**THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER-FREE**
I find it quite ironic that the thing audiences mainly complained about turned out to be the best thing about the movie.
Arguably the most anticipated comic book movie of all time, Batman v Superman had a lot to deliver. Dawn of Justice acts as a continuation to the story Man of Steel started three years ago, but not only did it continue the story of an alien whose presence and interference in Earth's business was a matter of fact and question, it also continued to show that Zack Snyder wasn't afraid to make the same mistakes again. If there happened to be things you didn't like about Man of Steel, then get ready to see them again, but with less Superman. Actually, I find the fact that the title reads 'Batman v Superman' quite misleading. Although the 15 minute fight between the two iconic characters was enjoyable to the brim, the movie was simply and solely built upon that fight (as seen in marketing) without even founding a solid basis to it. Instead, it was taken for granted that audiences would still cheer and clap because, in the end, it was Batman and Superman clashing for the first time in cinematic history.
The entire first act was revealed in marketing. And although some good build up is appreciated, the movie almost loses you at some points due to pacing issues. There was simply too much exposition and forced attempts to make the story seem twisted and heavy while the plot is actually as simple as they come, with only the conflict concerning Superman's limitations and liability being the most interesting and most convincing plot point. Yet despite that I've seen it all coming, I still tolerated and welcomed the never ending first act because I expected the movie to hit the right spots come the final showdown, but it missed several times.
Jessie Eisenberg's hideous portrayal as Lex Luthor could not be saved by Ben Affleck's exquisite portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Now this is definitely a different version from any Lex Luthor fans have ever seen, and those fans do not mind tweaks in characters as long as they serve the story and the direction of the adaptation in hand, but what was that Lex Luthor all about really? I think the projected direction was that he was supposed to be an unhinged young billionaire who aims to manipulate all his surroundings for his own good. But that, quite frankly, turned out miserably, as he was neither intimidating nor entertaining, just simply annoying. The movie lazily tries to justify why his character is that way, but it doesn't justify why a supposed genius would "mastermind" a plan of which the outcome would very predictably contradict the very reasoning behind the movie, which was to avoid the destruction that god-like entities could cause.
Although they try to convince the audience that lives do matter, it's quite obvious that none of the characters care. The movie used death as a plot device from the moment it started, but then it sprinkled death all over everything. Everybody kills, with reason or without reason, and nobody cares who dies. Nobody. Which exactly was what fans hoped would be fixed from Man of Steel, but to no avail.
On the contrary to Eisenberg's Luthor, Ben Affleck excelled as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Batman was visually very satisfying, and Bruce Wayne's character hit the ground running as it should, due to the audience's familiarity with it, yet was still very convincing and captivating. And apparently Zack Snyder knew that, which explains why Batman was given the most attention. They probably would have made him take on Doomsday all by himself if they didn't have to give Superman and Wonder Woman something to do. Everything in this movie was a one dimensional tool that was there just to cross paths with Batman at one point so that he can push the plot forward. Superman had hardly any dialogue but served well as a punching bag. While Wonder Woman had a smooth introduction that well-assists her own spin-off, and also had a practical and appealing appearance that I believe will be welcomed, her surprise entrance wasn't really that surprising (because again, trailers), but Gal Gadot might be one of the few winners and good things to come out of this movie. Even her theme music was memorable and catchy.
But the element of surprise could have really helped this movie. We do get a few surprises concerning some characters, but those were minor ones, mainly there to plant seeds for this newborn universe. The biggest spoiled surprise was obviously Doomsday. Take a look at the synopsis on IMDB and see how much it reveals:
Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It's up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.
The Doomsday trailer reveal met its expectations precisely. The fact that Doomsday is in this movie and its trailers not only diminishes the very idea stated in the title, which is the 'versus', but also incredibly lowers the stakes and makes one of Superman's greatest villains just a filler-in that our heroes would punch to close the final act with a CGI watered bang. There are zero stakes in this movie. None. You are pretty sure that you will see these characters in future installments, and you are most certain that evil will be defeated come the end of the movie. The only thing that could compensate the predictability was to have an entertaining climactic scene with those heroes that would serve the fans well, but even that turned out to be a mess, with the highlight of it being created by the character that had a very little part in the fight due to powers shortage.
Visually, the movie uses CGI suitably to make characters move organically and smoothly on screen. Superman's movement during flight and Batman's agility and movement, that was very reminiscent of his style in the Arkham game series, are commended in particular. The fight scene between those two was also very well handled with CGI, which helped solidify its position as the best sequence of the movie. However, the use of CGI reached its climax during the final battle. And although that can't be called bad CGI, there were moments in which it became painful to the eye to a great extent.
Performance wise, all the cast, except for Jessie Eisenberg's confusing one, had solid performances, and did well with what they were offered, although some were offered more than others. Henry Cavill didn't get the chance to expand more on Superman, something thing which he expressed he wanted to do in future movies. But he still managed to make his way out of the movie with a selling performance, given the limitations that were put on him due to the need to showcase Batman and other story elements.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice almost crumbled under the weight it wanted it to carry. With the movie depending heavily on Batman to lead through this shared universe through the tunnel, other characters might have been left with lackluster arcs and conclusions, hopefully to be made justice in the future. Although enjoyable at various moments, misdirection and predictability might have cost this movie a lot. And one can only wonder if the mixed reception to this one would make future DC projects face skepticism every time before release. Probably no alterations will be made in DC's very crowded schedule, but how exactly this brand-starter affects the movies to come remains to be seen.