Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review

You would be forgiven for thinking that director Zack Snyder had pulled the wool over your eyes. The marketing for this movie is effective. It promises one of the biggest battles in comic book history, if not pop-culture history. Everybody has a passing knowledge of who these characters are and subsequently, even if they really don’t care, have a slight opinion or can at least offer one. The posters, trailers and anything else attached to the marketing of this film hyped the battle to end all battles and it is here; you just have to wait for it.

Snyder obviously wants to carve an identity of his own for his characters. He wants to do something new with characters we have seen many times before and are clearly very familiar with. To his credit, he does offer some interesting takes on both characters, it is just that he takes so long to do it.

Snyder takes ages to get to the final showdown!

Henry Cavill returns comfortably as Superman and this time he is the fully-fledged hero. The events of Man of Steel which upset so many people (me included) are having an impact on his popularity and Cavill’s Superman has to deal with the fact he isn’t the most loved hero in the world. It is a new take on a old character and it offers some interesting scenes and dynamics, none more so than his own mother, a returning Diane Lane, telling him the world offers him nothing!

This hatred also fuels the fire for a very angry and vengeful Batman. This is Bruce Wayne as we haven’t really seen him on-screen before. He is older, a 20 year veteran of crime fighting, and he doesn’t trust aliens in capes. The root for his mistrust is constructed perfectly in the opening of the movie and to many people’s relief, Ben Affleck proves a good choice.

 

Affleck is good as an average Batman

Not that he has much to do you won’t have seen before. Affleck handles the combat well, looks good in the cape and also sells the billionaire playboy role too. This will hardly go down as Affleck’s biggest challenge though. Affleck’s Batman gets short-changed on action too, getting only one blistering car chase, while Cavill’s Superman settles for the usual heroic montage.

So long is spent on developing Cavill’s Superman and Affleck’s Batman and the reason for the mutual distrust that a character who could sorely use development gets short-thrift. Jesse Eisenberg is a great choice for evil, rich businessman Lex Luthor and this was an opportunity to do something else with a lesser-represented character. Unfortunately, what Eisenberg delivers is an unhinged, rambling madman who does things with little motive or reason. It will be the first of two versions of The Joker we see this year!

Eisenberg is a make-up less Joker!

All of this means it is at least an hour and a half before we finally get fisticuffs between the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader. When it does finally happen it is a well executed, clever piece of storytelling. The question of how Batman could stand toe-to-toe with super-powered Superman is answered, as is the question of who would actually win overall. It is a mix of slo-mo, choreographed fight scenes and lots of Snyder’s destroyed buildings. It is also over as soon as it begins!

It seems the “final battle” between darkness and light was the taster for the actual finale and when that begins, the movie steps into high gear. Snyder is good at spectacle and what he delivers with the final act of the movie won’t disappoint. Ironically for a movie entitled Batman V Superman, it is when the third, highly advertised superhero shows up that the film comes alive.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman manages to steal the movie

Anyone with any doubts about seeing Wonder Woman on-screen will have their fears allayed. Gal Gadot’s Amazonian princess is teased throughout the film and when she finally dons the bracelets and the whip, you see how kick-ass female superheroes really are. It is also a great preview of The Justice League movie which this film is so clearly laying the foundation for.

To it’s credit, for a film entitled Dawn of Justice, it isn’t too over-powering with the “franchise set-up” which killed movies like The Amazing Spiderman 2 or Iron Man 2. Other superheroes are introduced but very quickly and effectively and the worst this movie gets is suffering from the dreaded “many endings” which seems to plague modern blockbusters.

The movie effectively teases a Justice League team-up

Snyder has also done well to end it differently. Anyone familiar with the varied comics that this story follows won’t be too surprised but for the casual viewer, the situation the iconic characters are left in makes a Justice League movie an interesting prospect after all.

Overall, Batman V Superman under-delivers on it’s promise of super-powered showdowns but does try to deliver something different for two very well-known and well-worn characters. Cavill handles Superman well, as does Affleck with Batman but the real star here is Gal Gadot. The final battle shows that The Justice League movie has a lot of potential. Who would have thought in a film entitled Batman V Superman, that Wonder Woman would be steal the show!

Rating – 3.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Could have benefited from more Batman fighting Superman
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