Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.
There is content some would consider spoilers below. You have been warned.
I want to preface with the review with some personal thoughts. This has been one of the most difficult reviews for me to write. My feelings toward this film sway from utter disappointment to pleasantly surprised. Few films encourage this strong of a response from me and that alone is a testament to the characters, film makers, and quality of this movie. That being said, here’s my overall assessment of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
A brand new interpretation of Batman makes his debut in this movie and he looks awesome. Superman is essentially an evolution of who we were previously introduced to in Man of steel. There are moments within Batman V Superman in which it’s easy to appreciate the edgier approach to the heroes as they showcase an aggressiveness not typically seen in superhero movies. As a comic fan I appreciate the cues taken from Frank Miller and Jim Lee with the versions of these characters introduced. It’s a dramatic and bold change compared to what we’ve seen in previous movies.
The costumes and design for the heroes, locations, and vehicles all look pretty awesome with Batman’s new mask being the biggest triumph and my personal favorite. The Superman and Wonder Woman costumes also look pretty good but it seems like Batman received the most attention from the art department. The Batcave and Batmobile both look amazing and the design choices are inspiring for them both. The new Batcave seems like both a combination and evolution of all the previous incarnations of the cave seen in prior films and the same can be said of the Batmobile. The overall waterfalls are straight out of the Christopher Nolan era while the computer area seems like an upgraded version of the Tim Burton design. Batman’s car has some clear inspirational cues from the Tumbler and also reminds me of the Tim Burton Batmobile as well.
The acting in this movie is mostly pretty good. Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Amy Adams and more really delivered some solid performances which is vital for a movie takes itself so seriously. Seeing the new Batman and Alfred’s banter and chemistry seemed spot on considering Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons had some daunting shoes to fill following Christian Bale and Michael Caine. The acting by the supporting cast is pretty strong too with Amy Adams, Diane lane and Laurence Fishburne all maintaining the tone throughout the film.
If you are one of the many folks who theorize that Lex Luthor somehow manipulates Batman and Superman into fighting one another then I’m willing to tell you that you’re absolutely right. His plan is actually pretty layered to set up the fight between Batman and Superman and is worthy of being associated of his character. His machinations are pervasive throughout the movie and you don’t fully understand or appreciate how much Lex is in control until the latter half of the movie. Nothing happens unless Lex Luthor has permitted it to happen and hindsight slowly reveals the depth of his manipulations with our heroes.
The action sequences with Batman are top notch with each of his appearances in costume a thrill the behold. Batman moves like a demon possessed in this film and there are moments in which the movie genuinely borders on horror/suspense with his movements The fluidity of his character as he skulks through the shadows is downright supernatural which is one of the most pleasurable sights in the movie. There’s a scene in which Batman takes on a room full of thugs that can be dissected, analyzed, and taught on how super hero action scenes can be done without super powers.
The story moves a little too fast. The movie picks up well after the Man of Steel movie with Clark and Lois well into a relationship that didn’t exist when last seen and their lack of on screen chemistry reflects this. It’s tough to accept scenes in which these two interact as everything seems forced and abrupt. There are only a handful of scenes of intimacy between Clark and Lois but they all feel a bit awkward as there’s supposed to be a deep bond shared between them that’s never developed in front of the audience and the lack of chemistry between Cavill and Adams is noticeable.
A lot of scenes are short in length and the film moves along from scene to scene in order to move the story along quickly which bothered me. There are more than a handful of scenes and moments that can be clocked at 2 minutes or less and there are times where I felt the movie would have benefited from slowing down and giving some scenes a bit more time to develop organically.
The fight between Batman and Superman seemed too short for the main event billed in the title. I wanted this fight to drag out a lot longer with both Batman and Superman trading the upper hand frequently but this didn’t happen leaving me disappointment. I would have liked to see more of Batman’s intelligence on display in this fight rather than his fighting skill as he’s characteristically a tactical genius and although there are some moments that hint at this skill these moments are far too few. As soon as the fight really began to pick up steam it also ended somewhat quickly with Batman and Superman shifting attention away from each other and instead toward a bigger threat…
Having seen Doomsday in one of the trailers it somewhat diminished the appeal of seeing the character in the actual film. The trailer debut was a mistake and his cinematic debut would have made a much bigger impact if it had stayed a secret and I ended up not caring for his fight with Superman. The cinematic Superman is still very much an inexperienced hero who doesn’t have the skill to properly hold his own against Doomsday on his own and his inexperience diminishes when the appreciation considering how popular this fight was in comics. I wanted to see more of Doomsday overwhelming Superman but the movie shied away from taking advantage of the opportunity of showcasing a Superman that’s physically overwhelmed. Superman vs Doomsday has some powerful iconography associated with the fight with Superman’s costume becoming tattered and Superman being heavily bruised due to the sheer strength of Doomsday. In BvS Superman doesn’t even so much as get a black eye or a bloody nose in this fight.
