Article by: James Kidd
In a time of explosion-filled action blockbusters that rely more on nostalgia than anything else, Warner Brothers and director Zack Snyder decided to do the unthinkable: combine two of the most well-known superheroes in history in a single movie and make it more akin to an art house film than your typical Marvel fare. Not only does this tactic work much better than it would at first glance (as well as addressing almost every criticism of Man of Steel), it actually leads to what is one of the best comic book movies in recent memory.
Starting off with a quick recap of Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) descent into becoming the Dark Knight himself, Batman v Superman wastes no time showing why the two titans would have to face off in battle: Bruce desperately races to save his employees from the wrath of Superman and General Zod from 2012’s Man of Steel. Definitely taking inspiration from terror attacks like 9/11, Wayne’s motivations are instantly clear: Superman, as well as anyone like him, are threats to Earth and must be stopped before another event like Metropolis happens again.
On the other side of the coin, Superman (Henry Cavill) isn’t too happy about all the destruction that he caused either, going out of his way to save the day in hope that he might make it up to the world he tries to protect. The world itself is naturally cautious of this god-like figure, some worshiping him and others hating him with a burning passion, employing the likes of the sociopathic Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenburg) to create kryptonite weaponry to take out Superman when necessary. After being falsely blamed for more attacks throughout the movie, Superman begins to question if he really is the one who should be defending the planet after all.
With the writer of the poorly penned Man of Steel out of the picture, new screenwriter Chris Terrio, who won an Oscar for his Argo screenplay, took over writing Dawn of Justice, and it absolutely shows. The dialogue and plot flows much better here than in the former, with the story being a satisfying superhero plot while addressing many of the issues from Man of Steel.
However, the most surprising aspect of the plot is the quieter nature of it. Almost all of the action, as well as the advertised fight between Batman and Superman, is saved for the last thirty minutes. This might disappoint fans expecting an action-packed summer blockbuster, but is also certainly a draw for people who are becoming tired of the cookie cutter nature of Marvel’s recent films. The film very much acts like a character study of the two heroes’ beliefs and internal make-up, which then makes the big battle more of a philosophical one than physical.
The cast (or at least many of them) bring their A-game here, which was actually quite the surprise. Affleck puts to shame anyone who had doubts about his casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman, knocking it out of the park in the role. Cavill improves upon his Superman character, showing genuine emotion when coming to terms with himself. Both Lawrence Fishburne and Jeremy Irons, who play Daily Planet editor Perry White and the Wayne family butler respectively, also bring a great dose of humor and laughs in their supporting roles, proving that the DC universe isn’t all grim and dark. Then, of course, the ladies of the film serve an even more important role. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane has much more character and screen time than in Man of Steel, and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is pivotal in the final fight against Doomsday.
Like many have expected, the one character who feels woefully out of place is Eisenburg’s Lex. While his acting is entertaining and multilayered, it just isn’t the Lex Luthor that everyone has gotten used to by now from the comic books and animated series. His manic energy and sociopathic tendencies screamed something more along the lines of The Riddler or some other deranged Batman villain.
There are a few aspects that hurt Batman v Superman. Perhaps the biggest is the way-too-long runtime. Zack Snyder already announced a three hour directors cut, so there really isn’t a reason for all the excess scenes that drag out the movie so much. There are also a few story points that don’t make much sense, like why Luthor wanted to pit the two heroes against each other in the first place, or why Batman and Superman inevitably decide to team up. Also, there’s this one tiny thing that will probably be a very big deal breaker for many fans — Batman kills. He kills a lot. While the (presumably) grisly aftermath is not shown and the movie doesn’t come out and say it, when the Batmobile smashes into a van filled with gang members and said car explodes, there is no way you can convince anyone that those people would survive.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is quite the anomaly, especially in today’s movie climate. It seems rather bold of Warner Brothers to make a movie this big and take it in a very new direction (nearing rated-R land, undoubtedly due to the success of Deadpool), but thankfully it works … for the most part. The film will surely be a controversial one depending on the audience’s tastes and expectations. Despite that, Dawn of Justice has already cemented itself as one of the most interesting and entertaining movie experiences I’ve had in quite a while, and the kind of abnormality that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of.