The first word that comes to mind when thinking about Zack Snyder’s latest comic book movie is “surprising”. Fears of the movie being over-stuffed or “too self-serious” were extinguished by the end. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a fun and fast moving big-budget romp that is also the closest a DC comics movie has been to its source material.
In the movie’s beginning, Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) perspective of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) catastrophic battle with General Zod (Michael Shannon), and his attempts to save people while buildings come crumbling down and someone he knows is killed in the mayhem, it’s immediately apparent why he hates Superman. Jump ahead 18 months and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is doing investigative journalism in the middle-east when things go south quickly and a shoot-out ensues. Superman arrives and “saves the day”, but is blamed for the deaths after returning to the US.
Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is up to no good, trying to coerce a governor (Holly Hunter) into letting him export a particularly green mineral found in the Indian Ocean, found in a broken piece of one of the World-Changer machines brought by Zod. After a hearing involving Superman goes horribly wrong, Bruce Wayne privately declares he’s going to war against Superman.
Ben Affleck is spectacular both as Bruce Wayne and Batman. This is a Batman we haven’t seen on the big-screen before. Gone is the oath of not-killing people, and those who aren’t killed are branded with the bat-signal, an almost certain kill sentence in prisons. Batman hits hard, fights dirty and isn’t afraid to use a gun, or two. This is an emotionally broken Batman and Affleck successfully conveys that. Jeremy Irons also nails it as the boozy Alfred, supplying the movie’s comedic relief.
Henry Cavill continues to be this writer’s favorite Superman. He looks the role and delivers the lines, and carries his burdens, with great weight. Amy Adams also continues to be great as Lois Lane, questioning why she deserves to be loved by Superman and continuing to prove to be a great investigative-journalist.
The rest of the cast also do great jobs with their characters, with Jesse Eisenberg being the weakest among a strong ensemble. He’s not bad as Lex Luthor, but with audiences never seeing Luthor portrayed as he is in the comics, the portrayal feels disappointing. Martha Kent (Diane Lane) does remain a horribly written character. Gal Gadot rocks it as Wonder Woman, brandishing the shield, sword, lasso and gaunlets like a pro. She and Affleck have chemistry, and their banter is fun and sexy in a Bond-movie way.
Lex Luthor created monster, Doomsday, looks like a repurposed cave-troll from Lord of the Rings. The creature still works though, as he is an energy soaking and intimidating foe that doesn’t seem to have a way to be killed. The action in such fights, albeit a bit brutal, makes this the most comic-book like of the DC movies. The in-your-face-symbolism is still there, but there is also a sense of fun that DC-based movies haven’t had in a long time.
Screen time is well balanced between Clark Kent/ Superman and Bruce Wayne/ Batman, preventing what could have easily been a way overstuffed, unorganized mess. This is just as much of a Superman movie as it is a Batman movie. What’s most surprising isn’t that Batman v Superman is successful, but that it stays true to its source material and makes what’s to come in the DC-franchises all that more exciting.
My Grade: B-
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Amy Adams. It is directed by Zack Snyder and rated PG-13 for: intense scenes of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality. It is released by Warner Brothers.
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