“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has been a highly anticipated movie since it was first announced. As the follow-up to Zack Snyder’s polarizing film “Man of Steel,” the time leading up to the next installment in the DC Cinematic Universe was ripe with debate. Who will win, Batman or Superman? Will this film make up for the missteps in “Man of Steel?” Will it be successful? With the film having flown into theaters on March 25, we have some answers to those questions—sort of.
My feelings about this film are complicated. I was not a huge fan of “Man of Steel,” but I had high hopes for its follow-up. After all, roughly three years have passed since the first film in the franchise came out, which should have been more than enough time to pen and produce a cohesive story with engaging characters. As a director, Zack Snyder has the visual aspect on lockdown, and if he could combine that with an equally engaging plotline, the film had the potential to be a true marvel. After seeing it however, I’m not so sure Snyder delivered on both of these fronts.
First and foremost, there is a lot to admire about this film. The opening sequence depicts a brief origin story of Bruce Wayne as Batman, wherein we see the death of his parents and the darkness surrounding his childhood. Some may complain that we really did not need to see another origin of the character, having seen it countless times in previous “Batman” movies, but I actually enjoyed it. The cinematography mirrored the panels of a comic book, and this was true in a lot of the scenes throughout the film. We are also introduced to Ben Affleck’s take on the character, a somewhat disputed casting when it was announced. Personally, I never had much of an issue with the casting, and my lack of concern was justified after seeing his performance. Virtually every scene with Batman or Bruce Wayne was incredible because Affleck encompassed the complexity of the character in a way that no prior actor has in the role.
Most of the individual character performances worked well for me. Say what you will about Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, but the actor’s performance was committed. I’m not sure his take fits into this universe, but I can appreciate Eisenberg’s willingness to challenge the traditional portrayal of the character, even if it didn’t completely work for me. As for the others, Affleck was a clear standout, as was Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Objectively, her role may not have been needed in this particular film, but that being said, she was my favorite part of the movie, leaving me very excited for the solo “Wonder Woman” film coming up. Her action sequences were visually stunning, as were the other action set pieces in the film. The titular fight itself—“Batman v Superman”—was fantastic, finally delivering on the promise of two iconic characters throwing down. However, for as much as the film marketed this fight, it was awfully short, probably lasting less than ten minutes. Not only that, but it did not seem like we were given a true answer as to who won the fight. Batman does end up with the upper hand on Henry Cavill’s Superman at the end, but no one really “defeats” the other, which undercut the supposed premise a little. Certain plot points like this held the film back.
For all of the ideas Snyder introduced, there was no concrete thread connecting all of it together. The main issue I had with “Man of Steel” was that it felt like two movies struggling to fit into one. In the first half, we have Clark Kent’s origin story, and then we have the Man of Steel fighting his foe in the second half. These same issues are somewhat amplified in “Batman v Superman” because there are even more characters and story arcs fighting to find a place on screen. It was hard to focus on any one person because virtually all of them were new, and their scenes were incoherently dispersed throughout the film. For me, part of the problem stems from Snyder choosing not to make a “Man of Steel 2” before this movie. Because the only main hero returning from that film was Superman, there was a part of me that wanted to focus on that storyline because I was already partially invested in the character, but Superman was not the focal point of the movie. If anything, this is more of a Batman film than it is anything else and, while I enjoyed those moments, the Superman aspects felt a little arbitrary in comparison. If there were a “Man of Steel” sequel prior to this, it could have fleshed out the character and freed up some of the plot points in “Batman v Superman.” These pitfalls in storytelling were difficult to see past.
I don’t think that all of the criticism “Batman v Superman” is receiving is warranted, but I do understand where these voices are coming from. Was the film great? No. Was the film bad? Absolutely not. I did like this installment better than “Man of Steel,” if only because I got to see Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman occupy the screen at the same time. Despite its shortcomings, I still believe that there is a lot of potential for these characters and this universe so long as there is a story worthy of them.