WARNING: Heavy spoilers included throughout. All conclusions/opinions are my own.
And whilst both have battled each other a few times in the comics, they have rarely battled each other on the big screen – save for a few instances in the DC animated universe and the odd fan film. So when Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was announced, fans started salivating at the thought of these two heavyweights going up against each other.
Myself, I had kinda mixed feelings about this film, and I had a few worries about the trailer – which I will get to in a moment. But I decided to give the film the benefit of the doubt and see what it was like. Since it came out, whilst it was a box office success, reviews have been heavily polarizing. For myself, I thought it wasn’t a bad film – just underwhelming.
Dawn of Justice serves as the starting point for what will eventually be a Justice League film. But unlike The Avengers, which all had their own films to begin with, this one basically introduces the concept of the Justice League and all the characters will eventually get their own films. Whether it pays off in the same way that Marvel did with their films remains to be seen. It could be hard for a non-comic fan to get excited about this concept if they don’t really know these characters – at least in the Marvel universe they already had films out for all the characters, so they kinda knew what to expect. But then again, I would assume that most of the fans of these films will be comic fans to begin with – or at least have a basic understanding of the mythology surrounding these characters to get excited. Still, let’s see how this pans out.
With a plot that takes elements from the comics The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman, Dawn of Justice carries on after Man of Steel ended – with Superman being a somewhat polarizing figure in the world. Some see him as their savior, some as a god, others see him as a threat. Bruce Wayne is one of those people – having seen the damage caused by Superman in his battle with General Zod. By the same token, Superman sees Batman as a threat due to his vigilantism and dark methods of taking out criminals. This has always been a theme between these two characters even when they fought – the main difference here is that they don’t have the friendship they have in the comics.
Firstly, let me talk about the performances of the main characters, starting with Henry Cavill as Superman. Now I’ll be honest I was never a huge fan of Superman as a character, but I will say I enjoyed Cavill’s performance. Just like with Man of Steel, Cavill portrays him as a godlike being that feels isolated from the human world because of what he is. In Dawn of Justice, he’s dealing with the fallout of his battle with Zod and whilst he is trying to do good, he just can’t shake the fact of the world fearing him because of his power. Cavill adds a lot of humanity to Superman and I actually found him enjoyable to watch.
Now onto Ben Affleck as Batman – something that many fans were in uproar about. Myself included. I’m not saying Affleck is a bad actor (he’s certainly a fantastic director), but then again Daredevil – no not the TV series, the first film. Many have actually praised him for his performance as Batman/Bruce Wayne, silencing his doubters. Myself… I thought he was just ok. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t BAD, I just didn’t really latch onto him as Batman. I personally thought he came across a little weak as Bruce Wayne and most of the time Affleck just looked bored or about to fall asleep. Personally, I think there have been better actors playing Batman – but Affleck did his best I suppose.
For me, the two stand out roles are Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. The minute I saw Gal Gadot in her Wonder Woman outfit I felt she WAS Wonder Woman. It’s just a pity she wasn’t used that much (see below), but for the time she was on the screen I was cheering inside. And Jessie Eisenberg was awesome as Lex Luthor. Again, he was an actor that cast some doubts over fans – but he commanded the screen with every moment he was on there. He was witty, psychotic, pragmatic and extremely despicable, playing both Superman and Batman against each other for his own twisted needs. I really enjoyed his role – it was part Gene Hackman and part Heath Ledger, but made it so that he stood out on his own.
So good performances aside, what were the problems I thought this was going to have based on the trailer? Well, these are my top three issues I had from the trailer. Were they as bad as I thought?
Based on what I can see, it looks like this film is trying to fit too much in.
Yes. It most certainly did. And whilst most of it worked, it REALLY slowed the pace of the movie down in my opinion. It wasn’t nearly as crammed as all the plots in Spider-Man 3, but it was fairly close. And some parts of the film just felt jarring to me – like when Batman sees a vision of the future where he and Superman are enemies and the Flash tells him to save Lois Lane. Was that a dream? Can he see the future? Did the Flash REALLY appear to him? I guess this is a set up for the Justice League film so I’ll let this one go (heck Marvel do it all the time in their films), it just felt a bit strange to me.
Doomsday is in this film? I just hope they don’t pull a Venom and only have him in the last 15 minutes.
They didn’t. In fact Doomsday had about 20 minutes! Again, this whole plot, whilst foreshadowed, felt a bit more like an afterthought than an actual point. It’s like they were trying to appease the fans of the comic by putting in the guy that killed Superman – but really they COULD have taken him out. After all, this was supposed to be Batman V Superman – not Batman V Superman V Wonder Woman V Doomsday. Oh don’t get me wrong, the fight with Doomsday was brilliant, I just think it would have been nicer if he came in a bit sooner. But that’s just my view.
I hope they don’t just put in Wonder Woman as an afterthought.
Thankfully, this is one thing they DIDN’T do. And whilst Wonder Woman (or Diana Prince) isn’t in the film NEARLY as much as she should have been, at least they gave her something to do, they didn’t just have her in for the sake of it. And as I mentioned, Gal Gadot was incredible to watch, so this one I will give a pass.
I think overall, Dawn of Justice was a bit too much like Man of Steel – in that it takes a LONG time to get going that many may switch off after a while. And whilst the fight scenes and special effects are brilliant, I don’t think the film has enough balance between action and story – at least not in the same way that The Avengers did. It’s also extremely dark in places and there is little to no humour in this story. This is always something that I think is a problem with some movies – being too dark all the time. I think it would have been nice to have a little bit of humour to balance the tension. I’m not saying every superhero film needs to be Deadpool, but I find it’s best to balance the story out with some lighter moments, give it more time to breathe. It also has a lot of “Man Vs God” themes and religious ideology which, whilst cool, does tend to get pushed down your throat with little subtlety.
(On a side note, I recently heard that they are re-shooting some scenes in Suicide Squad to make it lighter in tone. This has upset some fans of the original comic, but this could end up being a wise move from the studio. I guess we’ll just have to see).
And finally, for a film called Batman V Superman, they actually only fight ONCE! Again, the fight scene is pretty cool – and seeing Batman beat the living tar outta Superman is pretty awesome. But, I was kinda expecting them to tear up Metropolis/Gotham for most of the movie. I dunno, I kinda felt a bit let down after that one.
Oh and one minor complaint – Batman uses a gun in this film. This I had a problem with – as anyone who knows the comic knows he NEVER uses a gun. It didn’t ruin the film for me, but it was kinda strange. Also, those expecting to see the other members of the Justice League in this film – don’t get your hopes up as they are little more than cameos.
I think in total this film offers a lot, but doesn’t really deliver. The bits that are good are good, but you have to slob through a lot of filler to get there. The performances are great though, so at least you’ll get good acting. Some of the themes make the plot of this a little too much and you’ll wish for some humour to balance it out – and some characters feel wasted. It’s by no means a bad movie – but it feels a little inferior to other superhero movies in my opinion.
By all means check this film out if it’s always been a dream for you to see Batman and Superman beat each other up – but if you just want a decent Superman or Batman film that are good by their own merits, I suggest checking out either of these films. Superman, Superman 2, Batman (Tim Burton), The Dark Knight, or any of the DC animated films. If you want a good superhero team up film, I recommend either Marvel’s The Avengers or any of the X-Men films (with the possible exception of The Last Stand and X-Men Origins:Wolverine).
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice for me gets 3/5 stars.