This article/review contains spoilers. I will be discussing plot points both large and small. There will be no mention of rotten tomatoes as that score doesn’t apply to any of the discussion points I will be bringing up, nor do I think they represent the overall opinion of the viewing body at large, ie: critic-fans who can post on rotten tomatoes and critic-fans who cannot. I am a comic book fan, both of Marvel and DC, so I will have some bias due to wanting to see the comics come through on the big screen. Once again, spoilers ahead. There will be a TLDR sum up at the end of the review if you find it to be too long.
Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice is a monstrous movie. It has been the hottest of topics in the world of both comic and movie news, which ha spilled over into almost every social media platform and turned many Facebook groups, forums, and twitter feeds into a literal war zone.
Why such passion/hate for a movie you may ask? Well it’s because this is the first time we have seen the two most iconic characters in comic book history battling it out. A god blessed by the sun struggles with humanity and morality, while a stalker in the shadows fights crime in the only way he has left, with brutal efficiency. These ideological differences between them bring our heroes to blows in the fight of the century. . . . Or at least that is how I thought this movie was going to play out.
I have seen Dawn of Justice three times, the first because I was excited to see the movie, and took my mom because she thinks Henry Cavill is hot. The second was a group outing with friends to see it as that was our original movie time, and finally the third time to bring my other friend and his son to the movie as they both wanted to see it as well. Seeing the movie three times gave me plenty of time to mull over and sort out my thoughts and feelings about it. That said, lets dive in and talk about it.
Let’s start off with what is arguably the best character portrayal in the movie, and that is Ben Affleck’s Batman. With an initial avalanche of hate towards this casting, many were concerned about how he would fill the role, citing DareDevil, Gigli, and the like. I personally thought he would do justice to the role as his acting has really stepped up in movies like Argo and the Town. As Bruce Wayne in public, Affleck comes off as a schmoozy, rich guy who is a bit of a womanizer who enjoys his drink, but also his privacy from the lime light while in private, he has a smoldering intensity to every scene. His Batman leaps off the pages of Dark Knight Returns with a violent, no quarter given mentality. Like the last main trailer showed us, Batman is out to put villains down.
While a mostly positive experience, I feel Batman was written with some oddities. While I don’t mind the killing that he did, as other movie Batman’s have also killed, or killed by proxy, The blatant and visceral nature was not what I was expecting and while it didn’t seem that out of character for this Batman, it did make you question two things within the movie. If Batman has been a ‘criminal’ for the past twenty years, as Bruce says to Alfred, why has Clark Kent not heard about him in the past two. The second is, if Gotham and Metropolis are across the bay from each other, which as a nitpick greatly annoyed me, why doesn’t Clark know about Bruce Wayne. One thing that did sour me on Batman overall was his apparent lack of “detective” skills. While he does have the tech, it seems like Alexander Luthor pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes with little to no explanation. I expect superman to be tricked by a Lex, but Batman has always been an intellectual equal in both their public and private persona’s respectively. I do admit however that this is also part of my problem with Alexander, which I will talk about further down.
The Staple character of this series, Clark Kent aka Kal El, aka Superman. Superman does not feel very empathetic in this movie. While he has feelings for Lois, and loves his mom, other human interaction seems to make him indifferent, like the scene of him in the senate before it blows up, uncomfortable, like when he rescues that girl from the building at the day of the dead celebration, or disappointed, like right after the bomb went off in the senate. Acts that you think would be sad, like said bombing, didn’t seem to have the same impact on him as killing Zod in Man of Steel. Having been superman for only a couple of years, I was expecting a bigger range of emotion as he gets beaten up, not only by circumstance, but by the emotional impact of each decision he makes and how the world reacts to him.
One of my major Superman issues, is how the character’s power set does not function the same over the course of the movie. Super speed as he flies yet he runs in the most in opportune moments. He can hear Lois banging on the rock in the middle of a hectic battle with explosions, yet cannot listen for his mother, or again use that super speed flight to look for her. On the flip side of this though is how much I enjoyed his fights, both with Batman and against Doomsday. A few caveats aside, which I will discuss further down, the fights were a major highlight of the film in general.
