MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD: READ AT YOUR OWN CAUTION!
Well, here it is. I remember when Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was first announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, the reveal of a logo, footage at the following Comic-Con, title announcements, teaser images, and, in April 2015, our first teaser trailer. Aside from maybe Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I can safely say that I have never been quite so excited for a film. When negative reviews began pouring in, my expectations definitely dipped, but controversial opinion incoming: I loved every second of it.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice picks up a year and a half after Metropolis is ravaged in the fight between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon), an act which infuriates billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and his alter ego, Batman. Through the manipulation of unhinged philanthropist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel come to blows, but when a bigger threat arises, they must join forces, and with the help of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) restore peace to the world.
Before we get into the review, I should say is that I am a huge Batman fan. The Dark Knight is comfortably my favourite film of all time, and I absolutely lap up everything Batman-related that I can get my hands on. Because of this, my interpretation may be more from the perspective of a fan than reviewer in this case.
First and foremost I’d like to talk about the performances in the film. Based on the trailers and promotional materials released, it was Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman that I was most excited for, and it fills me with joy to say he didn’t disappoint. His performance as Bruce Wanye is perfect, with a wondrous blend of billionaire playboy and the tortured, damaged orphan that ends up donning the cape and cowl. And when he’s in the Batman suit, it’s mesmerising: this is easily the best cinematic Batman I’ve ever seen. From his witty interplay with Jeremy Irons’ Alfred, his brutal fighting style or the pent-up rage inside of him, this is the most comic-accurate Caped Crusader we’ve seen so far, and my favourite by quite a lot.Yes, I absolutely adore Christian Bale’s take on the character, aside from a lack of depth due to a poor screenplay, Affleck does surpass this as the most comic-accurate take yet. Next up is Henry Cavill as Superman, a much darker portrayal than we’ve seen before, but an equally good performance as Man of Steel. He has a bit less to work with than Affleck does, but his chemistry with Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is tantalising. His aforementioned other half, however, is a bit of a wasted opportunity, and really has very little to do in the film except be saved by Superman, a shame because she was a really strong character in Man of Steel. The last performance worth mentioning is Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor. I was highly sceptical going in based on the goofy portrayal shown in trailers, and on the whole this is what we received: until the last half an hour or so, Lex was too animated, too goofy and too much like Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever for my liking. However, when his character takes a darker turn, especially when he’s put behind bars, I did enjoy Eisenberg in the role, and I sincerely hope this is the direction the character is going to take.
Next up, let’s discuss the plot. It was always going to be difficult for screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer to introduce Batman and his related mythos, Wonder Woman, and three Justice League members while attempting to further Superman’s progression, and unfortunately the script just isn’t quite up to this challenge. There are a number of poorly communicated plot threads, most notably in my opinion how Clark finds out that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and why Lex Luthor wants Batman dead. These plot holes most certainly took me out of the moment at some of the film’s pivotal moments, which did let me down quite a bit. Thinking a bit harder about the plot, it’s pretty thin. For a 150 minute film, there isn’t quite enough depth here to satisfy me. There isn’t enough character progression or development for my liking, and a lot of the plot is setting up Justice League rather than progressing Batman v. Superman. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like these cameos – in fact, they were some of the film’s best moments – but the promise of something so exciting so close detracts from the spectacle and scale of what we’ve currently. The film had too much world-building to do while still attempting to further the story, and the lack of depth here becomes even more apparent after I saw it. There’s plenty of nice ideas, but the sheer amount of baggage means none of these can ever take off.
The titular battle of Batman against Superman, luckily, didn’t disappoint. Although it didn’t take the structure I was expecting (I thought a three-fight system where each hero wins once was in order), the ten minutes or so where the two fight is simply mesmerising. The brawl is well-shot by director Zack Snyder, and I found that the over-reliance of shaky-cam as seen in some of his previous work is less present here. It’s pretty brutal at times, and really shows the genuine hatred these two characters had for each other, but my eyes were simply glued to the screen when Batman and Superman were duking it out, although if it was a bit longer I wouldn’t be complaining. The fight with Doomsday at the end was also quite impressive: although I appreciate the inclusion of the villain was a bit tacked on, it did a fantastic job of showing the trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman working together. Talking about Wonder Woman, her introduction during this action scene was nothing less than spectacular, with my heart racing as Diana Prince was finally shown on screen in her Amazonian armour.
The technological aspects of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice were, however, rather impressive. I found Zack Snyder’s direction solid, with a lot less of the typical Snyder-isms that we’ve seen in his previous work such as Man of Steel or Watchmen. The soundtrack from Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is pretty amazing as well, with a couple of tracks ingrained in my memory after their incorporation in some of the film’s most pivotal scenes. Some parts of the film were quite poorly communicated due to patchy and confusing editing at times, but once it comes apparent that they were not necessarily part of the main story (the numerous dream sequences were pretty jarring, and The Flash’s first cameo also took me back a little), they seem to clear themselves up.
The best way to summarise Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is to say that it is a film made by comic book fans, for comic book fans. Seeing the reactions of those I went with compared to mine, there was one glaring difference: I was the one invested in these characters in multiple media, while they were more typical filmgoers. For those less clued up about DC Comics lore, this will be a jarring affair, and I can absolutely understand why critics have panned this film. But for a DC Comics – particularly Batman – fan, this was an absolute rollercoaster. Seeing my favourite heroes on screen together for the first time – and all played so convincingly – was a dream come true, and although the film was bogged down slightly by world-building, weak plot and a few dodgy decisions behind-the-scenes – it was simply wondrous from start to finish. There’s a difference between a film you love and a well-made film, and if anything this falls into the former category rather than the latter, mainly due to the sheer amount of missed opportunities here. But, as a DC fan I still love it due to the spectacle and accurate portrayals of my favourite heroes, but for those less enamoured by these characters will not share my affinity. It’s definitely not for everyone, and I can understand why it is so divisive, but if you’re a dedicated fan of DC Comics, I’m sure you’ll love Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice just as much as I did, even if it isn’t the highest-quality film I’ve seen in a while.