I can’t recall another time when one movie had so much riding against it as the still curious titled “Batman v. Superman”. The low critical and fan response to “Man of Steel”, the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, that trailer that displayed a Middle-Earth Doomsday, and Jessie Eisenberg as a Gene Hackman type Lex Luthor performance times ten. And lest we forget that this film is going to introduce Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Wonder Woman. Going in I had slightly low expectations, I knew it would look expensive and be hyper-stylized in that Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) sort of way. Coming out of the movie I was surprised to see that a solid attempt was made to give us what we’ve been wanting since this whole superhero movie craze began.
After the events of “Man of Steel” destroyed most of Metropolis we now get another glimpse of the destruction from the point of view of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who sees it as an uncontrollable and dangerous alien in Superman (Henry Cavill). As the mysterious brooding Batman formulates a plan to bring down the last son of Krypton so is the evil for evil sake Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). As Superman is settling into his save-the-day routine, the country in the form of Senator Finch (Holly Hinter) wants answers about what he can and should do for the planet. Slowly but surely Batman and Superman are pulled into a situation where they have to confront each other as well as themselves to see who is in the right and who will go down. And you can be sure that punching and kryptonite will be involved.
Again based on the trailers and director Zack Snyder’s style over substance reputation, I expected this to be a super-sized train wreck of a mess. However it ended up being a beautifully well shot, well paced, epic mess of a comic book movie. Certainly a step up from the previous “Man of Steel” effort, Snyder again pays little attention to script logic, movie logic, and sometimes superhero logic. The characters have reasons for what they do, but none of it really comes together in a cohesive way. Apparently there will be a version with 30 some odd extra minutes, that may fill some of the gaps, but the focus was clearly aimed at Batman and his reaction to Superman. In that regard Affleck simply crushed it as both Batman and Bruce Wayne, he clearly put his heart into this character which he has a ton of respect and reverence for. Every time he was on screen, I was on board, unlike Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman who is probably doing what the plot tells him, but adding no charisma like he did in something like last year’s underrated “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, where he had charm to spare, here he’s barely likable, even as Clark Kent. The script by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer seems intent on making both of our heroes too serious and too tortured throughout the course of the film.
What did work for me, and what Snyder excels at is the action, even the kinda terrible “Sucker Punch” had incredible action set pieces. Here is no exception, there are awesome action scenes mostly involving Batman, and the big showdown between the two titans is worth the wait, I even really enjoyed the final resolution, which did some things I didn’t expect. What was expected was the streak of terrible super hero movie villains. Why can’t anyone get these right? Eisneberg went way, way, way out to left field with his performance which seemed to be a cross between Howard Hughes, The Joker, and I-don’t-know-what-the-hell. And of course Doomsday is exactly what he appears to be in the trailer, horribly rendered and zero development. He’s basically there for something to punch, and bring Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman to the screen. What little time she is given, it does make me look forward to her solo effort coming out next year.
Though “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” by no means lives up to the bar that is “The Dark Knight”, I appreciate that the filmmakers genuinely tried to reach for it. These two characters have been interacting with each other in comics and cartoons for over 50 years, there was very little doubt that any fan or critic would be satisfied with the end result. As a lifelong fan I found myself in a happy middle, they didn’t totally ruin the first big screen meeting, but they failed to utilize the countless material that has made these two live so long in the hearts and minds of generations of fans.
–Robert L. Castillo