To say that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was one of the most anticipated films of the year would be a slight understatement. It may very well have been the most anticipated films of the year, but it was also the one with the biggest question marks. Batman and Superman are arguably the most iconic superheroes in our time. Their history spans seventy-five years of heroics. These are two iconic heroes that are polar opposites but who have withstood the test of time over and over again. They have had many adventures together, both in comics and other mediums. However, the one thing they have never shared is a live-action film together.
I remember sitting in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con; Man of Steel had recently came out and for all intensive purposes was a huge success for Warner Bros. Director Zach Snyder surprised the crowd by showing up to give his gratitude and with it, a teaser image to the sequel, the Batman over the Superman logo. The hall erupted with cheers: Batman and Superman in the same film! It was every fanboy’s and fangirl’s dreams come true. As time has passed though, those dreams at times felt like nightmares. The film was pushed back a year and the casting was controversial (Remember ‘Batfleck’?) Add in all these DC superheroes that were slated to be in the film, and it began to sound like a big mess. [Let’s not forget either that the title of the film really didn’t spike any excitement.] Still, whether they either hated or loved the trailers, the fans were going to come out to see this film because the names carry so much power.
So here we are, the time has finally arrived. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the kickoff to a DC Cinematic Universe. I had very low expectations going into the film, but I will say that I thought the film was not bad. However, it wasn’t great either. The film is filled with great CGI and action sequences. The fights were on the large scale as one would expect. My issue with the film is that it was poorly edited. The first part of the film seemed like each act was cut and pasted in. It was a jumbled mess that wasn’t helped by a story with so many subplots that were going nowhere that, at times, it felt boring. There were several dream sequences in the film that were well-intentioned but really did nothing to advance the story. Those sequences would have been better left out of the film, allowing more time for some much needed character development.
The second half of the film picked up and finally started to show some life to it. Overall, parts of the film felt so rushed with a lack of character development that many times you found yourself trying to piece together the missing holes rather than paying attention to the film. That is not to say that there weren’t some great parts in the film. Snyder took some risks that paid off and some that didn’t. There are moments in the film that leave you spellbound in how great and pure they were. Snyder does a great job in feeding the nostalgia of longtime DC fans in between trying to piece together different subplots that are supposed to intertwine. In the end, the cons outweigh the pros, but not by much. But let’s dig a little deeper into some of the characters.
*Warning, some of this may be spoilery*
We’ve already seen Henry Cavill and Amy Adams in their respective roles. They carry themselves the same way as before, this time as a couple. The film tries to bring about their love story, but is too busy giving us other plots that it really never takes off and by the time it really blossoms, the film is over. However, I want to delve into the other three main characters of the film, Batman, Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman.
Ben Affleck, with all my fear that he would repeat his Daredevil act, was not a bad Bruce Wayne or Batman. He was an older and more angry Batman, but he handled the cowl better than expected. As a Batman fan, I do have to complain about the character on film. Batman has two rules: no guns and no killing.
I mean, this film has a clear easter egg seen in the trailers that shows hints at when Joker killed Jason Todd (Robin). Batman here has no issues with killing: from dragging a car with his Batmobile and clearly killing the occupants, not to mention the ones he threw the car into, to his daring rescue where he kills several bad guys. This isn’t what Batman does. Sure, he’s a lunatic that would beat someone to near death, but he would never cross that line. And his branding of criminals, what was that about? These two aspects should turn any Batman fan off, at least for me it did. Subtract those aspects and Ben Affleck did a passable job as Batman.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was nothing short of annoying. This was probably the most puzzling rendition of a Lex Luthor I have ever seen. The stories attempt to make everything in the film somehow connect, and all lead back to a plan set forth by Lex Luthor himself, was again out done by bad editing and frankly bad storytelling.
Lex is a character that has a God complex that is challenged with Superman. His goal is to never be inferior to anyone on the planet (or the universe for that matter). He is a psychopath that is smart, cunning, ruthless, and best of all, the biggest conman in comics. For all the evil he is, he carries himself to the general public as this great businessman and philanthropist. Eisenberg brings in the main story of being the puppetmaster in the quest to have Batman or Superman eliminate the other for him, but he does a horrible job in depicting the character.
He delivers a performance of a crazy Lex that is both campy and annoying. He was more Jim Carrey’s Riddler (that bad) than Lex Luthor. With all that said, what Eisenberg did capture is how far Lex is willing to go to make someone superior become inferior to him. From threatening to kill a loved one of Superman, to the creation of Doomsday to destroy Superman, the well thought out plan is everything Luthor would do, without the other annoying stuff.
With all my reservations on the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, she was actually the best part of the film. In every scene she was in (not enough, which was a shame), she stole the movie away from the main characters. Whenever she was on screen she had this presence that represented the soul and essence of Diana Prince. Finally Wonder Woman hits the big screen – but it’s in a film where she’s nothing more than a vehicle used for the purpose of telling us there is a bigger universe. Still, she is the one shining light in the film that was great. And all that was before she even donned her iconic outfit.
When she does finally appear in battle gear, it is quite a performance. You believed that she was a powerful warrior as she takes on a monster that was wiping the floor with Superman. My favorite part was when she did get hit pretty hard, she turns and gives a smirk as if saying “finally, a monster worthy of a fight”. In this new DC Cinematic Universe, I can now say that there is no film I look forward to more than Wonder Woman.
With a character like Superman, one would expect a heavy dose of theological parallels. He is always viewed as a Christlike figure. This film is heavy in it on so many different levels. Lex Luthor quotes scriptures to fit his psychotic needs and is fueled by his attempt at disproving that God can be both all good and all powerful. He went out to prove that Superman cannot be that, and in some ways he did. But Superman is not God, and that is why he isn’t without his flaws.
Both Superman and Batman show us that even as heroes, they are filled with flaws. They also can reach a point of losing faith and hope, and need to be reminded of the greater purpose. The enemy plots and schemes against us constantly, and his greatest achievement is when he can bring down the person that seems to have it all together. But it’s not about the fall, but more about the rise. This film showed us the fall of heroes. It is funny that it is released Easter weekend because it plays heavily on that parallel of our savior having those who loved Him turn on Him. Those who would be friends become enemies. And in the end, our savior could have walked away and let us die to our own sins, but He gave it all and sacrificed Himself for everyone.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film that you should love if you loved Man of Steel. It is not a bad film, but it is a film with many flaws. If I were to rate it, I’d say overall it is a 6 out of 10; just slightly above average. Snyder and Warner Bros. had a real opportunity here to do something great and iconic, and unfortunately they missed. I think they took too many risks and tried to fit several different comic book stories into one film, that it just didn’t quite work as well as one would hope.