Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman vs Superman - Dawn of Justice (2016)Pip was in town last weekend for his yearly trek to Cleveland and during that trip we took the opportunity to go see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The flick has gotten absolutely blasted by the critics even though it was doing very well at the box office (at least for the first weekend). I don’t typically worry much about what critics have to say so I was very excited to see just what this was all about. I’ll be honest… when the announcement was made that Ben Affleck was playing Batman I wasn’t thrilled. I’m happy to say that at least on that point I was wrong. This continues to be an INCREDIBLY polarizing movie. Folks either love it or hate it. The reaction has been pretty similar to 2013’s Man of Steel which this is essentially a sequel to.

Spoiler Alert: I’m not going to go into a super detailed plot summary here.  There are far better resources out there if you’re looking for a run down of what happened in the movie.  That said, I will speak openly so consider this a spoiler filled discussion.  If you don’t want to know plot points, skip this post until after you’ve seen the film.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was directed by Zack Snyder. Is is (in my estimation) the sequel to Man of Steel which makes it the second installment in the DC Extended Universe. It stars Ben Affleck (Batman), Henry Cavill (Superman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Laurence Fishburne (Perry White), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Holly Hunter (Senator June Finch) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman). It also shoehorns in the beginnings of the Justice League with “appearances” by Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash. More on that later.

If you’re a comic fan, you’ll recognize the majority of this story as it borrows liberally from both Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as well as the “Death of Superman” story line. Spoiler alert: Superman dies… for about 12 minutes. More on that later as well.

There’s quite a bit going on here. And it goes on for quite a long time. The flick is over two and a half hours long, though if you removed all of the Zack Snyder slow mo scenes it would be around two hours. This is clearly a response to the negative response to Man of Steel being so violent and having SO many people die during the Zod vs. Superman battle in that film. You can check out my thoughts on that flick here. I’m happy to say that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. But there were also quite a few “huh” moments here too.

The Cast

Batman vs Superman - Dawn of Justice PosterBen Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Dude is pretty outstanding as the Bat. As I said before I didn’t have high hopes but he knocked it out of the park. I’m super excited to see where things go when we get a stand alone Batman film with Affleck wearing the cowl once again.

Henry Cavill as Superman / Clark Kent. He doesn’t play the role the way Christopher Reeve did, but that’s OK. He’s good here as Superman if perhaps a bit on the monotone side of the spectrum. I honestly don’t mind that though as I think that’s probably the way a true Superman would behave if he were here on Earth.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She’s not bad but she’s just sort of here. It’s almost as if the film is looking for stuff for her to do. And good God, how many times can one person be saved by Superman? Yes, I realize they’re in a relationship but that point is hammered home so many times its sickening.

Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. OK here’s where things get interesting. If you liked Eisenberg’s portrayal as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network then you know exactly what to expect. He’s playing essentially the same character. His portrayal wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected based on the reviews I’d seen. That said, Gene Hackman was SO iconic as Lex Luthor that anything less sort of pales in comparison. We won’t mention Kevin Spacey’s version cause quite frankly… it’s terrible.

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman. She was GREAT. I can’t wait to see the stand alone Wonder Woman flick. That said, you could have removed her entirely from this film and it wouldn’t have changed a damn thing. Absolutely no need for her to be here. The best way I can describe her inclusion here is to tell you to think of the way Venom was crammed into Spider-Man 3. Interesting, but totally a terrible way to introduce an iconic character.

Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne and Holly Hunter are very good in small supporting roles, but are essentially wasted here. It makes for a simply outstanding cast when you read off the names associated with the film but it falls apart quickly when you realize just how little they have going on. Jeremy Irons is great here as Alfred but no one will come close to Sir Michael Caine in my opinion. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan portray Thomas and Martha Wayne in the abbreviated Bruce Wayne back story which is super weird for The Walking Dead fans when you realize Negan and Maggie have a kid together. For some reason, Kevin Costner did a day’s worth of work to film a dream sequence. It wasn’t bad by any stretch but it totally stood out as a “why the hell is he back” sort of moment for me.

The Plot

We’re eighteen months after the events of Man of Steel and Superman has become something of a controversial figure. Some people love him while others like Bruce Wayne feel he has too much power and view him as a threat. Lex Luthor has found some Kryptonite and is trying to weaponize it to stop Superman. Stuff happens and two hours later we get to a point where Superman and Batman are going to fight. Some of that “stuff” includes our introduction to the Justice League in a scene that were we in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have been post-credits and allowed geeks to drool for days. As it was presented here it fell very flat.

The fight itself is pretty outstanding but ends in such a contrived manner that it’s unforgivable. Batman has his foot on Superman’s throat about ready to deal the death blow and Superman utters something about his mother Martha. Batman stops, asks why he said that name (which happens to be HIS mother’s name as well) and all is forgiven and they’re best friends. I’m talking sort of tongue in cheek, but not really. This turn of events is just as poorly executed as Anakin’s turn toward Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith. Just like that movie, there was ONE thing that this movie needed to show properly, and it failed pretty miserably.

Batman vs Superman Still

From here we head toward the last sequence of the movie where Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman work together to fight Doomsday. Lex Luthor has created him by splicing his DNA with Zod’s corpse (stick with me). Superman manages to kill Doomsday (who’s never named as such but is clearly that character) but dies in the process. This scene is AMAZING visually but it’s almost as if Snyder has forgotten all of the Man of Steel backlash about collateral damage. The film does go out of its way several times to say how few people are around, how this is an island that no one lives on, etc.

Superman is given a hero’s memorial, and Clark is buried in a private funeral in Smallville attended by Bruce, Lois, his mother and Prince. Martha gives Lois an envelope which contains an engagement ring from Clark cause you know… she didn’t feel bad enough already. Bruce tells Diana that he plans to form a team to protect the world in Superman’s absence. The film ends with the dirt around Clark’s coffin beginning to rise.

Recommendation

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has some really good things going on. Ben Affleck isn’t there yet, but he may well be on his way to being the best Batman ever. This isn’t nearly the disaster that many critics make it out to be, but it’s also not nearly the film it could have or should have been. I understand that DC is feeling way behind Marvel when it comes to universe building but they should have taken it way slower than they did. There was no need for Wonder Woman here and the way they introduced Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg had an Easter Egg throwaway feel when it should have been more monumental.

If you know Zack Snyder as a film maker you know what you’re going to get here. It’s a flick that looks amazing but lacks when it comes to story and character development. At this point, Snyder is attached to the Justice League Part One which is slated for a 2017 release. Before that we’ll get Suicide Squad later this summer and a stand alone Wonder Woman next year, both of which I’m excited for. I can only hope that those two films include some better character development and tighter stories than we got here.

If you’re a fan of comic movies I’d say give this one a shot. Don’t read too much into what the critics have to say or the Rotten Tomatoes scores. Go check it out and form your own opinion. This is a super dark take on these super heroes similar to Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. If you’re not a fan of these characters going in there’s not going to be much here for you as you’ll have to get through two plus hours of setup for a few minutes of payoff.

Pre-order Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on Amazon today! Have you seen the film? Leave me a comment with your thoughts!

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