SPOILER REVIEW: Breaking Down The Best & Worst Of BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

SPOILER REVIEW: Breaking Down The Best & Worst Of BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

<font color="red">SPOILER</font> REVIEW: Breaking Down The Best & Worst Of BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

By now, a large number of fans will have seen Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. If you're one, hit the jump to check out this SPOILER heavy analysis & let me know what you thought!


It’s tough to know where to begin with this movie. At its worst Batman v Superman feels slightly overstuffed and surprisingly sluggish. There’s a lot going on here – at times it’s too much for even a 150+ minute-movie to sustain. At its best, however, it provides pure, unadulterated comic book entertainment – and it does so in spades.
 
As Josh, Mark, and so many others have pointed out lately, this is a movie primarily for comic book fans. There are easter-eggs and geek-out moments aplenty, as the two most iconic superheroes of the 20th Century go toe-to-toe with one another (under somewhat contrived circumstances). After two viewings (both in the same 24 hour period), I’ve put together a SPOILER-filled analysis that’ll hopefully touch on all the key talking points from the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world…
 
DIRECTION & TONE
 
 
Simply put, if you weren’t the biggest admirer of Zack Snyder’s work on the notoriously divisive Man Of Steel, I have a hard time believing you’ll love Dawn Of Justice. As many reviews have no doubt pointed out already, the movie is imbued with Snyder’s hallmark characteristics as a director. The visuals are slick, the substance is debatable and the violence is… very violent? But there’s something inherently watchable about Snyder’s style. I’d even go so far as to say this movie packs a fair amount of fun.
 
You heard me! One of the prevailing criticisms BvS has received is that it’s too bleak, and that the tone doesn’t possess any of Marvel’s crowd-pleasing levity. While the first part of that sentence may be true (Ben Affleck’s homicidal Batman sees to that), the darkness & intensity of the first act is counterbalanced by the film’s gung-ho finale. It’s the very definition of big, dumb, blockbuster fun!
 
Outside of Jeremy Irons’ wonderfully sardonic Alfred, I’d note the film is light on humor. Some of the quips don’t land and even the big laugh-out-loud moment (“Is she with you?”) is undermined by the fact it featured in the trailers. That’s not to say it needed Ant-Man-style pratfalls to succeed, but a little more subtle wit (in the vein of Batman Begins or The Winter Soldier) would not have gone amiss.
 
PACING & STORY
 
 
I appreciate what writers David S. Goyer & Chris Terrio were trying to do by incorporating the mystery element, but the first act is a bit of a slog. It’s apparent very early on that Lex Luthor is behind everything (isn’t he always), and so the constant twists and turns begin to feel quite tiring. Furthermore, once the two eponymous heroes start going at each other’s throats, a good portion of that opening hour is swiftly forgotten, making it somewhat redundant.
 
Some dubious pacing doesn’t help the film’s narrative either. The opening hour moves at breakneck speed, desperately trying to introduce and develop its core characters, while laying the foundations for the second half of the film (and the wider DCEU). It’s clear lots of Snyder’s original footage has been lost to the cutting room floor, occasionally leaving gaps in the story, which the audience are expected to fill themselves. This concept seems fine in principal (I’d prefer that to being spoon-fed a simplistic story), but it leaves the door open for plenty of plot holes.
 
The second half of the film is far less concerned with plot mechanics - and also ramps up the entertainment factor as the two titular heroes first take on each other and then team-up to bring down the dastardly Lex & his demonic beast. Despite offering a fairly by-the-numbers blockbuster blowout (with an emotional final twist), this part of the movie was easily the most enjoyable, complementing the film’s more ‘sophisticated’ opening stages well.
 
BATMAN & SUPERMAN
 
 
Ben Affleck’s been receiving a lot of praise for his performance as Bruce Wayne. Even some of the most scathing BvS reviews have singled him out as the film’s highlight. It’s a far cry from those days of angry fan petitions! The praise isn’t without merit either. Affleck is everything I had hoped for – a worthy successor to Christian Bale, and a terrifying menace in his own right while dressed in the cape & cowl.
 
His physical commitment to the role is particularly admirable, helping him deliver the most intimidating Batman in cinematic history. Some fans of the character have understandably taken issue with some of his extreme methods, but I can’t claim they fazed me much. In fact, they seemed rather fitting with the bleak and unrelenting nature of the universe Snyder has created for his characters.
 
