The time is finally upon us as DC fans, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has finally hit cinemas. Having attended the opening midnight session last night, I am going to share my review of the film. I have no intention of dropping major spoilers so as a result there are specific aspects to the film that I will only lightly touch on. My review is purely high level to insure your cinema experience isn’t hindered.
Let’s Get it Out on the Table
A host of reviews on the film have recently hit the web, mainly from critics and other sites who saw a pre screening of the film and they are mixed to say the least. I can’t help feeling that it’s becoming a popular thing to find the so-called shortcomings of BvS, and to that end attack Zack Snyder. So called seasoned critics know what they are going to get from Zack Snyder, they know his style, his strategy, and at a high level his creative intuition. Yet, they find ways to attack him. Its getting old, real quick. For the record, the comparison with a Marvel Universe, or the Avengers in any form is redundant. For me, it makes no sense to even bother. This review is a positive one. To the Snyder and DC haters out there, you allow your emotions to cloud your better judgment and it’s disappointing.
Welcome to the Cinematic DC Universe
Batman v Superman is a busy film. Snyder and co. have packed plenty into this film and that’s evident by its lengthy running time (2 Hours & 33 Minutes). Having walked out of the film, the first comment I made was that it certainly didn’t feel like I was in the cinema for that long. In typical Snyder style, he has painted his own canvas as to what we can expect moving forward for the DC Universe, and it is a unique one. The film has multiple dimensions and stories that run parallel to each other. Set 18 months after the events from Man of Steel the world is left confused and divided as to what “Superman” is and means to mankind. As much as it is a pop culture story, it is also very much a story that questions our moral, religious, political, and general personal beliefs in life. That theme runs throughout the story and it is set early with Superman being questioned and made to be held accountable for his actions that have resulted in the death of innocent people.
Batman v Superman is very unique, in the sense that it’s not just outlaying a story to its audience. It’s been constructed as a platform, a platform that is setting the scene for an extended DC Universe for years to come. Having this perspective of a film, you understand that there may be parts of the parallel stories and characters that are initiated but may not be complete. That is okay, because they will get picked up in future films. Think of this film as Chapter One of a book that will have eight (or so) chapters to it.
How many times have you walked out of a film (which has been based on a great book you’ve read) and been disappointed? The inspiration behind this film goes beyond The Dark Knight Returns. Snyder has taken slices from various books and cleverly blended them together to suit the unique story he wants to tell. Some of them expand out to A Death in the Family, Injustice, Batman Arkham (Games), and one in particular that I won’t mention because it will spoil part of the story. After you watch the film (if you are a comic book fan) you will know what I am talking about.
There are specific scenes that have been filmed for IMAX so I highly recommend you see it in that medium if you can. The soundtrack, sound and audio effects play a huge role in this film. They generate real buzz around the main characters, specifically the battle between Superman and Batman, the darkness that consumes Lex Luthor, and in particular a vision that Bruce Wayne has. Buy the soundtrack, Hans Zimmer is at his brilliant best again with Junkie XL at his side!
Batman / Bruce Wayne
I remember when I found out that Ben Affleck was cast to play the role of my favourite superhero, and yes I was one of the haters. Ben Affleck absolutely nailed this character, make no mistake the casting decision here was genius. This is by far the closest incarnation of the superhero we’ve come to love from the comic books. He has shot to my number one as the best Batman / Bruce Wayne that I’ve seen on film. However, this comes with a disclaimer. This persona is a dark one, I would even say deranged. Having fought crime for two decades prior to these events, Bruce Wayne has been through the battles and while he has put most villains away it has come at a huge cost. Dick Grayson is dead, and I suspect reading through the lines others have been lost. Bruce Wayne is isolated, and has lost patience in general. There is a specific conversation that Alfred has with Wayne in the Batcave (which looks great by the way) that highlights the fact that over time the Batman has become darker, more cruel, and simply a brute force. He will do whatever it takes to achieve what he wants. The delineation between Bruce Wayne and Batman isn’t so clear in this film, even as Bruce Wayne there is a dark cutting edge that gives the impression he may snap at any time. Batman is simply terrifying in this film. He injects fear into his prey and shakes them to their very core. Yes, he kills, and he has killed in the past.
