Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Film Review)

Never has there been so much controversy or anticipation for a superhero film than for this one. It was first announced three years ago that DC Comics was pitting our new Man of Steel against a new Dark Knight. The film was set to release a year ago, but it was pushed to 2016. The film has finally hit theaters, garnering mixed reactions from fans and critics. While fans seem to enjoy the film, critics have bashed it pretty harshly. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is definitely a film that left me disappointed, but also entertained.

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, and Jeremy Irons.

Plot: After the immense devastation reeked by Superman and General Zod, Bruce Wayne (Affleck) sets out on a personal vendetta to take down the Man of Steel. Superman (Cavill) has been hailed as both a savior and a devil. There are some who worship him as a god, and others who hate him. As Superman struggles to find his place in the world, Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) plots to undermine him, and show him for the devil he believes he is.

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When it was first announced Ben Affleck was cast as the caped crusader, nearly everyone lost their minds. People called it the worst casting choice ever made, reminding us of the dreadful Daredevil film, and other horrible Ben Affleck performances. As it stands, Affleck is the best part of Batman v Superman. He gives an incredibly intense and believable performance. He is a brutal, gritty, and uncaring Batman; a stark contrast to Christian Bale’s. Henry Cavill reprises his role as Superman, and for the most part, he also gives a solid performance. The overall cast in this film does a very good job. All but one: Jesse Eisenberg.

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As a film, Dawn of Justice is very messy. However, it has it’s strengths. The action sequences in this film are very, very good. Whenever Batman is in action, I felt so giddy. From smashing through walls with the new Bat-tank to pummelling baddies with his bare hands, Batman’s fights are beautiful. The visual effects, for the most part, are really gorgeous. Zack Snyder and his trusty cinematographer Larry Fong have crafted a very beautiful looking film. The fight scenes are very well filmed, as is the rest of the movie.

Going into the film, I still had my hopes. The screenplay was written by an Oscar winning screenwriter, it has a good cast, good composers, and a stylish visual director. This talent however was not enough to save this film. While the film isn’t terrible by any means, it is not great either. The bumbling, shrill, and annoying Lex Luthor is only a small  part of what’s wrong with the film. In reality, the narrative is all over the place. It’s not that the plot is bad, it’s just poorly edited and executed. Certain scenes felt out of place, random, and jarring. There are scenes in the film that run on too long and too short. Originally, the film was intended to be three hours long, but they had to shave it down quite a bit. Despite the shaving down from three hours, the movie still feels too long and the pace is at times very sluggish.

While I have many qualms with this film, I also enjoyed many aspects of it. The first two hours of the movie are set up for the epic showdown between our heroes. The set up is both rewarding and lacing. Batman is, for the most part, fully realized. We understand why Bruce Wayne hates Superman, and why he fears he is a threat to humanity. When Batman arrives at the battlefield, we know why he’s there. Instead of balancing the two characters story arcs evenly, Superman gets sidelined a bit. When Kal arrives at the fight, he does so for very disappointing reasons. That being said, the build up for this fight is not awful, but it isn’t sufficient.

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As with any DC film, philosophical and moral themes are ever present. Superman is put on trial, and heavily criticized. The question is raised: should there be a Superman? Who holds him accountable? Themes of this nature are very similar to the themes in Frank Miller’s graphic novel, (Dark Knight Returns). For this reason, it’s sad seeing the film be so incredibly messy. I feel like there is a deep and powerful story underneath that just got buried by bad directing and terrible editing. The script doesn’t strike me as awful. Some of the dialogue is very powerful and epic. I just feel like Snyder is incapable of telling a coherent story. He wants to. He desperately wants to. However, he gets consumed with how things look instead of being consumed with telling a good story.

“Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a beautiful looking film with very, very much potential. Unfortunately, due to narrative structure, bad editing, and sloppy direction, the film fails to deliver us a compelling story. However, what was once the greatest fear of fans will become what we all love most about the film; Ben Affleck as Batman. The performances are solid, the visuals are stunning, and the fights are breathtaking. The end fight, despite the messy set-up, is worth getting too. It may not be a great comic book film, but it contains the best comic book fight brought to the big screen I have ever seen.

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