Speaking of fight scenes, Wonder Woman was fantastic. Gal Gadot looks great as Wonder Woman, bringing both a feminine nature to our warrior goddess but also teases the “glory of combat” aspects which have been a part of this character from the better comic arcs. One thing I was a bit flummoxed about was her ability to, seemingly, generate some sort of shield with her bracer’s. It may not have been a shield, but there was an odd audio tie in when she blocked the first eye-beam blast from Doomsday than, again seemingly, redirected that energy back at him. I am behind on the comics so this may be a power I am not aware of but it was new, to me, and seemed a little odd with her traditional power set. One major aspect of Wonder Woman that concerns me actually comes from the end fight of the movie and its the lack of punching. This may seem silly, but Wonder Woman’s power set is similar to Superman’s, so Super strength doesn’t just benefit sword swings and shield slams. I was hoping for more hand to hand combat as she battled with Doomsday to show off not only her mastery of various forms of combat, but other aspects of her strength.
Diana Prince, the civilian alter ego for Wonder Woman did little for me. While the Amazonian aspect of her character is great, Diana did not really bring much to the table. Before the torrent of hate comes my way, I understand that this isn’t a movie about Diana Prince, and her overall time in the movie is limited. That being said, for every great, albeit brief, line of Wonder Woman, there is a wooden and usually flat Diana line. Her interaction with Bruce at the museum of “I don’t think you’ve ever known a woman like me” is the most fluid and natural of everything she said out of combat, followed closely by the ending of the movie with her and, once again, Bruce, talking about finding the meta humans. This has me slightly worried for the solo adventure of Wonder Woman as it looks to have a decent amount of non fight scenes in it, which means either the writing, or the direction needs to be stepped up to help Gal out.
One of two Elephants in the room, Doomsday, was a disappointment to me. While the character being in the movie is merely a minor annoyance, the look, feel and overall use of the character left me severely wanting more. I am a fan of big gribblies, and big action set pieces, and Batman v Superman did an excellent job in the titular character fight and this end conflict. As a fight, the Doomsday fight really showed the power of the character and how all three super heroes struggled to bring it down, though let’s be fair Batman really didn’t do shit until the end.
My issues with Doomsday are threefold. The CGI monster looks bad. . . like really bad. Everyone has seen the “oh look Ninja Turtles are in the Justice League” or “They brought a Cave Troll” meme’s floating around, and it’s incredibly hard not to see those comparisons. One of Doomsday’s major appeals from a physical aspect has been his bone protrusions, which give him a unique silhouette throughout the DC pantheon of characters. Doomsday is stupid, like sack of hammers dumb and while some people don’t like to “compare to the comics” when talking about the movies, the lack of intelligence is a disservice to the character. While not a super genius Doomsday was a warrior, and being created from Zod, you would think he would inherit traits that made a GENERAL such a formidable foe. Lastly, I don’t understand the additional power set they gave the monster. Super strength, Super tough, and able to leap great distances all checkout as powers Doomsday has. The Eye-beams. . . alright, Zod had them so that makes sense. I can even stomach the “mouth beam” as well, though I think it is stupid as hell. What really chaff’s my super shorts is the “Tactical nuke” that Doomsday has. That power makes no sense, in any sense of the character/character he was created from, and only served to stroke someones “destruction ego”.
The other shoe drops, and it is filled with Alexander Luthor, The son of a Lex, the mad boy king and both foil to our heroes and introduction to the rest of the Justice League. I like Jessie Eisenburg as an Actor, I think he was great in that Facebook movie, and I really enjoyed him in American Ultra. I did not like 90% of his acting in this movie. We have almost ZERO insight into what his motivations as a character are, how he knows everything he does, and why he seems to be channeling some version of the Joker. Lets start off with motivations; From what I am assuming, so take this with a huge grain of salt, Alexander’s motivations seem to come from the hatred of his father who beat him as a child, and his inherent hate of someone, seemingly only Superman, Batman and the senator, who is trying to steal the limelight/mind share that he is building in his company. I could be wrong, but if I am, then he is simply a bad guy, for the sake of being a bad guy. . . which is a horrible way to show this character.
