Recently, since the announcement of Batman V Superman, there has been a shift in the attitudes of those anticipating a superhero movie. This new attitude can be summed up as: root for Marvel and doubt all others. So, it’s no surprise that this film is opening to massive amounts of skepticism and criticism from those who have not even seen the film yet. While this movie is far from flawless, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, delivers a deeply emotional thrill ride from start to finish, that not only successfully jump-starts the DC Extended Universe (or the DC Cinematic Universe as some call it) but thematically nails the ideological differences between these two legendary characters.
So, let’s start with the bad. Coming in at two and a half hours long, Batman V Superman still feels rushed. This is the film’s biggest flaw. Director Zack Snyder loves to film a lot of footage for his movies. You may remember that the ultimate cut of Snyder’s Watchmen had a run-time of over three and a half hours. Clearly, a lot of footage was left on the cutting-room floor. This results in a film that often finds itself rapidly jumping between events, which can create a sense of aimlessness. The ending is also problematic as it not-so-subtly attempts to set up the Justice League. While the other cameos and easter eggs were fun, the last 20 minutes feels like a very ham-fisted attempt at alluding to a larger universe.
Usually, faults such as this would ruin a movie-going experience. However, Batman V Superman is too much fun to hate. It delivers on the titular battle in a very big way, logically proving how the Dark Knight could stand a chance fighting with a god. Also, there is something to be said for a superhero film that refuses to hold your hand. We, as an audience have grown accustomed to a certain formula that has been lain out before us by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel’s lighthearted and often quippy movies spoon-feed you a story along with some vague thematic elements. It seems, however, that Snyder is not interested in just making a blockbuster. He came to make a film, and on that front he certainly delivered. Think of the weight of the responsibility of a hero. What time would there be to joke and laugh? If they make a mistake, people die. It isn’t a joke. In Snyder’s universe, heroes suffer consequences. This is not a weakness. This is a bold and forgotten perspective that Snyder is bringing to the table, one that has been painfully absent since the release of Watchmen.
Synder’s visual style is a perfect fit for the DC universe. The look of the world calls to mind Jim Lee’s work on Hush, one of our generation’s seminal Batman stories. However, Snyder does use a more muted color palette that some may describe as “drab” or “dreary,” but it fits in well with his vision for the DCEU. In fact, influences are drawn from several eras of DC comics, the most present of which is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Batman’s look and attitude as well as the climactic battle between the titans is ripped right from the pages of that masterpiece and the nostalgia alone is enough to make any fanboy shriek. The same can be said about the portrayal of our heroes and our villain.
I didn’t expect to be saying this, but Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor absolutely stole the show. His impish charm allowed me to enjoy his presence just long enough, so that when his actions inevitably became more and more despicable, completely hating him proved to be something of a challenge. I hung on his every pretentious and megalomaniacal word. However, unclear motivations kept Lex from fully developing as a character. Similarly, the introduction of Doomsday sidelined our antagonist until the very end of the film. The character deserved better than that.
Another standout was Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. While I am not at all a fan of the character, this portrayal was very exciting. Gadot knocked it out of the park, as her exotic charm and goddess-like grace gave a sense of royalty and fierceness to the character. All this accompanied by the film’s score made for some of the most memorable action sequences of all time. It did what I thought was impossible: it actually made me excited to see a standalone Wonder Woman movie. This can also be said about all the meta-humans that were introduced in this film (which I wont ruin for those who have strayed from spoilers).
Actually, just about all the acting in this film was phenomenal. Even Henry Cavill proved to be something of a dark horse in this film. His portrayal of Clark as an insecure and lonely alien, gave Superman more pathos than we have seen from this character in years. This was best conveyed through the emotional conversation he shares with Martha Kent, his mother. She sees him as only her son rather than a savior or false god. There is something touching about this acceptance of an outsider who is craving to be a part of a world he has grown to both love and fear.
While many were quick to take to the internet and complain about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman, there isn’t anything to complain about anymore. This is the most accurate depiction of the Batman that we have seen. He is every bit as dark and brooding as comic fans know him to be, and at no point does this become exhausting. From his look to his fighting style, this Batman goes above and beyond all Batmen that have come before him. All he lacks is context. As we saw in the trailer, the Batcave contains a monument to the caped crusader’s fallen sidekick, Robin. The script’s refusal to capitalize on this story element keeps us from a deeper understanding of Batman’s seemingly new-found cruelty. Still this is all forgiven once we get to see him in action. It is a complete cinematic delight.
Like I said before, Batman V Superman is by no means perfect. In fact, just likes its heroes it is absolutely riddled with flaws. That’s what makes it real, and what makes it different. Shouldn’t we want a film that refuses to abide by a formula? Shouldn’t we want a superhero epic to subvert the tropes of its genre? Dark and gritty doesn’t make a poor film, just as sentiment and humor doesn’t make a good one. I implore you to look deeper, and find what is truly special about this film.