So after a few days to digest, here’s my review for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’ll start with a spoiler-free TL;DR.
If you’re in any shape, way, or form a fan of Superman, Batman, the Justice League, DC, or comic stuff in general, go see the movie. This is one for the fans, so ignore the critics. Zack Snyder has never done well with critics, but almost always with fans. Whether you’re a hard core comic nerd or only casually acquainted with the source material, this movie is enjoyable.
Overall I give it 4/5
BEGIN SPOILER ALERT Past this point I will be discussing the movie in entirety, so you’ve been warned. Read ahead at your own peril, but I will not leave anything to the imagination in the following. BEGIN SPOILER ALERT Bear with me on this, I’ve been writing this for several days now and trying to make it into something sensible.
First, I want to get something out of the way: for all the Batfleck haters: you can officially and collectively shut your damn mouths. This is the best big screen Batman/Bruce Wayne we’ve ever had, full stop. Cavill continues to deliver as Superman/Kent, and I continue to assert that he’s the first Superman I’ve really given much of a shit about (even if he’s, rather humorously, still struggling with his American accent). However Lois Lane, and his romance with her is utterly forgettable – and probably best forgotten, in my opinion. Gal Gadot is every ounce the Amazon warrior in Wonder Woman; she may be a supporting character, but she stands on her own well here – I’m excited to see her upcoming film… still wish she’d bulk up, though.
Jesse Eisenberg continues to prove his style is all his own; this is an unusual Lex Luthor, to say the least – it almost serves as an homage to Gene Hackman’s Luthor in the old Donner Superman films, though I’ve heard some Superman comic die-hards suggest he favors All Star Superman’s Lex… I personally can’t attest to that. He’s going to grate for most comic fans as this isn’t the calm, cool and calculating Lex we’re accustomed to (basically bad guy Batman), this is a young, eccentric, yet frighteningly intelligent kid. He comes off as a nerdy twenty-something with some serious daddy issues (which are rather explicitly discussed, parents be warned). What he is to me is relatable. He’s certainly more human than any iteration of Lex I’ve seen previously. Now Doomsday… I was concerned that they were going to make him into Zod 2.0 – which they sort of did, but not in the way I was worried, so it worked. I was concerned we were going to have a walking, talking Zod parading around in Doomsday skin. Obviously that didn’t happen, so crisis more or less averted. The thing with Lex adding his “genetic material” to Doomsday was kinda weird, but served to show you how batshit (heh) crazy he was.
The cameo scenes for the other Justice Leaguers left a lot to be desired, in my opinion. It felt kinda tacked on, to be honest, and while it was cool to see a nod to Flash/Cyborg/Aquaman (Momoa’s Aquaman looks outstanding!), it interrupted the flow of the film, and it was done in a way that felt as though someone were literally checking off a list when they edited that sequence. It’s an example of a scene that would have been a good after-credits Easter egg a la Marvel, but Warner Bros. (along with Snyder) don’t want to play Johnny-come-lately any more than they already have to. I’d probably be more bothered had they done it in an after-credits style.
ONE LAST SPOILER ALERT Now, the story. This is basically a combination of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Dan Jurgens’ Death of Superman. From the moment I saw Doomsday was going to be the villain, I kinda figured we were going to see Supes kick the bucket. I’m surprised it was this early in the storytelling cycle of the DCCU, but I guess it builds an interesting context for the Justice League to unite in 2017’s full JLA film. The initial setup was strong, I felt. There’s still a bit of a Batman origin story but it happens in snippets that fit the narrative flow.
Speaking of narrative flow, I’ll admit it’s somewhat awkward here. This was basically three or four films (Man of Steel 2, Batman 1, Wonder Woman 0.5, Justice League 0.5) rolled into one. With that sort of ambition things are bound to be lost in translation, and I’m willing to bet the director’s cut will make the story a bit more cohesive (even if it makes it 3+ hours long). That being said, this is not a “turn off your brain” comic book romp, at least not for the first two acts. This narrative is not crafted for the eight-second attention span… in point of fact, there are times when I daresay it was nearly too convoluted (I’m looking at you, time-travel Flash cameo), at least for the average viewer. The fight scenes were evocative, to say the least. We finally get to see the real Batman we’ve been wanting for 30+ years (Yes, Burton’s film was good, but it was still only Diet Batman, truth be told). He’s old, he’s angry, he’s uncompromising, and most importantly: uncomfortably violent. This is not your grand-daddy’s Batman. As one friend told me, “There are times where he should probably be wearing a skull on his chest.” And it’s true. This is not a “no-kill” Batman, and that’s just fine with me. The final showdown between Bats and Supes is every ounce what it should have been. The most intense element of the fight is Affleck’s execution of just how desperate this is… it’s not just a grudge match; he’s fighting for his life, but he never shies away – and that’s the essence of Batman. We see the fear coalesce into rage in a no-holds-barred barrage of violence against the Last Son of Krypton. It’s easily one of the best pieces of action I’ve seen in a comic movie – and every ounce of it is faithful to the source material to boot. And it ends, of course, the only way it can… Supes will never forget the one man who beat him; and it’s because the only way to stop the Bat is to kill him, and Kal just won’t do it. The conclusion is solid, if a little awkward at times (Lois throws away the spear… Lois goes and gets the spear)… not sure what that was all about. But Doomsday did his job, and the seeds are planted for the foundation of the Justice League.
There are tons of hints dropped for the die-hards, which is probably why this film won’t necessarily resonate with casual moviegoers (or critics). If at any point a scene leaves you scratching your head, consult your nearest geek for clarification – Snyder is infamous for not holding the audience’s hand through a narrative (see also Sucker Punch), as opposed to standard Marvel form. Yes, yes… I’m a DC fanboy but I have objectively enjoyed some MCU content (Guardians of the Galaxy is still their best to date, in my opinion), but their plots are rarely nuanced, considering the target audience.
Is this the best movie I’ve ever seen? No. Is this the best comic book movie I’ve seen? No, but close. Is this still a pretty damn good movie? Yes. And considering the sheer ambition of this single film, this movie was as good as it could be.
Final Score 4/5
John Nubern is a father, a husband, an ex-marine, a batman fanboy and an all around bad ass. He enjoys reading comics, seeing movies, and spending time with his awesome kids and smoking hot wife. His word is law and he rules with an iron fist.