He seems to be all-knowing, and that is before getting into the Kryptonian ship and somehow learning the knowledge of ten thousand worlds. It is never explained how his knowledge base is so vast that he even makes Bruce Wayne/Batman look like a moron. Atop the Lex tower, he gloats about how he fueled the Batman’s hatred for Superman to the overflowing point with comments like “and one small letter in red saying ‘you let your family die'”. That letter went to Bruce Wayne. How in the fuck does Alexander Luthor know that, like it seriously fucking bothers me on this infinite knowledge well with no indication of how he got it. Lastly is his physical tic’s and eccentricities. While I can appreciate the risk of trying something new, I did not feel they served the character well in 90% of the time we saw him. It was off-putting to have him make seemingly random comments, try to adopt the accent of people he was talking to, and monologue like an Adam West’s Batman villain. There are a few scene’s where we see the scary nature of a Luthor, like when Lois calls him psychotic and he delivers a perfectly Lex line of “That’s a three syllable word for any thought to big for little minds” BRILLIANT! Unfortunately its these glimpses that get swallowed by up the oddity of his character the rest of the movie. I will admit though, I laughed all three times at ‘granny’s peach tea’.
I also want to briefly talk about Amy Adams Lois Lane. This character was such a waste in this movie. In Man of Steel I thought her character had a log of agency, and even when she gets captured she still manages to be useful and productive. Yes it was with the help of Hologram Jor-El, but that’s beside the point, she brought more dimensions to the character than we normally see in the “love interest”. In Batman v Superman, she is literally a plot push point THREE times!, I haven’t seen this level of damseling since literal medieval times. By the new gods it was infuriating. Being a Journalist is one thing, but hanging yourself out to try in a African warlords compound for a “story” is quite another. Have a spear that can kill your boyfriend? lets throw it in a giant pit of water because . Oh no, we now need said spear because I somehow realize that Doomsday is Zod, a kryptonian and everyone in the audience collectively groans at the clear as day plot progression. Her being thrown off the Lex Tower? Well, that actually works, as she was kidnapped and wasn’t walking into a situation CLEARLY too dangerous for her so two outta three is bad.
As we close out this, admittedly long, review of the movie and its points I think we should touch on two import parts of the end of the film. The way Superman and Doomsday fight and the death of Superman.
Both of the images to here are from the Comic Death of Superman. I bring these up because I feel as good of a fight that we got, Superman lacked the tenacity and Doomsday lacked the cunning brutality. In the comics, a term I know you all hate but bear with me please, Doomsday is a wrecking machine, killing and laying out multiple heroes as they try to figure out how to deal with him. Like I said in the section on Doomsday, he lacks the warlike mind of his host body, Zod, and I think a more tactical adversary who uses the surroundings, people and practices of a warrior would have given us a much more visceral fight, which would have elevated the death of Superman and given people a reason to really care. As to Superman, I got flashbacks of the matrix as superman flew around to punch, then eye blast, then fly again. I was hoping for, much like the Doomsday comments above, a fight, where the concussive blast of a right hook crumbles a small building while the backhand of a monster sends our hero into a ship in the harbor. Reaching back to the comics, Superman was in the face of Doomsday every step of the way, pushing back as hard as he could as others assisted, retreated and recovered.
Speaking of the Death of Superman arc, lets talk about how this movie did not DESERVE, to use that arc, and had not earned to end in such a lazy and two-faced way. Superman dying looked great, like I said above, and the fight in general was fantastic, but this movie blew its metaphorical load WAY to early to use such a massive card from its hand. We have no investment in Superman, as the movie gave us nothing to connect with nor did it put his plight in a meaningful way for us to even starting investing in. To top it off, the ‘Jesus dirt’ right at the end nullifies any POSSIBLE meaning his death could have meant. Our investment in this character, one who has the trouble of being relatable gets even less and less meaningful to care about because you can shrug and say “he’s got one more power now, he comes back from the dead”. Even with his return from the dead cheat-code enabled the imagery of Lois holding Superman as above would have done wonders to again set emotional impact to his death. When no one makes a sound in your theater at the death of Superman, you know they fucked up.
The image above, for those who don’t know is from the DC animated movie Flashpoint Paradox, in it Bruce dies, and Martha Wayne becomes the Joker, while Bruce’s father becomes a very grim Batman. I use this image because I think the entire scene I am about to describe is an alternate world joke.
