves Lois out in Africa whilst her photographer out there is assassinated when he’s discovered to be working for the CIA (the fact that it turns out that the photographer was Jimmy Olsen slightly irritates me more that such a character is given a literal throwaway appearance but that’s just my opinion), and a group of men are gunned down by fellow mercenaries and somehow all these deaths are put upon Superman’s shoulders. Basically the more you think about that scene and its aftermath, it makes no bloody sense as to how this makes Superman responsible at the Congressional hearing for one key reason…they were killed by BULLETS! Then there comes the side-plot of Lex Luthor trying to get US Senator June Finch on side for a while in trying to get a import permit for the chunk of kryptonite but to inevitably sneak it on into Metropolis anyways and blow up the Senator and hundreds more in the US Capitol?
The second half of the film definitely feels more structured when it focuses on the story, but looses that slightly due to throwing in the Justice League cameos which didn’t work for me in terms of where it was placed and few little things that make that scene more unintentionally funny, such as The Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg already have their logos in the files about them. We get the Batman and Superman showdown which lived up to expectations for me and surprised that it gave us a definitive winner from the scrap, then it gives us the ‘Martha’ sequence which in theory makes sense as to how Bruce finally sees that Superman is more than what he figured him out to be (constantly referring to him as an alien and It as he constantly becomes obsessed with his mission to take down this unstoppable figure) as someone who has a mother, a girlfriend etc. and you can see this emotion going through Bruce’s face before he tosses the kryptonite spear away. Unfortunately it’ll still come across as a weak resolution however as to how the two eventually team up for a good few people (leading to the BVS/Step Brothers memes floating around). More unfortunate however is when it comes to the big team up against Doomsday, Batman mostly has to take a backseat or endless amounts of cover or else he’ll be disintegrated by Doomsday’s shockwaves so it’s mostly Superman and Wonder Woman going toe to toe with him, though Batman does get a dig in the battle.
The characterisation of Batman in this film is one that I definitely enjoyed, especially when it comes to the key fight sequence in saving Martha Kent in the warehouse. That fight is the Batman that I’ve been waiting to see on screen for years, the bruiser that can actually move in his suit, to using the grapple hook to launch a crate at a gunman….it just worked so much for me. While some will say that Batman has crossed over the line in how he deals with criminals etc. due to the appearance of a literal God in Superman on the scene, but I reckon it’ll be the death of Jason Todd (as nodded to with the Robin suit that we see for a few seconds) that is what causes him to break his one rule…killing. Granted, Batman killing (or letting enemies die…hey Ra’s!) on the big screen is hardly new but it’s never more blatant here as he guns done a few in cars in a chase sequence here and it reveals the fact that when he ‘brands’ a criminal, it’s the equivalent of a death sentence in prison. Whether this means they’re killed because they ‘talked’ to Batman or if Batman brands them in order for someone in prison that he’s got on his side is never really explained but it’s a hellbent version of the character that I buy (‘Twenty years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stay that way?’) though I will definitely understand how it’ll piss a group of fans off. Ben Affleck is great in the Batman role and how he delivers some of the lines, particularly the monologue with Jeremy Irons about going after Superman, though his Bruce Wayne persona may take a while to get used to due to the fact I still see Affleck as Affleck onscreen.
Henry Cavill is great for the part of Superman….it’s just not the Superman that people are used to seeing. Clark Kent is a far cry from the boy scout we’ve known before as he proclaims at one point to Lois that he ‘doesn’t care’ what people think (mainly addressed about those at the Congressional hearing I’m sure, but that’s not what it comes across as) to ‘nobody stays good in this world’ line later when he explains to Lois that he must get Batman to help him save his mother or kill him. It leads the character to remain in a grey funk after the effects of Man of Steel, still trying to figure out his place amongst the world and what he must stand for. Unfortunately it leaves Cavill with some material that’s rather weak to deal with in comparison to Affleck and rarely show more than one range of emotion. Granted, the emotion right in the aftermath of the US Capitol explosion I felt worked better for me on second viewing as he feels like he should’ve noticed it regardless (Superhero must blame himself for everything 101). Then we have the re-mergence of Pa Kent in a vision of Clark’s in a snowy mountain (as you do) telling him a story of saving the farm from a flood and getting some ‘hero cake’…while on down the road a bunch of horses drown. I’m unclear as whether this is his father figure trying to tell him that regardless of the good he does, such as save someone and somewhere else someone will die at the same time, though Ma Kent doesn’t help matters with having the line of ‘You don’t owe this world a thing’ as in they should be grateful for your little deeds….which we actually get a small montage of eventually placed in the film. Personally I would have liked also if he done some of these saving deeds in the final battle with Doomsday, actually keeping him at bay from reaching the public domain to get them back on side after some believe that he may have been involved in the US Capitol explosion and to make his death more impact amongst the public perception of him as a hero of the people, that’s my view. As a character Superman never really appealed to me the same way that Batman does and it’s difficult to make him relatable due to his powers but they’ve tried to give him more human emotion since Man of Steel and personally for me I don’t think it’s paying off well.
