Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (non-spoilers)

After three years, it’s finally here. The two titans of the superhero genre lock horns to usher in the shared DC Film Universe. The plot revolves around the clashing of ideologies between Batman and Superman as they each deal with their struggles. Kal-El now resides in a world where public opinion is divided on whether or not a God-like being should exist in society.

The Caped Crusader is fueled by the tragic events that occurred at the end of Man of Steel, compounded by the constant grief he carries due to the murder of his parents. This grief pushes him to launch his war with the staunch belief that if he can’t put the unstoppable in check, nobody can.

There are a lot of different ways that people are going to look at this movie. Film purists will curse “BvS” with utter conviction due to its overstuffed narrative. 

Parents will want to take a good hard look at the 13 in the film’s PG-13 rating before bringing their young ones to the theater as this dark and brooding presentation contains none of the superhero escapism in the first hour. Children under the age of 13 may not fully understand this movie and maybe scared of some of the violent scenes portrayed.

Casual moviegoers who don’t keep track of every nook and cranny offered in a shared cinematic universe and who want a good movie won’t be overwhelmed by the multitude of plot points. Unfortunately, none of these story elements are conveyed in a manner where a degree of importance is established.

Die-hard DC Comic book fans will be all over the place with their opinions on the movie. Some won’t leave the cinema disappointed, while others will damn the film with faint praise, and then you will have those who feel that Warner Bros. did good work here but believe that more can be achieved.

While the film never dragged, a lot could have been cut from this nearly three-hour tale of capes, cowls, and philosophical inspection. The unnecessary story aspects in question are not portrayed poorly, but they don’t serve the story in any capacity.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you pretty much know what will occur in the movie. Those who went in believing that the main event on the marquee was going to get top billing might feel the slight sting of a bait and switch.

Yes, Batman and Superman did indeed fight, but there was more set up for future movies than storytelling in the here and now. The cameos were not well-realized and randomly inserted to the point where a viewer who is not as familiar with the likes of Aquaman wasn’t given a reason to care about them. Plus, those who expected the heroes to show up for a proper unveiling will feel swindled.

The actors work hard to make this movie stand out and enjoyable. Henry Cavill’s Superman is the heart of the film. While he was good and sometimes really good, the great Superman inside of Cavill is evident but never appears. The fears about Ben Affleck can now be put to rest. He now wears the crown of the quintessential Batman/Bruce Wayne.

The gravity of the film felt more important whenever the Boston native appeared on screen. This is also the most brutal and vicious incarnation of Batman we’ve seen, meaning he killed people. If the absence of his infamous moral code isn’t a deal-breaker, a solo Batfleck film will be on your holiday wish list.

Amy Adams is good in everything, and she once again shines as Lois Lane as the chemistry between her and Cavill shined. Jesse Eisenberg’s unconventional Lex Luthor was not the worst thing in the world, but the character’s motivations lacked conviction. I didn’t mind Eisenberg in the role, but many people will be annoyed for a variety of reasons.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was amazing. The character stood on equal footing with her heroic counterparts; despite receiving third billing, Gadot’s first appearance in full WW regalia drew the audience’s biggest reaction while powerfully pulling them to the edge of their seat. This was a seminal moment for those who’ve longed to see Wonder Woman on the silver screen. It’s uncertain if she can carry an entire movie on her own, but I have more faith than I did twenty-four hours ago.

I’m not sure whose idea it was to make a movie that was part Man of Steel sequel, part Batman flick, part Justice League prologue, and a dash of Batman vs. Superman. Director Zack Snyder is a visionary filmmaker, but no through-line connects the dots, which will only augment his style over substance reputation for storytelling.

Now we’ve come to our featured bout of the evening. Did the fight between Batman and Superman live up to expectations? For the most part, yes. There was a particular aspect of the fight’s stipulation that diluted the encounter to a degree; however, when fists were flying, the magic of it all was relentlessly engaging.

Moments pulled from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns were well-realized and will make comic book fans geek out to the max. I’m happy to report that there was a winner, and the ending perfectly capitalized on Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent’s emotional baggage.

The third act leading off with the Trinity’s climactic crescendo taking on Doomsday packed the film’s most potent superheroic punch. Doomsday’s GCI screamed, “THIS IS FAKE,” but the increasing danger he presented did a great job in raising the stakes.

When leaving the theater as the end credits rolled, I wasn’t disappointed with the finished product. Some poor creative choices were made, and the movie honestly has no business being called Batman v Superman. This film is Dawn of Justice, and it’s satisfying enough to make people wonder what’s on the horizon.

Despite some really good performances and a stellar Batman, the narrative tries to serve too many masters, which prevents the movie from being the grand slam we all wanted it to be.

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