Superman / Clark Kent
Clark is still dealing with the loss of his father and struggles with breaking free to be his own person. That is part of him growing up and finding his own place in a world that has mixed views on his purpose. It’s more evident in this film that Clark Kent is still forming his place as a hero, yes he is more confident in his abilities but he can be manipulated. Clark Kent and Lois Lane live together, their love is strong for each other and you can see the animosity that is growing within him for the Batman, purely because he doesn’t believe in how he operates. Henry Cavill’s performance is consistent with what we saw in Man of Steel. He plays the role of the boy scout well, and provides a smooth balance between Kent and Superman.
Jesse Eisenberg for me was an absolute stand out, he provides us with a new and unique take on Lex while showcasing some unique traits that draw parallels with the comic books. What Lex Luthor lacks in physical presence on-screen, he makes up for with the psychotic nature of his actions and beliefs. Here is a man who is standing firm on his beliefs on what defines power and the outcome when you mash good or evil with it. His tone, body language, and game plan is genius. He plays Batman and Superman in the palm of his hand to try to achieve his ultimate goal. Without saying too much he does it so well in my opinion, that I went from questioning his casting in the trailers to now where I can’t see anyone else playing the role he did. A brilliant choice!
Gal Gadot smashed it! She played the role of this great character in amazing fashion. When she was on camera, she demanded the attention of the cinema. She embodied everything we have come to know with the source material while adapting her own unique style. She almost stole the show for me. Snyder cleverly injected the character from beginning to end in the film, and as the story progressed, so did the importance that she played in the plot.
Jeremy Irons was a great casting choice I thought, even before seeing the movie. This persona of the great butler is unique in the sense that he too seemed to have a dark side to him. Very subdued, direct with Wayne in the dealings, but offered so much more than the term ‘butler suggests. With that, we don’t see Alfred execute any traditional butler duties. Instead he always has his head in technical work, and at one point he acts as a remote pilot for Batman remotely controlling the Batwing. I would explain his purpose as Wayne’s right hand man, and with that a masterful one providing a wide range of skills that’s pivotal to Batman’s purpose.
The Batman v Superman Battle
Do the trailers spoil much to do with the inevitable battle? Certainly not. Tensions between Batman and Superman are high, and get to breaking point which spawns an almighty battle. I assume most of you have read The Dark Knight Returns, and if you have there are shades of inspiration all over this epic fight. In true detective style, Bruce Wayne carefully plots his strategy knowing he is taking on a powerful being (and at the same time, still a rookie) in Superman. The setting is dark, pouring rain, lightning and thunder consume the skies which sets a very dark tone to the fight. While Superman is almighty in abilities, he is in Batman’s ring & all I’ll say is that if this scene doesn’t put a smile on your face there is something systemically wrong with your expectations. This fight scene is one with substance, listen carefully to the dialog. There are extracts from famous stories you may have read, but toward the end of the fight there is an emotional lever that Snyder switches on. We understand what drives Batman here, & just how much the death of his mother has affected him.
The Final Say
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a unique story that has a blend across multiple characters and plots, setting fans up for one hell of a ride for the next five or so years. We get to see how characters like the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg will be introduced and that’s amongst the broader story of Bruce Wayne seeking answers in a world that he knows is going to dramatically change. He places himself at the centre of that and wants to take charge. Yes, there is a blend of CGI, explosions to epic proportions and you know what, there needs to be. It is based on our beloved DC world. This film should be seen as a celebration of what we have come to love over the years, as children and into our adulthood. Zack Snyder and co have given us a great platform that will launch us into a cinematic universe like no other!