Movie Review - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
By Matthew Huntley
April 5, 2016
On a qualitative level, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has more in common with Man of Steel than The Dark Knight trilogy, which should give you an idea of its strengths and weaknesses. Its strengths are that it’s mostly fun and entertaining, at times effectively dark, and buoyed by a few strong performances. Its weaknesses are that the main characters aren’t particularly well developed, the ending is absurd (even in the context of a superhero movie), and the movie ultimately overstays its welcome.
With these pros and cons in mind, Batman v Superman, like Man of Steel, is still worth seeing, although it’s not a movie you should see multiple times because its flaws are likely to become more apparent (and bothersome) with each viewing. But I suppose if any movie is worth seeing at least once, that’s what counts.
This is, of course, Zach Snyder’s follow-up to his own Man of Steel (2013), and Batman v Superman opens just as the story of that film is ending, with Superman battling General Zod to the death and nearly destroying all of Metropolis in the process. During this battle, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), from neighboring Gotham City, suffers the tragic loss of an entire skyscraper full of friends and colleagues. This sets Bruce, along with his Batman alter ego, on a vengeful mission to rid the planet of Superman, whom he believes to be too powerful and dangerous. Superman, meanwhile, along with his own alter ego, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), sees Bruce’s Batman as a menace and threat because the Caped Crusader has begun taking the law into his own hands on an even greater scale. He’s grown so vigilante, in fact, he now brands criminals with a bat symbol, which borders on torture.
Both heroes must also deal with the evil schemes of megalomaniac Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who’s fixated on becoming a God-like being and commanding a team of super individuals to essentially rule the world. One of those individuals is Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), whom the film later reveals as the immortal Wonder Woman, whose powers are almost tantamount to Superman’s.
All of these characters, including the supporting ones like the resourceful journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who’s now Clark Kent’s/Superman’s lover; Bruce’s trusted butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons); and Clark’s adopted mother, Martha (Diane Lane), are so well known across the DC Comics, cinematic and popular culture landscapes, they hardly need any introduction, and the movie both does and doesn’t know how to utilize their iconic statuses.
On the one hand, it gives us Batman and Superman, but it doesn’t really tell us anything new about either figure or their alter egos. It relies on what we already know and assumes this is enough. Bruce is still the same old dark, solemn and guilt-ridden recluse who replays the death of his parents over and over again in his mind. Even at his old age (the white hairs are starting to show atop his head), he still has nightmares about the night his parents were murdered outside a movie theater and how he sought refuge and solace by becoming Batman. The screenplay by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer retreats to this tried-and-true trope so often that we just want to yell at Bruce, “Get over it already!”, or at least have the script expand his personality beyond what the comics and previous movies have already told us.