When Man of Steel came out, there was talks of how Warner Bros could do an extended movie universe with DC Comics characters like Marvel/Disney was with the Avengers. With the previous DC film, Green Lantern tanking, they wanted to do a crossover with Superman and, by far the most successful DC Comic character ever brought to the big screen, Batman. The result is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The movie opens with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) witnessing the Battle of Metropolis. As he rushes to the site of the Wayne Corp offices in Metropolis, he is helpless as the rest of the population as the event unfolds around him. He reaches the building only to see it destroyed in the wake of the fight between Zod and Superman (Henry Cavill). 18 months later, Bruce is convinced that he is a threat and need to be put down.
Superman is having his own crisis of conscience. With the public divided on how responsible he was for the death toll in Metropolis and an incident in Africa, he questions whether or not he is doing any good. He starts to take notice of Batman’s activities in Gotham, as his actions have become more violent. Both heroes are set on a course that will see them come in conflict with each other. The apparent mastermind behind all this is the head of Lexcorp, Lex Luthor. His plan is to play both heroes off of each other and convince the US government that Superman is a threat. He gets his hands on the Kryptonian ship and the body of Zod that the government had possession of. With that, he plans to create a threat that would spell “doomsday” for the Man of Steel, if Batman doesn’t take him down first.
The movie clocks in over 2 and a half hours but it held my attention the whole time. There are a lot of huge action pieces as the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel come into conflict. Affleck is a good fit as an aged Dark Knight, dark and brooding after a two decade long battle against crime. He invokes the Batman of Frank Millar’s classic, The Dark Knight Returns, being more brutal and less likely to care if criminals a killed or injured, but still concerned with saving the innocent. In fact, there are scenes that mimic panels from the comic, which is fitting because the film is inspired by the fight between Superman and Batman at the end of that series.
Cavill is good as a Superman who is still a man and not a god. He makes mistakes and in the high stakes role as a superhero, that can cost lives. He, too is manipulated in fighting Batman, but in the end lets his rage get the best of him (though Batman’s attacks doesn’t help.) Eisneberg’s Luthor is a bit of a misfire for me. He comes off a bit whiny, like a spoilt brat, but he does have the cruel streak that the modern Luthor has in the comics and believes that the ends justifies the means because his ego won’t let him be wrong.
The film also features Wonder Woman (Gail Gadot) in a supporting role and what ever misgiving I had about the casting (mostly because she was unknown to me) are gone now. She plays a vital role in the end and looks amazing in the outfit, which is better than in the porn version, for a change. Her characterization is pretty much in line with her depiction in the comics since 1987. I cannot wait until we see Wondy in her own movie next year.
If there is one complaint, it’s that it is too dark in places. While I like that the Man of Steel did not go for the “gee willikers” brightness of the Christopher Reeves films but felt a bit of levity wouldn’t hurt it. With Zack Snyder and Cristopher Nolan keeping the overall tone similar to the Dark Knight trilogy, a lot of the movie is dark and somber. Only the scenes with Wonder Woman are there a few funny quips (“I thought she was with you?”) to break up the serious tone. As a movie that has accompanying toy line aimed at kids, it is a bit too dark for that audience
I think that Batman V Superman does what it was intended to do, to set up a future franchise featuring multiple heroes. Aquaman, Flash and even Cyborg appear in some form or another. with the Flash getting a speaking role, referring to event that, out of context, may confirm Batman was right about Superman, but I think hints to Superman’s fate beyond the end of this movie. As a Batman and Superman movie, it does its best to show what would happen if they went head to head. It pays homage to the Dark Knight Returns series and even has elements from a certain Superman storyline in which he fights Doomsday (I’ll let you guess which one.) I hope we get a Justice League movie out of this because more Battfleck (now my second favorite Batman after Adam West) and Gail Gadot’s Wonder Woman is a good thing.
4 out of 5