Friday, March 25, 2016 marks the official theatrical release of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for the advance press screening the previous Tuesday, March 22 courtesy of Warner Bros, Allied Marketing, and Regal Cinemas.
Director Zack Snyder returns with this sort of pseudo-sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, and the results are… overwhelming. There’s so much going on here, that it will take some time to sift through it all, and properly review it. But, it will be done, so bear with me, and as to the burning question of “is it any good?” – read on to find out!
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens up with, as one would most likely expect, a little backstory on the origin of Batman, introducing the Dark Knight to the Man of Steel continuity, which would have felt a bit redundant seeing yet another origin of an iconic character that everyone knows, but thankfully it was over pretty quickly. Unfortunately, though, this rapid-fire, rush-through-everything mentality would continue to be a problem throughout. We’re reintroduced to Superman (Henry Cavil), who is facing both scrutiny and outright worship following the events in Man of Steel. When an issue with a terrorist insurgency in Africa turns tragic, Superman is blamed by many for what happened, and is set for a trial with the United States government.
Meanwhile, Batman (Ben Affleck) is facing the scrutiny of being a vigilante as per usual, over in Gotham. As you’d probably guess from the title and trailer, eventually the two cross paths, both holding some pretty negative opinions about the other. They have some initial conflict, with little payoff, and we’re simultaneously introduced to Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) a brilliant, yet disturbed young billionaire and CEO of LexCorp who is researching a strange alien mineral called Kryptonite, as well as several meta-humans. Ultimately, Luthor manipulates both Superman and Batman into finally having the big fight that we were all promised, and while the action-packed sequence was definitely enjoyable, overall it just seemed to lack some sense and not go on nearly long enough.
Throughout the film, a mysterious woman is seen in various scenes, ultimately being revealed as Wonder Woman (Gal Gardot), who joins the two heroes to face off against the final big bad guy at the end… who I won’t spoil here, but wish I could as said big bad guy just wasn’t really done very well. In fact, I can’t really say anything more, as I’m already getting too close to the spoiler line.
The main problem with this film is the fact that the production team really tries to shove way too much into way too short of a time frame. There are many great parts to it, and the first 2/3 of the film are quite enjoyable for the most part, but everything just feels so rushed through, and nothing is ever quite given enough time to properly shine. While I understand that this is to set up the future Justice League film(s), it still shouldn’t have been so rapid-fire, and some due respect should have been given to this film itself. That said, the cast, for the most part, did an outstanding job with what they were given. Ben Affleck absolutely shines here, and nearly steals the show as an aging, Frank Miller-esque Batman, something that certainly surprised this writer, as I was among those who thought this was a poor casting choice. Henry Cavil does a great job reprising his role as Superman, and Gal Gardot turns in an outstanding performance as Wonder Woman, coming across as very natural and comfortable in such an iconic role. Jesse Eisenberg, on the other hand seems very far fetched, and doesn’t really fit the character of Lex Luthor at all, feeling more like a psychotic Joker-meets-petulant lab geek than the ruthless, arrogant, powerful tycoon Luthor has always been in every other medium.
The other big issue, which actually runs right alongside the aforementioned over-stuffing, is the fact that this film really feels like it spends far too much time trying to respond to previous films, which only serves to further take away from what could have been a great feature. A lot of the character development in the story seems convoluted and unmotivated at times, which could have been easily fixed if the film didn’t seemingly waste so much time trying to address previous films and toss in surprises (which you will just have to watch and see for yourself) and nods to other comic arcs. The final boss battle saw an unnecessarily overpowered exaggeration of an already frightening character who quite frankly arrived way, way too early in the continuity of the film, and frankly should have been saved for a much later film. That’s all I’ll say about that, and I won’t say who or what as that will most certainly spoil the ending, but it’s very important to address in order to properly review this.
The cinematography was very good, although the editing was a little too rapid-fire for my taste, and was very much the big explosions for the sake of big explosions fest at the end, which is subjective, and to each their own of course, but felt gratuitous. The score was outstanding, and should really get all the credit it can as it was particularly well done. This film had all the makings of something great, but just didn’t have enough of a runtime to properly develop and present everything. This could have even been fine as a two-parter, but there just wasn’t enough time as-is.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was a big, overstuffed, messy spectacle of a film. Way too much was crammed into this, and the set up for the Justice League really felt completely out of place. While the initial 1/2-2/3 made for a fine set up, in the end, it just didn’t really deliver. As this is the precursor to several more Justice League-related movies in the works, perhaps Warner Bros will take note and fix all of these issues in those to come. As for this one, it wasn’t all bad, nor was it by any means the worst DC-based film, but it certainly wasn’t the best, either. – 6.5/10
Editor: Nerd Nation Magazine