Who would have guessed that with the varied reviews from its predecessor, MAN OF STEEL, that there would be some people who found reasons to hate BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE?
I love movies, and I love introducing people to films that I think they’re going to like for one reason or another. And because it’s not my “day job” to see and review movies, I’m not forced to see movies that don’t look like they would appeal to me. And I typically find something to enjoy out of every film I see, and my ratings typically end up a bit higher than others because of it. And because I’m not pressured to try to maximize viewers of my reviews, I don’t have to find bombastic things to say in order to attract more eyes.
So I can be honest and look for the positives.
I’m glad I wasn’t dissuaded from seeing BvS by the negativity spewed from critics. Not that there was any chance I was going to skip the film, even if I hadn’t purchased my opening night ticket three weeks in advance. But hearing all the negativity did lower my expectations a little bit. And even though the film wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I really, really enjoyed it.
With all of the superhero series reboots we’ve seen in the past 20 years (Superman twice, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Batman, and Punisher to name a few), my fear is that the objectively more-than-adequate groundwork set in place by MAN OF STEEL and now BvS will go to waste before we get to JUSTICE LEAGUE.
Yes, there is a lot of information in this film, but if you don’t let the unanswered questions bother you too much, you just might enjoy yourself. Given that there are at least a handful of movies already slated to follow up DAWN OF JUSTICE to provide answers in the way of backstory or follow-ups, I’d say that a little patience is warranted.
Was it too much information? Was it haphazardly strewn about the plot? No, no it wasn’t. They touch on about six significant Justice League characters who aren’t a protagonist nor an antagonist in this film, but only one of the references should cause confusion.
1 – The “Knightmare” sequence was confusing, but is easily disregarded as further evidence that Bruce Wayne is paranoid about what might happen with Superman un-checked, even though it’s probably more of a look into an alternate universe thanks to Flash, who is barely recognizable at the end of the sequence. [Sorry for the spoiler there, but it’s not key to the plot and I didn’t give you some vital details to the scene I’m referencing.]
2 – The character who is very likely the “big bad” for Justice League was hinted at in the “Knightmare” scene with both a symbol scorched into the earth and through the minions involved, but if you miss the reference, it doesn’t hurt your understanding of the plot for THIS film.
3 – The three Justice League members who make cameos but aren’t protagonists in this film might be considered as being haphazardly strewn in, but they serve their very simple purpose of introducing the fact that other heroes exist in this world than just the Trinity of the protagonists.
4 – The reference to a fallen Robin in the Batcave simply serves to show that Bruce Wayne has some sadness in his history which has hardened him a bit. It doesn’t tell us exactly what happened, or which Robin it was, but there are plenty of opportunities in future Batman standalone films (and probably SUICIDE SQUAD) to cover that base.
What else was there that people can point towards and say the film was trying to do “too much”? Nothing that I’ve seen critics mention, and I’ve read more than a half-dozen reviews.
And I’m not talking about the start of the film, with what some people are calling a “perfunctory” retelling of the night Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed. That doesn’t count, either, because that scene and one of its primary details provided ended up playing huge significance late in the film, a catalyst if you will. It wasn’t obligatory. It was necessary.
So how were each of the primary characters portrayed in this film? I’ll try to be as non-spoileriffic as possible:
Batman – I have a few problems with the way he’s portrayed, though none of them made me hate the film. He was largely unsympathetic in how he was approaching Superman and was significantly different than all other incarnations I’ve seen of the character… and not in a good way. Yet, Ben Affleck did a good job with the character as written, and this Batman is sure fun to watch.
Superman – People keep waiting for Superman to be the boy scout who always does the right thing, but that’s just not who Superman is in this story. As much as I enjoyed the Christopher Reeve version of Clark Kent’s bumbling reporter, and to a lesser extent more of the same from Brandon Routh, it’s just not the route they’re going with Henry Cavill, and I’m okay with that. His character continued to evolve in this film from where he was in MAN OF STEEL, but for people to complain because Batman got more character development here is ludicrous, primarily because this was NOT “MAN OF STEEL 2”, because Batman hadn’t shown up in this “universe” before which necessitated his introduction, and because quite frankly the whole Batman vs Superman fight was in place because Batman was being an asshole and so his perspective on Superman and on life itself needed to change. Also, I agree with at least one reviewer that over the course of this film, Superman does become more of a symbol of hope for both the common man and for other heroes.
Lex Luthor – It’s funny for me to see half of the reviews talk about how terrible this version of Lex Luthor is, and the other half to praise Jesse Eisenberg for his portrayal of the slightly-crazed Machiavellian billionaire genius. I personally would’ve built the character slightly differently and more in line with how the comics portray him, but it didn’t kill the movie for me. And anyone who says that Luthor’s character was too similar to Heath Ledger’s Joker from THE DARK KNIGHT is out of their mind.
