It’s pretty damn funny to see some critics tear apart Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice like it’s the second coming of Batman & Robin. They’re practically putting director Zack Snyder on a firing range and letting loose with their bevy of inconsistencies, wondering if any of them will sting him enough to let another director take over the forthcoming Justice League.
And at the same time, it’s kind of sad, because it seems like Warner Bros. finally “gets it” when it comes to comic book movies. Man of Steel was a far greater accomplishment than whatever the hell Superman Returns was, and the Dark Knight trilogy proved it could tackle serious issues without giving in to Adam West-style camp. They were more than ready.
So here I was, sitting in a theater, waiting to see what Dawn of Justice had to offer for myself. I read my fair share of scathing reviews, but, if I recall, a lot of other comic book movies went through crap like this (Age of Ultron) and turned out to be pretty good nevertheless. So I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, and not another, well, Batman & Robin.
Fortunately, I got my wish, as the movie isn’t bad at all. That’s not to say it’s perfect, though. I can reflect on why some critics just didn’t find that proper vibe to be on board with it. But by the same token, I was able to overlook the flaws and find the sheer beauty from the third and final act of the film, when Wonder Woman hits the screen and kicks ass as intended, just in time to counter the juggernaut Doomsday.
But I’m jumping ahead. The first two thirds of the film do a lot of walkthrough. And I mean a LOT of walkthrough. We learn more about Ben Affleck’s take on Batman and what’s got him so ticked off about Superman in the first place, as well as the Man of Steel’s struggle to try and fit in to a mortal world that he knows he can never be a part of. Meanwhile, side characters also get involved, including Supes’ love interest Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Batman’s loyal servant Alfred (Jeremy Irons) and, of course, egotistical billionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who can’t help but flaunt on the screen, trying to be the second coming of Gene Hackman. (Alas, not even close.)
The build-up can be frustrating, as it takes about a good hour or so for the plot to come into focus, dealing with smaller events that show what each man is capable of. But, finally, we reach that pivotal point where the curtain is pulled back and we see what the master plan is – and it’s actually pretty cool. That’s not to say I became fully convinced, but it was kind of neat seeing all the pieces fit together when they were jumbled at the beginning.
A few films in, Zack Snyder does know how to put on a show with his direction, but his storytelling could still use a little more work. He got closer to nailing it with Man of Steel a few years ago, and didn’t do too bad with Watchmen for that matter (DESPITE what some folks say – you try adapting it to the silver screen and see how successful you become), but with Batman v Superman, you could feel a slight sense of lull that dragged down his original piece Sucker Punch. That’s not to say the film’s terrible, but it could’ve been cut down by a half hour and been better off for it.
That said, the third act is a powerhouse, with plenty of action to make up for the dragging parts, and a showdown with the powerful Doomsday that lights up the screen. Literally – city blocks get torn apart. The effects can be a bit too much into overdrive at times, but it’s a hell of a fight – and I gotta admit, Snyder did a decent job nailing down the Batman vs. Superman stuff before then, actually giving the battle a bit of meaning. (Here’s hoping the director’s cut prolongs it a bit with more fisticuffs, yeah?)
As for the set-up to Justice League, it’s suitable, but not quite as convincing as Marvel’s build-up of the Avengers. We do see glimpses of some of the heroes entering the picture, although I’m still pissed that WB went with a new Flash (Ezra Miller) instead of the great one from the TV series. That said, Jason Mamoa actually makes a convincing Aquaman (despite his brief screen time), and it’s great to see Ray Fisher more than ready to take on Cyborg.
Now, let’s talk about the current cast, because they’re really what matters in the movie, yes? Henry Cavill continues to be a strong Superman, even showing vulnerability during a couple of crucial scenes. Plus, he has great chemistry with Adams, who once again takes the role of Lois Lane to heart, even if she is saddled with a somewhat conspiracy theory-based story in the beginning of the film, which could’ve easily been done away with.
As for Affleck as Batman, he’s not my favorite by any means. Keaton and Bale still hold the hood the best way, I feel. That said, he does make a fulfilling argument for the character, adding a layer of humanity missing from some of the previous performers trying to fill his Bat boots. (Looking at you, Val Kilmer.) He’s not bad, and I have a feeling he’ll continue to grow in the role – maybe even as soon as Suicide Squad coming up this summer.
Gal Gadot makes a hell of a Wonder Woman. I questioned her casting at first, but she’s actually very good in the role, though she has too little screen time for her own good. I hope her feature length film coming next year really gives her a chance to shine, because she’s proven to me that she deserves it.
As for Jesse Eisenberg…well, like I said, he’s not Gene Hackman. Not by a mile. Hell, he’s not even Kevin Spacey for that matter. But he’s not horribly bad either, as his malice kicks into overdrive in the later part of the film, especially as he calls upon his big guy to enter the arena. He also makes a convincing argument for his role in the Justice League film, though I dare not say why.
Other performers are good, too. Laurence Fishburne continues to be a good Perry White; Diane Lane is awesome as Supes’ adoptive mom; and it’s even fun to see an old face make a cameo, though I won’t say who. (You’ll see him on the mountain.)
So there it is. For those that are disappointed in Batman v Superman, I can kind of see why, since it caters hardcore to comic book fans and less to casual audiences, and the pacing can be as sluggish as a snail wearing a ball and chain. A shorter run time and more fighting would’ve gone a long way into knocking this film into my top five.
But I digress. Snyder and company have made a pretty good Man of Steel sequel/Justice League prequel that sets things in motion, with more promising things on the horizon. Plus, it’s crazy how well Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot have validated themselves in the face of Internet hatred, and did well with their performances. As for Eisenberg, well, jury’s still out, but there are worse villains that have popped up.
My best advice to you is to go see it with an open frame of mind of comic book enjoyment. Don’t pick it apart like crazy, and don’t expect a Marvel-level production, and you’ll have a good time with it. It could’ve been far better by certain, but, hey, it’s far from the cataclysm where Batman & Robin dwells.