By Thomas Griffiths
Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is directed by Zack Snyder and stars Ben Affleck, Henry Caville, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburn. It is one of the most anticipated films of 2016, right up there with Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book and Finding Dory, and it surrounds this bubbling conflict that breaks up between Batman and Superman, after the climactic battle between Superman and General Zod in the hugely exciting Man of Steel. What must first be understood is the anticipation behind these two characters, considering that they are two of the most beloved superheroes of all time and the two most prominent icons of DC Comics. The fan anticipation for this movie was immense, and I’m proud to say that I was one of those fans – Batman is one of my favourite, if not my very favourite superhero of all time, and I was really looking forward to seeing this movie. When I saw Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, I had an incredible time – this movie is fantastic, but it does of course have some noticeable flaws.
First-off, my expectations for this film were extremely high and I had some questions about some of the choices made for this movie – namely the selection of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, and Ben Affleck as Batman. I wanted this movie to serve my needs as a Batman fan, and to be entertaining…and I sure as hell got that. First off, Ben Affleck was freaking brilliant as Bruce Wayne/Batman. This guy blew me away in this movie: I’ve had mixed feelings about Ben Affleck, and so far I think he’s an okay actor, but in this film he was amazing. With him at the helm, Bruce Wayne was fascinating, investing, I understood where he was coming from most of the time and he was extremely exciting to watch on the big screen. Also, the Batsuit he wore as Batman was awesome – in some ways, it made him look fat, but when he fought Superman he looked captivating. Henry Caville was excellent as Superman, just as he was in Man of Steel – I don’t think he surpasses the late Christopher Reeve, but even now I think he was a good choice for the character. I understood why these two characters eventually fought, and that was one of my biggest worries about that part of the film.
Amy Adams was very good as Lois Lane, again like she was in Man of Steel. She served her purpose for being a motivation for Superman’s actions and for inspiring him to do some things, but that was the main reason her character was relevant in my opinion. Towards the end of the film, they did noticeable struggle to make Lois Lane relevant, but that isn’t a major flaw in my opinion. Diane Lane, though she wasn’t in the movie much, was great when she was on the screen. These two characters served well as catalysts for the actions of Superman. In addition, I thought Jeremy Irons was perfectly cast as Alfred Pennyworth, he’s on par with Michael Caine in The Dark Knight and his scenes with Ben Affleck were extremely powerful. Laurence Fishburne was alright, he didn’t have that much to do as he did in Man of Steel but he did a good job as Perry White. Finally, Holly Hunter – who, at times, felt like the secondary hero of the film – gave a grounded, believable performance and I understood her character more than I expected to. Finally, Gal Gadot was terrific as Wonder Woman and her character looked and felt like a superhuman badass, which she essentially is.
The plot of this movie followed right up from Man of Steel, and it even amended some flaws people had with that film – namely, the massive destruction caused during Superman’s battle with the Kryptonians and his final fight with General Zod. That was one of my issues with Man of Steel, that the destruction was a little bit over-the-top, but the film followed up with a realistic response by the people to what happened in Metropolis. There is a lot of controversy surrounding Superman and whether or not he is dangerous to society. Strangely enough, Bruce Wayne, who lost several people he cared about in the battle, also has feelings that Superman is a threat to humankind. Bruce Wayne’s perspective was the one I understood the most, and that was one of the most important aspects of the film. Also, to see Bruce Wayne investigate things throughout the entire film was really exciting and felt like this was the Batman from the comics.
I don’t have any issues with Snyder’s direction, which was more than sufficient for this film, and I applaud Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score for exemplifying the excitement of the film. However, I do think that this film suffers slightly from narrative issues, particularly surrounding the character of Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg. Now, I like Jesse Eisenberg and I think he’s very talented, but I did have mixed feelings about his performance in this film. There are several moments that I love his performance, namely when he meets with Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, and he shakes hands with Clark and says ‘Wow, that is a good grip! You should never pick a fight with this person!’, and then there’s the rooftop scene that I will get into later in this review. However, there were some scenes where he seemed to be deliberately erratic in his acting, which felt out of place in a character that was supposed to be stoic, ambitious and determined (which Gene Hackman nailed in the original Superman films). As the main antagonist of the film, he worked well, but I do have issues with how he played the character of Lex Luthor.
