After years of comic book fans dreaming the big dream, we finally got what we never thought would happen, though it made all the commercial sense in the world to do it, Batman and Superman on screen at the same time. Currently raking in all the money whilst being panned by all the critics, Batman V Superman:Dawn of Justice is easily the best film of the divisive career of Zak Snyder, and delivers on everything it promised. Forget what the general consensus are saying, this is a great piece of Blockbuster cinema.
The narrative is relatively complex, featuring several twists and turns. To tell you too much would be to spoil the experience for you, but the basics are as follows. During Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod’s (Michael Shannon) war in Metropolis during Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) is there to experience it first hand, saving a young girl’s life in the process.
Terrified of the ungodly power these two possess, Batman begins to distrust Superman, believing if there is the slight possibility he could turn on us, we’d be powerless to stop him. Meanwhile, Superman’s reporter alter-ego Clark Kent has begun to investigate Batman’s vigilante justice spree, which has become more brutally and ethically questionable. Believing him to be a psychotic vigilante, he begins to distrust him equally. Meanwhile, the eccentric Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) begins to formulate a plot to pit them against each other in the world’s greatest gladiator contest.
For a large scale superhero blockbuster, and especially for a film by Zak Snyder, the writing is surprisingly very good. There’s rarely any lines that can be considered hammy or filler, and everything everyone says furthers the plot whilst letting you know their character.
Affleck’s Wayne/Batman is blunt and to the point, never spouting nonsense and always getting down to brass tacks. Superman, by contrast, tends to be more positive and tends to be about justice, truth or love. This perfectly highlights his ‘boy-scout’ heroic good guy character, and is a great juxtaposition to Batman’s darker view on life.
Luthor’s dialogue tends to be erratic, full of pseudo-philosophical nonsense whilst taking seemingly forever to reach the point. This is however, clearly a far more psychologically unbalanced and damaged depiction than his comic book counterpart. Thus, while it may well divide the audience, it’s hard to argue his dialogue doesn’t underpin his presented character very well. Regardless of your subjective views on said character, the writing still gets him across as it should.
The plot has been stated by many critics as seemingly an incomprehensible mess. This confused me somewhat, because what I saw personally was a genuinely engaging plot full of enough twists and turns to keep you entertained. It’s generally pretty predictable, save for the ending, but not in necessarily a bad way. The film never does anything crazy or nonsensical, and as such remains tight. Again, I won’t go into specific examples, and I’d hate to ruin anything for those yet to see it, but it all comes together nicely, providing you’re willing to do a little thinking for yourself and don’t expect everything force-fed to you.
The characterisation will probably prove controversial in terms of sticking to comic book traditions, so we should get this out the way. Firstly, Batman is pretty trigger happy. He kills quite a few people, seemingly in cold blood a lot of the time. Now, in terms of comic book adherence, this is problematic, as it plays very loosely with the ‘no killing’ rule that often defines the character. However, the film does go out of it’s way to explain it to you.
Alfred in particular says at one stage ‘You’ve changed. Everything’s changed.’, which is followed with a ‘Good men can become cruel’. This means, within the context of this film, and by extension this universe, this is explained. Ergo, it shouldn’t really be held against the film, in my opinion. We, as critics, aren’t here to judge how good a film is by how well it depicts characters from other mediums. If we did, The Shining would be chastised and despised. Rather, we judge the cinematic universe by it’s own rules. Batman and Robin isn’t trash because of the nipples on the bat suit; rather, it’s trash because of the awful writing and hammy performances. If the film was amazing, I wouldn’t be bothered by the nipples.
In short, this Batman is violent, angry and aggressive, taking the more psychotic elements of The Dark Knight Returns, and ramming them up to higher levels. So be prepared. Affleck also gives one of the best performances of his career as probably the best on-screen Batman to date. Certainly, he plays Bruce Wayne better than anyone I’ve seen before, and portrays his aggressive and tortured, as well as mildly psychotic, Batman perfectly. The voice is also the perfect balance between Bale’s rather shouty Batman and Keaton’s calmer depiction.
Superman is pretty much his classic self, and we get to see a deeper performance than previously as he wrestles with complex emotions; torn between his honour to defend people and fight for justice, and his guilt at the controversy his existence causes. Lots of themes are covered in terms of Superman, including; theology, xenophobia, fear, guilt, one’s place in the world, the nature of people. There is a lot going on here, and it’s all really quite interesting. Cavill grounds it with a serious performance that is unfortunately overshadowed by Affleck’s brilliance.
Lois Lane as a love interest is unfortunately quite dull yet again. Problem is, I always found the comic book character dull as well. I find her insistence in meddling with things and getting herself into precarious positions quite tedious. Personally, I wouldn’t want to date her. So, if you like her as a character as a rule, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you’re like me, you probably won’t. Adams puts in a good performance though, if she seems a bit stilted at times with her delivery of dialogue.
Now, to Luthor, the divisive one. He’s certainly closer to Hackman than the comics, but takes the eccentricity to incredible levels. He takes some getting used to, but for me provided a few of the film’s more entertaining moments. Perhaps it’s because I relate with his borderline autistic demeanour personally, and could completely understand his bizarre ramblings on weird tangents. I can see him annoying a few people though, certainly he’s a love it or hate it character.
Gadot arguably steals the entire show as Wonder Woman. She’s both well-spoken and charming whilst socialising, and a believable badass when fighting. She’s surely going to see a lot more fleshing out in her standalone movie, but she provides an enigmatic and intriguing presence throughout.
The visual directing is also absolutely incredible in terms of cinematography, and whilst a lot of CGI is deployed, it usually looks pretty good, with a few dodgy moments. Doomsday isn’t great, but isn’t the mess he’s been made out to be on the good old ‘net. Batman’s robotic suit looks fantastic, if seemingly conjured up out of nowhere, and the final fight sequence is a bit crazy but doesn’t go on too long. The sequence between Bats and Supes though is absolutely note perfect. Anybody who’s read Dark Knight Returns knows that it only lasted a few panels, as Batman quickly got the better of him. This fight goes on fractionally longer, and through several different locations, but is basically the perfect length.
The score is also incredibly good, if the fight music for the finale is a bit odd and out of place with the rest of it, feeling like it was ripped straight out of 300. The Zimmer moments are fantastic as always.
Of course, it's not entirely perfect. Luthor, as mentioned, will be divisive, as will Batman and Superman, and basically every character in the movie. The pacing is pretty good but it does slightly slag around the hour and a half mark. As well as that, one could consider the Justice League cameos shoe-horned in (though personally, I really enjoyed it.) The biggest detractor, by far, is Doomsday's depiction, and that definitely could have been handled far better. Yet, it didn't drag the film down much for me, as Doomsday was at least buy-able as a threat to the three, without being too powerful to vanquish. He also gets his golden historical moment, so he's certainly not 'wasted'.
Batman Vs Superman:Dawn of Justice is not a perfect movie, and there a few minor issues, but these are very minor. Batman killing or Luthor may annoy you a bit, the fight may seem a bit short considering the hype, and some of the allusions to future films may seem out of a place and like unfulfilled plot threads, so long as you conveniently forget this already has a sequel in place. Please ignore the critics (Ironic, huh?) and go and see this for yourselves. It’s a great foundation for the Justice League, a marked improvement on Man of Steel, and both Zak Snyder’s best movie yet, and the best on-screen Batman to date.
Final Rating – 8.4