Contrary to popular opinion, the gap in quality between Affleck’s Batman & Henry Cavill’s Superman isn’t nearly as large as some have declared. Consistent as ever, Cavill carries himself with the same modesty & likeability he brought to the part in Man Of Steel. It’s a thankless role, as Superman is hardly as ‘sexy’ as Batman, or even as exciting as Wonder Woman, but he anchors proceedings accordingly - nailing his emotional exit as Clark sacrifices himself to defeat Doomsday. ‘Wooden’ my ass.
 
 
GOD vs MAN; DAY vs (K)NIGHT
 
 
When it comes to the DCEU’s Superman, Cavill’s not the problem – it’s Zack Snyder. While he’s clearly in his element directing Ben Affleck’s Batman, Superman is a character I’m not sure Snyder’s ever truly understood. He plays up the symbology and Christ analogies nicely, but that ultimately detaches the audience from his protagonist and hardly makes him more endearing. It could be argued that Supes is intially presented as the villain of the film (despite the fact that Batman is the morally grey hero).
 
Their opposing ideologies are what makes the dichotomy of Batman and Superman so interesting, and forms the crux of their conflict in this movie. Part of the beauty of a clash of heroes like this (and indeed in Civil War) is their ability to split fans down the middle, but Snyder and his writers appear to manipulate audiences into viewing Bruce as the hero, failing to portray Clark as the honorable everyman that people can actually relate to (in the vein of a Steve Rogers).
 
The fight itself is quite spectacular though. Brutally aggressive, Snyder’s talent directing hard-hitting action sequences is put to great use, as he masterminds what will undoubtedly go down as one of the best one-on-one confrontations in recent comic book movie memory. The movie’s entire existence revolved around this scene. Thankfully, it did not disappoint.
 
My one criticism is regarding the abrupt nature of its resolution. Using the feuding heroes shared affection for their mothers to unite them wasn’t a bad idea - but the heavy-handed manner in which Snyder executed the scene (beating audiences over the head with the fact that both were called ‘Martha’) meant it came off a little silly. Conversely, the decision to then send an unforgiving Bruce to rescue Clark’s mother was a stroke of genius - forging a bond between the pair, while also setting up that phenomenal warehouse action sequence.
 
WONDER WOMAN
 
 
I'll admit it: when Gal Gadot was first cast as the DCEU’s Amazonian Warrior, I wasn’t hugely impressed. I never understood the shallow complaints about her appearance, but I was concerned about her acting ability – or apparent lack thereof based on what I had seen in the Fast & Furious movies. Her early encounters with Bruce Wayne did little to sway me, and I was left wondering why she had been singled out as the highlight of the film by so many.
 
Then I saw her in action. Watching Wonder Woman single-handedly holding off Doomsday with a big, dumb grin on her face is probably my favorite moment from the entire movie. What a wonderful badass. I’m disappointed her big entrance was ruined in the trailers, but she more than makes up for that in the finale, combining with the other members of the Trinity to great effect, and even whipping out her Lasso of Truth to allow Clark to bring the monster down.
 
The photograph was a fun touch. I particularly enjoyed Zimmer & Junkie XL’s accompanying score. It captured Bruce’s shock nicely, and almost made Diana’s immortality feel like something out of a horror movie. If I found out someone I knew was almost a hundred years old, I’d be sh*tting my pants.
 
Snyder managed to get the best out of Gal in the action department, but in Patty Jenkins she’ll have a director capable of unlocking her dramatic potential too. Bring on that solo Wonder Woman flick!
 
LEX LUTHOR
 
 
Meet the world’s most manipulative, arrogant, cowardly, narcissistic git. This is definitely a divisive opinion, but I loved Lex Luthor. Like Gadot and Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg’s casting as Lex Luthor was a point of controversy amongst fanboys. Many had hoped to see Bryan Cranston in the role, bemoaning Eisenberg’s apparent lack of masculinity or menace. For me, it was a stroke of genius, subverting expectations to craft one of the most memorable CBM villains in recent years.
 
Eisenberg is excellent in the role, replicating the wit and charisma of Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Lex with shades of something far more sinister. His blatant affinity for Chris Terrio’s dialogue is ever present, blurting out line-after-line with exuberance and verve. In a film full of solid performances from talented actors, he steals the show – striking fear into all our hearts at the end of the film with a petrified outburst about the impending arrival of a certain DC big bad. Ding ding ding ding ding…
 
DOOMSDAY & DESTRUCTION
 
 
I don’t understand mainstream moviegoers fascination with explosions. They cost a hell of a lot of money, look awful when handled incorrectly and add very little to any action sequence. I’d take a perfectly choreographed fight scene over an explosion-filled finale any day. And yet… I still wound up really enjoying the big CGI-blowout against Doomsday.
 
