It’s been a little over two weeks since its release, so I think it’s fair to finally talk about it. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was created with the goal of making us DC fans bust a collective nut at finally seeing Batman and Superman on-screen together. The technology and budgets have finally aligned to grant this wish, but it begs the questions, “where is a towel,” and more importantly, “Is this the Batman/Superman crossover that we’ve been waiting for?”
WARNING!!! Now before I go any further, I will probably spoil a lot of this movie. Like…a staggering amount. The kind of stuff that if I told you two weeks ago, by internet law you would have the right to remove a pinky Yakuza style. I’m exaggerating, but if you are worried about spoilers, please wait before reading this review. My personal, spoiler-free recommendation is to catch a matinee, grab a bite before (this movie is quite long), and to leave after the credits begin…there will not be any post-credit sequence. Affleck is awesome as Batman and Wayne, the action is great, and despite a disjointed story, is still a fun watch.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is DC’s attempt at launching a movie universe similar to Marvel with director Zack Snyder at the helm. The plot is very loosely based on Frank Millar’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Side note, I highly recommend reading this book or watching the animated movie. It is an awesome read and a great watch for any DC or comic book fan, but I digress. Oddly enough, this begins shortly after if not concurrently with 2013’s Man of Steel, another Zack Snyder joint. This is important to remember as it sets the tone for his future movies in this franchise. I mentioned the source material as the timelines and motivations are drastically different between the two works. I’ll have a separate post up soon about the differences between the live-action and animated films, but let’s focus on Dawn of Justice for now. I’ll bring up some of the differences later in this review as well.
Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Ben Affleck) has about fifteen to twenty years of Batmanning under his utility belt and Superman/Clark Kent (played by Henry Cavill) is brand new on the scene. The first time we see Bruce is him in Metropolis rushing towards a Wayne Company office to evacuate(?) his employees and to save whoever he can during the end of Man of Steel. He actually witnesses Superman and Zod (played by Michael Shannon) fighting is the air and wrecking his tower. Seeing the loss of life and his inability to do anything in the face of this god sends him in a rage and motivates him to begin working on taking him down. Now when I say “taking him down,” I mean killing him because Batman kills THE FUCK out of dudes in this movie. I don’t mean he reached out to grab a criminal and missed, I don’t mean he dropped a smoke bomb and the flash startled someone off a rooftop, and I don’t mean that he throws a batarang and accidentally hits someone in their carotid. Batman straight up shoots people…like with guns. Granted he doesn’t bring the guns, except for on his vehicles, but he uses the ones he gets off of his foes and without question or remorse gives their bodies some ventilation. Affleck plays what may become my favorite on-screen Batman to date, but I will admit that Batman’s actions aren’t very Batman. They pretty much mixed Batman’s budget with Rorschach and the Punisher. Snyder is depicting a Batman that’s becoming morally bankrupt, older, grizzled, angry, and tortured by too much loss over the years and Affleck nails this. We even see an old Robin suit in a case down in the Batcave covered in a message from the Joker. Forget a Justice League movie; I want to see what put Bruce over the edge and what happened to Robin in this world and shaped the Batman we saw on screen.
While we are on actors, let’s spend a little time on Cavill reprising his role as Superman. There is not much more to say if you saw Man of Steel. He has the build, but he is still kind of a whiny Superman. He puts so much weight on himself depending on what the public thinks of him. He even goes on hiatus for some time after his court hearing. You read me right…Superman goes to court. Thank goodness that everyone has hallucinations in this movie; otherwise, Costner wouldn’t have been able to talk him into donning his cape again. He doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but seeing as it’s kind of a sequel, that shouldn’t really surprise anyone.
