‘The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world’, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has finally ‘superhero landed’ onto silver screens after three years of patience since its dramatic announcement at San Diego’s Comic Con 2013. For many comic book readers, it has been an even longer wait, 70 plus years roughly. A prequel to the upcoming Justice League movies and launching pad for the DC cinematic universe, BvS has overwhelmingly high expectations. With introductions to a new controversially-casted Batman, an overdue cinematic debut for Wonder Woman and other elements for future DC films, BvS has a lot to tell in its runtime of 151 minutes.
18 months after the events of Man of Steel, Superman’s (Henry Cavill) arrival in Metropolis has left many questioning his place and motives, particularly Senator Finch (Holly Hunter), Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Fearing the greater threat that Superman imposes, Wayne suits up as the Dark Knight once again to battle the man of steel, while Lex Luthor has his own ‘devilish’ plan, to do the same.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an incoherent narrative mess. This is the film’s kryptonite. One half; set up Batman v Superman fight, the other half attempting a Dawn of Justice movie, the narrative chops and changes between the two, while inserting ‘interesting’ dream sequences which add very little to an incredibly confounding story. Opening with the closing events of Man of Steel from Wayne’s perspective the ‘ground zero’ imagery is very powerful and a delicately smart move that creates the central conflict for Batman to hate Superman. However the balance of screen time between these two icons of pop-culture is inconsistent. Superman is (at times) sidelined in his own film. Many integral questions are raised such as ‘do we really need a Superman?’, or as the movie suggests ‘do we really want an alien to rely on to save our lives? Yet we’re left screaming for the answers at the end. The colossal villain for BvS however is the too-revealing marketing which unfortunately leaves very little surprises in-store.
Ben Affleck’s Batman is easily the best aspect about BvS. A tortured, at times charming Bruce Wayne but an incredibly brutal Dark Knight, Affleck delivers one of the strongest, comic book accurate depictions of the character. While brief, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is a successful cinematic debut, displaying independence, strength and plenty of mystery to fuel our intrigue for her own standalone outing. Cavill is more than comfortable in the role as Superman, although it's unfortunate he isn't given more screen time. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor will be a talking point for many. Monologues regarding power, philosophical theories about God’s aside, Eisenberg overplays the role and feels more suited to a Joel Schumacher universe than a darker, grittier one that BvS is trying to establish. Jeremy Irons is a welcomed Alfred with quick, humorous one liners and Amy Adams is given more to do this time, despite ultimately falling back into a frustrating damsel in distress position.
As expected, Zack Snyder’s trademark visionary flare is where his strengths as a director lie. Taking many visual references to popular graphic novels, notably Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, BvS will certainly have the hardcore fans squealing with joy at particular moments. It’s incredibly evident with the amount of nods that Snyder would rather make The Dark Knight Returns than a Dawn of Justice movie. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s music collaboration is great with Wonder Woman’s theme being the highlight. Overall, BvS is competently made with some solid action set pieces, if somewhat overblown towards the end. But what about the main event itself? Batman v Superman. Reasons for their fight are understandable but ultimately questionable. Nonetheless, with the help of beautifully shot 70mm IMAX film, the battle is truly immersive, fierce and spectacular. BvS’s finale is overly stuffed with action and CGI, but necessary to both close as well as open new doors for the future.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film for the fans, made by a fan. Snyder, without a doubt loves the world of these characters and wants to do them justice (pun intended) for the big screen. It’s therefore unsurprising that critics have made very clear their distaste for it. The narrative is severely overcooked and it really needed a central focus in story. Affleck’s performance will ‘brand’ all the haters that believed he was the worst choice in playing the caped crusader - he is that good. Despite showing some moments of promise, the greatest gladiator match it is not, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a disappointment.