The fight between Doomsday and Wonder Woman was pretty cool and while I think Gal Gadot looks wonderful in the costume I never truly got the feeling she was ‘right’ in the role. Maybe she needs more time with the character, maybe there needs to be more focus on the physicality (as she seemed excellent in the action scenes), Maybe she just needs needs a little more muscle. Whatever “it” is it’s missing and left me unsatisfied with her debut. I cringed for her every time there was a scene in which she had dialogue and hoped for those rapid cuts to move passed her scenes.
The overall writing hurts this movie. A lot. There are scenes that move along faster than a speeding bullet and others where our heroes deal out execution sentences stronger than a locomotive. I get that this is a different Batman and Superman but I don’t very much like them. Lex Luthor shows no motive for why he’s a dick in this movie other than some brief lines about an abusive parent or something. Batman and Superman reconcile immediately after Batman nearly kills Superman because their mothers share the same first name. The dream sequences, while sort of make sense, are distracting for the narrative of this particular movie in order to launch the cinematic universe. This also makes it tough to comprehend those ideas and plot points that are either glossed over or shoehorned into this movie.
This may not be a likable film for many fans. Fans of the cartoons, fans of the comics, fans of any interpretation of these characters not directed by Zack Snyder. Batman snaps necks and uses guns, tortures criminals for information, and comes exceptionally close to killing Superman. Superman doesn’t mind crushing people through concrete walls. The brutality and lack of regard for human life in the title characters may disappoint fans wanting different. Neither character seems to have too much hope in humanity as Batman is worn from being Batman for over 20 years and Superman is losing faith in humanity because he scares the crap out of world leaders.
Lex Luthor is missing that arrogance and bravado that is typically synonymous with his character. The lack of Lex arrogance is heartbreaking and made me feel that Jesse Eisenberg would be a great villain if only he didn’t have the name Lex Luthor. I think he acted the role well I just don’t care for the ‘character’ that was created to represent Lex Luthor, but he’s not the only character who suffered. Henry Cavill suffered at the hands of the writers in this film as well, both as Clark Kent and as Superman. Cavill was incredibly stoic and detached with him seeming very stiff and somewhat detached from everyone else in the film. This may have been by design in order to reflect just how ‘Alien’ Superman may feel on Earth but this distance from him came off as if he was simply aloof. Amy Adams was also a detraction in this movie. Again, I think her overall performance was serviceable however she was a repeat “damsel in distress” offender in this movie making her on screen appearances dreadful. I knew whenever she was on screen something was about to get screwed up to put our heroes in a predicament.
I personally didn’t like this movie and I find myself disappointed. I set expectations low but still left this movie unhappy with the character treatment. I understand how some people may not be bothered by a Superman and Batman that do not adhere to my desires and expectations but there were changes to these characters that I find unacceptable. I want a 20 year experienced Batman to be a bit smarter than he was in this movie. BvS gave us a Batman who can get manipulated into trying to kill Superman with little effort. I want a Batman who knows he’s being played and out manipulates the person trying to control him. I also wanted a loving Superman who genuinely cares about human life. The kind of hero who wouldn’t agree to kill someone because he’s getting blackmailed personally.
I also didn’t like the passive attention and time devoted to both the title fight as well as the fight between Superman and Doomsday. This wasn’t the all out intimate war between the two that I hoped for. I don’t think I care for the darker and edgier DC that’s within their cinematic universe. I get it, but I don’t really want a Batman who uses a gun or a Superman who’s only ho-hum about saving lives. I especially don’t care for a Batman and Superman who are ready and willing to kill when deemed necessary. The body count incurred by the two title heroes is greater than 1 which is 1 too many for the Superman and Batman that I want. Thus, I’m no longer interested in the DC Cinematic future and have revised my outlook to simply ‘Curious’.