By Michael Kaye
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Review)
Everyone knows I've been a DC fan for pretty much my entire life. Roughly 20 years ago, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini became the godfathers of the DC animated universe, starting with Batman The Animated Series in 1992, followed by Superman The Animated Series in '96, and concluding with Justice League and Justice League Unlimited in the early 2000's. 1997 saw the first animated encounter between The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel in the 3-part crossover episode, later repackaged as The Batman Superman Movie: World's Finest (see my review here). Since then, it has been a life long dream of mine to see these two titans together on the big screen in live action, and now we finally get to see that happen in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice!
Here's the story. Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.
I've seen this movie twice now, so I can say with confidence that it is a good movie, a really good movie, that had potential to be great. At the end of this review, I'll answer the billion dollar question of whether or not Zack Snyder should continue his involvement as the captain of the DC movie ship, but for right now, let's take a look at all the positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, everyone in the cast did an incredible job! I didn't see a single bad performance, though there are a select few who stood out more than others. For example, Ben Affleck plays, in my honest opinion, the DEFINITIVE version of Batman! This is the best live action interpretation of the character I've ever seen, and I like how Bruce Wayne is just as three dimensional of a character as Batman is. The quips he shares with Jeremy Irons's Alfred feel ripped right from both the comics and the animated series, which made the 8 year old in me very happy! The other standout performance that might be a bit controversial was Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor. Yes, I understand that he's not the version everyone is used to, most notably the Post-Crisis businessman persona we've seen in both Superman The Animated Series and Smallville. But personally, I found this to be refreshing. It's like Eisenberg's taken elements from all the different variations of the character, put them in a blender and made the character his own. Finally, there's Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, who I thought stole the show! Both times I saw the movie, when she made her grand heroic entrance during the third act, the crowd went nuts, and because of that I feel more than confident in her ability to carry her own movie next summer.
The action and cinematography were downright amazing! This movie reunites Zack Snyder with long time collaborator Larry Fong as the cinematographer, and he really knocked it out of the park. The three action scenes that stood out the most were the titular battle between the Son of Krypton and the Bat of Gotham, Batman's rescue scene in the warehouse, and the fight with Doomsday. These were the scenes that this movie NEEDED to get right, and boy howdy did they get them right!
Finally, the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is awesome! It's grand, it's epic, and not only does it compliment the movie in context, but it holds up just fine on its own merits. My favorite track has to be Wonder Woman's theme, titled "Is She With You" on the soundtrack. This will make a great addition to my running music playlist.
Now, before we move on to the negatives, there are a few things I want to address, mostly just my responses to some of the more ridiculous criticism of the film.
For starters, people are seriously blowing the conclusion of Batman and Superman's fight out of proportion. Could the execution of that scene have been better? Yes, and I'll explain why later. For now, the point of that scene was for Bruce to understand that Alfred was right, Superman is NOT the enemy, and both of them need to work together to put and end to Lex's scheme.
That's the other thing, Lex does have a good motivation behind his master plan. He and Bruce both want to protect the world from another alien threat, but the difference is he wants all the power to himself, ridding the world not just of Superman, but of ALL metahumans. That's why he had files of the other Justice League members, and that's why both Bruce and Diana were trying to steal them.
Now then, onto the negatives. This movie, while I loved watching it, bit off way more than it could chew, and I hope WB/DC learns from its mistakes.
First off, I'll freely admit that this movie may not be as accessible to the casual moviegoer, especially children. Unless you're like me and you're a hardcore DC nerd, a lot of the easter eggs and references may go completely over the heads of the mass audience. I'm not necessarily saying the movie's impossible to follow, just that it may take a couple of re-watches to get onto the film's wavelength.
The biggest issue for me on a technical level was the editing. It's especially cringeworthy during the first act, where the film cuts to black several times, disrupting the flow of the film. I can't really place the blame entirely on Snyder, since it was probably a studio mandate to trim the film to 2 1/2 hours in order to fit more screenings in one day. Fortunately, WB has confirmed that an extended cut will be available on Blu-Ray, and I am looking forward to comparing that to the theatrical version.
Finally, while I liked 95% of the content within the movie, I'm not a fan of the Frankenstein screenplay. The title alone feels pretty appropriate, as it feels like I'm watching a braid of two different movies. I'm just speculating, but it feels like David Goyer wrote a proper Man of Steel sequel, where as Chris Terrio wrote a Justice League prequel. Both of these movies would have been fine on their own, but mashing them together leaves a pretty messy stain. That stain comes in the form of Lois Lane, who is frustratingly both the most important character in the film, and the least important character at the same time! To be honest, I've never really been that big a fan of the character in the comics, but what bugs me the most is that the more personality she's given, the more dissonant it becomes when she regresses to "damsel in distress" mode.
Overall, I loved Batman v Superman, warts and all! Zack Snyder may not have the midas touch as a director, but he does have strong visual sensibilities that work wonderfully well with these characters. The movie delivered in the areas it needed to get right, while unfortunately stumbling at the same time. Now, to answer the question of should Snyder remain in the director's chair for Justice League, I say yes. Warner Bros. needs to show confidence in this DC Extended Universe, and by dropping Snyder from the film, they'd seriously be doing more harm than good. But this is just my take on the film, stay tuned to Wes Ball's review for a second opinion...