The fists certainly fly in “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but audiences have to wait a while for that to happen in this comic book flick.
The film’s first main scene takes place during the Superman vs. Zod battle that wrecked much of Metropolis in “Man of Steel.” This time around, though, the combat is seen through Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) eyes. Bruce sees the damage caused by the alien battle and immediately views him as a threat. From there, Wayne’s alter ego decides to go after the Man of Steel.
Meanwhile, another billionaire, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eiseberg) has his own problems with Superman, and he also starts scheming against the hero. Even the government sees a problem with Superman as he continues to interfere with human engagements, which puts more pressure on the hero’s alter ego, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). All of the mistrust in the movie is like a pot ready to boil over.
The overarching story of “Batman V Superman” is a pretty good one. Batman being so fearful of Superman that he’s ready to take the Man of Steel down, Superman viewing Batman as a vigilante with no regard for being law-abiding and Lex Luthor also seeing Superman as a threat, albeit for different reasons.
In regards to both main characters, all this conflict leads to some great scenes with their alter egos, from Kent speaking with his girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) about the ethics of what he does to Wayne talking to Alfred (Jeremy Irons) about his issues with Superman. All of these points eventually converge together and if it had just been that alone, the film could have been much better.
The problems come from the fact that this movie needed much more time in the editing room. The way certain scenes were inserted came off as unnecessary and made the movie feel messy and disjointed. Additionally, there were far too many subplots and shoutouts to the coming “Justice League” films resulting in a loss of coherency.
Some examples of scenes that weren’t needed include an opening sequence that shows the Bruce Wayne origin that we all know, a couple dream sequences that felt heavy handed, and a moment in the third act with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) learning about some of the other potential Justice League members. On top of that, the ending of the movie felt rather stretched and got to the point where some things appeared tacked on.
The subplot of the Justice League setup certainly took up a bit too much time, but there were others that did this as well. One subplot with a senator and another with a man who was hurt in the Metropolis battle were both unnecessary and could have been cut from the film without much impact on the overall story. Then there’s the film’s main villain at the end who was mishandled because of its rushed creation.
These problems really messed with the pacing and overall narrative of “Batman V Superman,” resulting in a movie with a lot of good things going for it stumbling over itself.
The saving grace above all else in “Dawn of Justice” is likely its performances, with many of them being solid to really good. The best was without a doubt Ben Affleck, who might just be my favorite incarnation of the Dark Knight now.
Affleck was great as the Bruce Wayne in the Batcave, sold the Bruce Wayne that has a nightlife and was fantastically dark as the caped crusader.
From the opening scene where his character is in Metropolis to the confrontation against Superman, Affleck nailed the role.
As I said back in 2013 in my “Man of Steel” review, I like Henry Cavill as a younger, less experienced Superman, and that holds true in this movie, too. I bought him as Clark Kent, including his romance with Lois Lane and his conflict about whether what he’s doing is right or wrong for the planet was convincing.
Then there’s Jesse Eisenberg, who hasn’t gotten the best reception from many reviews for his portrayal as a different type of Lex Luthor. From this perspective, though, Eisenberg really worked as a new Luthor.
Audiences have seen Lex Luthor portrayed as the established businessman and villain with Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey and even the animated series, so the aspect of a younger Lex Luthor to the screen who was a bit more erratic was refreshing. Helping establish this was Eisenberg, who gave a performance showing Luthor as a menacing figure, but one with plenty to learn.
Another newcomer who absolutely knocked it out of the park was Jeremy Irons as Alfred. The butler portrayed in this picture was much more cynical and experienced than others have been and Irons played it up to perfection. I’m very much hoping he comes back for the sequels.
Then there’s Gadot, who played Wonder Woman/Diana. As previously stated, the scenes with her character setting up the “Justice League” films was a little much, but that’s not a slight against her performance. Despite some reservations when first announced, Gadot was good in her scenes both in and out of costume here.
For the action minded people out there, this is probably the section you’ve been waiting for. Yes, the fight between the two heroes delivered.
It was the classic approach of Superman showing up with his power, making him the likely winner and Batman having to constantly use gadgets and resources around him to keep up. On top of that, like other battles in the past, there was an ulterior motive above the duel, making one of the fighters more reserved.
The final battle shown in the movie was well done, too. While the main baddie might have been a bit rushed, the slugfest showing the different heroes use their own fighting styles was entertaining.
Another enjoyable aspect about this flick was the world building. The idea of having Gotham and Metropolis be neighboring, competing cities was a nice idea to add to the rivalry. Plus, everything about Batman was well crafted, the Batcave, Batmobile and the suit all looked great.
“Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” had a lot going for it. The performances were strong, the look of the film was solid and there were some great scenes of action and interaction between characters. Unfortunately the unfocused storytelling made for a film lacking in structure causing the good ideas shown to be scattered. 2.9 out of 5.