After about two and a half years since the release of “Man of Steel” and the announcement of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”, the second movie in the DC Extended Universe has been released. Was it worth the wait? Could the movie ultimately live up to all the hype? Is the DC Extended Universe ultimately doomed to fail before it even really starts? The answer to all of those questions is no.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a flawed film. There is no getting around that fact. Would I say that it is a bad film? I wouldn’t say that either. What is presented on screen is a film that has a lot going on but at the same time, there is still much to be explained. When watching the film, one can tell that there is a sense of things being cut to make the film a good 2 hours and 31 minutes. Many were wondering why the studio was hyping the uncut version before the film was even released and after watching the film, it’s obvious why.
Now onto the film itself, the movie starts with another retelling of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. It is handled very quickly and over the opening credits and quickly moves onto the last act of “Man of Steel”where Superman and the military battle General Zod and his forces, but this time it’s told from Bruce Wayne. This is interesting as he never actually sees Superman except for a glimpse but he hears his punches which are like thunder and witnesses the destruction that he was inadvertently apart of and thus sees the people suffer because of his action. The end of the scene quickly establishes the grudge that Bruce Wayne has for Superman
The film shifts to a year and a half later where Batman is on something of a reign of terror with the criminal underworld and Superman is on a path of redemption as he is doing his best to remain a beacon of hope even while the public is ultimately divided on him. There is an incident in Africa which once again draws criticism for Superman and the public is once again divided on him. The growing distrust of Superman is all by the machinations of one, Lex Luthor, who has an issue with Superman and wants to set Batman and Superman against one another.
Ben Affleck is great as Bruce Wayne/Batman. His version of The Dark Knight has been fighting crime for over 20 years so he’s played differently from previous live action iterations. His version is not afraid to have one night stands and drink and seems to be more actively involved as Bruce Wayne than someone who just uses his company as a piggy bank to fight crime. His history as Batman is only slightly touched upon and only through visual cues so we the audience don’t get too bogged down. The main thrust of this Batman is simple: take out Superman.
Henry Cavill returns once again as Clark Kent/Superman. Unfortunately he isn’t given as much strong material to work with compared to Ben Affleck. He is given more scenes as Clark Kent the boyfriend and reporter which help to humanize the character. He is in a loving relationship with Lois Lane and there are hints that we wants to be more like her in his professional career compared to what he is given. His best scenes are the ones where he interacts with the most important people in his life: Lois and Martha Kent. Superman in this movie is conflicted as the events of Man of Steel are for the most part, largely past him, Luthor’s machinations are once again bringing his self doubt and making him wonder if he is a beacon for destruction. One gets the sense that the character could have flourished more if he had one more solo movie before being thrust into this movie but there is going to be much more to explore with the character in the future.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor is arguably the most decisive character in the film. His version of Lex Luthor is manic. If one is going into the film expecting the cool and calm version that has been present in the character since after Crisis on Infinite Earths, they will be disappointed. There is some hints of the old mad scientist version mixed with Mark Zuckerberg, who Eisenberg played, also mixed with a character that is very tic-y. There is no denying he is the villain of the piece and what is driving the somewhat convoluted plot forward. I did not mind this version of Lex Luthor. I see what the film was going for and for the most part it works. It only really got over the top for me during the character’s final scene but there are hints that there may be more at play that is affecting the character.
The supporting cast is also top notch. Many characters such as Lois Lane, Perry White, General Swanwick and Martha Kent return from Man of Steel. Laurence Fishburne as Perry White gets more to do this movie than before and certainly classes up the scenes that he is in. Diane Lane as Martha Kent does seem a bit underutilized as Martha Kent but she does play a bigger role towards the end of the movie. Amy Adams is probably my favorite live action version of Lois Lane. She once again shows that she is someone not afraid to get in the middle of the danger if it means being a good investigative reporter. Her relationship with Clark is explored more and she is the key human element in the film when up against, an alien, a vigilante and a megalomaniac. There is also Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth. This Alfred is very different from previous iterations, it’s not even clear if he’s a butler. However, he has been with Bruce since Bruce was a child and actively helps him in his vigilante work while still true to form Alfred, tries to steer the man into leading something of a normal life.
Now onto Wonder Woman. The Amazonian Princess is a minor character within the film. She pops in and out of the film and has very few lines. However, she does make an impression. There are hints towards her solo movie that is coming out next year but it is never overboard. That cannot be said about the other members of the future Justice League. They are cameos but other than one, they feel a bit extraneous and out of place. This works in detriment of the film as the movie takes a pause to set up these other characters.
The two major problems with the film are the script and editing. The director Zack Snyder admitted that the whole concept of the movie shifted from a proper Man of Steel sequel to this only a few days before the movie was even announced in 2013. So the movie was at first written by David Goyer who wrote Man of Steel but then when Ben Affleck was brought on, he brought his writer Chris Terrio to help write the script. The movie was only shooting a few months after that. So one gets the feeling that helps explain the plot hole and overall tone of the movie. This reminds me of “Iron Man 2” which was another rushed movie that had to set up too many things that worked in detriment to the movie itself.
A few weeks before the film was released, it was announced that there would be an uncut version of the movie on the home video market. Many were curious as to why it was announced so early but after seeing the movie, it became clear why. Much has been cut to make the two and a half hour running time. Scenes just jump around and there is a sense that there are scenes missing that would make more sense of what is being portrayed on the screen.
“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a flawed movie. There is no getting around that. Unfortunately Warner Bros. was trying to play catch up in established a cinematic universe for their superheroes. When they tried to hop along, they ended up tripping. However, just because one trips doesn’t mean they can’t pick themselves back up. The film is something of a mess but it still enjoyable. I never once wanted to look at my watch to see how much longer there was to go. I am still excited for DC Extended Universe and the future films to come out.