This review contains spoilers for Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
Zack Snyder ends decades of anticipation and finally brings both Batman and Superman together for the first time on the big screen with Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. If that wasn’t enough, he throws in Wonder Woman and a host of other DC Comics characters to give fans the ultimate tease for a Justice League movie. Snyder’s film is a fun, if hard-edged comic book adventure that delivers on spectacle and gives us the definitive cinematic Batman with Ben Affleck’s interpretation of The Dark Knight.
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice begins by showing the climatic moments of Man Of Steel (read the Movies In Focus review) from ground level through the eyes of Bruce Wayne (Affleck). The destruction and power on display strikes a nerve with Gotham’s protector and he vows to make sure that Superman (Henry Cavill) is stopped before he turns on mankind. Wayne intends to to use Kryptonite in the possession of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to do this, but Luthor has his own nefarious intentions for the Man of Steel. On the periphery is Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Godot), a lady of mystery who is one step ahead of Bruce Wayne when it comes to keeping track of Luthor’s evil plans. The game is set and things come head-to-head in Gotham City as Batman eventually (and inevitably) faces-off against Superman.
Ben Affleck’s ageing Batman/Bruce Wayne is the true star of the show – and Affleck finally gives us the character that has graced the pages of comic books since 1939. Michael Keaton may have been able to deliver the twisted psyche in the Tim Burton movies and both Val Kilmer and George Clooney brought a handsome playboy swagger to the Joel Schumacher years, while Christian Bale gave a brutal physicality to the role. However, none of them managed to fully deliver on the fact that Bruce Wayne (and Batman) has a psychotic streak which runs through his core and that he uses this for good rather than evil, though his sense of right and wrong is morally blurred. He might be fighting for good, but his outlook methods are as dark as the world he inhabits. Snyder and Affleck finally present this to audiences and anyone expecting an Adam West-style version of the character had better look elsewhere.
Batman V Superman sees The Dark Knight fighting for justice and mankind, but he’s also fighting to save his own humanity after 20 years of traversing the roof-tops of Gotham City. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne may have been able to walk away from the cowl, but you get the feeling that Affleck’s never could.
Snyder’s film may groan under the weight of the many franchise expectations that rests on its broad, super heroic shoulders – but it never buckles under the strain. Snyder is a master visualist who knows how to shoot and frame a live action comic book movie and he gives Batman V Superman a dark richness which is a universe away from Marvel’s bright, breezy aesthetic. He’s taken many elements from the work of his 300 cohort Frank Miller, to present the grit of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and give a true comic book sensibility that’s been missing from nearly all of the Batman movies over the last 30 year. Snyder perfectly brings Batman into the world he fashioned in Man Of Steel and ensures Batman feels like an organic fit, rather than a franchise must-have.
Future Justice Leaguers like Aquaman (Jasom Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) all appear to set-up an expanded universe. The success of these depends on whether the casual viewer of the DC faithful understand their importance but you get the feeling that all will be explained once The Justice League Part One hits in 2017. The introduction of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has more of an impact and she manages to deliver in a big way with limited screen time. She’s always one step ahead of Batman – there’s a playfulness to her exchanges with Affleck which demonstrates that she knows as much about super heroics as he does. If director Patty Jenkins is able to build on the momentum which the character gets here then next year’s solo adventure should be a pleasure to watch.
Jeremy Irons makes for a winning Alfred Pennyworth and like Affleck, he perfectly brings the comic book character to life. Michael Caine’s butler may have had more to do than Michael Gough’s but he was always more of a comforting father figure than the acerbic helping hand on display here. He’s a perfect foil for Bruce Wayne and he’ll be great in any future solo Batman adventure.
Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor might not be the chrome dome villain that many love and loathe but he adds a different note to the scheming billionaire that feels suited to the world we live in today. This version of Lex Luthor is more of a petulant man-child eager to have it all, regardless of the consequences. Clark Kent’s Daily Planet friends, Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne are once again integral to the plot, while Diane Ladd’s Martha Kent – and even Kevin Costner’s stoic Pa Kent – also make key appearances.
Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL deliver a score that’s bombastic and operatic – making it the perfect accompaniment to Snyder’s modern myth making. Zimmer was in the unenviable position of creating a new score for a new interpretation of Batman though he manages to deliver yet another iconic score, one that might even top the work he did for Nolan’s trilogy.
You’d expect that the climax to Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice would see the two heroes battling it out, however they put their differences aside to battle Doomsday, a Kryptonian monstrosity hatched by Luthor using General Zod (Michael Shannon)’s DNA .This bonus round lets us see the DC Comics trifecta in action and it’s not the CGI mess you’d expect. Snyder dials back the destruction that concluded Man Of Steel and keeps things tight, letting each of the heroes have their own little character beats within the action.
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice crams a lot into its 2 1/2 running time. Chris Terrio and David Goyer’s script has to balance many different elements. You might not get a perfect Batman or Superman movie but you do get a good compromise that balance’s both heroes. Ben Affleck’s Batman walks away with the movie (despite strong work from Cavill) but nearly everyone gets their moment to shine. You could argue that the post-apocalyptic dream sequence could have been excised for something which could have expanded the film’s plot but you can’t really argue when you have two of the most important characters in pop culture history coming together for the first time.
If you’re of a certain disposition (and Movies In Focus is) you’ll find plenty to love and admire in
Zack Snyder’s film. Longtime fans will see plenty of callbacks to a selection of iconic comic book moments, while others will love the epic battle between two legendary heroes. It might not be perfect, but Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice definitely delivers on what it promises. You’ll walk out of Dawn of Justice not just probably wanting to see a Justice League movie but also sincerely longing for a Ben Affleck solo Batman movie.