And so it begins. The new series of DC superhero movies that is said to compete with MARVEL has just started off this week with the premiere of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As the title suggests, this movie works as the stepping stone for what will be The League of Justice (2017).
Dawn of Justice is not a sequel to Man of Steel per se, but it does follow up the events of that movie. In fact, Dawn of Justice takes place exactly 18 months after Superman pretty much destroys the entire city while fighting General Zod. Man of Steel was criticized by Superman fans for being a pretty questionable portrayal of the famous superhero. Fortunately, even though there still were some iffy things about Superman and Batman’s characterization, you could tell that Zack Snyder took note and corrected some of his previous mistakes for Dawn of Justice.
Ever since this movie was announced, there was one question in everyone’s mind: can this even be called a fight? Superman is an alien with super powers, while Batman is only a human. He’s strong and has a lot of cool gadgets, but he’s still a human. The fight had to happen somewhere else. Even though we do get Batman and Superman fighting (and it was pretty awesome), much of their conflict is based on the questions the movie rises through the media and Lex Luthor himself, creating and on-going tension between the two superheroes. On one hand, there’s the fact that Superman is way too powerful. Man of Steel talked about how humans fear the unknown, while this time, it’s also mentioned that they fear power. Should such a powerful being exist if it’s not controlled by humans? On the other hand, Batman (who is older and who has seen way too much), feels powerless in comparison to Superman. It’s actually easy to see where Batman is coming from, as he continues to be the most humane character of the two. Bruce Wayne is a millionaire, but he hasn’t had it easy. His parents were also killed and he also knows how it feels like to live under a secret identity and to have your contributions to society questioned because of that. However, while Batman has always been a character that has sparked a lot of moral debate, his character does seem to cross the line in this movie (actually, they both do). Whether that is just Snyder’s valid take on Batman’s future or just an out-of-character portrayal, is up for the viewer to decide.
It’s hard to talk about Batman and Superman’s confrontation and the role Luthor plays in it without giving too much away, but I can say that, while the characters motivation were understandable, it all still felt quite forced. When Henry Cavill was asked why they were fighting at all, he jokingly replied “because it was in the script”, which pretty much sums up how I feel about this movie. Batman fans and Superman fans have been arguing for ages about who’s the best superhero, and this movie offered an “acceptable” excuse to get some answers. The thing is, Batman and Superman are both superheroes who fight for justice and who will end up being part of the League of Justice, so you can already guess that whatever it is that’s got them fighting is probably a misunderstanding or some type of set-up.
Speaking now of the performances, to me no one will ever replace The Dark Knight trilogy’s Christian Bale, but Ben Affleck did a pretty impressive job at playing both Batman and Bruce Wayne, to the point that I totally forgot about Bale halfway through the movie. Henry Cavill continues being the perfect Superman, and Jessie Eisenberg impressed many with his villainous performance, something that we aren’t very used to seeing him do. Also, Jeremy Irons gave us what was probably my favorite version of Alfred. Since Lucius Fox is not in the movie, Alfred takes the role of being very tech-savy (he was also very snarky, which makes it a real shame that he didn’t get that much screen time).
- It pains me to place her in this section, but the sad truth is that we didn’t get to see that much from Wonder Woman. She was heavily teased during all the promotion for the movie, but we actually got to see more of Diana Prince than the actual Wonder Woman (and we didn’t get much from Diana either). Wonder Woman was slowly built in the background and later fully introduced in the final battle to set her up for her future individual film in 2017. Oh, but in the little screen time she had, she was AH-MAZING. The whole theatre started cheering when she appeared in full armor, and her badassery was on par with Superman and Batman’s. We also got to see a few snippets of the other future members of the League of Justice such as Aquaman and The Flash.
- If it’s something that Snyder knows how to do, that’s action sequences, which were probably the highlight of the movie to me. However, there’s two things I did not like that much. One was the slow-motion, but that’s just a given with this director. And the other is the fact that the choreographies of many of Batman’s fights were made so painfully obvious that they almost seemed like some sort of dance, or circus. Thankfully, the brief fight we had between Batman and Superman felt much more brutal and raw.
- I have heard very good things about the soundtrack (Armando Dominguez), but I… didn’t really like it that much? At times it felt too ominous and over the top, and like they weren’t quite sure where to place it.
- Aside from canon-divergences, the character of Lex Luthor felt a bit confusing and underdeveloped. Instead of explaining the Wayne’s death for the thousandth time (including a flashback from the same movie), it would have been better if they had taken some time in building Luthor for the general audience.
- In movies this long (2h and a half), pacing is key. While both the opening and ending sequences were pretty decent, everything in the middle felt like a big puzzle or some sort of sizzle reel of unrelated scenes that we were supposed to connect in some way. And the worst part is that, many of those scenes didn’t even need to be there. There was a particular dream sequences that came out of nowhere and made little to no sense. Sometimes, less is more. By trying to cover too much, the movie gets lost somewhere along the way.
I had previously read a few mixed reviews before I went to see this movie. Some said that it was a mess, others said that it was spectacular. Honestly, it’s both. Dawn of Justice is a visual spectacle that lacked substance, and the little messages it tried to get across were only treated superficially. Other than that, the problem with Dawn of Justice is that it presents a lot of valid and interesting questions, but it barely manages to answer them. That’s not to say this was a bad movie. It’s disorganized, but I actually find it much better than Man of Steel, and it does do its job of setting up what will be this next series of DC movies.