This might just be the most divisive movie in quite a while! Dawn of Justice was always going to be a critical punching bag, especially with Marvel releasing consistently strong movies one after the other, DC is kind of the underdog. I've never been a comic book fan, yet I love both DC and Marvel when it comes to the movies, and whilst DC has had trouble getting traction over the years with disasters like Green Lantern, I think the tide is turning. Man of Steel is one of my favourites and despite its mixed reviews it was a big hit. Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy was hailed for its complex storytelling, acting, darker tone and pretty much every department. 2016 is here and there are two big films in the DC canon.
My anticipation for Batman V Superman has been building for a few months now and I always had faith that it would be a good movie. However, I made a bet with some friends that it would garner a rating of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, and won because at one point it was on 33%, since then the score was declined. Why did I predict it would get such a low rating? There are many reasons, whilst I liked the trailers, I felt it was going to be a very overloaded film with too many characters, a lot of interweaving subplots and too much CGI heavy action. Guess what, it is exactly that and more. With a few friends saying they absolutely loved it, and the odd person here and there saying it was truly atrocious, I finally saw this box office colossus yesterday and here are my thoughts on the latest superhero adventure. Warning: A few minor spoilers here and there!
Bloody brilliant! I had an amazing time watching this epic adventure. Let me get one thing out the way that has been on my mind, and it's just speculation. I feel that a lot of the critical derision and hate is aimed at the dark, brooding tone. We as the audience are so used to the more upbeat, colourful and cheery Marvel movies that it is quite the juxtaposition when watching Dawn of Justice, where all that gleeful optimism is rare to find here. The Dark Knight films were darker but nowhere near as dark here, and I feel the moodiness works superbly. Metropolis has been destroyed and rebuilt, people are still picking up the pieces, Superman lives in regret with Lois Lane worried about his mindset, and Batman sees him as a threat, setting him on a path where confrontation and danger is all around him, so it's damn right that the tone is the way it is.
Getting the negatives out of the way, at least ten minutes could've been trimmed off here. As much as I like Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, I felt having them appear in the film is just unnecessary padding, and although Lane's Martha Kent is used as a plot point for the relationship between Batman and Superman, there could've been other ways to address their conflict. There are one too many news reports that just repeat the same points over and over again regarding Superman, and whilst I loved the ending, there were at least several moments where I thought the ending was coming, then another scene plays out, this could've done with some tightening up and much less elongation of the finale.
Also, once again we have to sit through Bruce Wayne watching his parents die, we've seen it before and we all know the story, that specific opening scene is very tiresome. The last problem was some of the CGI design, specifically regarding Doomsday and the gelatinous goop he hatches from, the gloop looks very video gamey as do the bolts of electricity that power up the monster, and when Doomsday grows spikes and more bones the transformation looks unfinished and surprisingly flat, for an expensive blockbuster you'd think there wouldn't be an issue like this but it seems in recent years, there's always that one bit of CGI in an expensive movie that stands out looking poor.
Those are the only issues I have with Dawn of Justice, everything else I enjoyed, and considering how big this movie is, there's a lot to mention. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL's score is terrific, echoes of Man of Steel come back and hit hard particularly towards the ending, the epic horns and big drums make character entrances even more epic, and there's a lot of urgency racing throughout the score, top job! Zack Snyder, director of Sucker Punch, 300 and Man of Steel proves yet again he is an expert at capturing some incredible visuals, delivering spectacle filled action sequences with crazy amounts of detail, and he keeps the pace balanced and the story flowing, even if it gets a bit heavy at times. I'd like to see him direct more of the DC expanded universe.
I absolutely loved the destruction of Metropolis viewed through the eyes of Bruce Wayne, I love it when films revisit events from previous films but from different angles, and it's cool to see minor glimpses of Superman and Zod fighting and levelling the city as Wayne looks on in shock. The Bat-mobile chase is great, from the design down to the weaponry and the carnage that ensues following the chase, and when Batman and Superman first collide and lock eyes, you can feel the hate and anger between the two. There's a really violent and terrifically choreographed fight where Batman takes out an entire room of armed guards with some brutal hand to hand combat, it's relentless, fast paced and jaw dropping, I didn't take a single breath in for this sequence!
