THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS
My three year wait (technically, a lifetime wait) to see Batman and Superman together on the big screen is finally over. Not only did the film exceed my expectations, it far surpassed them. In no way do I mean to sound like I’m pandering, but Zack Snyder pretty much made my dreams come true.
Before I put this offering under the microscope, I do want to say this: if you are expecting a two-hour popcorn adventure that showcases little more than guys in tights punching things, this simply isn’t it. Zack Snyder made a film that focuses on character – and Chris Terrio wrote each one of them perfectly, as if they were ripped straight from a comic book. Honestly, I think the complexity of the film, which plays more like a thriller for a good amount of its duration, may turn off some casual moviegoers. I believe that so many people have become complacent in many superhero movies taking residence in a “safe zone” that a movie that takes risks might spark debate.
Speaking of character, I would like to take a few moments to breakdown some of the major players.
It’s probably best to start with Superman, since this is technically a sequel to Man of Steel. I guess you could say he’s pretty much a guy who can’t catch a break. Although he loves his job at the Daily Planet and has settled into an apartment with his best gal, Lois Lane, much of the world still blames him for the destruction in Metropolis, a sort of meta-textual commentary on the public’s reaction to the previous film. The inexperienced Kal-El goes through a bit of a learning curve, experiences a bit of self doubt as anyone who shoulders so much responsibility would, and ultimately shows his selflessness in the third act.
As we move on to our dear Dark Knight, I am pleased to say that Ben Affleck is indeed the best live action Batman ever. The man is so physically imposing and Snyder depicts him as a terrifying beast that trumps Christopher Nolan’s version. Make no mistake, this is the Batman from the comic books: he’s determined, always has a contingency plan, and is obviously one of the smartest men alive; he doesn’t need Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox to make his gadgets for him. Do keep in mind that Frank Miller’s influence is ever present – this is one brutal, violent Batman. If you know your Dark Knight Returns well, you will be able to call his dialogue in certain scenes. The fact that he fights as though he’s in an Arkham game makes things all the more awesome.
The final component of DC’s Trinity, Wonder Woman, makes her big screen debut with quite the impact. She’s rather mysterious and elusive for much of the movie, but when she finally shows up in costume, don’t be surprised if people in your theater cheer. They certainly did in the one I was in. Diana is so undeniably bad ass and I can’t wait for her solo movie.
Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was the character that I admittedly had a bit of trepidation for going in. Those who read my comic book reviews know that I’m highly protective of the character for some reason. While Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum is still King of Luthors in my eyes, Eisenberg made me incredibly proud. This version of Lex is one that I’ve wanted to see on the silver screen for years: a billionaire industrialist who is incredibly Machiavellian, diabolical, and one arrogant dick. He’s so undeniably evil, yet believes he’s doing the right thing in the name of humanity. Sure, he can appear a bit neurotic at times, but when you see him away from the public eye, his threatening nature makes its presence known. I hope we see more of him in a future installment.
As for the cameos from other heroes that will be a part of the Justice League, they are exactly that – cameos. This movie is in no way overcrowded as many people feared, thanks in no small part to unethical websites who constantly ran click bait articles perpetuating false rumors.
The Flash probably plays the most important role of the future Leaguers, as he appears in two brief scenes, one of which will probably inspire much discussion. Aquaman and Cyborg appear a bit more briefly than even I expected, but DC die hards will likely fangasm at what is offered.
As you know, an animosity between two of comics’ biggest icons fuels most of this movie. Granted some of it is due to the manipulation of a certain mastermind, but their ideological differences clash as per usual when these men first meet in most forms of media: Batman thinks Superman can possibly destroy the planet, whereas Superman thinks Batman’s methods are barbaric.
When “the gladiator match” that we have all been waiting for finally occurs, just sit back and enjoy it. Both characters get their spots during the big fight, which play to their respective strong suits. Although Batman is my favorite hero, I thought it was somewhat lopsided at times. Yes, Batman is the studio’s golden boy, but Superman defeated Zod for Rao’s sake. There is a clear winner no matter what anyone tries to say, yet the true highlight is the moment the two titans realize they must come together. Terrio took such a simple connective thread between the two and made it a thing of beauty.
I do hope that when Justice League rolls around we get to see a proper friendship develop between them. As cool as it is to see them go toe-to-toe, I like it most when they are best buddies. I was a tremendous fan of the Superman/Batman comic book series and I would love to see some of those dynamics carry over to cinema one day.
What may overshadow that epic fight is what comes in the third act. You all know by now that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman come together to do battle with Doomsday. What you don’t know, however, is that the now infamous Trailer 2 really didn’t spoil much at all – and neither will I. I will say this: they had some major balls to go through with the ending of this movie and I greatly admire them for it. Calculated risks are needed to rise above the herd and that’s what this movie does. My only real complaint about the finale was that Doomsday could have used a bit more polish; he does undergo some transformations, but if you didn’t like the way he looked in promos, your opinion may not change after viewing the finished product.
Before I close, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the wonderful score composed by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. If you loved Man of Steel’s soundtrack, you will love this one. In addition to the Superman tunes, the new themes for Batman and Wonder Woman give chills. You may have heard them online, but that does not compare with experiencing them while set to an enthralling scene. I also dug Lex Luthor’s theme, which was a more terrifying inversion of Superman’s, signifying him as his antithesis.
You have probably noticed that I liked this movie. Will you? Most likely. Just know this in no way follows the Marvel formula and is a bit deeper of an experience than you will get from most superhero movies. If you didn’t like Man of Steel, there’s still a good chance you will like BvS. If you made up your mind about this movie two years ago and are looking for any reason to hate it, you’re going to hate it. But that’s your loss.
While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the spiritual successor to Man of Steel and the precursor to Justice League, it capably stands on its own. Yes, there is somewhat of a cliffhanger ending, but it no way makes the movie feel incomplete. This is a great building block for the DC Extended Universe. See it ten times. The dream is just beginning.