I loved Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice.
There I said it, I know this may put me in the minority of the Internet, comic book fans, film fans and the office water cooler.
The thing is, it won me over. I went in with low, low, low expectations based on the trailers we had seen before. I wasn’t buying it. It looked dark and gritty and somber but yet as a fan I felt I had to go see it to either deride it or, per chance, at best, be somewhat pleasantly surprised. It was the latter, and then some.
Now, there are better superhero films, and there are definitely worse. There are a few things I didn’t like but there was plenty of stuff I did. From here on out I will discuss some points of the film and it will contain some spoilers so read on at your own discretion.
Zack Snyder’s direction was paced and steady which I appreciated. The first act had plenty to set up and a bit boring but the payoff made sense. Nothing was rushed. It could have used some trimming here and there to make a more efficient story but overall it lumbered along at an even pace, giving me time to soak in each story element. I was just in the mood for that instead of having everything thrown at me scrambling to keep up with what was happening.
The script by Chris Terrio (Oscar winner for Argo) and David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight films, Man of Steel, Blade films, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, the one with David Hasselhoff) still managed to keep some tropes and the lines of dialogue were flat and clunky yet they constructed a solid story. Not a perfect story, as I mentioned it could have been pared down a bit but it had a solid internal logic to it.
Superman (Henry Cavill) is an inherently difficult character to write for, given his omnipotent abilities so you have to give him a lot of internal conflicts and doubts. This only allowed Cavill to furrow his brow in almost every scene. In this universe, Clark is still new at superheroing so the burden of being humanity’s savior, or destroyer, weighs heavy on his massive, muscular, sinewy shoulders. He relies heavily on the women in his life which also puts them in danger, and it shows in his body language. He doesn’t stand arms akimbo with the confidence of the Superman we’ve seen from George Reeves and Christopher Reeve but with the humility and modesty of a man still trying to find his place in the world.
Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was written to showcase her abilities and practically steal the show. I was afraid that Gadot’s portrayal of WW was going to be heavily scrutinized given that of all the characters in the entire comic book world, she is a feminist icon. Batman, Superman, Spider-man, et al are not held up to the same standards as Wonder Women is in this regard of an ideal. However, Gadot could never hope to outshine Lynda Carter, she does an ample job of embodying the Amazon. Her line delivery was flat, given the lines she was written but after seeing the film I do not think she deserves any negative backlash as an actor who was fortunate enough to land this gig. This was reflected by my wife and daughter, who were ready to pick apart any negative aspects of this character, but came away with a positive feeling for her. If saying they didn’t mind her as Wonder Woman can be construed as a positive.
The negativity was left for Lois Lane. Although for most of the story she is a smart, independent woman, she does wind up having to be rescued by Superman during the final battle scenes. The story could have been better served if instead of hiding the Kryptonite spear, and then retrieving it, and then being rescued, again. If she could have just ran into the midst of battle with the weapon and passed it on to whoever could use it, would have been a thrilling scene. Just having to be rescued, yet again, by Clark is a tired old trope.
Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is evil. Probably the most evil depiction on film. Although, his motivation is somewhat unclear (except for long time comic readers) his methods are quite dastardly. (He needed a mustache to twirl.) The trailer does not do his performance justice. Lex is manic, megalomaniacal and creepy but again hindered by the clunky dialogue.
Batman (Batfleck) is by far the best Batman on film to date since Adam West. This Batman is shown as the Dark Knight detective, scientist, brutal brawler and most physically intimidating Bat. Affleck’s 6’4″ frame fills out the tights like never before. I pray that a solo Batman film with Affleck directing is considered after his standout performance. Surely a point of contention among the fans is his use of guns. He always has huge firepower mounted on his vehicles and he doesn’t hesitate to use them. People are killed by the Bat, either indirectly or directly.
I wasn’t expecting David Mamet level of dialogue. In my opinion, Goyer doesn’t always get the characters right in his many comic book related projects but I speculate Affleck and Terrio managed to punch up the story. Each superhero was given a moment to shine and the supporting cast was more than window dressing. Alfred (Jeremy Irons), as the voice of reason, yet frustrated at Bruce’s intentions was integral. He can come up with all of Bruce’s high-tech devices yet didn’t come up with an automatic lawn mower to clean up the dilapidated Wayne Manor. Perry White (Laurence Fishburn) managed to convey he knows more than he is letting on about Clark with just the few lines that he had.
There are some elements in the film that may be confusing to casual or non-comic readers such as Batman’s vision of the Omega symbol hinting at Darkseid’s eventual entrance, the Parademons from Apokalips and the Flash’s appearance straight out of Crisis on Infinite Earths but to long time comic readers like myself it was a treat.
What added to my enjoyment was the overall movie experience with an especially vocal and enthusiastic crowd on a Thursday night screening, cheering and applauding at the right spots, with nary any boos (the only negative responses overheard was how corny it was that both heroes mother’s are named Martha). Many audience members (including my daughter) were dressed to represent either Team Batman or Team Superman (and Team Wonder Woman).
All in all it is a fun movie that firmly establishes the DC Cinematic Universe. Sadly the negative reviews I have seen seem to be more for the purpose of trolling but it doesn’t seem to affect the potential box office. I say go in with an open mind and plenty of popcorn and you’ll be entertained, which is the only thing we can ask from a film and the people behind it.
And don’t bother staying through the end credits, there isn’t an extra scene. There are plenty of Easter Eggs throughout the film. It is Easter weekend after all.