One character who definitely did not get the screen time that they deserved was Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). There isn’t much to say about her at all unfortunately since she may have been on screen for a total of fifteen minutes and only five of those involved her speaking. For the little time we did see her, we can infer that she has a love for art and history, a huge stash of cash somewhere, and is a badass. I can only guess that she was there to also serve as a love interest for Bruce, but that is a huge disservice to Wonder Woman’s history. When she does appear in uniform on screen, it reminds you heavy handedly that this is a Zack Snyder film. Everything slows down, the screen goes all sepia toned, and the epic music starts playing. Sound familiar? It does make me want to see her own solo feature length film, so well done Snyder…well done.
Now, I’m about to tear into one actor in particular. Before I do, let’s do a quick rundown of some of the other big names. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) does well in her reprisal. She’s nosy, goes too far for her stories, has her emotional issues, but is strong enough to stand by Superman. Alfred J. Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons) is awesome in the short time he is on screen. He is more active than the Alfreds of movies past, stitching him up, flying the Batwing, and giving advice. He reminds me of the Pennyworth from Batman Forever, but in a good way. He’s also very tongue and cheek about wanting Bruce to settle down and carry on the Wayne name. Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) is done in that he’s trying to sell papers in a world that’s going towards digital media. He’s a real bulldog, but has a lot of trust in his employees.
I do not think that a lot of people realized this when walking in, but Alexander “Lex” Luthor is not in this film. We are instead treated to Lex Luthor Jr. (Jesse Eisenberg). This was a huge change to what I was expecting and kind of made sense for his personality and acting decisions, but it was like seeing Eisenberg play Zuckerberg with a screw loose. When I think of Lex Luthor, I think of the three-piece power suit, broad shoulders, and wide chest, and a kind of arrogance that makes you think, “Fuck you, but he’s wearing a suit so he must know his shit.” There’s a charisma and vision that Lex Luthor has that makes you want to follow him…basically like Mussolini. Lex Jr. starts as the rich, entitled, trust-fund kid that happens to inherit his father’s intellect. As we progress into the movie, we see Jr. becoming less like a Luthor and more like the Riddler. I think Eisenberg would make an awesome Riddler; however, he fails as a Luthor to me. He doesn’t have the pedigree that you want from them and it makes a lot of the scenes with him feel out of place. I understand Snyder’s goal was to update Lex for this generation and to make him more like the millionaires and billionaires that…ugh…millennials (hate that term) would be more familiar with. The last decade thinks Vanderbilt and Rockefeller as what rich looks like; now people are starting to think Jobs and Zuckerberg, but to go and use the same actor from The Social Network is too on the nose; have some subtlety Snyder.
At its heart Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a comic book movie which means action. There are some very nice action scenes in this as well as some that leave you wishing there was more. Batman’s fights, on the ground at least, are very grungy and dirty. He gets real close and personal and there is very little use of any bat-gadget, except for his awesome power suit and red hot knuckle dusters. The Bat-knuckles ™ (that’s what I’m calling them and I call dibs on the trademark) literally brand the criminals he hits with them. This brand marks these criminals and they get jumped, attacked, and even killed in prison. I’m not sure of whether Wayne has some secret mob in prison to kill the ones he doesn’t have time to kill, remember that this Batman kills THE FUCK outta dudes, but I wouldn’t put it pass Snyder. He uses a mix of martial arts to damage and parry oncoming attacks and to steal the guns off of his enemies to, you know, KILL THE FUCK OUT OF THEM! When he gets into a vehicle – Batmobile, Batwing, or the Bat Power suit – he is a force of destruction. The amount of guys he shoots or blows up is weird to see from Batman. There’s no bat themed hook to capture anyone; however, there is a heavy machine gun that tears through trucks and criminals like their wet tissue paper.
Superman is akin to a barroom brawler in a classic western. He never really needed to learn to fight, so he depends heavily on power moves like huge overhead swings or the environment to win. You will see a lot of him pushing people into walls or throwing them across a room. He is the king of the “one-hitter- quitter”. Wonder Woman is a trained Amazon and her fighting, though short, really show this. She uses her shield and bracersto block most incoming attacks before stabbing with her sword. I really dug that she is smiling more during her fight than in the rest of the movie and her theme music is awesome. It was like her subtle way of showing that to know her true self, you need to see her in battle. Also, mad props for fighting in what’s basically a corset.