Lois Lane – Another of the big criticisms I’ve heard is about how Lois’ involvement in the film is primarily in a subplot which a few reviewers found superfluous, a notion with which I completely disagree. I can’t go into specifics, but I will say that what she uncovers leads directly to the state of affairs for Lex Luthor at the culmination of the film which could not have been reached in many other ways without significantly detracting from Luthor’s effectiveness. And there’s no need to question whether or not Amy Adams did excellent work with the role. She’s above reproach.
Wonder Woman / Diana Prince – Having never seen Gal Gadot in anything before, I was a bit concerned, but her portrayal was more than adequate. In the fight scenes, she was wonderful. She seemed to love it, and as she was portraying an Amazon Warrior Princess, that’s kinda vital to the role. And yet, the way the film uses her without giving much in the way of a brief bio is disappointing. I understand that Bruce Wayne doesn’t know anything about her, and neither does Clark Kent, but the flight attendant seemed to know who she was, and there seemed to be some reason that she was invited to Lex Luthor’s party. This was certainly one of the film’s short-comings, and I’m not even advocating for her Amazonian Warrior Princess side to be delved into, but rather, is she rich? Is she powerful in the world of business? Is she someone for whom legitimate background information can’t be found even if the search is Batcomputer-assisted? Any of these things would be good to know… and yet we don’t get a hint of them. Again, a small point that doesn’t destroy the film for me, just something that helps keep it from being perfect.
Alfred Pennyworth – The character was perfect, surpassing what Michael Caine’s version did the Christopher Nolan films. No complaints from me about how Jeremy Irons portrayed him. Just as in other mediums, Alfred here is a great sidekick for Bruce Wayne and Batman alike.
Of the other notes which deserve to be considered, at the top should be the Batmobile. In any Batman film or animated series, you gotta decide whether they did a good job with “the car” or not, and although it’s not my favorite in terms of the aesthetic, nor some of the killing that occurs through its use, the Batmobile was definitely cool and so was the car chase in which it was involved. The Batwing was also cool, with some of the same frustrations I mentioned about the Batmobile also applying here as well, but the praise should also get an echo.
The ultimate “big bad” in this film, whose name I won’t mention in case you’re reading a review for the film and you never saw the previews, was pretty badass and certainly required multiple people fighting it. And one of the twists in the film involving an attempt to take down the “big bad” was actually a really interesting take on the situation, when the government tried to get involved. The rest of the fight wasn’t perfect, by any means. There are moments where a character mentions that something needs to happen, and then they seem to forget all about their motivation or the limitations of the other characters involved as pertains to the task at hand. In short, only one of the members of The Trinity needs to stay away from Kryptonite, which I suppose only one of them deserves a pass for not knowing, but the other two should account for that when planning… especially when one of them is supposedly well known for their ability to be prepared and they had the idea in the first place.
Oh, right, and I suppose I should mention the fight between the two titular characters, since the film is essentially built around the fact that there’s a fight between the duo. Any concerns about how realistic this could seem, given that Batman is just a man and Superman is, well, Superman, are valid, but they’re addressed. Batman does a great job of being prepared, as you would expect, and he finds a key way to be able to inflict a significant amount of damage on The Man Of Steel. The fight choreography wasn’t as outstanding as some of the other fights in this film and in MAN OF STEEL, but it was definitely entertaining and didn’t suffer from the same issue that Anikan and Obi-Wan had in Revenge Of The Sith.
Look at that, a Star Wars reference in a Superman movie review.
And I actually really liked how the fight between the two of them ended. Some people said it was lame or didn’t make sense with the characters or was too contrived, but I thought it was perfect.
Bottom line, I’ve seen the film twice, and that helped me better understand what they were trying to do with some aspects that I didn’t fully appreciate the first time around. Perhaps the aspect of the film which had the most impact and should be discussed when I mention what I feel about the film is something that I won’t include for spoiler reasons. The film’s not perfect, but it’s not overloaded to the point of being bloated, either. I can understand people not giving it the highest of marks, but anything less than saying it’s a “decent” follow-up to MAN OF STEEL just comes across as being a hater. There’s a reason why this is probably the longest review I’ve ever written. It’s not that I feel like this is the best film of all time, but because I feel strongly that the critics who have been giving it extremely low marks are doing this film an injustice, and if anyone decides not to see the film because of something negative they’ve heard about it, I”ll be disappointed, and I want to be there to provide my perspective, because I’m sure there are just as many people out there who agree with me as there are who didn’t enjoy the film.
My rating: 90 out of 100