US Release Date: 03-25-2016
Directed by: Zack Snyder
- Ben Affleck, as
- Bruce Wayne / Batman
- Henry Cavill, as
- Clark Kent / Superman
- Amy Adams, as
- Jesse Eisenberg, as
- Lex Luthor
- Diane Lane, as
- Martha Kent
- Laurence Fishburne, as
- Perry White
- Jeremy Irons, as
- Holly Hunter, as
- Senator Finch
- Gal Gadot, as
- Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
- Kevin Costner, as
- Jonathan Kent
- Scoot McNairy, as
- Wallace Keefe
- Callan Mulvey, as
- Anatoli Knyazev
- Tao Okamoto, as
- Mercy Graves
- Brandon Spink, as
- Young Bruce Wayne
- Lauren Cohan, as
- Martha Wayne
- Ezra Miller, as
- The Flash
- Jason Momoa, as
- Ray Fisher, as
- Joe Morton, as
- Michael Shannon, as
- Charlie Rose, as
- Nancy Grace, as
- Anderson Cooper as
Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
There's a good movie inside this movie somewhere, but it would take a talented and ruthless editor to find it. It is jam packed with too many storylines, action scenes that go on too long, unanswered questions, and even a few plot holes. Other scenes that are central to the storyline are rushed and feel unfinished. The result is an overly long, overly serious, hot mess of a movie.
Superhero vs superhero storylines have been a staple of the comic industry for decades. However, they're always just a tease and a marketing gimmick. Inevitably they end up as a tie, or the two heroes end up working together. The publishers never want to alienate either heroes' fanbase by portraying their hero as the loser. This movie is no different. The question of "Who will win?" posed on the film's poster is never going to be answered, at least not in terms of a physical fight. If the Batman vs. Superman debate focused on their methods and motivations rather than a fistfight, with Superman being the Boy Scout and Batman a creature of the night and shadows, that might have been interesting, but this movie isn't interested in anything so subtle. The pointlessness of their fight is compounded by the fact that we already know the two will end up working together in the planned Justice League films. A fact which also makes the drawn out ending pointless and deprives it of any emotional weight.
One of the big questions surrounding this film when it went into production was the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. The internet practically exploded with rage at the news. However, Affleck is one of the best things in the movie. This version of Batman is older, darker, and more haunted than any that have come before him in films. He's a little unbalanced and not afraid to kill to get the job done and subsequently one of the most interesting characters. Unfortunately, he is also burdened with a weak change of heart that betrays the complexities of his character that have already been established. Still, it's a part that suits Affleck and I look forward to seeing what he can do with it in something not directed by Zack Snyder.
The story begins with a reprise of the ending of Man of Steel, but told from Bruce Wayne's point of view. He sees the destruction of Metropolis and the death of innocents and puts part of the blame on Superman. He decides that Superman is a danger and a threat to the world and must be put down. He receives added motivation when Superman takes an interest in Batman, warning him to stop his vigilante ways or face the consequences.
While there's enough material in the Superman vs Batman storyline to fill a movie on its own, that's just the first layer in this dense cake. You also have the inclusion of Lex Luthor, played interestingly by Jessie Eisenberg, as a young, twitchy, financial genius. He wants to destroy Superman, of course, although the origin of his hatred is never clearly defined. It's his mad scheming that results in the climatic battle and is intertwined with Lois Lane's (Amy Adams) investigations as well as a needless subplot involving Holly Hunter as a junior senator. Both Adams and Hunter are great actresses, but theirs should have been the first storylines cut.
On top of everything else, the story also acts as an introduction to the upcoming Justice League films. While the inclusion of Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, is welcome and she brings a real spark to the third act, the brief scenes with Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg, are superfluous and should either have been removed or simply included as mid/end credit sequences. The scene with the Flash appearing in Bruce Wayne's dream to warn him of some vague future threat, and which is never referred to again, should definitely have been removed.
As if there wasn't enough going on, the script also attempts some heavy handed commentary on what it means to be a hero. It reprises the Superman as a Christ figure theme, which keeps this Superman as a serious, more glum figure, compounded by Henry Cavill's stoic acting ability.
Perhaps the movie's biggest problem is its lack of fun. Everyone is so serious all of the time that it makes the 2 and a half hour running time feel even longer. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman seems to be the only character enjoying herself, which is why her appearance is such a breath of fresh air. The tone is so somber that the occasional attempts at comic relief feel out of place.
The ingredients for an enjoyable film are certainly here, but it would take a chef with a lighter touch than Zack Snyder to assemble them into something palatable.
Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
The biggest problem in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not that everyone is so
serious all of the time. The characters of Superman and Batman have never been known for their sense of humor. Superman/Clark Kent is a straight laced boy scout spending his time trying to do what is good in a world that is skeptical about his motives, which they have good reason to be after thousands died during a battle he participated in. Batman/Bruce Wayne is an emotionally scarred psychotic. Although he has limitless funds and sleeps with lots of women, his adrenaline only truly kicks in when he is scaring the shit out of villains or kicking their ass.
