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Should I Watch..? Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice
What's the big deal?
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is a dramatic action film released in 2016 featuring two of Detective Comics' (DC) most popular characters, Batman and Superman, on screen together for the first time. The film is a sequel to Man Of Steel (1) and is the second film in DC's Extended Universe, a clear rival to Marvel's Cinematic Universe that is currently reaping billions at the box office. The picture sees Superman become a polarising figure in the world with many people suffering unintentionally as a result of his actions, forcing Bruce Wayne to adopt his disguise as Batman in order to face him. The movie stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane. Released to colossal success initially, the movie suffered a historic drop in takings during its second week and was considered a box office failure, despite taking more than $873 million worldwide. Critics were largely unimpressed with the film, citing its poor screenplay and tone.
What's it about?
During the confrontation between Superman and the evil General Zod in the skies above Metropolis, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne unsuccessfully attempts to save his staff at Wayne Enterprises after the building collapses during the fight. Eighteen months later and Wayne learns of a Russian gangster with links to fellow CEO Lex Luthor attempting to import kryptonite into Metropolis. Fearing that Superman could potentially destroy humanity, Wayne decides to acquire the kryptonite and weaponise it.
Meanwhile, over at the Daily Planet, reporter Clark Kent is increasingly disturbed by reports of the violent vigilante Batman operating in nearby Gotham and seeks to expose him. Amid this rising tension over what kind of hero the world needs, Lex Luthor has plans of his own after securing access to Zod's Kryptonian spaceship and the technology on board. With a confrontation looming between the two heroes, what horrors could Lex unleash in his inherent desire to see Superman fall?
Bruce Wayne / Batman
Clark Kent / Superman
Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer *
Release Date (UK)
25th March, 2016
Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Superhero
Worst Supporting Actor (Eisenberg), Worst Screen Combo (Cavill & Affleck), Worst Screenplay, Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off Or Sequel
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Affleck), Worst Actor (Cavill), Worst Director
What's to like?
One could never accuse director Snyder of not having an eye for the visually impressive. From his unfairly maligned adaptation of Watchmen (2) to his reboot of the Superman character in Man Of Steel, Snyder is a director capable of putting every cent of a film's budget on screen. Here, he creates a more cynical world than these characters might be used to but every bit as believable as you'd hope for. From the destruction of Metropolis in the opening scenes to the more subtle aspects of Wayne's manner and the mystery surrounding Miss Prince, the film draws you in easily and manages to captivate throughout.
Despite the short-comings in the script (which we'll get to shortly), Affleck and Cavill actually do alright as the mismatched crime-fighters. Gadot, however, trumps the lot as her intriguing accent and air of mystery gives her role much more to savour as opposed to the two leads who feel a bit too dour for my liking. I know the Batman is supposed to brood but this version seems little more than Death Wish-era (3) Charles Bronson in a funky costume. Cavill's natural air of superiority suits the Superman character well but for viewers used to Christopher Reeve's more comic-book portrayal, it feels a bit alien ironically.
- The film shows Wayne using a voice modulator when wearing the Batman suit to achieve a much lower growl. This idea comes from long-time comic fan and friend of Affleck, Kevin Smith while the suit itself is modelled on its appearance in Frank Miller's iconic The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel.
- Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson, all of whom have cameos in this film, also appeared in Snyder's earlier superhero film Watchmen.
- This is Affleck's second appearance as a superhero after Daredevil (4) where he played a martial artist driven to become a crime-fighter after the death of a family member. Sound familiar?
What's not to like?
As impressive as the CG effects are, they are dreadfully over-the-top. Despite the consequences of mindless destruction being a major theme in the picture, Snyder has no such qualms about levelling a couple of states during the explosive, bombastic finale. Huge monsters, explosions, nukes and energy fields are thrown in like confetti and frankly, it's a bit much and harder to swallow given the events in the first hour and a half. Speaking of which, the film's pacing is also askew with almost nothing happening for the first half of the film. I was starting to think that the film should have been called Yawn Of Justice.
But nothing tops my dislike of Eisenberg's ill-advised portrayal of Lex Luthor who is basically a Glasgow smile and cheap makeup away from being Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight (5). Nothing wrong with that portrayal, obviously, but someone forgot to tell Eisenberg that Luthor is a totally different character - he may be a psychotic businessman but swivel-eyed lunacy is not something I associate with the role. It undermines the movie so much that little feels at stake, despite the level of carnage in the background suggesting otherwise. And ultimately, that's the film's biggest problem - it feels hollow, as though there is nothing driving the story forward besides the desire of the director to see these two characters duke it out. I didn't care about any of the principal characters or what happened afterwards. I was still trying to work out what on Earth was going on. Things have gone wrong somewhere when the disembodied head of someone who I think was the Flash suddenly appeared and starting leaving cryptic clues for Bruce as he woke up from an already bizarre dream featuring a murderous Superman and Batman using guns to kill people. Did Snyder have any sort of clue about the characters he was using other than a list of their superpowers or gadgets?
Should I watch it?
Honestly, I probably wouldn't bother. Superhero fans have been getting their kicks with annoying regularity from Marvel ever since 2008's Iron Man (6) sparked the MCU into existence. And for lovers of the Batman, we'll always have Christopher Nolan's sublime Dark Knight trilogy to fondly recall. This, by contrast, feels bloated and far too long, lumbered with an idiotic script that writes itself into too many corners it can't escape from. As much as I love Batman, I didn't really feel like this added anything to the character's cinematic legacy which is already pretty hit-and-miss - a charge you could also level at Superman's list of films. I sincerely hope that DC get it right in future because this was not a good film, another misstep in their quest to overhaul their Marvel-lous competitors (pun intended).
Great For: anyone who enjoys watching mass destruction (you weirdos!), Gadot's work as Wonder Woman, the MCU
Not So Great For: fans of either Batman or Superman, Eisenberg's reputation, DC
What else should I watch?
Man Of Steel might be the better film for fans of Kal-El but again, Snyder seems to put everything into the titanic final battle between the Last Son of Krypton and General Zod and a bit less into telling a story. Affleck might have just about buried the memories of his time as Daredevil but personally, he doesn't come close to Christian Bale's brilliance in the Dark Knight trilogy. Shining as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, Bale's portrayal feels more genuine and involving than the darker adaptation seen here. It's true that The Dark Knight Rises (7) isn't as good as the first two films but frankly, it's still miles better than Dawn Of Justice.
Of course, these characters have been around since the 1930's and 1940's and many more appearances on the big screen. Fans have rightly lauded Christopher Reeve's performance in Superman (8) where he expertly brought the two aspects of Clark Kent to life in a comic-book film that has very little of the bleakness seen in more recent adaptations. And I will always have fond memories of Tim Burton's Batman (9) - not just because of Michael Keaton's performance but Jack Nicholson's unforgettable appearance as the Joker. Yes, the film creates a new backstory for the characters but it's a fine blend between the right level of darkness and the more comedic aspects of the comic.
© 2017 Benjamin Cox