BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
**** (out of 5)
March 25, 2016
Ben Affleck as BRUCE WAYNE / BATMAN
Henry Cavill as CLARK KENT / SUPERMAN
Amy Adams as LOIS LANE
Jesse Eisenberg as LEX LUTHOR
Diane Lane as MARTHA KENT
Laurence Fishburne as PERRY WHITE
Jeremy Irons as ALFRED
Holly Hunter as SENATOR FINCH
Gal Gadot as DIANA PRINCE / WONDER WOMAN
Scoot McNairy as WALLACE KEEFE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Zack Snyder
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I took the long way around to warm up to “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Coming off the painfully flawed “Man of Steel,” I was initially excited to see a big-screen version of the decades-old feud of Batman and Superman (the seeds of which had been planted in the comics when John Byrne revamped Supes in the 80s and Frank Miller had published his groundbreaking “The Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel).
However, once it was clear that Warner Bros. and DC Comics was planning on using this film to be less of a Superman sequel and more of a launching pad for their DC Cinematic Universe so a future “Justice League” movie could make the billions of dollars that “The Avengers” had done for marvel, I quickly became skeptical.
Then came the casting. Sure, I was one of the few people who was kind of excited to see Ben Affleck play Batman, and more importantly Bruce Wayne. However, I was not sold on Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor or the whisper-thin Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Following these casting announcements, the marketing hype machine wound up. Trailers were dropping more than a year before the release while concept art, set images and cast rumors were trickling out on a near weekly basis.
Like the banking industry in 2008, this superhero movie project was deemed too big to fail by the powers that be.
But the film had yet to prove itself.
Finally the time came to actually watch the movie. And while I went in with a skeptical eye, I also went in with an open mind. I wasn’t ready to turn the screws on Zack Snyder. I had forgiven him for movies like “Sucker Punch” and his mediocre film “Man of Steel,” which thumbed its nose at some of the most established source material (like Superman getting his powers from Earth’s atmosphere and not our yellow sun). I was ready to take “Dawn of Justice” at face value.
The story begins with Batman, which makes sense because “Man of Steel” sequel be damned, this is more of Batman’s story than Superman’s. We see how General Zod’s attack on Metropolis has impacted Bruce Wayne, and we also see the lingering guilt that Superman feels from the devastation he was partly responsible for. While a hot-headed senator (Holly Hunter) is leading a witch hunt against the Man of Steel for his part in the events, maniacal businessman Lex Luthor is pulling the strings to help bring Batman and Superman to a violent confrontation.
Yeah, the story is a bit convoluted at times. However, considering the immense pressure that DC and Warner Bros. had put on Snyder, he managed to deliver a movie that had a specific narrative direction.
Is the movie crowded? Perhaps a little bit, but it’s hardly insurmountable, and it’s far less crowded than a movie like “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” A lot of the relief to this crowded movie is the inclusion of simples teases to other elements of the DC Cinematic Universe (like a fleeting glimpse at Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg) rather than extended scenes and drawn-out cameos. Only Wonder Woman in her secret identity guise of Diana Prince gets considerable screen time.
As far as the cast goes, I was happy with almost everyone. Affleck made a great Bruce Wayne and a great Batman, and it was nice to see him doing the work of a detective again rather than just a brawler. Henry Cavill still works as the boy scout superhero, and his clean-cut demeanor plays off nicely against the grittier and more gruff Affleck. Jeremy Irons is pretty great as Wayne butler Alfred.
Even Gal Gadot, whom I was very skeptical about, shines as Wonder Woman. Granted, a lot of this is because she’s easy on the eyes and has some great combat scenes. She’s also given scant dialogue moments, which works to her advantage because she’s really not that good of an actress at all. Let’s hope she got some acting lessons before she dove into the standalone “Wonder Woman” movie due out next year.
In fact, the only real complaint I have about this movie is Eisenberg’s Luthor. It’s downright embarrassing, showcasing the actor’s one-note range. Instead of being the mad scientist from the silver age or the post-Byrne cutthroat businessman more people are familiar with, Eisenberg comes across as Mark Zuckerberg on speed. It’s not as bad as Kevin Spacey gleefully yelling, “Kr-r-r-r-r-yptonite!” but it’s damn close.
With a 151-minute running time, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” has some fat that could be trimmed, but I didn’t find much of it to be a waste of time (multiple Bruce Wayne dream sequences aside). The action was great, and the effects were generally pretty good (aside from a few overly-CGI’d moments).
“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” isn’t going to please everyone, but it certainly achieved what it was aiming for in this bout. I, for one, am now quite eager to see what we get from a full dance card in the upcoming “Justice League” movies, due out in 2017 and 2019.