If you made it this far, first off thanks for hanging in there awesome person; secondly, this is where I’m about to spoil the ending so last chance to stop reading. We find Batman and Superman fighting due to Batman believing that Superman blew up the Supreme Court during his hearing. This was a plot by Lex Jr. to give Batman yet another reason to want to kill him with the huge block of kryptonite that he stole from him. A quick aside, Batman not only steals the rock, but he leaves a batarang in its place like Catwoman would do. Anyway, Superman wants to take him out because Lex has his mom kidnapped and will release her in exchange for Bruce’s head. Oh yes, Jr. figures out the secret identity which isn’t surprising; he’s seen macking on Lois too much as both Clark and Supes. I’d be surprised is Lois had a neighbor that didn’t know she bagged Superman and that he’s Clark Kent.
The fight ends before Batman finishes him off because he mentions his mom’s name which makes him stop just long enough for Lois to beg him to stop. You read this correctly; Batman goes “Wait, your mom’s name is Martha? My mom’s name was Martha. Let’s be buddies.” It’s one of the dumbest moments in the movie and makes you realize why his father calling out for her while dying was so heavy handed at the start of the flick. That’s a pretty anti-climactic until Lex Jr. makes Doomsday. Yes…Lex Jr. mixes his blood and Zod’s body in a Cthulhu/Matrix like pod to create the juggernaut know as Doomsday. How you create a stronger creature by mixing in weaker parts is beyond me, but here we are.
Now we get to some parts that are so off character that I get why it got some mixed reviews. During this fight, Batman actively and intentionally leads Doomsday into Gotham City to retrieve his kryptonite spear. In what world would Batman lead a walking tank into his city and why would Superman not protest at all? I get that Snyder needed a villain menacing enough to bring them all together, including Wonder Woman, but this breaks up the already disjointed plot too much. It becomes a confusing cocktail mixing the beginning of the Justice League, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Death of Superman. This would drive any comic purist up the wall, but if you don’t care about that kind of stuff we can move on. Oh right…Doomsday “kills” Superman. I could go further into this fight, but it was so tacked on and forced near the end that there isn’t much to say. It looks cool and it is worth watching.
I haven’t said much on the story holistically since it has done the miraculous in being both simple and confusing all at once; also, I haven’t written this much even in college. At its most basic level, it breaks down as follows: Superman destroys Metropolis in order to save it, Batman doesn’t trust him, Lex Jr. wants him dead, Bruce steals Lex’s data, Diana steals stolen data, Superman gets set up by Jr., Supreme Court goes boom, Batman steals kryptonite, Lex makes them fight, Doomsday shows up, he kills Superman, and Batman and Wonder Woman talk about gathering super beings at one of his funerals. The plot itself is “simple” but then Snyder has weird stuff in this that is supposed to make you ask questions. We see Batman in a weird Mad Max style world buying Kryptonite, but it’s really a trap set by Superman’s army? Then he wakes up before getting toasted with eye lasers which makes you think he’s dreaming. He may not be dreaming since the Flash shows up from the future(?) to tell him that Superman is dangerous “if she dies”? He is trying to build a universe for DC, but slow down on the future and alternate dimension stuff.
Where Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice falls short in its plot, it
more than makes up for it with its over-the-top action scenes, effects, and Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman. It’s a bit disappointing as a fan because it had the potential for so much more story-wise. There is still a plan to continue with the DC extended universe; if you plan to catch more of these, do yourself a favor and give this a watch before they start churning out more in the franchise.
Life Lessons from Mal:
- Bat-Fleck is bad ass
- Lex Luther Jr…just why?
- Look forward to the Snyder-less Wonder Woman movie
- Wear earplugs in Metropolis because Superman flies of fast as hell and should probably be bursting eardrums.
- Super being + Human being = Ultra Being because reasons.