Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is trying to do way too much, it rarely stops to breath, but if you are up for going with that crazy flow you will probably enjoy most of the experience.
Batman v. Superman is a direct sequel/reaction to Man of Steel, with the film’s opening serving as another reboot of Batman/Bruce Wayne on the big screen and his opinions towards Superman in the wake of the leveling of Metropolis. The Bat is not a fan of Supes. Bruce lost a lot of people when his building was destroyed during the Superman/Zod fight, and while most people are still firmly on the side of Superman, Lois and Clark are beginning to feel a change in the wind that some people don’t like someone as powerful as Superman to be running around in case he decides to not be so helpful. Even the government is getting in on the anti-Superman bandwagon, as a committee of senators has been rousing up the press and public with public hearings on the dangers of Superman. In the meanwhile, Lex Luthor is scheming to get a chunk of Kryptonite into the US as he negotiates with the aforementioned senators for access to everything Kryptonian in their possession. Everyone’s interests soon come together and there is even another face or two that get into the mix.
BvS isn’t without its flaws, and its biggest is probably that it takes a lot for granted that you just know who these characters are. Superman is building off Man of Steel, Batman is reacting to it, but no one else’s motivations are really dug into. Lois and Bruce have the closest things to an actual plot, she is investigating a mysterious bullet from the people trying to frame Superman, while Bruce is chasing down a supposed dirty bomb trying to get brought into Gotham, but everyone else is either keeping things tight to the chest or just reacting to what is unfolding around them. Which is a bit weird because the film is assuming we know where all the players stand, so why not just show us what Lex is up to instead of trying to cram it into a “reveal” in the final act? Even the stuff with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman doesn’t really play that well as a twist because, again, we are supposed to know who this woman is. I barely know anything about the character (at want point in my head, during the big battle, I thought, “Oh yeah! She’s got a lasso!), but the film is clearly setting her up/expecting you to know that she is something more than she seems, so why so secretive? The only new character you can really roll with in this respect is Batman, and that is because we know the character so well. That said, they do a good job of getting us in his current head space in this film, as he probably gets the most screen time of anyone in the picture.
BvS also takes these assumptions of audience knowledge and assumes you will be able to keep up/roll with the story as it plows forward in a bunch of different directions. As I mentioned above, the film is assuming you know what everyone is about and they take that a bit for granted when it comes to moving the plot forward. I barely was able to hang with it all, and I am certainly not going to act like it all made sense on one watch through. I feel like if the characters were just fleshed out a bit more, this bare bones approach to the story would have worked a bit better, which would have allowed some of the weirder stuff to play even better as well. This is a film with a brief flash of time travel and possibly prophetic dream sequences in the mind of a human and I wish we got even more of this weirder stuff. I appreciate Snyder’s trust that the audience will be able to connect all the dots without over explaining things (the only over explaining in the film is to make it perfectly clear that no civilians are present), but I think there are a couple of holes here and there.
The thing that bothered me the most was the placement of the inevitable Justice League montage reveal, the film was really rolling towards the big Batman versus Superman fight, I think Batman is literally waiting for Superman as Lex reveals his master plan forcing Superman’s hand and they cut to Diana sitting in a hotel room looking at these pretty bad videos of the other three members of the Justice League. Poor timing.
It was also a bit disappointing when the action devolves into CGI punching for the big finales, but Zack Snyder was able to give us a few more moments of clarity in this fight than he does in Man of Steel. But still, for a couple of minutes there Superman and Wonder Woman are taking turns bashing into our big bad and I couldn’t tell you who was doing what. Wonder Woman using her weapons did allow for some of those aforementioned moments of clarity, but I’m not sure how balanced out that was compared to the unintelligible stuff. The finale got off on the right foot with the battle being taken into space, but that was the high point of the fight for me.
The Batman versus Superman fight is also a bit of a mixed bag as well. Every time it is Affleck and Cavill on the screen duking it out, it works, but every time it flips to their CGI stand-ins, you can feel it and it doesn’t work as well. Granted, the split between the two is favored more towards the positive side, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed every time it got away from what was working.
Yeah, that was a lot of stuff that could have been better, but I was able to roll with most of it, and I think some of this might be alleviated in the announced director’s cut. I still really enjoyed Henry Cavill as Superman and wish we got another straightforward Superman story with him. Cavill carries himself so well as both sides of Superman’s persona and I look forward to where the character goes from here now that it seems he might officially be out of the growing pains phase of becoming Superman. But can we please get more of him saving people in slow motion? Snyder captures these moments so beautifully, I wish we got to spend even more time with Superman the everyday hero. One montage wasn’t enough.
I wish he and Lois Lane had a bit more to do here, but I love seeing Cavill and Amy Adams in their respective roles. Adams elevates a nothing part here, making us continue to care about Lois and her relationship with Clark, even though they are both too underdeveloped for my liking. I even think they did a fine job of fleshing out Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White who was underdeveloped and laid with unearned emotional payoffs in Man of Steel. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is too much of an enigma, right along Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, but I like both of their performances. Gadot doesn’t get much to do, but I am excited to see her Wonder Woman film now. Eisenberg is doing some silly stuff as Lex Luthor, but I liked it as a mask for his darker side that he was hiding, I just wish we got more of the dark stuff, and the motivation for it, out of him. Jeremy Irons is a fun take on Alfred, basically being an equal to Bruce in the batcave and giving the film its few moments of levity.
Batman is the standout in the film, and Ben Affleck does a fine job in the role. Now, you could argue that this is a Batman movie more than it is a Superman one, but Batman definitely gets the two best action beats in the film. One is an impressive single take dream(?) fight that sees Batman and his post-apocalyptic squad getting overtaken by Superman’s intergalactic army and the other is the rescue attempt of a certain character near the end of the film. That rescue sequence is Snyder’s best action sequence in these two DC films, and Affleck’s burly Batman works great in these moments. Most of all I enjoyed Affleck’s grumpy and paranoid take on the character who just doesn’t give a F’ about any bad guy in his way. He’s pissed off, circling the drain on thinking being a hero is hopeless and will do whatever it takes to complete his mission.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film with its fair share of pluses and minuses, but I think Snyder is able to hold things together and deliver us an entertaining adventure with these characters. A lot feels a bit too rushed, but Snyder falls back on what he does best in a lot of the action beats and the fighting is all the better for it. The cast is pretty good across the board, I like the new Batman, and I am still on board for these Wonder Woman and Justice League movies, so mission accomplished? Not entirely, as I think with more script polish Snyder could have given us an even better launch of the DCCU (D.C. Cinematic Universe), but I still enjoyed the mayhem we got. Warner Brothers asked Snyder to do/cram a lot into this movie and he holds it all together.