Review – ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’

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"Batman v Superman" Courtesy of Warner Bros.

In the interest of delivering a fair review of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” I must make two acknowledgements: The first is that this review will contain minor spoilers. I can justify why the film is of the quality it is only by including some spoilers. The second is that you will not find a more invested reader of DC Comics or a bigger Batman fan than me.

With all of that said, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is not a good film. It is not a bad film by any means, but it is not a good film. The story takes place roughly 18 months after the events of “Man of Steel” and sees the world coming to grips with the fallout of the fight between Superman and General Zod.

Director Zack Snyder presents us a world trying to cope with the existence of super-powered aliens who have leveled half of a major American city. The beginning of the film is actually a strength as it effectively plays with the philosophical and social questions the world asks upon learning that humans are not alone in the universe.

Early on, the film establishes that Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is opposed to Superman (Henry Cavill). Batman winces at Superman’s power and outright fears the potential damage Superman could do if he decided ever to go rogue. Again, the film excels at creating this ideological split between Batman and Superman.

That is where the strength of this narrative ends. “Batman v. Superman” runs for more than two-and-a-half hours, and Zack Snyder makes the audience wait for most of it before they get to see any action. That is not to say that the film is boring. It isn’t, but the plot moves in so many directions it is hard to understand what story they are trying to tell.

The film takes a long time trying to establish the dissonance between Batman and Superman, but by the time that long-awaited battle finally arrives, the narrative begins to betray its own foundation.  Please note: This is where the minor spoilers begin.

At the center of Batman’s opposition to Superman is the fear of his power. Ben Affleck was terrific in presenting that key motivation for Batman. Affleck’s Batman performance was brutal, unrelenting and honestly refreshing to see. This Batman was a detective, a skilled martial artist and the most savage version of Batman ever to grace the silver screen. ¬†Affleck put on the best performance of Batman I’ve ever seen — until he broke Batman’s cardinal rule.

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman courtesy of Warner Bros.
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman courtesy of Warner Bros.

This Batman kills people. He straight up murders some of the criminals he fights. If you know anything about Batman, you know he will do anything to stop a criminal — up until taking their life. This version of Batman betrays everything about the character and ultimately undermines Batman’s own philosophical opposition to Superman.

Batman doesn’t have any superpowers, but what makes him a superhero is his restraint. He refuses to go the easy route of killing criminals. He believes that all people, no matter how evil, can be redeemed. By killing, Batman is expressing the most brutal form of power, and this is ultimately what he fears Superman will become. It does not make for an interesting narrative, as it betrays 75 years of character development for Batman while also betraying the actual plot of the film.

You might be able to come to that conclusion if you could actually follow parts of the story. The story jumps from scene to scene as if it’s lost within its own narrative. The story eventually tries to tell three major comic book stories in one, and it gets bogged down by the weight of its own ambition.

The editing was downright sloppy at times, and the film could have been better served if it were trimmed by about 30 minutes. The final villain, Doomsday, looked atrocious. It feels as if the visual effects team finished the first draft of Doomsday a week before release and didn’t have enough time to polish up the design. Jesse Eisenberg gives an interesting take on Lex Luthor, which ultimately turns tiresome and quite frankly annoying by the conclusion of the film. In this film is a good story, but it would take severe editing to realize it.

That said, the film isn’t bad. The action sequences were marvelous, and it was a visual spectacle. The musical score is absolutely fantastic, and Hans Zimmer is firmly placing himself as the best film composer of the 21st century. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was probably the best feature of this film, and her performance actually generates a lot of interest for the Wonder Woman film releasing next year.

In the end, “Batman v. Superman” has all of the hype of Pacquiao v. Mayweather and just like the actual fight, “Batman v. Superman” leaves everyone a little underwhelmed. The performances were great, the visual effects for the most part were fantastic, but the story, certain plot points, and the betrayal of Batman’s core belief leave the audience asking how this movie was ever imagined to be good. “Batman v. Superman” goes 10 rounds, and the ones feeling the most beat up in the end are the audience.

I give “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” a 6.25 out of 10

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