Batman vs. Superman review: a flawed but promising Justice League set-up

WARNING: SOME SPOILER-ISH CONTENT CONTAINED BELOW

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO PROCEED?

LIKE, REALLY SURE?!?

DON’T SAY WE DIDN’T WARN YOU

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not the worst movie you’ll ever see. Despite the deluge of criticism the movie has received, it’s still certainly worth checking out for fans of the comic book characters despite its flaws.

And there are quite a few flaws. The plot is all over the place at times, the movie is a bit too long, and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor’s quirky, faux-philosophical ranting drags the movie down in more than a few moments. It’s just difficult to buy this version of Lex as someone the other more grounded characters would take seriously. His dialogue with Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch (herself another issue in the film) were some of the worst and most groan-worthy parts of the film, more at home in Tim Burton’s “Batman” films than here.

Superman, one half of the movie’s titular heroes, is also an issue for a good portion of the film. Henry Cavill is not bad, but I also don’t find myself connecting with the character in most scenes, which is a real problem when the character himself is already an essentially invulnerable alien that is hardly relatable without some selling to the audience. This is also complicated by Superman’s fellow top-billed hero faring so much better.

If the battle of Batman vs. Superman was a contest of how much the characters resonate, Ben Affleck’s Batman wins in a landslide. For every minute following the unnecessary retelling of his origin story, this Batman steals every scene he’s in, due in equal parts to the writing, choreography, and performance of the actor himself. Whenever Batman is not on screen, the 2 hour and 31 minute film drags, a major flaw in a movie where he is not the solo star, not to mention a major victory given the public outcry over Affleck’s casting.

This is the most brutal take we’ve seen of Batman on screen. The Nolan/Snyder DC-verse has been parodied to no end for it’s emphasis on grit, but this approach suits Affleck’s version of the caped crusader.

The hype about this being an older, wearied Batman we haven’t seen before was justified. Heavily influenced by Frank Miller’s “the Dark Knight Returns,” this is a Batman that quite simply doesn’t give a f#*k. One gets the impression this Batman has been going a long time, and is also long past the point of taking it easy on guys trying to murder him. He’s not quite descended into being a richer version of Marvel’s Punisher, but he’s not far off.

This is a Batman that freely uses guns when necessary, destroys cars brutally and efficiently with no little-to-no regard for the human lives inside them, breaks more bones than any on-screen version of the Dark Knight has, as well as torturing and branding criminals even though it’s revealed this is essentially a death sentence for them in prison.

Affleck’s take on the character is fresh and different enough not only to justify future Batman films, but to make one think this should have probably been a solo vehicle if Warner Bros. wasn’t trying to get to “Justice League” as soon as possible.

The actual fight between the two heroes advertised in the film’s title is a cool moment, with Cavill’s reaction to realizing he’s found a man he can’t effortlessly kick the crap out of standing out as one of his better moments in the film. The movie goes to breathless lengths to make sure people know that this showdown and the film’s climactic battle against Doomsday involve almost no human death tolls, in stark contrast to the thousands killed in the climax of “Man of Steel.” While the dialogue is heavy-handed about this and other things in the film, it does at least allow viewers to enjoy the two heroes duking it out without real consequences.

The way the two make-up at the end is forced as well. Batman has spent the whole film telling anyone who will listen how much of a threat Superman is, and is about to kill him when Superman blurts out his mother’s name (Martha, who has been kidnapped by Lex Luthor because it turns out glasses aren’t as good of a disguise as a mask), which also happens to be Batman’s deceased mother’s name. The whole moment feels forced, and the team-up between the two afterwards (supposed to be the rock-solid foundation of the Justice League in the comics) feels rushed as well.

The aforementioned team-up sees the debut of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman as well, a genuinely cool addition to form DC’s Big Three. Hans Zimmer’s score introducing her is instantly iconic as well, with the genius composer forming notes that feel unique and perfect for the character. The fight against Doomsday is harried, but cooler than many of the early reviews I saw gave it credit for, with the ending of the film pretty well setting the stage for what’s to come in the DCFU (despite Eisenberg’s Luthor’s hamminess nearly derailing it).

The movie somewhat unnecessarily shoehorns in the origins of the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg towards the end, but overall the whole film experience was far from how bad many initial takes make it seem. BvS is by no means the worst movie you will see this year, or the worst comic book movie ever, or any other such hyperbole. It doesn’t rise to the heights of Marvel’s best offering’s so far, but it offers enough promise that I’m intrigued to see where this universe heads.

Final verdict: 3 stars out of 5. Entirely average. 

You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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