I remember seeing Man Of Steel on opening day back in 2013, and I, with every other true-blue nerd in the audience, remember having a hardcore geek-squealing moment when Superman and Zod tore right through a Wayne Enterprises satelliete. "Bruce Wayne EXISTS in this continuity," we all thought, "where could they possibly go with that?" It was only a matter of weeks before the fateful announcement at the San Diego Comic Con, that in three long years, Superman would be going toe to toe with none other than the Dark Knight himself. Shortly after that came the polarizing announcement that Ben Affleck would be playing the Caped Crusader, which was met with responses ranging from "He looks perfect" to "I don't know, Affleck's from Boston, Batman's from Gotham, I just don't see it happening". Personally, i thought it was a great casting choice, and every promotional image we got had me even more excited.
Fast-forward to March 25th, after countless viewing of teasers, trailers, tv spots, and interviews, as well as a 3-or-so-day-old pretext that critics HATED this movie, and I was finally sitting in the biggest IMAX theatre in New England, waiting for the two most iconic characters to lay into each other. And it was nothing short of AMAZING. Affleck captured the time-honored trademarks of both Batman and Bruce Wayne, from brooding on the outer edges of Wayne Manor, to imposing to the public that he's nothing more more than a boozy playboy with too much money, to moving so fast in what appeared to be Arkham-inspired combat that one could realistically see why criminals would be absolutely terrified of the infamous Cape and Cowl.
Except Batman kills people
Our first glimpse at Superman is one we haven't exactly seen in a film yet. It's from a Cloverfield-style perspective of Bruce Wayne, as he scrambles to save as many of his employees as he can from the destruction of Metropolis, and disdainfully looks upon a blurred image of Superman pounding Zod through countless buildings. From there, we get a narrative that critics are quick to call 'disjointed', but I'd argue it was actually comic-inspired. Scene after scene after scene, jumping between the plot lines of Bruce, Clark, and Jesse Eisenberg's original yet controversial take on Lex Luthor, the film builds a pretty convincing case as to why these two legendary characters aren't exactly seeing eye to eye.
Superman reads news articles and watches newscasts about Batman branding criminals, why don't these articles also mention that he's a serial killer?
We are treated to several dream-sequences, the longest of which teases future installments in the DC film universe, which is another gripe that almost every review I've read has had. It's pretty unfair to blame a superhero movie for trying to set up it's own sequels, after all, every fan knew going into it that we were seeing the second installment in what could very well be the most epic franchise of all time. I'll concede that DC is clearly trying to catch up with Marvel's shared cinematic universe, but in execution, it feels pretty organic. Wonder Woman's role in the film, as it is slowly reveals, makes a good deal of sense, and her inclusion in the final act is beyond epic. A message from a futuristic Barry Allen(which most critics have dismissed as a nonsensical scene with no context) excited the fan boy/girl in all of us, and the cameos from the remaining Justice League members show us that this is a world just beginning to fill up with awesome new super powered beings. It really didn't feel shoehorned or forced at all, in Batman's infinite wisdom he hacks some of Lex's files, and finds the top secret footage of various DC key players. He breaks Lex's encryption as something of an afterthought, and if you thought that was 'too convenient' you probably haven't ever read a Batman story before.
In MoS, Superman kills Zod only out of sheer desperation, Batman blows up henchmen who fire at his indestructible vehicles. As if machine gun rounds could ever possible break the Batplane or the Batmobile, especially not this films version of the two iconic vehicles.
Jesse Eisenberg carrys a a little bit of Mark Zuckerberg into his take on Lex Luthor, and despite his abysmal, sometimes humorous, conversational skills, he still capture the aspects of the character that a comic fan wants to see. He hates Superman. Why? Because he's jealous. The writers don't state this explicitly, but to anyone with familiar with the idea of context clues, it's obvious. Lex isn't the kind of guy who wants to get his hands dirty, so he decides to trick Batman into doing his bidding for him. Critics complain that Affleck's Batman should be too smart to be so easily tricked by Luthor, but as an audience member it feels natural. Batman ALREADY hates Superman, and to quote another iconic Batman film, "Insanity is like gravity, all it takes is a little push." Lex sends Batman taunting messages, which eagle eyed fans might have noticed mimic the Joker's handwriting, which is seen earlier in the film on a suit once worn by Robin. Add a cleverly obfuscated intentional network security flaw, and our Batman has his hands on Kryptonite.
Speaking of the Joker, if Batman has no problem murdering henchmen, why is the Joker still alive and kicking in this universe? Suicide Squad presumably takes place after this movie, so why hasn't Batman hosed the Joker down with assault rounds? He obviously hates him a lot more than faceless criminals.
The films namesake smackdown is nothing short of epic. Superman goes into it with an attitude that's not necessarily cocky, but his hubris for sure prevents him from even acknowledging the fact that Batman could absolutely wreck him. The inspiration drawn from The Dark Knight Returns is very obvious, from the suit, to the rain, to attention to detail in making every single punch throw feel extremely epic. This is not Christian Bale's realistic take on Batman, this is a Batman who could believably destroy Superman. It's so comic-accurate that it almost hurts