Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice


“A darker re-visioning of the DC world and its most loved characters, that crams in too much and loses the audience”

The first encounter between Superman and Batman on the big screen is a failed effort that tries to cram in too many plots and ultimately fails to deliver.  This seems mainly as a result of the writing and direction, rather than the acting.

Prior to release, DC showed way too much in the trailers – Lex is cooky crazy, Batman is twisted and Superman is dark and brooding, and we even see the trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) readying to battle Doomsday.  The movie fills in the blanks between the different film clips used in the trailer, without adding a great deal more.

The acting performances are solid, and Ben Affleck makes a very good Batman.  Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is painful to watch, but at least you believe he’s playing it the way it was written.  Henry Cavill reprises his dark version of Superman – draining the joy and hope out of this comic paragon.  Only Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman remains true to the comic source, in terms of strength and presence.

Between the telling of the core story and the many dream sequences (visions of the future?), the movie feels messy and is likely to only be fully understood as part of the full Justice League/ DCU set of films – I hope.  And boy do they cram everything into this movie – at least five major story arcs, each of which would have made a good stand alone film.

Should you watch it?  Yes.  There are some iconic moments, like when Superman and Batman face off for the first time – when Batman rises from the Batmobile.  But set your expectation low and you’ll enjoy it… probably.

Most of the key plot points are shown in the trailer, so the spoiler review really discusses the failure of the direction against the source material – the very thing that justifies making films in the first place.

Let me start with the biggest disappointment: Lex Luthor.  This crazy, childish, version would have us believe that he already knows all the key players and their alter egos.  Yes – he knows that Clark is Superman, Bruce Wayne is Batman and Diana Prince is Wonder Woman.  He even has files on all the Justice League characters.

More than knowing this information, he is able to manipulate the likes of Bruce Wayne into hating Superman based on the outcome of a Kryptonian attack that only Superman was able to fight on behalf of humanity.

This all-knowing Lex has his weaknesses – his facial ticks, his fetish for feeding people sweets and his inability to choose a suit that fits him properly.  He also doesn’t seem to care much for those that are closest to him, happily sacrificing Mercy (his personal assistant) to the explosion at the hearing.

And what is his ultimate plan to get rid of these beings that are so powerful and beyond his control?  Ah yes, of course – release something even worse in the form of Doomsday… Yes, that seems like a good solution.  Did anyone even think this through at Warner?

Next: Batman and Superman.  Boy do these guys like to brood and have so very little regard for human life.  It’s fine to want to try something different, but you don’t remove the very core that makes them who they are to do that.  Superman and Batman don’t kill.  Period.  They just don’t.  In this film they do, easily and often – and even cruelly, such as when Batman brands criminals.

I don’t care that we might live in darker times, the very nature of these heroes is to raise our expectations of ourselves and others, to demonstrate by example that there is a better way and you should not compromise on your core values.

Unfortunately the movie also shows that our heroes are … well, stupid.  Batman, you know, the world’s greatest detective, will not spend any time trying to understand this mighty new player (Superman) that he hates and must destroy.  Clark Kent, a Pulitzer prize winner, doesn’t know who the billionaire Bruce Wayne is (even though he lives on the other side of the bay).

And why so many major story arcs in one movie?  The battle between Batman and Superman, the reveal of both their identities, the first time DC’s big three clash, Doomsday and the death of Superman..!  Really… someone signed off all that for one movie?  And that doesn’t even include the dream sequences – Batman on Apocalypse and the Flash coming back in time to warn Bruce Wayne.

My prediction for how this might play out:

Superman will be resurrected by Darkseid, and join that side in the coming battle.  This is why the future vision shows an army wearing Superman’s symbol during the Apocalypse sequence.  The Justice League will form to battle the combined might of Darkseid and Superman, with Lois (as warned by Flash) being the tipping point that will bring Superman back into the fold.

This could be a good story, but the way in which WB are rushing to vomit out all the story demonstrates a lack of belief in their characters, their ability to tell strong stories or/ and build a believable universe.  It can be done, and it takes time – just ask Marvel…

I try to balance my personal views by considering a mix of elements when coming up with a rating for a film, based on the following areas:

  • Respect Source:  Does the film respect the source material, if applicable.  Does it reward those who are already invested in the characters and world that the movie represents?
  • IMDB:  The world’s largest collection of movie information, the International Movie Database also allows its users to vote on films.  The addition of this element represents the popular vote – at the point in time when I did the review.
  • Rotten Tomatoes:  RT is well known for offering professional critical review on films and seems the most appropriate way to represent that portion of the viewers.
  • Actors:  Here I try to consider how well the actor plays their part – it’s more about the people bringing the characters to life, rather than the wider story.
  • World: This rating represents the world in which the movie takes place – does it enhance the story, or detract?  Is it consistent, or does it leave big gaps?  It’s all the things happening around the actors.
  • Production:  This element considers the direction, production value, set design, writing, etc – here I try to consider all the technical elements that may or may not be in front of the camera.
  • My Rating:  What does my head and heart say about this movie, as soon as I come out of the movie theatre?  It’s the gut reaction vote.

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