If Dawn of Justice stumbles, at all, it is because of the editing. I agree with Scott that this film could have used a trim but not as drastically as he implies. We do not need to see the kryptonite being found. It gets explained later anyway. There is no need to see Bruce Wayne workout. We know he is a superhero so we already expect him to be in good shape. It was as if Zack Snyder did not want Ben Affleck's efforts in the gym to not get at least some showcasing. The "dream" featuring Flash does get brought up again as Flash tells him Lois Lane is key and during the climactic battle she proves very much to be holding it, but it is still a pointless moment as is Wayne's dream about the desert. The introduction of the other Justice League members could have easily come at the end. Bruce could have handed Diana the flash drive and she looked at it during the credits. Either way though, the film is called Dawn of Justice, so those scenes are not entirely out of place.
So much is implied here that I believe much of this film will make more sense after other DC movies come out. It even suggests that one of Batman's many Robins is now the new Joker. Bruce tells Alfred at one point that some that used to be good are no longer and then there is the Robin costume in the Batcave with "Ha ha Jokes on you." spray painted on it. I wonder if the Suicide Squad movie (2016) will answer that question. There is also the photograph of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) that appears to have been taken sometime during World War II. Diana tells Bruce at one point that she is over a hundred years old. Again, more questions that will hopefully be answered in her upcoming movie. Dawn of Justice reminded me of all those comic books that featured a cross over character or ended with a note saying the story line will continue in a different series.
As for the cast, Henry Cavil is again adequate but he gets a bit short shifted. The first time we see Clark and Lois together it is clear that they now have a very intimate/sexual relationship going on. That is fine but I would have liked to have seen that develop. As Clark was possibly a middle aged virgin, there was the opportunity for a humorous scene, that would have not been out of character. Showing this God like man stumbling through his first sexual experience would have also shown another side of his vulnerability. Superman's best, and most emotional, moment is when he gets angry atop the skyscraper when his most precious item on earth is threatened.
Ben Affleck is indeed good as Batman. He looks like a man who has waken up every day for the past twenty years with a hangover. He seems tired of the life he is leading but feels compelled to continue it, no matter how much heart ache and bruises it has caused. The idea of putting down the alien threat of Superman seems to revitalize him, giving him a new reason to go on. As previously mentioned, Affleck put on some muscle for the role. Not that it was actually necessary but it did show his dedication to the part.
I agree with Scott that Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman brings some fresh air and a bit of spark to the proceedings. I love how Diana Prince never acts concerned while others are distraught. She gives Doomsday one hell of a fight. Her best moment is the smile that creeps across her face after taking a punch from him, as if she relishes the idea that it just got real. As a long time DC comics fan, I got a rush of excitement when she stood side by side with Batman and Superman to battle Doomsday.
Yes, Dawn of Justice is a bit cluttered but there is still plenty in it to enjoy. This movie is the basis for so much yet to come. It may very well get better over time as the questions get answered in the other upcoming films. Bring on the Justice League!
Now that I have seen the Ultimate Edition, I can say that this original cut/extended version is better than the theatrical one that made so many critics respond with a near unanimous "eh!" As noted in the commercials, there is a half hour of new material, which creates a better flow to the story and adds to Clark's and Bruce's motivations. What this also makes clearer is that this is two different stories mashed together. We see new scenes of Clark investigating Batman while Lois looks further into the shooting in the desert and the explosion at the Capital. Meanwhile, we get some additional scenes of Bruce working out and investigating the White Portuguese. There are no new scenes of them together, in or out of costume. In fact, there is no noticeable additional scenes of any superhero in costume.
Because the build up is made slower, the first meeting between Superman and Batman carries a bit more weight. The down side to all of this is that the movie moves just as slow as the original and everyone remains just as serious as they were in the original cut. Also as Scott complained about the original, the amount of "fun" is likewise not increased by any new scenes. The flow in the Ultimate Edition is much better and some exposition is made clearer but the tone remains the same. Although this is not the great improvement I hoped for, it is still a better movie and if and when I ever see this again, it will be the extended version I will watch.
Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg and Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
As I complained in my Man of Steel review, I'm beyond tired of watching these same characters doing the exact same things over and over again. As I was sitting through the umpteenth take on Batman's origin my eyelids started feeling heavy. I knew I was in trouble since the movie had just begun. Although I never completely dozed off I did close my eyes a few times and at one point I took a leisurely bathroom break.
Unlike Eric, I've never had a penchant for peering into the underlying psychology of superheroes. I wish I did since it would undoubtedly make these movies more interesting. I liked them as a kid because Batman kicked butt on the television series and Superman looked like he could really fly in the 1978 motion picture. As a nearly 50 year old man I can only say that I have nothing left but a vague sense of nostalgia for the entire superhero genre. Boo and hiss me if you must but that's the god's honest truth.
I'm glad they at least acknowledged the level of destruction and loss of human life from the climactic battle in Man of Steel that kicks off the action here. Despite the huge body count the violence is quite sanitized compared to a movie like Deadpool. I agree with Scott that the tone is a bit too serious and self-reverential. I also agree that it runs long and is a hot mess of a movie.
I actually liked the very brief scenes introducing other future Justice League members. After all the real point of these movies is to see comic book heroes brought to life on the big screen in all their colorful glory. The most iconic scenes are usually the ones that look like movie posters in motion. The picture in Scott's review is that moment in Batman v Superman.
Does it really matter though whether or not this is a good movie? If it makes enough money we'll see sequels with recycled plots. If it's deemed a failure we'll see a reboot of these same characters in a few years time. Either way I lose.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. (2016)