My last big gripe with this movie is the “Did we just become best friends” moment when Bruce is about to kill Clark. As our great hero battle comes to its climax, Superman utters out “You’re letting him kill Martha”, which sends our Dark Knight into a daydream back to the death of his parents and then he begins to starting yelling “Why did you say that name”. Seven of the same questions later, Lois Lane rush’s in to explain, even though she didn’t hear Clark say Martha at all, that its his mothers name. This, seemingly, defuses Batman, as he realizes he is a jerk and now has a best buddy for life in Superman because “You got a Mom named Martha” t-shirts can be a thing. Obviously I am being a bit of a shit on this topic, but it is such an idiotic premise, and a sloppy execution that I laughed, loudly I might add, at each viewing at its ridiculous nature.
Let’s stop dwelling on the negatives for a second and jump back into a pure positive. Perry White is gold. He steals every scene he has and, to me, is our human connection in this entire movie. His brief bits of levity are leaps and bounds ahead of the small handful of jokes made by our heroes. The senator was a fresh face on “do-gooder politician” and brought a few quips to the mix at Alexander’s expense which made me chuckle, such as the aforementioned Granny’s Peach Tea. On a down note, Mercy died. You may say “who”, and with good reason as she was not very flushed out and more of a bit part than anything else. Mercy is Alexanders assistant, and in the comics/cartoons she is quite the bad ass, so when she died an absolute shit death, I was one of two people in the theater to be vocal about our disappointment. We should also not forget Alfred, who was fantastic in his role as both butler, mechanic, confidant and voice of reason for Batman all throughout the movie. I look forward to seeing Jeremy Irons in future movies.
While I am not an editor of film, and I have little experience/understanding of how that process works, even I can see that there are editing and pacing problems in this movie. People much smarter and much more qualified are able to break down what the issues are, but for a laymen like me, its noticeable that we jump, with seemingly no indicator from scene to scene, dialogue seems choppy and unfinished. The deleted scene’s may fix some/all of these issues, as the ‘Directors cut’ comes in at just over three hours. Hopefully they also fix the volume of the music in the bluray as it thunders through the theater every time a character theme comes on, especially Wonder Woman’s. I love the music, but the volume of the tracks for a good portion of the movie is so loud that it distracts from the scene at hand.
Just before our TLDR section, a quick shout out to the mini-trailers for the rest of the Justice League aka the Meta-Human initiative. Out of all four, I have to say I enjoyed Aquaman’s the most. I have really grown to enjoy that character, and I like the actor. It was a bit odd to have the character float around for so long, but I think I enjoyed just seeing a “finished product” of Aquaman in the flesh. Cyborg was a neat concept but looked very CGI, and not in the good way. The Flash, was. . . eh I don’t like the Flash that much, and the actor who is playing him does nothing for me so I will abstain from going on further.
Pro – This movie really push’s forward the DC cinematic universe. We get a fantastic Batman/Bruce Wayne, a great Wonder Woman with great potential for Diana Prince, a continued strong performance from Henry Cavill as our boy in blue, Superman and plot pieces to bring in the rest of the Justice League. The fights were incredibly satisfying to watch and bode well for the universe going forward. The movie also looked incredible from a visual standpoint.
Con – This movie has plot holes, editing problems, and a cheap use of pop culture references from the comics with the Death of Superman to try to wow the audience with spectacle. The characters are not flushed out as well as they could have been, and there is a moderate chance the directors cut could solve some of these issues. Characters have little to no motivation explained to the audience and the lack of connective tissue between scene’s really hurts the overall understanding of the film.
Overall – If you haven’t seen this movie, I recommend seeing it at least once. For all the faults I find with it, and there are many, I had a decent time watching it all three times, and repeat viewings only cemented my like and dislike of those aspects. I believe that it deserves at least once viewing, not only to form your own opinion, but to help advance the rest of the universe for upcoming movies, like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the like. Giving DC and WB the confidence to move forward on these movies not only gives us, the fans more comic book movies to enjoy but it allows us to see movies with a more diverse cast which is always a good thing.