Now we come to Lex Luthor. For decades I’ve grown up on the vision of Lex Luthor being a CEO type who can charm anyone (ANYONE!) whilst hiding his sinister intentions underneath. That is why this mad scientist turned CEO version of Lex Luthor portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg is just something I can’t get into though Eisenberg does well in a few scenes here when he’s not stuttering monologues (purposely of course) or making Jim Carrey-esque noises. It’s so different from what I’m used to that I don’t think mentally I can accept this version of Lex, though he still has the egotistical trait and always appears one step ahead of our heroes though never really explained in terms of how in the overall scheme of things (though that comes down to the script issues). The scene when he’s on the helipad with Superman I thought Eisenberg shined in that and gave me a glimmer of hope in buying into the character in future (ding ding ding ding-ism scene aside).
The supporting characters are well performed, with Gal Gadot the one that gets to shine the most out of them, making me very intrigued to see how the Wonder Woman film will play out on the big screen. Amy Adams is perfect for the role of Lois Lane though unfortunately the character is made from damsel in distress material in which Superman must bail her out at least three times that it’s no wonder she’ll be in this predicament forever in future instalments. Laurence Fishburne gets more screen time and lines as Perry White and actually liked him as the character moreso here than in Man of Steel. Jeremy Irons, though underused, is a great Alfred and I couldn’t help but grin at his hopelessly talking about his hopes of Bruce settling down or even having a young Wayne to inherit the family legacy (minus Bruce’s Batman one). Scoot McNairy does well as Wallace Keefe who loses his legs in the Metropolis attack and unfortunately for him becomes a pawn in Lex’s grand scheme. The film is well shot and at times it is visually great to look that before in my mind it becomes bloated with CGI in the fight against Doomsday (I did find it amusing though that when Doomsday and Superman are nuked, he lands in a spot that is inhabitable and when Batman takes him to the docks to pick up the kryptonite spear, it happens to be a dock that is abandoned….no squatters at all in these areas?), certain scenes definitely could’ve been shifted about in the editing board to make the film flow better for the first half of the film as some scenes that are add-ons to particular plot points don’t resurface until 20-30 minutes later (Lois meets Secretary Calvin Swanwick to talk about a bullet from her attack in Africa….twenty minutes later they meet again for Lois to hand him the bullet for example).
One particular sequence that I liked in the whole film was the nightmare (Knightmare?) scene with Bruce waking up in a world that happens to be taken over by Darkseid (Omega Symbol in the distance) and Superman has gone evil due to losing Lois Lane because of Batman. It’s a crazy sequence in which we even see Parademons and at the end get an appearance from The Flash after Bruce wakes up to warn him that ‘Lois is the key’ and that he was ‘right about him’ and to ‘come find us’. Does the scene work within the timeframe its put in at however? In my opinion, no. Would it have worked better as an after credit sequence? Absolutely! Though to be fare it makes sense now with this version of Superman and from this Knightmare sequence that a possible Injustice storyline will be tackled in the future which….I don’t think I’m ready for but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Despite picking out negatives in terms of how the film is plotted as well as how it is edited, I managed to enjoy the film moreso on second viewing mainly because for me the films bright sparks out way the bad. It’s big, heavily referencing comic lore and bloated with so much universe building yet I enjoyed Affleck’s version of Batman, the fight sequence between Batman and Superman and thankfully Wonder Woman has a great introduction into the DC film Universe. It’s decent but flawed. 5/10