An unstoppable force meets an unmovable object… Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is DC’s first big Universe film, as some of the world’s most iconic and beloved comic book superheroes unite on screen for the first time. It feels like a big deal, and it is, but, to quote one of Batman’s biggest foes… Why so serious?
In Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) fears the unchecked powers of an unstoppable Superman, and brings back the Bat to take on the Man of Steel, whilst Superman (Henry Cavill) and the rest of the world start to wonder what kind of hero they the world really needs. Inspired by the graphic novel series The Dark Knight Returns, it questions the nature of crime in the name of good, and the responsibility that comes with powers like Superman’s. A fascinating plot, with so much potential, if only it was the main focus of the film. But it’s not.
Batman vs. Superman’s problem is that it tries to do too much, and this is a recurring problem of the film’s director, Zack Snyder. Not only do we have the central struggle of Batman and Superman, we also get partial origin stories of both Bruce’s Batman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). We get two villains for the price of one, with Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) causing chaos for all our heroes, and an even bigger foe hell-bent on destruction: Doomsday. There’s Lois Lane (Amy Adams), at least two sets of dead parents, terrorism, a human trafficking ring that isn’t, a legal battle, and even a glimpse at the Justice League to be. Snyder throws in everything but the kitchen sink, and then he even gives us an actual sink during the big caped showdown. There’s just so much going on, it becomes a bit confusing, and a lot of important parts and great moments get lost in the fanfare.
With Snyder being such a visual director, there are some fantastic shots in Batman vs. Superman that would make any grown fanboy cry: Superman battling Doomsday around a giant statue of the Man of Steel; the Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman joining forces to defeat Doomsday; the Waynes being held up in an alley in Gotham; even the famous image of Superman catching a falling Lois Lane. However, for every moment like this there is a pitfall, and so (similarly to Man of Steel), there is an overwhelmingly large amount of CGI city destruction, with so much happening in the last few scenes that it’s hard to take it all in. And this all contributes to a very conflicting tone of the film; the brooding, serious tone of Batman that worked so well for Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise is very effective here (Nolan also executive produces in BvS). Yet Superman, in his nature, is more comical – he flies and shoots lasers out of his eyes – and it’s hard to take him so seriously when he’s working under such heavy, serious conditions. It was all too heavy, with little comic relief, and Superman’s storyline, which needed to lighten up a little, suffered in the process, putting the whole movie off balance.
The film’s saving grace is its characters, who were complex and well portrayed. Despite the internet’s original doubts, Ben Affleck was a fantastic Batman, growing well into the role as the film continued, making him deep and brooding but also human. Henry Cavill just IS Superman, plain and simple, with a heart of gold and a trustworthy face, but he also showed us the softer side of Clark Kent this time around, especially when compared to Man of Steel. Gal Gadot shone as both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman, showcasing the power of both women, and though Lois Lane was a bit of a damsel in distress in this film, Amy Adams gave her strength. Jeremy Iron’s turn as Alfred and Laurence Fishburne’s return as Perry White gave the film some much needed comic relief, but Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was definitely the most interesting portrayal in the film. Though Lex wasn’t perfectly written, Eisenberg gave him everything he had, nailing the psycho genius and really pulling off a complex villain who loves a good myth.
Not unlike the portrayal of power in the film, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is neither all good nor all bad, but somewhere in the middle. Though it was crowded, both plot-wise and visually, there is something undeniably exciting and fun about seeing some of your favourite heroes take the screen together, and this does redeem the film. Going into the further DC Expanded Universe, with Suicide Squad coming out later this year, a Wonder Woman origin film in production, and the Justice League films in pre-production, a balance must be struck between ambitious and pragmatic; however, whether or not Zack Snyder is involved, I am still excited for the future of the DC Universe.
As an added bonus, here’s my five favourite films starring the cast of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice:
- Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Henry Cavill
- Now You See Me – Jesse Eisenberg
- The Matrix – Laurence Fishburne
- Enchanted – Amy Adams
- Inside Out – Diane Lane