There are few movies in film history that have the type of buildup and anticipation as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. These are two of the most famous fictional icons, not just in comic books, but arguably in American pop culture. Superman and Batman stand for more than just stopping petty crimes and fighting aliens. They are mythological characters that are designed as the personification of both mankind's hope and rugged determination to redefine itself.
Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) has been tasked with following up his successful, yet controversial, Superman origin story Man of Steel, with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, he and screenwriter Chris Terrio (Argo) had much larger ambitions for the follow-up, than a simple sequel. They wanted to accelerate the growth of their DC universe on film by creating a conflict that can't be ignored, by pitting Batman against Superman.
While there are a few shots early on that will surely bring to mind Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, this movie has its own gritty atmosphere and logic. Snyder manages to create a grounded and consistent world, where every action made by the characters has a consequence and hard-hitting ramification. Which is a theme that frequently reoccurs with all of the characters in the film. It also doesn't hurt the film to have appearances by faces like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Anderson Cooper to add a sense of realism to the stakes.
Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) has had an uphill battle since the moment the title of the sequel was announced. However, despite the unlikely odds, he manages to add a new depth and humanity to Clark Kent/Superman that may not have been seen in other iterations. He is a work-in-progress, who is coming to terms with both his alien lineage and growing humanity. This still is not the fully formed Superman we may be familiar with, he is going through growing pains and is far from infallible. His development is also continually stunted by the manipulative nature of both Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor, which adds to the stakes as the movie progresses.
Make no mistake, this is a true sequel to Man of Steel. The movie could have easily been called Man of Steel: Enter the Bat, but that doesn't have the same charm. That is also where things become slightly problematic, since the fight at the center has to be somewhat handicapped to give the mortal Batman a chance. The lack of tension makes it hard to feel that it's truly the grand match that it's billed up to be. Fortunately the action at the center is jaw-dropping and the welcomed surprise is that there is greatness found in a variety of other places in the movie as well.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an unforgiving film whose tone is effectively set from the first sequence. Snyder retells his version of Batman's origin story to open the movie and while it's completely familiar, it's clear that there are all new possibilities in this universe.
Ben Affleck's (Gone Girl) characterization of Bruce Wayne is unlike any previous iteration of the character seen before. He is still driven, calculating, and borderline insane, however he also is a more gruff and smug Wayne than we have seen before and it's not ever made clear if it's simply a calculated act.
While in the cape and cowl, Batman moves like a phantom jumping from one hapless victim to the next. Snyder stages the Bat's introduction like a horror movie, with gunshots and screams of terror increasing the anticipation of his vampire-like reveal. However, be prepared because Snyder pushes the envelope with his brutal interpretation of the vigilante. This is a Wayne that is weary from a twenty year battle on street-level crime and is taking out his frustration on criminals with an alarming display of calculated violence.
The supporting cast is full of Academy Award winners and it shows. Rarely does the film feel like it drags when the attention is off of the two titans. Jeremy Irons (High-Rise) gets the opportunity to have a whole new interpretation of Alfred Pennyworth, Wayne's former guardian and co-conspirator in his criminal activities. This version of the character is much more utilitarian and capable sidekick in Wayne's nefarious vigilantism. Irons' Alfred is more likely to be seen with a monkey wrench then a tray of hor'dourves and it suits Snyder's modern vision of Gotham City.
The biggest issue with the supporting cast may be how Lois Lane and Martha Kent are used in the film. Clark and Lois' relationship has grown in the two years since the events of Man of Steel. Clark has moved into her apartment and she has become emboldened by the presence of her lover and personal superhero. It's definitely in Lane's personality to travel into danger zones, due to her stubbornness and world-class journalism credentials, but after the third time it does begin to feel convenient. While the character is written and played with a definite sense of agency by Amy Adams (Enchanted), the movie does seem to flirt with the idea of her being a damsel-in-distress a little too much. With that being said, both characters are given more to do than in Man of Steel and they are able to shine in ways that were not possible previously.
Another surprising drawback was the overly bombastic score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. At times, the music is simply too on the nose. Snyder and cinematographer Larry Fong have already shot a film that looks and feels epic, the musical cues are too overbearing and may come across as campy on repeat viewings.
There is a lot on Gal Gadot's (Triple 9) shoulders, as she is the first actress to take on the role of Wonder Woman on the big screen. She subtly enters the movie and is carefully interwoven throughout until her big reveal. Gadot fits the role, but it's clear that we won't get to the see the in-depth characterization that many are expecting, until her solo film next year. However, the character does not feel forced and the potential of her story moving forward should be enticing for most fans.
There has been much speculation about Jesse Eisenberg's (The Social Network) neurotic portrayal of the Lex Luthor. This is certainly a Luthor for the new millennium. He has an awkward charisma that can command the attention of the room, yet a complete social ineptitude that keeps him at a yardstick's distance from everyone. Throughout the movie he brings up his deceased father who built the LexCorp empire numerous times. However, it's never fully paid off aside from contributing to one of the film's themes about the power of family lineage. Most of the character's problems start on the page, or cutting room floor, as the true motivations behind Luthor's obsession with Superman aren't fully explored. This was an origin story for Luthor as well, so it will be interesting to see how Eisenberg continues to develop the character in future DC installments.
The fight at the center of the movie does not disappoint in terms of spectacle, however there are layers of subtext and varying character's motivations that make the showdown hard to watch at times. Snyder forces the viewer to be an active participant and to become personally engaged in the battle, because of how grounded in humanity both men are. This is quite a feat for a director known mostly for his visual acumen and for a film with as straight-forward a title as Batman v Superman. You walk into the theater ready to cheer for popcorn-gobbling action, however you may end up leaving the theater in tears due to an emotional weight that is carefully constructed throughout the film's runtime.
This a bold and unexpected adaptation of DC Comics' most iconic heroes. Warner Bros and Zack Snyder could have taken the easy route by making a middle-of-the-road movie, that fits within the Marvel mold to jump start their own collection of franchises. However, this movie dares to be great by not pandering to what the audience wants. Just like Denny O'Neil and Frank Miller took these icons to places that comic book readers were unprepared for, this movie pushes the envelope and achieves a similar type of creative bravado. However, this is far from a perfect film. Many of the decisions that writer Chris Terrio and Snyder made will upset hardcore comic book purists. As the heroes, Batman in particular, goes against many of the tropes that have defined the character for decades.
While many of the plot beats do tie into the Man of Steel, this film is not an apology or acknowledgment that the movie, or the universe is flawed. In fact it's just the opposite. This is Zack Snyder's defiant swing for the fences, that may be loved or hated, but certainly will not be ignored. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a daring statement from both the movie and studio, that they will be taking the superhero genre on their own terms. Regardless of the results, such a brazen and confident approach to filmmaking is worthy of a watch.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn't simply the second movie in a planned DC universe, it's a mission statement that fans should expect brave and cinematic interpretations of the comic book characters that they have known from the page. This is a flawed, yet dynamic film that delivers on genuine moments of exhilaration and glee. There is substance beneath the surface and the true measure of the film's worth is that you will be thinking about it well after the credits roll. We can't wait to see what is in store next...
Source: Point of Geeks