This is it. The dawn of the Justice League. The film that is meant to be the start of something bigger for DC’s superheroes. Man Of Steel was just the prologue – Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (BVS) is the real deal. This is the film that is meant to kick-start the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), and make us invest our geeky little hearts into nine more upcoming DC superhero movies (including two Justice League ones).
Well, based on this movie, Marvel won’t be quaking in its boots just yet.
Sure, BVS is big on visual spectacle and set pieces, delivers spectacularly on the titular match-up, but it is also dark, steely, and incredibly dull most of the time. It’s as if director Zack Snyder took one look at the usually fun and sunny disposition of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and decided to go the opposite direction instead (he did that for Man Of Steel as well, remember).
Anyway, since Superman got a whole movie to himself to establish his origin in this new cinematic universe, BVS starts off by establishing Batman’s roots instead – from the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, his discovery of a cave full of bats, and how he trained to become… oh wait, Snyder doesn’t really get that far. He just skips forward to the ending of Man Of Steel, where Superman is fighting Zod in a catasthrophic battle that decimates the entire city, including Wayne Enterprises’ Metropolis building, and kills thousands of people.
This, we learn, is where Bruce first starts to fear the threat of an all-powerful alien superhero who could “burn us all” if he chose to.
While most fans were initially sceptical of the casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne, he manages to prove those fears wrong with a portrayal of a world-weary Batman who has already been under the cowl for 20 years, and wants to leave a lasting legacy by eliminating the “alien threat” to the world. Affleck’s performance (as well as Jeremy Irons’ as a dry-witted Alfred Pennyworth) makes you wish that Batman was the one who had an entire movie to establish his character rather than Superman.
Also harbouring ill intent for Superman is Lex Luthor (played with annoying aplomb by Jesse Eisenberg), who has a deep, deep hatred for the hero, but just can’t seem to justify why, exactly (maybe he’s just jealous of the way Superman keeps his hair so neat and tidy all the time). But clear motives be damned – all you need to know is that Lex will do anything to destroy Superman.
Oh, and there’s this wonderful woman who keeps popping up and seemingly stalking Bruce Wayne without revealing who she is, what her motives are, and what she does for a living besides stalking Bruce Wayne. But trust us when we say she’s a real wonder, that woman.
Story-wise, there isn’t really much to reveal outside of what you can deduce from the multitudes of trailers already released in the lead-up to the movie. There’s Superman, there’s Batman, there’s Wonder Woman, there’s Lex Luthor, and there’s a completely pointless big, ugly grey monster that is supposed to be Doomsday (the alien monster that once “killed” Superman in the comics) that comes out in the end for our heroes to fight. There’s also A LOT of punching, shooting, and more buildings and cities getting knocked down or blown up.
Speaking of which, one of the biggest criticisms of Man Of Steel was the wanton destruction of Metropolis during the Superman/Zod fight. Here, you could hold a drinking game with the number of times someone takes pains to mention “That building is empty”, or “That island is uninhabited”, or something along those lines.
The movie’s biggest problem, however, is Superman. Has there ever been an on-screen Superman as dull as Henry Cavill’s? When he’s not busy saving kids from burning buildings and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from perpetual danger (which she gets into way too often in this movie), he is staring out painfully into space with a furrowed brow, as if stricken with an acute case of super-constipation. And you thought Batman was the dark, brooding one.
Thankfully, BVS isn’t exactly a train wreck the way, say, last year’s Fantastic Four reboot was. It delivers a new and quite compelling version of Batman that I wouldn’t mind watching more of (there’s a solo Batfleck film in the works already, so yay!), introduces Wonder Woman wonderfully well (she’s also got a solo film coming. Double yay!), gives tantalising peeks at the other metahumans out there (including The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg), and does the job of making us want more from this new cinematic universe. I just wish it didn’t have a Superman who is so super dull.
By the end of it, you’ll still believe a man can fly, but you’ll also wish he would fly away and never come back again.
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons