This review contains spoilers.
The critics may not like it, but Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is hitting the box office hard, as fans are flocking in their droves to watch two of the most recognisable superheroes in history go head-to-head.
Now first and foremost, the film does have its issues, which we will cover later. But for the most part, Batman V Superman is a fun, enjoyable comic book movie.
In terms of the tone and style, it is a continuation of Man of Steel, with the sepia and dark tones, mixed with hard-hitting action.
The story was rather disjointed, but the action sequences and visuals were more than enough to help you forget about some of the odd storytelling choices and the film’s lengthy run time.
A lot of the film’s criticism is coming from people trying to compare it with Marvel films. And that is a very difficult thing to do. The two companies have very different tones and ideas of what they want to achieve with their movies. So it’s better to judge Batman V Superman on its own merits, rather than trying to compare it to films within the MCU.
We decided to wait until a few days after our initial viewing to write this review, to be able to digest and process what we had just watched. To ensure that our review was an honest account of our thoughts, and not heavily influenced by our initial hype or displeasure of the film.
What we liked:
The re-telling of the final act of Man of Steel from Bruce Wayne’s point of view was an astonishing bit of comic book cinema. In that opening sequence the tone was set immediately. The character motivation for Batman was established right from the off. This was the perfect way for the movie to start, it’s just a shame there weren’t more scenes like this in the film.
Ben Affleck as Batman. When first cast in the role, the internet rose up and started the memes and blogs about how he would ruin Batman forever (Not the film, Joel Schumacher already did that).
Affleck puts in a stellar performance as the older, more war-weary Bruce Wayne and Batman. He has to be now considered as the best live action Batman/Bruce Wayne there has been to date. Even the most hardened anti-Affleck flag wavers would surly concede that he was the right choice for the part. He was simply brilliant.
Wonder Woman. While some critics are going over the top with how she “saved the film”. Seeing a strong, influential female superhero on the big screen was a big deal. Her theme song was also a stand-out in the film, and the anticipation of her debut solo outing will have been greatly increased after her, rather brief, showing in Batman V Superman.
The sheer number of comic book references and nods in this film was just outstanding. For casual fans, a lot of these things will have not meant much. But you can tell this film was made for the fans, first and foremost. The Marvel movies use their comic book references sparingly, and some like it that way. But for this, they overloaded you with comic book references that serviced the fans like no other comic book movie before has done. It was hard not to get excited, smile manically and get goosebumps over some of the delights we were treated to.
The cameos. When the files were decrypted and those superhero logos appeared for the first time, it was difficult to remain calm. Seeing The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman symbols on the big screen really hammered home the fact we are getting the Justice League!
Just seeing the logos would have been enough for us, but the fact we got to see The Flash, Cyborg and (the stand out) Aquaman footage was just the icing on the cake. Fans have craved this for a long time, and we are finally getting to see these characters on the big screen.
The supporting cast. From Jeremy Irons’ Alfred to Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White. The supporting cast had a big part to play in the film. Having so many experienced and talented actors to supplement and support the main 4 cast members was a big plus point.
What we didn’t like:
Zack Snyder is great with action and fight scenes, and he knows how to set up amazing imagery on-screen (the pearls on the gun slide was sublime). Where he usually falls down is on the storytelling. He struggles to take a script and weave it in to his filmmaking style. While Batman V Superman may have been written by David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio, the script oozed of Snyder’s influence. The film was also too long, and they tried to cram so much in, that leaving the cinema you felt so many of the smaller story arcs were left unfinished.
The film could have done with being 30-40 minutes shorter than it was, and the skipping from sub-plot to sub-plot was a distraction. The film, from a storytelling point, felt like two hours of setting up the next movie, with a two fight scenes crammed in at the end. Now there is nothing wrong with setting up your universe, characters and stories, but there are so many better ways this could have been done.
In terms of the story telling, there were so many poor choices made. With the solo Justice League character movies having different directors, hopefully we can see some better growth and maturity in the DCEU. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman film should be a stand-out for sure. Though hearing the news that James Wan’s Aquaman movie is having some ‘hands on help’ from Zack Snyder does worry us a little.
This is an anti-Superman movie. It’s hard to understand why Snyder apparently dislikes the character so much, but he clearly does. Superman in this movie was such an afterthought, there was no hiding this fact. His meaningless sacrifice so early on in the DCEU was an absolute waste. Why not “kill” him off at the end of the first Justice League movie or a solo film? Make that death mean something. He had one origin story movie, and played second fiddle to Batman for another and you “kill” him off? Because the character is over-powered as it is, Superman has always had haters. This film did nothing to turn those haters around and get them on side.
That “death” should have sent shockwaves across the DCEU, it should have shocked the most hardened of anti-Superman fans. But instead, lots of people would have been cheering in cinemas across the world. It was too soon and poorly executed.
Another major headscratcher was how quickly Batman changed his view on Superman, all stemming from the two of them having mothers who share the same name. Given the extent at which they built up the rivalry, to have it deflated in such a quick sequence was frustrating.
Diane Lane as Martha Kent had already had the perfect dialogue scene with Clark, so it was confusing why we needed to see the same scene played out by, the returning, Kevin Costner in a dream sequence. Another example of a scene that was not needed and extended the film’s running time, which could have been better spent elsewhere, or not at all.
Also Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves should have been used too much better effect. Killing her character off so early was a poor choice.
What we are on the fence about:
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.
It goes without saying that Eisenberg’s performance, for the interpretation of the character they wanted, was fine. But…
At the same time it was very distracting, annoying and at no point did the character feel like a genuine threat. We only saw one glimpse of the ruthlessness that we associate with Lex, and that was the hidden bomb explosion at Superman’s hearing.
It was an interesting take on the character. But one that we are very divided on.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a mixed bag, but it gets more right than it does wrong. For fans of the universe and the comics there was plenty of Easter eggs and things to look forward too. But the film struggled with the story at times and in the end there were a few too many unanswered questions and plot holes. This movie felt like an event, the beginning of something big, and we are looking forward to seeing what comes next.