After everything that’s happened in the last few days, I feel the need to put some context into the beginning of my review, to show readers like you who I am, and thus why I scored Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice like I have.
I am a fan of both DC Comics and Marvel, I read a bunch of their comics every week. I grew up on Batman and Superman TAS, Justice League, Spider-Man TAS, and more. And have seen just about every Marvel movie and DC movie that has been put out.
Also though, I am a writer of comics, and my personal belief is that character stories rise above any action that can be shown on the page. I believe in strong characters, and depth, and showing the reality of the world sometimes.
It is because of this that I absolutely loved Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Is it a perfect movie? No. But is it still an amazing one? Yes, yes it is.
Spoilers Ahead! You have been warned.
As I sit here and write about this film, three words best describe it to me. A character study. I know this may sound weird, but it’s true. BVS is a character study. As it deals with the aftermath of the climax of Man of Steel, all the while adding new characters and showing just how much that one event has affected everything.
The opening seven minutes are all about Ben Affleck’s Batman, and it works beautifully to set up his version of the character. Unlike basically every live-action Batman we’ve seen before, his Batman is one who has seen it all, lived through it all, and is weary of what’s coming. He still loves his city, and wants to defend it, but there’s a look in his eye that shows you he fears he’s failing more than succeeding. Then, Superman comes in and changes everything.
Here is a man with seemingly unlimited power, and he has no one to put him in check. This is the ultimate threat and fear to Batman, one that is very familiar to those who read comics, or even watch the animated shows and movies. So he responds accordingly. First in small steps, then in big ones.
Any fears you have of Ben Affleck as Batman will be erased by the end of the film. He is that amazing. I remember the interview where he described the turning point for him wanting to be Batman, cause at first he didn’t, but then he read the script and had a change of heart. You’ll see how that changed his mind here.
More fascinating for me though is the focus on Superman. Since its announcement, everyone has been focusing on either the “fight” or on Batman. But let there be no doubt that this is as much Superman’s movie as it is Batman. I mentioned above how the events of Man of Steel sent out ripple effects that are in full view in this movie, and it shows multiple times. And these events fully affect Superman.
For here is a being, that wants to do good to honor his earthly father. Has saved the world, and yet, despite all he’s doing, there is still fear and hate of him. You can tell it affects him, and at the beginning, he doesn’t want to listen to the hate and fear, but he’s forced to, and it humbles him.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the version of Superman in MOS and BVS is that he is “too serious”, and very much unlike the “classic version” of Superman where he always has a smile and stands for “truth, justice, and the American way”. But if BVS proves anything, it’s that this is the Superman we would get in today’s world. One of my favorite scenes is where people are debating the impact of Superman. And it’s Neil Degrasse Tyson who nails it the most, Superman is a paradigm change. He alters our view of everything. And in this world, with everything that’s happening, that would terrify us. So how can we expect him to be a true symbol of hope, when most people refuse to see him like that?
Then, when he sees Batman, a man who is brutalizing criminals in the name of “justice”, and told that this brutality is “not news” he does the only thing he thinks he can do, and confronts him. The surely will be infamous “Do you bleed?” scene is a highlight of the film. I only knew a second beforehand when it was coming, because it came at an unexpected point, and it was oh so worth it.
While it would’ve been easy to pin the entire movie on these two amazing characters, Batman V Superman did a great job with the supporting cast too. Amy Adams as Lois is truly Clark/Superman’s anchor, and it shows here. Also though, it shows how their relationship, which is now in full effect, affects him. This is actually a true crux of the film.
Then you have Jeremy Irons as Alfred, who has not only the best one-liners of the film, but is also a conscious of sorts to Bruce/Batman. Anyone who enjoyed the Batman TAS version of Alfred will love Irons as him. Throw in Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, and a surprise return that I did not see coming, and this story is brimming with great characters…and villains.
Yes, Jesse Eisenberg did a good job as Lex Luthor. For anyone expecting the businessman, Michael Rosenbaum, or Clancy Brown, version of the character, you will be disappointed. However, what he shows is a side we often don’t see. A playful, very addled, Lex. One who you might think goes one way, then goes another a second later. He is a scene stealer, and the things he does will shock you. Yet through it all, this is the same Luthor in many ways that we see in the comics and other media. He sees the long game, and certain cameos are directly tied to that vision.
Oh, and then there’s Wonder Woman. Another character who was bashed on because of casting, who almost steals the entire movie for herself. Gal Gadot is amazing, but the best part is that she shows off her Diana Prince personality, and her Wonder Woman one in great ways. She’s subtle when she needs to be, but then will bust out the Amazon Warrior Princess when the time comes. Her entrance gave me chills, and still does.
Now, onto the action. Yes, the “greatest gladiator match in the history of the world” lives up to the hype. Anyone who doubts Batman’s ability to beat Superman will have that notion shattered. But, as I hope a meme will state later, “one does not simply defeat Superman”. It is brutal, and personal, and constantly shifting in momentum.
Then, once Doomsday shows up and the Trinity unites, it’s all out war. Many have worried that Doomsday is shoehorned into this. In a way he is, but it honestly does feel natural. It’s a thread that is put in the film early on, and is a literal last resort for Lex when things go wrong. And he is both true to his comic roots in many ways, all the while adding a modern twist on the character that feels in tune with what Man of Steel started.
Now you may be thinking, “ok, this guy is giving it a perfect score”, I’m not, and for good reason.
Going into BVS, I had heard, but not read, a lot of reviews bashing the film. It worried me, and objectively, I can understand some of the criticisms. This movie is not for everyone. One review I read stated that it wasn’t “fun”. It’s not, but as my dad, who saw the movie with me, said, “not all superhero movies have to be fun”.
What BVS shows, is what is shown in the comics, sometimes there’s not a happy ending. Sometimes winning comes at a price. Sometimes the world only gets darker after a win, instead of being a bright future. For those expecting a “one-off” story won’t get that here. And that will put people off. If you’re not expecting that, you’ll get a more satisfying experience in my opinion.
Also, some scenes will make no sense to the “uninitiated”. Several flashforward/dream sequence scenes will leave people scratching their heads if they’re not paying attention. I understand why they were put in, but I also understand why these confuse people.
Finally, while “the fight” is amazing, it’s almost misleading to what the film has shown and advertised. To me, that doesn’t matter, but to others I think it will.
If you’ve made it this far, and have not seen the movie, you might be surprised with how light I’ve kept certain spoilers. I did this because I don’t want to affect your viewing of the movie. My saving grace I truly believe is that though I saw the scores of other reviews, I did not read them. I didn’t want spoilers, and aside from a few tidbits, I didn’t get them.
I can’t tell you whether you’ll like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Because it’s not a movie for everyone, but it did work for me. I’m excited for the rest of the DCEU. I’m pumped for Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman, and of course Justice League. This movie shows just how connected and important these movies will be.
The best piece of advice I can give, is that if you want to see the movie, go see the movie. Forget all that your friends, family, and favorite sites are saying. Go see the movie, then see what you think. This movie is a piece of history, the Trinity are finally together, and the League is coming. For this comic book fan? It made me very happy, and I hope it does for you too.