What we're really here for is the titular fight between the two heroes. Let's just say Superman takes a beating, he gets absolutely wrecked and the sound design for every impact and knockout punch feels like a rock to the teeth. The shot of the two standing face to face, inches apart, is awesome, and when Batman blocks the man of steel's punch you know shit is about to go down. In his bulky armoured suit Batman jumps on a weakened Superman, throws him like a rag doll through walls and ceilings, knocks him till he can barely stand and slices his face whilst standing on his neck. It would've been nice to see maybe another minute or two of fighting but overall, it was powerful and entertaining enough.
The final fight between Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman taking on Doomsday is insane and just spectacular, so much destruction and a lot of slick fight moves, and it ends with a surprise; the death of Superman. The score here is perfect, and the shots of his tribute and the funeral carries some heft, it seems all hope is lost until that very last shot. I don't want to go into every detail of every single shot here that was impressive, I say just go and watch the film and experience this legendary final fight for yourself, and even if you dislike the rest of the film, you have to admit it is one cool moment. This shot however, wow!
As for the cast and performances, I was very impressed, some more so than others. Henry Cavill continues to bring earnest and likability as Superman/Clark Kent, and whilst he doesn't do an awful lot to change up from Man of Steel, it was cool to see him get really angry and infuriated and show more pain. Amy Adams is as good as ever, darting around the screen looking to uncover her story, she sells the determination and I have always been a fan of Adams so it's nice to see her return.
Jesse Eisenberg really surprised me, I was not sold in the trailers but in the full film, he is actually really good. I loved seeing him go from seemingly normal and very chatty, to unhinged and menacing, he has some amusing one liners and best of all, holds his own against some of the bigger characters. Holly Hunter plays it straight talking as Senator Finch, I like her voice, she voiced Helen Parr in The Incredibles and it's cool to see her in a live action movie and she really excels when Lex Luthor leaves a little nasty surprise for her during the big conference. Jeremy Irons absolutely nails it as Alfred, I would even go as far to say he's on par with Michael Caine's Alfred, Irons delivers a few chuckles along the way and plays a great foil to Affleck.
Ben Affleck, well, in my opinion, he is the definitive Batman. I've never admired Christian Bale that much, I liked him in American Hustle and he was a good Batman/Bruce Wayne but Affleck just brings it! The rage, the anger, the physique and charm, it's all there, I usually find describing actors performances the hardest part of a review but Affleck owns the role and deserves the most amount of praise.
Gal Gadot, holy shit, after all the waiting for this film especially to see her appearance, she owns the screen. She looks fierce and very sexy, especially her first glimpse where she is seen watching Wayne at Lex' speech, she stirs mystery. Her line delivery is calm and collected, she never goes monotone or too over the top, she maintains level and it works well with her character who is hiding her identity, trying not to attract too much attention, up until the finale where her warrior entrance is a crowdpleaser, the whole cinema was oohing and gasping, I was cheering. Gadot's time in the gym getting fit for the role more than paid off and when she takes hits from Doomsday, her expression and vengeful reactions are just pure badass!
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice gets an 8.5/10 from me. It has its flaws, mostly its over abundance of repetitive new reports, narrative padding here and there and one instance of weak CGI. I think this is a marmite film, you're either going to love it and have a blast, or hate it for a lot of reasons. I like hearing others opinions on this film, as there is so much to talk about, it's just a surprise that it has received such strong dislike from critics and some audiences. However, this is one to watch and a big event film that is not to be missed.
If you're cinema is showing a 3D screening, check it out, don't be put off by the dark visual aesthetic, the depth effects work wonders in every scene from the bat cave to the destroyed landscapes where the heroes battle it out. Bats, weaponry, flames and smoke appear to float in and around the screen, all this comes together for one immersive experience, enhancing this already brilliant DC adventure!