Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a movie full of firsts. It marks the first meeting between the Dark Knight and Man of Steel in live-action. It features Wonder Woman’s first big screen appearance. Most crucially, it’s Warner Bros’ first step in their newly launched DC Films Universe. Of course, Batman v Superman isn’t Zack Snyder’s first DC Comics movie, and after failing to perfectly stick the landing with Man of Steel, it’s been clear for a while that this one is make or break for both him and Warner Bros.’ future plans.
It’s a good job then Batman v Superman is perhaps Snyder’s best work to date. While the mythology the movie’s busy plot so fully embraces runs the risk of alienating those unfamiliar with the source material, the filmmaker still delivers the movie which Man of Steel should have been. With Chris Terrio’s witty and clever screenplay taking the place of what David Goyer did back in 2013, the director has finally found the right balance between story and action.
The latter is where Batman v Superman really excels, and while the final act does tend to go a little overboard with special effects as The Trinity unites to battle Doomsday, you’ll be so wrapped up in how high the stakes are at this stage that you honestly won’t care. Terrio does a solid job of quickly introducing us to all of the key players, but there’s so much going on that it sometimes feels like there just isn’t enough time for us to get to know them.
Despite Ben Affleck being the best big screen Bat to date, we never really get a feel of his world beyond Wayne Manor and Alfred. The same applies to Lex Luthor (a wonderfully diabolical Jesse Eisenberg) and Wonder Woman, though considering that the latter was only ever intended to have an extended cameo that can be understood, particularly when Gal Gadot delivers a star making performance. Superman meanwhile is still Superman, and seeing as Zack Snyder already perfected that hero in Man of Steel, it’s understandable that we don’t get a lot of significant changes here.
That too is somewhat problematic of course; character development is not a priority in Batman v Superman. The leads have their own respective story arcs, but none of them get a lot of room to breath, and it feels like we’re seeing just a snapshot of these character’s lives.
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However, material like that is what solo movies are made for and no one seems to mind that being the case in The Avengers franchise; there’s certainly nothing here as forced as Bruce and Natasha’s sudden romance in Age of Ultron. Instead, we’re treated to plenty of much smaller character moments, whether it’s Bruce and Alfred’s bickering or seeing the love Superman has for humanity which cruelly isn’t being returned thanks, in part to Lex – a bad guy miles ahead of the throwaway villains who have dominated other franchises.
Those are issues unlikely to bother moviegoers who come to this one wanting to see what the title promises. The battle between Batman and Superman is superb, and is guaranteed to go down as one of the greatest ever sequences put in a comic book movie. It’s exciting from start to finish and a glorious sight to behold in IMAX.
Snyder also delivers on the promise of the subtitle, and while this movie could have got by without that (don’t expect to see the Justice League assemble just yet), this is the kind of material comic book fans will love. That’s what Batman v Superman ultimately is; a movie made by a comic book fan for comic book fans.
It may not have the smarts of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and it lacks the laughs of Guardians of the Galaxy, but Batman v Superman delivers a very different type of comic book movie, and that’s no bad thing these days. While it may not be to everyone’s tastes (believe me, there’s plenty here for fans of the source material to spend the next year bickering about), Marvel finally has some serious competition with this awesome start to the DC Films Universe.
An action-packed and epic start to the DC Films Universe, Batman v Superman will have you grinning from ear to ear from start to finish. The rest of 2016’s comic book movies will have a hard time topping this.