a critiQal film review Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Plot:Fearing the actions of a god-like super hero left unchecked, Gotham City's own formidable, forceful vigilante (Affleck) takes on Metropolis' most revered, modern-day savior (Cavill), while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs.

1060 words (Est. Reading Time 5m 18s)

When our son wanted to buy Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on Vudu®, we had no problem with that. After all, we’d been wanting to see this one as much as he had. But, after the critics booed their way through the film, we weren’t sure if this one was worth watching. Still, he was able to pick it up on Vudu® for $6, so we figured we’d give it a try anyway. Would this be on the same level as a Marvel film? Or should we have prepared ourselves for disappointment?

Henry Cavill, reprising his Clark Kent/Superman from the much-better-than-expected Man of Steel (2013), is still decent in Batman v Superman, but his character is given much less to work with. He’s quickly overshadowed by Ben Affleck, who steps into the role of Batman with much more ease than most expected. Affleck’s gun-toting, deeply disturbed character is easily one of the highlights of the film, and viewers will want to see more of him (thankfully, a solo Batman film is currently in the works). Gal Gadot, as the long-awaited big screen version of Wonder Woman, gets the best treatment in the film, and her introduction is well worth the wait.

The villain of the pic is Lex Luthor, played with a Joker-esque feel by Jesse Eisenberg. From the way he portrays the iconic villain, viewers will think Jesse was trying to audition for the role of the Joker and got Lex’s part instead. It’s not the cold, calculating strategist viewers are used to seeing. Instead, Eisenberg’s Lex is full of giggles, and seems more intent on wreaking havoc for the fun of it, rather than to further his own nefarious – and usually money-driven – goals. Heck, he’s not even bald for most of the film!

The rest of the cast is jam-packed with stars as well, mostly in the film for what feels like extended guest appearances. Jeremy Irons is decent as Alfred, but lacks the cool panache – and the feel of surrogate father to Bruce Wayne – that Michael Caine brought to the role. Laurence Fishburne is decent as Perry White, as is Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and Holly Hunter as Senator Finch, but they all will leave viewers wishing they had gotten more screen time. Instead, most of their screen time is given to Amy Adams as Lois, who, while decent enough, doesn’t do anything to justify her extended screen time. Well, except to hook up with Superman after he keeps continuously saving her.

One of the biggest problems with Batman v Superman – aside from Jesse’s interpretation of Lex-as-Joker – is that it didn’t have a lead-in Batman film. An iconic clash like this should have waited (as Marvel films like Captain America: Civil War (2016) did) for each of the major players to get their own standalone film. Instead (mostly thanks to DC playing catch-up to Marvel), viewers have to deal with the Batman origin story stealing time out from the clash the film is supposed to be about. While this part was well done, that bring-the-viewers-up-to-speed sequences leave less time for the film to actually concentrate on itself.

To make matters worse, Batman isn’t the only hero Batman v Superman has to introduce. Since DC is planning their own The Avengers (2012) style movie, Justice League (2017), this film has to introduce those characters as well AND set up Gal Gadot for her Wonder Woman (2017) movie as well. Again, the sequences are well done (especially Gal Gadot’s introduction), but all of this makes the film seem a bit bloated.

The iconic fight that the title states does happen, but again, Zack and DC screw that part up too. Unlike the Thor vs. Hulk fight in The Avengers (2012), this bout seems contrived, and actually diminishes Batman as the thinking man’s hero. He’s manipulated into fighting through some rather see-through devices, making him seem more like chump than champ, and that diminishes the whole fight sequence. It doesn’t feel like a natural progression in the film, and that’s a letdown.

This is one film where it seems that the trailers (especially the teaser trailer) actually hurt the film. With the lasting images of the people revolting against Superman, and Superman rising up to become a tyrant, it’s disappointing when that turns out to be nothing more than a feverish dream sequence. Set up Lex Luthor as the villain who has managed to control Superman’s will through some sort of tech device. That sets up Lex Luthor as a ruthless – but smart – villain, and gives a true fight feeling to the clash of heroes. But, that’s not the movie viewers got, and they can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.

It does seem, however, that DC learned something from Marvel. While they may have tried to cram too much into one film, and didn’t fine tune their storyline enough, they did manage to promote a woman much better than Marvel has done to date. While Marvel has the Black Widow, she’s always been seen as a secondary character to the macho guy superheroes leading the fight. With Batman v Superman, DC introduced Wonder Woman, and showed that not only can she keep up with the guys, at points she seems to be the most powerful in the bunch. As Superman and Batman are being tossed around by Doomsday (a guy who seems to be a souped-up version of another Batman villain, Clayface), Wonder Woman is the only one that’s managing to inflict any damage on their foe. Nice move, DC!

Surprisingly, despite it’s flaws, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t that bad. With it’s great introductions to the other members of the Justice League, a impressive Wonder Woman showing, and Ben Affleck’s surprisingly good turn as Batman, the film does have a lot going for it. While it may not be great on it’s own, it does get the viewer pumped up for upcoming films Wonder Woman (2017), Justice League (2017), and Affleck’s solo Batman flick – just like it’s supposed to.

With all that being said, there are two different versions of this film. I’ve only seen the theatrical version so far and, from what I’ve heard, the extended version does upgrade the overall film experience. I’ll be sure to check that out at a later date and let you know in the comments below if that’s true.

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