“Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world. God versus man. Day versus night! Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!”
I’ll begin by saying that if you were expecting “Super Friends” well… that’s not what you got. “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is gritty and pulls no punches. I found it to be darker than the superhero movies that we’ve gotten as of late. Normally a change of pace is a good thing when it comes to a genre, but I’m not so sure here. That DC feels that their upcoming stories need to be fleshed out in the stylized monochromatic slow motion realm that is the Zack Snyder film making process is a bit troubling. DC tends to treat their characters with the utmost care when it comes to their animated endeavors. Why this wouldn’t hold true when bringing the stories to the big screen is beyond my comprehension, but there it is. My only hope is that when all is said and done, all of the seriousness will make sense.
Any concerns that I had of Ben Affleck donning the cape and cowl are gone immediately. He really makes the role of a battle hardened and jaded version of the Dark Knight. Gal Gadot equally nails the mysterious Diana Prince although her screen time is considerably less. It’s her performance here and her superhero entrance that has me looking forward to the announced “Wonder Woman” movie. There are inklings of what the sequel to “Man of Steel” (before the rush to get a “Justice League” intro movie) could have been. Montage moments that suggest Paul Dini and Alex Ross’ “Superman: Peace on Earth” are strewn throughout the first act and I believe Snyder owes a lot of credit to the film’s Director of Photography, Larry Fong, for giving us scenes that appear lifted from the book.
With what could’ve been, instead we start with Batman’s origin (like every other movie with Batman in it). I assumed that the movie started here for the sake of new viewers who have never heard of the tragic story that gave birth to the world’s greatest detective. I’m happy to say that there’s actually a bit more to it and I consider director Snyder to be pretty sly for working it in the way he did. We continue with Bruce Wayne’s street level viewpoint of the final scenes of “Man of Steel” where two warring Kryptonians reduce Metropolis to ruins. The resulting destruction from the fight takes many of the lives employed by Wayne and heavily influences the way he views Superman.
Fast forward 18 years and Metropolis has been rebuilt, but the world of today is both fragile and divided as to how it views the man of steel. Is he here to save us? Does he abide by the laws of man? Should we worship him? As the world debates the role that Superman should play, he, himself struggles with the lessons of his youth. Meanwhile his alter ego has settled in with Lois Lane who is trying to uncover a conspiracy theory that seems set on framing the man that she loves. I found it noteworthy that just last year, Henry Cavill’s role in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” was what I felt this movie’s Superman should’ve been. Instead, his portrayal of Superman and Clark Kent and the conflicts that each identity brings to his daily life is carried over from “Man of Steel.”
Not sure how else to put it, but Jesse Eisenberg Jesse Eisenberged the role of Lex Luthor. It felt like I was watching him do an imitation of Johnny Depp’s take on Willy Wonka. The character comes across as immature, spoiled, and quirky. Quite the departure from any version of Lex Luthor we’ve gotten in the past although a few moments of absolute evil really is where the character truly shines. Oddly enough, I found I never saw him as the film’s “big bad.” Plain and simple, Lex Luthor is the delivery system for Doomsday just as Dawn of Justice is a delivery system for the DC titles that are on the horizon.
For all the effort put into the first hour, the movie unravels its own mysteries at a pace that feels both awkward and rushed as it hurriedly gets us to the third act while giving us a glipse of what’s to come. The battle between alien and vigilante is fairly one-sided with Batman almost coming off as the bully of the two. Once a similarity is revealed between the two of them, they focus their efforts elsewhere only to be dealt an even more difficult to deal with foe: Doomsday. Considering the comic book origins of Doomsday, the battle ends about how I thought it would though a Wonder Woman who fights by performing battle poses also feels necessary for some reason as well.
I’m torn when it comes to “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” I enjoyed it for being a gritty and serious tale but I admit that I missed the fun found in the other movies of the genre. The storytelling seems rushed but the cinematic backdrop is absolutely gorgeous. Batman perched in the dark corner of a room is absolutely terrifying while Superman soaking in the rays of the sun is equally a sight to behold.