Speaking of the scene where Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent meet for the first time, I think that there are so many moments in this film where the dialogue is cinematic gold. The scene where Clark and Bruce trade ideologies (both of them knowing who the other really is) was gripping as hell, and I actually expected it to come to blows then and there. Also, as I said, the scenes between Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons are terrific – especially the scene where Alfred confronts Bruce about wanting to fight Superman, stating that Superman is not the enemy. Henry Caville and Laurence Fishburne are great together, and the relationship between them, though not pivotal to the film, was fun to watch. Finally, the amazing rooftop scene between Lex Luthor and Superman where Lex delivers this fantastic monologue about how Superman must fight Batman or lose his mother, and both actors truly come into their own in this one scene.
This brings me to what everyone who anticipated this film had all been waiting for – the big fight between Batman and Superman. And, oh, my God, it is spectacular. The fight was incredible. Every blow, every strategy, every reaction was practical and realistic, and the dialogue between characters was electrifying. There’s also this really haunting element to the fight, especially at the start, where Superman tries to reason with Batman, but Batman just wants to fight Superman. It’s clear, of course, that Superman is superior to Batman, but the moment Batman brings in his Kryptonite weapons, Superman feels horrifyingly weak for the first time since Kryptonite is his weakness. The way these characters continuously get up and carry on fighting is brilliant, and how Batman pounds on Superman when he’s under the Kryptonite is actually frightening – however, it felt exactly like the character of Batman was portrayed in the comics, as a dark, brutal and complex character.
There is, though, a very puzzling moment at the end of the fight where Superman begs Batman to save Martha, and a lot of people had bad opinions of that scene and thought it was bad writing. I thought it was sufficient, but I figured that they could have used a better way of ending the fight with Batman teaming up with Superman. It worked well, what with Batman losing his mother when he was a kid and Superman loving his human mother like his real mother, having lost his human father in a hurricane. It’s one of several moments of plot convenience that continue to bring up controversy among the fans of the comics. However, both actors take it very seriously and it moves the plot along without being too generic. It brings us on to one of my favourite scenes in the entire movie: the warehouse fight scene. This entire sequence is freaking awesome! There are so many great moments in the fight, and I couldn’t get it out of my head that this was what Batman fought like in the comics. I’ll admit, I never pictured Ben Affleck as an action hero, especially after his part in Daredevil, but he was fantastic physically as Batman.
This brings me to the place where I do have some major issues with the movie. The entire creation of Doomsday was alright in my opinion, but it felt like it took us away from the film a lot. Not all of it made that much logical sense, and when Doomsday was finally created, it felt a little tacked-on. That being said, the entire fight scene between Doomsday, and Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman was thrilling to watch, and the eventual death of Superman was surprisingly powerful. It sort of made sense to turn General Zod into Doomsday, and it provided a dilemma for the heroes because it could only be killed by Kryptonite weapons, but apart from that it felt shoehorned into the film. However, this isn’t nearly my biggest problem with this movie. Superman’s death is handled extremely well, and when Batman visits Lex Luthor in prison I was gripping my seat because I honestly thought he was going to kill him to avenge Superman.
That brings me on to what is, by far, my most major issue with this film: In this entire film, Batman is killing people all over the place. He’s shooting people, breaking them in half, blowing them up. The action in this movie was legendary, but the fact that Batman seemed completely unapologetic about killing so many opponents bothered the hell out of me. In the comics, Batman was of course brutal, but he had the major element of a personal moral code not to kill. At no point in this film did Snyder try to explain why Batman had abandoned his moral code, and it would have made so much sense to include a scene where Batman explained his motivations for being so vicious. Maybe they’ll sort it out in the upcoming Justice League films, but for this film alone it was a serious problem for me.
I don’t think this is a bad film in any sense. This was an excellent film, and I really don’t get the hate it’s received from critics and audiences. I personally had a blast watching Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I did have several substantial issues with the narrative inconsistencies that the film suffered from, and the on-and-off performance of Jesse Eisenberg. That being said, I applaud the casting choice of Ben Affleck, Henry Caville, Gal Gadot and Jeremy Irons – they were awesome. Zack Snyder’s direction was very good and Hans Zimmer’s score was thrilling to hear. As far as fanservice and being an entertaining movie for action film fans, this movie triumphed. That being said, I do hope that Zack Snyder learns from some certain mistakes he made in this film.
At the very least, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice was, without a doubt, galaxies better than Batman and Robin.
Rating: 3.5/5BEST QUOTES