In our review of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice we find a movie that’s definitely worth seeing but still leaves you wishing they had managed to do more…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
If there was one underlying thought that kept reverberating in my brain after leaving the theater from seeing Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice it was this — an enjoyable movie going experience that felt like it could have been better.
The highly anticipated movie three years in the making finally lands in theaters nationwide on Friday pitting Batman against Superman while also getting our first ever look at a big screen Wonder Woman.
It was clear from the first trailer that debuted for the movie that director Zack Snyder was packing a lot into this ambitious venture that comes just a few years after “Man of Steel” debuted to a majority of so-so reviews.
While the title of the movie seems to explain that Batman will battle Superman, Snyder manages to throw in a dozen other characters and plot points that really seem to draw away from the central focus while making a muddied mess of the overall story. Add to that a slew of unnecessary dream sequences and back story being told for the wrong characters while failing to explore/explain others makes the movie a little hard to follow at moments.
It’s not enough to ruin the popcorn fun of seeing Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on screen together, but in many ways it feels like Snyder and the folks at Warner Bros. were trying to rush to an eventual Justice League movie rather than putting puzzle pieces together like their friends at Marvel did over several years before finally unleashing The Avengers.
The movie picks up 18 months after Superman battled Zod in an all out war in the skies above Metropolis that cost countless innocent bystanders their lives amid the chaos. Among the people watching the fight unfold was Bruce Wayne, who drove into the warzone while trying to save his own employees stuck in a burning building at Wayne Financial. The trailers for the movie seemed to reveal all of this months ago but essentially Bruce clutches onto a little girl who clearly lost her mother while two aliens punch each other senseless rather than worry about the collateral damage below.
Since that time, Superman has been revered to an almost God like status among the people while saving lives across the globe. Of course he has more than his fair share of detractors — among them a skeptical senator from Kentucky (played by Holly Hunter) and a maniacal genius named Lex Luthor, who ultimately plays the conductor to the orchestra of destruction that unfolds between Batman and Superman.
As for Batman, he’s been patrolling the gutters and alleyways in Gotham City for 20 years but for all the ways he’s held in high esteem amongst cops as a necessary vigilante in one place, he’s virtually unknown in Metropolis, which is just minutes away in this version of the DC Universe. Somehow it’s only in this movie when Superman discovers the Batman yet he’s been a stalwart in Gotham the entire time. On the flipside, Batman has been quietly investigating Superman ever since the battle with Zod and he’s not letting up until he knows for certain if this “Man of Steel” is someone who can be trusted or just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
And then there’s Lex Luthor, who is the primary antagonist in the movie and by the end of this film you’ll both love and hate the character. Luthor not only distrusts Superman but he believes the rest of the world should, too, so he’s doing everything in his power to tear down the “Man of Steel” in the eyes of the public. His sinister plan involves making everybody else in the world turn on Superman so when he finally unveils his plot to destroy him, he’ll be treated like a conquering hero rather than a megalomaniac with a God complex of his own.
All three of those parts mesh together rather sloppily over the course of the movie but each individual piece actually works well, it’s just bringing them together than comes up short time after time.
For all the fan boys and girls who had their pitchforks out on the day Ben Affleck was cast as Batman, you can put them away because he’s definitely done his homework to make this the best Dark Knight he could be. Affleck plays brooding and dark like nobody’s business and really that’s the Bruce Wayne/Batman most people know from the comic book world. Affleck plays the character with a seriously grim outlook on the world and if anything his portrayal of Batman made me truly excited to see what he could do in a solo film while butting heads with a villain like The Riddler or even a play on the famous Hush storyline.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was the other big concern going into the movie and honestly there’s a hung jury as far as his performance goes. He’s great at playing the boy genius with far too much power at his disposal, but Eisenberg struggles to carry the gravitas to stand shoulder to shoulder with Affleck or Cavill on screen. It’s part of the fundamental reason why I always believed Luthor should have been casted with a slightly older actor, who could play the part as a seasoned villain rather than a Red Bull chugging, programmer who got lost in Metropolis while on his way to Silicon Valley.
Gal Gadot does an admirable job as Wonder Woman and the anticipation for her solo movie is only that much greater after her brief appearance in this film. The moment she’s finally unveiled as Wonder Woman is definitely the biggest jaw dropping scene of the entire film. Maybe DC should have considered giving her a movie long before now? What do you think?
The returning cast from Man of Steel is on point although Amy Adams gets an unusually large amount of screen time as Lois Lane while seemingly taking away a lot of the bigger moments that could have been spared for Superman but alas that’s a minor detail in the grand scheme of things.
Directing and Writing
Every director has their own way of making movies and you can definitely tell that Batman V. Superman is a Zack Snyder feature. If you liked The Watchmen, Suckerpunch and 300, then you’re going to love the look of this movie. If you didn’t particularly enjoy the visuals of those films, then the same will probably be said for Batman V. Superman.
Writing wise, Chris Terrio and David Goyer do a good enough job with the story although it takes an unusually long amount of time to finally bring all the lead characters into the same atmosphere together. The other key problem was a concern many fans had when the details about this movie started being revealed — there’s a lot going on, a lot to explain and maybe too much happening to really fit in one movie.
Nobody was wrong with that assessment going in because it felt like Batman V. Superman could have easily been 90 minutes long with what we actually learned in this movie when in reality the details that were missing should have filled out three hours or more.
What’s Wrong with the Movie?
There’s plenty to complain about when it comes to Batman V. Superman but that still doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie once you sift through the plot holes and overt mashing together of too many characters in one film.
Batman’s distrust of Superman is explained in graphic detail just by watching him jump into the disaster that happened when he first arrived on the planet and got into a full on braw with another Kryptonian that ripped down skyscrapers leaving hundreds dead in Metropolis. But rather than allow Batman to immediately go after Superman, it takes an impossibly long time before they finally interact.
Meanwhile, Superman is treated like a hero by some, a false God by others but it really felt like he could have easily gone up against Lex Luthor as his primary antagonist in this sequel rather than tossing Batman into the mix for no other reason than it’s cool to see the two heroes together in one movie.
It’s an abundance of minor miscues that add up over the course of the movie that should have been weeded out before the final product was delivered to audiences across the world.
If it appears that I’m giving Batman V. Superman a thumbs down, that’s really not the case.
If anything, watching the current film in theaters now only makes me anticipate the ‘R’ rated version that will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray later this year that much more. Because there was so much packed into a two and a half hour long run time, it felt like this film could have easily been split in half with a pair of two-hour movies that ultimately would have played better back to back rather than all mashed together.
The biggest takeaway is that DC and Warner Bros. are in such a rush to catch up to Marvel that they left a lot on the table that could have been useful in a movie like this. Rather than explore the individual parts before bringing them all together, DC wants their Justice League movie sooner instead of later and the result is a movie that feels dangerously like a prequel tease more than the ultimate gladiator match that was promised.
Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice gets 3 out of 5 on the Skolnick scale