It was two years ago today that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theaters. Since Christopher Reeve first wore the Superman tights in 1978 and Michael Keaton donned the cape and cowl in 1989, it took 3 actors in 6 Superman films and 5 actors in 7 Batman films until the two most iconic superheroes finally met on film.
This is what were were waiting for! “Day vs. Night. God vs Man.” Hell, Wonder Woman is in it too! We’ve never seen her on film before! And Marvel is killing it with their shared cinematic universe, so this is going to be what every DC fan was hoping for and will be the greatest thing ever! So what went wrong?
I still remember when this film was first announced. Watching the leaked teaser trailer that played during the panel and hearing the crowd freak out when the Bat-symbol appeared behind the Superman symbol, giving us the first look at the logo for the film.
Learning that the follow up to Man of Steel was going to also star Batman, the speculation began immediately. Is this going to be Bale’s Batman? A new one? We saw how powerful Kryptonians were in Man of Steel, how will Batman even stand a chance? Does kryptonite exist in this universe?
Then, of course, the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. You mean the guy who was an awful Daredevil? He can’t act! Great, Batman is going to have a Boston accent. “Hey Ahlfred, I can’t find the cah keys to the Batmobile.”
The first official teaser trailer didn’t do much for me, but the second trailer that came out of Comic-Con? That got me hyped more than any movie I can remember and honestly, I still get chills watching it.
Of course, the film eventually came out and it… wasn’t that good? It wasn’t the “Greatest gladiator match in the history of the world.” In fact, Batman and Superman only fought for a few minutes until we had to “SAVE… MARTHA!” Of course, I don’t think that part is as bad as it’s been made out. It makes sense, Batman realized what a jerk he’d been and that this “Alien” was just another dude who cared about his mom, like Bruce did, and maybe they weren’t as different as he’d thought. With that said, it’s an odd choice to end the climactic duel everyone came to the movies to see.
I left the theater underwhelmed. What the film does good it does very good. I still think it’s visually the best superhero film to date. The shots of Superman above the flood and saving the child from the burning building. Batman in his armor in the rain waiting for Superman. And holy crap, the Batman warehouse scene looked like it came right out of an Arkham game. Now THAT is how Batman kicks butt! And say what you want about Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex, that rooftop scene with Superman is just great. It just IS. You want to burn him to ashes with heat vision just like Superman, but you can’t. Lex has his mom and you have to play his game until you know she’s safe. It’s a great Luthor moment.
It even does a good job breaking down these characters. In the modern world, not everyone would accept this indestructible alien with open arms. He’d be a polarizing figure. And it’s understandable that Superman would be exhausted by the constant criticism when he’s just trying to help. But, they perhaps played into the morose Superman TOO much. Him being frustrated is understandable and had its place, but if he wants to be the symbol of hope, perhaps he should look like he’s trying to help us rather than make it look like a chore with a grim look on his face.
In an underappreciated opening of the film, Zack Snyder recreated the battle of Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel with Batman v Superman. You can even see a side by side breakdown of how painstakingly Snyder made things match up so it feels concise.
I’m sorry, but that is extremely impressive filmmaking and does a great job to not only set the scene for making Superman answer for the destruction of Metropolis, but also gives Bruce a reason to see him as a threat and put them at odds. He experiences first hand the power and destruction Superman can cause and sees the need to stop it.
However, there’s a reason why this film had a historic drop-off between its first and second weekend. The first film featuring Batman and Superman should’ve been a lock for $1 billion, but it came well short of that. While Snyder did a lot of cool and different things with it, it had a lot of flaws.
We never got to know who Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is, so he just comes off as a dick and we have no reason to side with him or believe his redemption. He was apparently Batman for 20 years in Gotham, but outside of the opening scene he never comes off as heroic. We were supposed to like him simply because “he’s Batman and we’re supposed to” but the film never gave us a real reason to. Justice League tried to change this, more on that later.