Perhaps it was the novelty of watching the Trinity come together on the big screen for the first time, or maybe Man Of Steel managed to desensitize me, but Snyder’s propensity for death and destruction didn’t bug me nearly as much this time around. The heroes trying their best to take the fight away from civilians certainly helped, but there’s also a level of devastation you just come to expect from Doomsday. He basically gets a get out of jail free card.
 
Speaking of the beast, I enjoyed the way he was portrayed. His evolution was a little rushed, but he proved to be a formidable opponent for the Trinity. As a comic book character, Doomsday has never done anything for me – he’s just a brute who kills Superman – so the fact they made me care genuinely means a lot. The energy blasts were a bit unnecessary though. I felt they were analogous to Man Of Steel’s dub-step machine world engine, in that they added very little outside of more ‘splosions.
 
CAMEOS & WORLD-BUILDING
 
 
The only part of this movie I genuinely hated was the Knightmare sequence. It confused non-hardcore comic book fans, distracted audiences from the main plot and almost seemed to have been inserted in to look pretty & sell toys. It may possess a greater meaning (which could be revealed in Justice League or another future DCEU movie) but for the moment it felt bloated and unnecessary.
 
I enjoyed the cameos – even though they seemed poorly placed in the film’s narrative. DC’s desire to be deviate from the Marvel formula backfired, as they probably would have been more suited as post-credits tags. The Aquaman & Cyborg clips were fine, but the one that really got me excited was Ezra Miller’s fleeting second appearance as Barry Allen in the store. Miller already looks the part and I can’t wait to see him in Justice League next year!
 
OTHER OBSERVATIONS
 

 
- I intended to touch on Snyder’s portrayal of women in this piece, but that’s enough material for a whole other article.
 
- I’ll say this though, his inability to give an actress as talented as Amy Adams enough material to shine as Lois Lane is downright inexcusable.

- In defense of Lois, while she does do EXACTLY the same things people complained about in Man Of Steel (pops up everywhere, relies on Superman to save her), it felt less egregious this time. Maybe because we all expected it
 
- The decision to kill of Tao Okamoto was bizarre. I get they were trying to portray Lex as this sociopath who doesn’t care for anyone, but her absence is not even addressed. Her death is so inconsequential you forget she was even there.
 
- Two supporting players who really stood out for me were Scoot McNairy’s aggrieved Wallis and (in particular) Holly Hunter’s iron-willed Senator Finch. Her tête-à-tête with Luthor made for one of the film’s best scenes.
 

- What was with that Jonathan Kent cameo? It ate up valuable screen time, and took me out of the movie to boot.
 
- I’ve taken apart Chris Terrio’s script’s narrative woes (which I’m tempted to attribute to David S. Goyer), but some of his dialogue in this film is fantastic. A HUGE improvement from the “I just think he’s kind of hot” garbage in Man Of Steel.
 
- Special shout-outs to composers Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL and DoP Larry Fong, who truly cover themselves in glory with their music and visual contributions respectively.
 
- I just want to reiterate how insanely re-watchable I found this. I saw BvS twice in the same 24 hour period, and I still enjoyed it just as much the second time. This was in stark contrast to Man Of Steel, which I waited a week for to watch again, and hated on second viewing.
 
- 16-TK-421: that's the number on Lex’s prison uniform. Zack really loves his Star Wars.
 
THE BOTTOM LINE
 
Is Dawn Of Justice sophisticated or stupid? Honestly, I think it’s a bit of both. At the end of the day though, I’ve questioned it, criticized it and even torn it apart a little, but that still didn’t stop me from really enjoying myself at the theatre – both times! It's flawed but fun entertainment.
 
Batman v Superman is an entertaining blockbuster spectacle that occasionally gets a little too ambitious. Held together by a talented cast, and boasting some stunning visuals and an outstanding score, it kickstarts the DCEU in bombastic fashion (with a few bumps along the way).


[RATING REMOVED AS THAT'S REALLY NOT WHAT THIS PIECE WAS EVER ABOUT]
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