After years of backlash, ridicule, and hype, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice finally arrives in theaters March 22. BvS bears a bevy of responsibility, serving as a follow up to 2013’s Man Of Steel, introducing a rebooted Batman series, and setting the foundation of the DC movie universe. That’s quite a load to carry and unfortunately, the movie can’t quite cover all bases.
The movie picks us up with a quick retread of Batman’s origins, then introduces us to an older, battle weary Bruce Wayne navigating his way through the massive Metropolis battle from the last act of Man Of Steel. One of the movies impressive action sequences, we see the city destroying battle through Bruce Wayne’s viewpoint, who then believes Superman to be a threat to society and thus lures ‘The Gotham Bat’ out of retirement.
A underdeveloped Clark Kent/Superman doesn’t hold a high opinion of Batman as well, seeing his increasingly violent and brutal methods of rounding up criminals as morally reprehensible and in need of being put in check. While this is going on, Clark struggles with the idea of being Superman as he faces intense criticism from all directions.
While this is going on, we have young business owner Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) conducting a master plan of sorts to entice the two main heroes to battle it out while while anticipating a looming threat.
Rounding out the rest of the main threads, the first big screen Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) initially trying to put together a mystery of her own, before crossing paths with Bruce Wayne, piquing his interest.
All of those running threads seem like enough content for three movies, yet there are even more storylines running amok, including a wholly unnecessary and frankly boring Lois Lane (played again by Amy Adams) subplot. Therein lies the big problem with Batman V Superman. The film, choppily written by Argo’s Chris Terrio and Man Of Steel’s David S. Goyer, has it’s hand in so many different baskets that the movie can never quite get focused and gel as one would hope. In most of these stories, particularly Superman’s, there are interesting and potentially engaging themes that can be explored. However once it comes time to delve deep in the ideologies, we jump to the next setup for a future movie via dream sequence.
On the flipside, Ben Affleck’s standout turn as Bruce Wayne/Batman largely steals the show. Playing Wayne as an older, more bitter Dark Knight, Affleck plays the detective role, playboy role, and psychical role to perfection, all while looking the part moreso than any actor before him. Many of his sequences are the highlight of the film, including his changing demeanor while first meeting Clark Kent, his relationship with Jeremy Irons’s enjoyable Alfred Pennyworth and an incredible five minute warehouse action sequence that action aficionados and Arkham Asylum fans will immediately drool over. Out of the many talented actors to take on the cape and cowl, Ben Affleck provides the best big-screen performance as Batman so far, making you yearn for the rumored Affleck directed Batman film.
Sadly, while not entirely his fault, the same cannot be said for Henry Cavill’s Superman. The Tudors actor played the role of a a rookie Superman finding his place in the world very well in the 2013 reboot flick, bringing a nice level of charm and gravitas, emphasizing the internal struggle leading to becoming a hero in modern world. Here, he is mostly reduced to brooding, or reactionary to the events around him. When he does get some dialogue in, he does a solid job of delivering it, evidenced by his scene with a cameoing Kevin Costner. But overall, you don’t quite get the layered performance that you’d expect to get from one of the films title stars.
Jesse Eisenberg is completely miscast as Lex Luthor. Eisenberg appears to be equal part Silicon Valley tech owner and part deranged lunatic, a far cry from the source materials calm and collected nefarious villain. Eisenbergs performance is too spastic to ever gain any traction as a menacing threat, with his personality resembling more of a Riddler type.
Gal Gadot does a fine job as the mysterious Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Brief as her role may be, her strong demeanor fits that of the Amazonian princess quite well, and her fight sequence is a delight. While she seems to serve as a bridge to the Justice League films, she makes a fine impression in her first appearance.
Visually speaking, the movie is quite enjoyable. Zack Snyder’s strong suit remains crafty shots and visual flair. The opening Metropolis Supes Vs. Zod redux is quite thrilling from Bruce’s viewpoint, making the viewer feel as if they are standing in the destruction. The montage of Superman’s various heroic activities is incredibly well-crafted and features beautifully heroic shots. The Batman and Superman fight scene itself is a bit brief, and never hits the heights of say, The Dark Knight Returns iconic fight scene. But the throwdown is still quite fun while it lasts. The trio’s fight at the end is quite fun, and the aforementioned Batman warehouse takedown is arguably the most thrilling Bat-action scene put to film.
The highlights of the movie are goosebump inducing, giving DC fans parts of a movie they’ve been wanting to see on screen for decades. At times, Dawn Of Justice feels like a DC graphic novel come to life. It’s unfortunate that the script and story can’t give the some of the world’s most iconic superheros a solid foundation to stand upon.