Lex’s plan to pit the two heroes made very little sense, was overcomplicated, and I still don’t understand why he starts to go crazy at the end. And, while I like the idea of Doomsday being a creation of Lex’s to stop Superman, his overall creation made no sense. If Batman killed Superman, was he still going to release Doomsday? Did he know he wouldn’t have control of the creature? It wasn’t well thought out. And Doomsday looked awful. Instead of the terrifying, indestructible monster that he is in the comics, we got what looks like a cave troll from Lord of the Rings. Both DC and LoTR are Warner Bros. properties…could just be a coincidence combined with bad CGI.
Speaking of the cave troll… I mean Doomsday, him killing Superman was something I never thought I’d see on film. I was shocked to see them make the bold move of killing off the Man Of Steel, but it felt like a sacrifice that wasn’t earned. Much like Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, we weren’t given enough time with Henry Cavill’s Superman to really get to know him and really feel the gut punch of that death. If we had known his Superman for 3 or 4 films and then Doomsday killed him, we’d feel the impact that would have, but we never got there.
Batman v Superman‘s shockwaves are still being felt across DC and WB to this day. It caused WB to course correct their shared universe approach to make them lighter and more kid friendly. Suicide Squad was the first victim, featuring a much different film than the original teaser indicated it would be.
It’s unknown how much WB interfered with Wonder Woman. With it being set during World War 1, it’s possible that it was always Patty Jenkins’ baby from the start, with only minor references to Batman v Superman in the opening and closing chapters of the film.
But, Justice League got the brunt of WB’s wrath. They, for lack of a better word, excused Zack Snyder from the project when his first cut of the film wasn’t heading in the direction they wanted, leading to Joss Whedon rewriting and reshooting most of the film. Remember when I mentioned Justice League was going to try and “fix” Batman? Well, they turned him from a threat who can take out Superman to a bumbling, one-liner, joke machine with the worst depiction of the character since Batman & Robin. How did we go from “Tell me, do you bleed?” to “I don’t… not… like you.” Huh?
Although it was nice to see Henry Cavill play a more traditional Superman on film, don’t even get me started on the CGI lipped Superman.
After Man of Steel, Warner Bros. was so obsessed with building a comic book cinematic universe like Marvel did, that they forced Zack Snyder to rush them into a Justice League film. They didn’t like his efforts in the bloated Batman v Superman that they made him make, so they got rid of him and found someone else to patch the film together. The $1 billion film they were hoping for after Man of Steel ended up making less than Man of Steel itself.
As time goes on, I think Batman v Superman will be seen as an underappreciated film. Whether you agree or disagree with some of the decisions Snyder made with the direction and characters, he unquestionably put a lot of work into it and had plans to answer questions in future films. He made a lot of bold choices and if he were given more time to expand the universe, I’m sure we would’ve had a nice payoff. Unfortunately, WB wanted to rush into a Justice League film and got mad when things didn’t work out right away.
Now, we’re getting conflicted reports that DC films will exist in the same universe but be more standalone with no more crossovers, then we get things like the Lex Luthor credits scene in Justice League and the Flashpoint movie going forward. Just more proof that Warner Bros. isn’t quite sure what they’re doing when it comes to handling a shared universe.
On a side note: what was with the Knightmare scene in Batman v Superman? It never came up again in Justice League, and so as the DCEU stands, it’s just a completely random maybe nightmare maybe vision of the future Bruce had that completely throws off the pace of the film? When I showed people the film, my answer to their quizzical face after the scene was usually, “I’m sure it’ll be explained in a Justice League movie,” but I’m guessing that’ll never come now that Snyder is done. I’ll just chalk this up to Warner Bros. not letting Snyder finish his vision and say it’s their fault.
Now that you’ve had two years to digest the film, what are your thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Has it gotten better for you? Worse? Personally, while I still think it’s a gorgeous film, it’s gotten a little worse but not by much. I still enjoy it and think it’s a B to a B-. But after a recent viewing of The Dark Knight Trilogy, we should be asking for higher quality DC films than the ones we’ve been getting the past few years. WB should be focusing on story and characters instead of world building and competing with the Avengers.