Is the superhero gladiator fight of the century just an overhyped comics-turned-movie sensation or is this summer epic deserving of a “blockbuster” title? Was the showdown between two of Justice League’s most powerful figures developed coherently or was the story lacking in layer and nuance that ultimately resulted in a major splat?
The movie is set in the aftermath of the catastrophic battle between Superman and General Zod in Man of Steel. Both Gotham and Metropolis try to recover from the extensive collateral damage and trauma of the alien attack. Meanwhile global leaders are attempting to understand and decide whether Superman (Henry Cavill) is a threat or a protector. Leading the anti-Superman bandwagon is Gotham’s own dark vigilante, Batman, who, by day, is billionaire owner of Wayne enterprises Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). He sees the Kryptonian as a potential liability should he turn on the people of Earth. At the same time, the Bat’s brutal treatment of criminals in an effort to neutralize crimes big and small in Gotham is seen by Superman as even more of a problem and has decided to end the vigilante’s form of justice in Gotham city. However, while both supes throws down their grudge match, an even more dangerous threat lurks in the corner, intent to throw the superheroes into a full-blown war.
I find it refreshing that Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder chose to detract from the MC-universe movies and opted to give us dark, visceral and flashy comic book adaptations of our favorite Justice League characters. It’s a relief from the monopolized light-hearted epics that we fans are getting used to with our Marvel favorites. While Man of Steel was controversial in the sense that its tone and grit was wildly different from any contemporary superhero movie so far, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is even more controversial and, shall we say, divisive, than its predecessor, earning the movie plenty of criticism.
Let’s start with the movie’s upsides. A lot of the baggage for delivering a big blockbuster film lies heavily on the choice of actors, and Warner Bros. chose right. Henry Cavill, returning this time as the Man of Steel, still does a nuanced and solid bit of acting as Clark Kent/Superman while Ben Affleck does justice to the hardened and cynical long-time vigilante Batman/Bruce Wayne.
It’s interesting that of all the actors that have played the Bat character, Ben is my top 2, a close second with Christian Bale. Affleck’s Batman is brooding and jaded, having (supposedly) spent a lot of time fighting the darkest of Gotham’s underbelly that he has turned almost brutal and calculating. But he is also efficient, smart, nimble, and strong, plus he has drool-worthy bat gadgets (but Nolan’s is still way cooler). We also see the coolest Batman brawls in live action, although his most-awaited showdown with Superman ends with a short note.
Surprisingly, it is Gal Gadot and Jessie Eisenberg who steal the show. Gal Gadot plays the Amazonian princess Wonder Woman slash Diana Prince. She serves as the entry point for a much bigger Justice League ensemble, suggesting that there are more superheroes out there who are just in need of a membership card to Batman’s party. Gadot’s Wonder Woman is refreshingly nuanced and sexy; she doesn’t walk or talk with sensual drama or overt flair but she plays and delivers on the heroine’s strengths. You would really believe she is a creature that has lived for hundreds of years and that she is a hero that believed in truth and goodness. Even for viewers that will not enjoy BvS, they still have much to look forward to in her solo film in 2017.
Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is intriguing. As one of the most complex and beloved villains in the DC universe, Eisenberg’s Lex is used to move the plot point of the movie by positioning him with a diabolical plan that will make up for the 3rd act. He is an eccentric and quirky villain that is disturbing and shocking, ultimately making him into a downright sadistic villain, in comparison to his big screen counterparts who merely wanted world domination and money and all that shit. However, though Eisenberg pulled off Lex Luthor with a big splash, it is the story’s fault that the character’s motivations get lost amid all the shuffle of grandiose and epic battle scenes.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of the movie, one that branches out into other flaws, is the fact that Snyder tried too hard in portraying how the people of Earth are accepting this post-kyrptonian situation, especially as perceived by politicians, vigilantes, tech moguls, ordinary citizens, and so on. You may go into cinemas intent on watching the biggest gladiatorial fight in comic book history adapted into live action, but the movie falls short on that one. Again, the movie spends extra time presenting different ideologies about heroism and justice that the overall plotline becomes lost in the intellectual gravitas.
That’s not to say the story is outright boring though, or that Snyder does not understand Batman, Lex, Superman, and Wonder Woman’s characters. To his credit, Snyder does hit the mark in building up the larger DC universe by presenting the two biggest heroes in a battle of wills and brawn.
Overall, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is an incredibly enjoyable film with plenty of live-action superhero epic battles and DC-character teases (hi Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman! 😀 ) that will have a lot of moviegoers bouncing in their seats. While it’s easy to nitpick on the movie’s flaws, you can also overlook or ignore it and just focus on the fact that we’ll be seeing more of our favorite Justice League personas on the big screen for the next five years or so. Zack Snyder may have built the Justice League universe a bit rocky, but it’s still a sturdy foundation for the DCEU.
P.S. I’m just hoping Suicide Squad will NOT disappoint because I’m SO looking forward to that one.