Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane
It’s good to have ambition when creating large motion pictures. When given extremely large budgets, something daring should be attempted but one should also pace themselves. A message not taken over at Warner Bros when they decided to do everything at once in the incredibly busy and large Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
After witnessing the events of Superman (Henry Cavill) fighting off Zod, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) attempts to find a way to eliminate the alien in case he ever becomes a threat to humanity. With the manipulation of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) the two superheroes face off in a clash of ideologies and strength.
If you go down the street and ask a random person to name two superheroes off the top of their head, I would put down a heavy wager that the majority of folks would mention, Batman and Superman. This popularity has made their logos iconic and their costumes worn on many Halloween nights. It started with the comics, but also the successful run of feature films about these characters in the past. Pitting these two together in an age where comic book films were making billions of dollars should have been a slam dunk for economic success, but it still underachieved because of a lack of quality and trying to do so much in one film.
With a long runtime, Batman v Superman needed to be a sequel to Man of Steel, a set up for a new Batman, Wonder Woman, and then establish a future Justice League. The pressure to accomplish so much in such little time came from the success of Marvel and The Avengers. If C-list characters like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America uniting could make such a large cultural impact, then imagine putting together the most iconic superheroes together in Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Instead of establishing these characters on their own before mashing them together as Marvel did, they crammed it all into one and it suffered for it. There’s far too much going on in this film for any moment to carry any real resonance. It’s almost comical to nitpick the little things in this film like its title. There’s no purpose to have a “v” instead of a “vs.” Having just the letter “v” indicates that this would be a court case, which certainly does not happen. Was it to sound different and cool somehow?
For all of the negatives, I must admit that I still enjoy myself with this film. If not for envisioning the “what if” scenarios of the potential present to have made something special then it comes from bringing these characters together. The fight sequence between Batman and Superman, not in a courtroom unfortunately as referenced by the title, felt thrilling. It demonstrates the godly powers that Superman possesses and all of the precautions Batman must take to survive a battle against the Kryptonian. The driving force that pushes Batman to take him on has a good foundation with the fear of an alien force that cannot be controlled, but it doesn’t really get explored in a meaningful way because the story needs to keep moving. It would have benefitted from a Batman film displaying the ideology of this character considering this iteration of Batman has been on the job for 20 years already.
The infamous scene of a certain name being mentioned, which shifts everything makes sense but the resulting action does not feel earned with everything we have learned from these characters. It doesn’t feel earned because we barely know them. We get a Wonder Woman who galivants around a bit and then shows up for the big climax, which was all telegraphed by the promotional material. This may be more of the fault of the marketing, but nothing felt surprising in the story because it was all foretold. It seems like the studio was so afraid that people would not come that they showed every single feature and character that would appear. It lays out the entire plot of the fight, the reconciliation, the unification of the three heroes to fight an enemy that is not revealed until the third act, yet appears in the trailers. The lack of surprises made me wonder what was the point of even watching the film.
The casting worked very well as Henry Cavill looks like the perfect Superman, Gal Gadot portrays a good Wonder Woman while getting a wicked Hans Zimmer theme, and the much-maligned decision to enlist Ben Affleck also worked out. They each did what they could with their characters, but Affleck brought the best stuff. He has a fight sequence with some goons as Batman that makes you wish it would have happened in a better film. The one big sore spot in the casting appeared in Jesse Eisenburg as Lex Luthor, who may have been told he was portraying The Riddler without any riddles. It was certainly a choice, I’ll give it that much, but it did not create a villain that felt like he would get the best out of these god-like superheroes.
Despite all of its nonsense, I’ll never forget watching Batman v Superman for the first time. I still love watching my favorite heroes face off with one another in any fashion. Under a creative team not put under pressure to keep up with another studio, this story could have been broken down into three separate films and with each one expanding more on these characters, there could have been something incredibly special at hand. Unfortunately, that was not the case and we received this mess of a darkly-colored mash-up of characters, but it’s a fun mess nonetheless.