‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (2016) Film Review

To say that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of the most highly anticipated comic book movies of all time is an understatement. The movie marks the first cinematic meeting between Batman and Superman, the first film iteration of Wonder Woman, AND it lays the groundwork for the DC Extended Universe. So, this movie is extremely ambitious, to say the least.

Throughout the past three years, fan anticipation has been through the roof. This can be credited to everything from awesome trailers to memorable San Diego Comic-Con appearances to a stellar marketing campaign. However, upon release, Batman v Superman has received much criticism from critics and some fans, suggesting that the film is an absolute misfire. Do I agree with this opinion, or do I think this movie is an under-praised gem?

Before I go any further, I want to reaffirm that, yes, I am a huge DC Comics fan. I grew up watching the animated shows, I read the comics on a regular basis, and I love both The Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel. So, of course I would be absolutely hyped for Batman v Superman. And now that I’ve seen the movie, I can confirm that I did love it, even if it does have some serious issues.

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Let’s get the flaws out of the way. The pacing and editing for this film are both iffy at best. This is most obvious in the first half hour or so of the film. A sequence of scenes would take place, but the scenes feel random, disjointed and not near as connected as they should have been. While most of them make more sense by the end of the film, they could have done a much better job editing it.

Also, the first hour or so of Batman v Superman is surprisingly light on action. Some cool stuff happens, like the Man of Steel flashback scene with Bruce Wayne and the Batmobile chase, but otherwise, the action doesn’t pick up until later in the movie. From there, it’s non-stop explosions, heat vision, CG-filled fights, etc. I feel like there could have been a strong balance between the two, as well as a more natural progression. Plus, they could’ve easily cut ten minutes or so out to streamline the runtime, and the first half feels boring in comparison to the second. (On a side note, during the film’s first half, I’m pretty sure I heard somebody in the audience snoring.)

And finally, as much as I loved Batman in this movie, I did have one issue with his characterization. I’m not gonna explain it here, as I want to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. Those who have seen the movie know exactly what I’m talking about. And it’s bound to be very polarizing among comic book fans. As of right now, I’m on the unfavorable side of the debate. I didn’t like this aspect of Batman, and I hope it disappears in future movies.

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However, one of Batman v Superman‘s greatest strengths is its cast. The acting is really strong in this film. Ben Affleck’s Batman is incredible. He’s dark, disturbing, complex and out-right terrifying. I don’t know if I’d say he’s as great as Christian Bale’s Batman yet, but in terms of comic book accuracy, Affleck nails it. Meanwhile, I continue to love Henry Cavill’s Superman. He’s not given quite as much depth as Batman, but Superman is still at the center of this story. And Cavill is perfect casting; he offers the charisma and physicality required for the role.

Also, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman totally steals the show. Her role is essentially a glorified cameo, but when she suits up to help Batman and Superman fight Doomsday, she commands a presence that allows her to hold her own against the other two heroes. Needless to say, I’m really hyped for the Wonder Woman next year. This was a worthy introduction for the character, whose big screen debut has been long overdue.

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The other cast members were good. Jesse Eisenberg is great as Lex Luthor. He totally sells the “annoying little brat” public persona, while he also pulls off his more menacing, despicable self behind closed doors. Amy Adams is again solid as Lois Lane, though her story arc wasn’t near as interesting as others’. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred Pennyworth is one of the true highlights of the film, offering some of its funniest moments. His chemistry with Affleck is superb. Meanwhile, Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane and others are good in their respective roles.

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The action in this movie is truly epic, if slightly exhausting. Director Zack Snyder’s visual flair is here in full force, and the sequences are grand in scale. The titular fight between Batman and Superman is terrific, even if it’s a bit short. And the final battle between the Trinity and Doomsday felt like a comic book brought to life. Oh, and the scene where Batman takes down a bunch of thugs is just perfect. Fight scenes have always been tricky to nail down in a Batman movie, but Snyder and co. finally succeed here.

As for Doomsday himself, the character is really just here to be the “muscle” for the Trinity to fight. He’s ugly, he’s not a deep character at all, and he feels like a generic CG blockbuster monster. AKA, exactly how he’s portrayed in the comics.

The storyline doesn’t feel as focused as it should be. Granted, this was always going to be a problem, considering how much takes place in the film and how much setup there is. But it should have been streamlined with less filler. As for the Justice League teases, I as a fan loved them, but I can see how non-comic book fans would be slightly alienated. Otherwise, I liked the script. The dialogue is decent, and there are some shocking plot twists. And it feels like a natural continuation from Man of Steel.

As for other highlights, I loved the costume designs, I loved Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score, and I loved the humor. A lot of people have complained about Batman v Superman being “too dark,” “not fun” and “joyless.” Honestly, while the film is still very dark – mostly with the Batman portions – I had a lot of fun with it. And there were a lot of jokes that were actually funny. At the screening I attended, the audience laughed and cheered several times throughout the film. I mean, it’s Batman and Superman fighting each other. What’s not to love?

In conclusion, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an exciting debut for the DC Extended Universe. While the film has many flaws, including the pacing, editing and storyline’s focus, I have faith that these will be fixed in future installments. And, in my opinion, the critics’ reviews have been unfairly harsh. Fingers crossed that these movies will expand on Batman v Superman‘s greatest elements and ignore its weakest. I recommend Batman v Superman to longtime DC fans like myself, and even non-comic book readers may enjoy it. I feel like this is a movie that will get better with each viewing, and frankly, I can’t wait to watch it again.

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