Taking place 18 months after the events of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice focuses on the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and his torment when faced with the power of a god-like alien, Superman (Henry Cavill) who answers to no one but himself. Inversely, Batman's brutal nature and penchant for taking the law into his own hands also keeps Superman awake at night.
In the middle of it all orchestrating the heroes' impending battle is Alexander "Lex" Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a young billionaire obsessed with using his unmatched intellect to gain power and influence not only over Batman, Superman, and other suspected "metahumans," but the U.S. Government as well.
The film does a remarkable job building paranoia and fear around the idea of Superman, directly represented through Bruce Wayne, the most human out of all of the Justice League members. Since Batman is the most popular character in the DC canon, it's no surprise that the film is constructed in a way that audiences live the movie through him – and to great effect thematically and emotionally. Jeremy Irons as Alfred was the perfect foil for Affleck's Bruce and provided much of the comedic relief in the movie.
Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is also a very solid addition and her inclusion, while it wasn't an integral part of the story, doesn't seem out of place in this world and does service to the character. The film unfortunately also feels the need to set up every other Justice League character, and their cameos often feel forced and worse – lazy. There is one cameo, however, that reaffirms Batman's paranoia, and that will make comic fans giddy. Admittedly, the scene will be quite jarring for casual moviegoers.
Because of all the heavy-lifting it has to do (address repercussions of Man of Steel, introduce Batman, introduce Wonder Woman, explore idealogical differences between Batman and Superman, introduce Justice League, and much more), Batman v Superman is a lot to take in on first viewing and narrative elements seem disjointed, rushed, and incoherent. The edits between scenes and locations are also very harsh and often times, the film cuts to black before moving on. Despite the sporadic structure of the film, the script by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer contains thought-provoking messages, wit, and engrossing dialogue in scenes of tension.
Lex Luthor seemed to exist solely to get certain plot points moving. The Batman and Superman battle was an inevitability and there was really little need for Luthor to help it along. In addition, Eisenberg's performance, while there were some bright spots, came off a little too insane and over-the-top when compared to the cold and calculated Luthor of the comics and even Superman: The Animated Series.
Amy Adams' Lois Lane was pulled in too many different directions and often showed up when the plot needed her to. Her mission for most of the movie is a plot thread that could have been cut completely, but there are some needed tender moments between her and Cavill's Superman.
The soundtrack from Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, while epic, too often took over the movie and was definitely noticeable – and not in a good way. However, the melodic callbacks to Man of Steel were a nice touch.
As with any Zack Snyder film, the action and cinematography is breathtaking. Director of Photography Larry Fong really outdoes himself, blending the unique visual aesthetic of Man of Steel with his work on Watchmen. There are some truly gorgeous shots in this film, and the opening credits sequence is a testament to visual storytelling, much like the credits sequence from Watchmen.
The title fight is everything a fan could want to see and Snyder brings the best Batman-centric action (including car chases and hand-to-hand combat) ever put to screen. The only time the action gets gratuitous and self-indulgent is in the third act.
On the surface, Batman v Superman appears to be an overstuffed, convoluted, CGI filled mess (aka: your typical comic book blockbuster), but a closer look reveals so much more.This is a film that needs to be seen multiple times in order to appreciate what it does narratively and thematically, especially with the character of Superman. It is a much better film upon second viewing and what the film gets right, it gets perfect. Analyzing its underlying themes and narrative inspiration shows that it's no surprise that the film debuted over Easter weekend. The promise of 30 extra minutes of footage on the Blu-Ray release is an interesting thing to ponder and may clear up some narrative problems with the theatrical release.
Batman v Superman, while flawed, is a sturdy launchpad for the DC Extended Universe and presents the best versions of the DC heroes ever put to screen. It cleverly builds off the foundation laid by Man of Steel and stays true to the principles, tone, and themes presented in its predecessor. It goes without saying that the universe it promises is one with rich possibilities and the film serves as an interesting lens with which to study the world that we live in and the values that we live by.Our Rating: Observe