Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice review

Dawn of Justice is entertaining, but far from a Marvel killer

If Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t leap over the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a single bound for box office and fandom supremacy, it at least proves we’ve finally got a comic book movie competition. BvS isn’t a perfect comic book film, but it provides the best hurry up and catch up franchise starter DC fans have been waiting on. The heavy lifting of franchise-building is accomplished here and the future is decidedly optimistic for the World’s Finest heroes.

Tonally, Dawn of Justice’s first half plays out like a natural progression of the thoughtful, epic Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. Then the second half turns into a Zack Snyder movie, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Snyder brings a sense of unbridled mayhem that is probably a truer to life glimpse of people with unimaginable powers colliding with little regard for property damage. That was arguably the biggest criticism of Man of Steel and it’s a lesson Snyder still fails to earn a passing grade.

The fight scenes, particularly the final act, goes on and on with so much widespread destruction it seems doubtful anyone in Metropolis or Gotham could survive the chaos. In that sense, Snyder still comes across like a big kid repeatedly smashing his action figures against each other.

Sure it’s fun watching the mayhem unfold for a little bit, but Snyder keeps going at it long after the effectiveness of the moment has passed. Prepare for endless scenes of buildings being crumbled as characters get ragdolled through them. The CGI is up to the task though so the ever escalating action sequences look good without having much of the signature clunky animation.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Screenwriters David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio (Argo) faced perhaps the biggest challenge in quickly creating a cohesive DC cinematic universe in one film. That’s a massive undertaking when you consider the X-Men franchise is eight films deep and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is 11 films into its shared universe. Save one choppy and wholly unnecessary segment to help unite the seven, the corner cutting DC cinematic universe’s creation in Dawn of Justice largely works.

One cornerstone of a shared universe is seeing how the various films link the overall story and BvS kicks off with a promising premise tying into the epic final battle of Man of Steel [Buy Man of Steel Bluray]. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) arrives in Metropolis just in time to witness Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod’s destructive conflict through the city. Horrified of the thought of an unchecked super-powered potential menace, Wayne begins plotting a way to stop Superman.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Wayne isn’t the only one who questions Superman’s motives or his methods. The populace is nearly split if they want a cape wearing ‘savior’ or want this alien to leave their planet and stop taking the law into his own hands. The question if the world really needs Superman was intriguing and felt especially timely.  A Senate task force led by Sen. Finch (Holly Hunter) wants Superman to answer for his actions while eccentric billionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has a more insidious means of handling the Superman dilemma.

BATMAN V SUPERMANEisenberg’s take on Luthor is so far away from the usual approach on the character it felt like a setup for some big twist. The core element of the character is intact even if Gene Hackman can relax knowing he still delivered the definitive Lex Luthor. For his part, Superman/Clark Kent has concerns of his own with how Gotham’s vigilante handles criminals. Meanwhile, the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) keeps putting herself in the middle of this escalating struggle.

There’s a lot of moving pieces for Goyer and Terrio to smoothly assemble into a two and a half hour movie. At times, the execution is clunky and the film doesn’t provide the streamlined experience it should. Good, bad, puzzling and intriguing ideas are added to the mix and the film occasionally buckles from its creators’ overly ambitious vision. After all, when you’ve got Batman fighting Superman, everybody and everything else in Dawn of Justice is secondary.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

One area that’s consistent throughout Dawn of Justice are the performances. I wasn’t an Affleck doubter, but he’s outstanding here fully justifying the faith Warner Bros. has in him as the franchise centerpiece. Cavill also comes across more comfortable in his second appearance in the iconic role lending the right amount of humanity to a character decried too often in the film for his inability to experience life as a human.

Still, Affleck definitely comes out of the film as the Robert Downey Jr./MVP of the DC film universe. Jeremy Irons also shines as Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from BvS is that a solo Affleck Batman could be the gem of the shared DC universe.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Gadot doesn’t have as major a role as I would’ve liked and this is more of a teaser for next year’s Wonder Woman standalone. Of the supporting characters, Amy Adams’ Lois Lane has the most pivotal role, but Snyder and his screenwriters still seem conflicted whether Lois is a capable, resourceful reporter or damsel in constant distress. Laurence Fishburne’s more modern approach to newspapers as editor Perry White remains fascinating to me from my days as an editor at a dying newspaper.

Goyer and Terrio weave in some nightmare scenarios that longtime DC fans will no doubt get the and geek out over the implications, but it may be information overload for newcomers that have no clue what the various visions mean.

It’s one of those riskier storytelling devices most recently seen in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which teased a lot of upcoming developments that will take several more future films to come to fruition. In a marathon session, the hope is most of these questions will get answered, but for now the payoff is still inconclusive.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Hans Zimmer’s score really offers a grandiose feel to the proceedings and makes it feel like we’re watching a major happening. And there’s no denying the magic of watching Superman and Batman duke it out. Dawn of Justice isn’t DC’s big cinematic game changer yet, but it certainly makes that a possibility while setting the stage for the follow-ups to more than deliver on the franchise’s boundless potential.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Photo credit: Clay Enos/ TM & © DC Comics


DC Comics Batman DC Comics Sixth Scale Figure
DC Comics Superman DC Comics Sixth Scale Figure
DC Comics Wonder Woman DC Comics Sixth Scale Figure

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  • Terrible movie. It’s a loud, poorly-written, jumbled mess, obviously targetted at an ADHD generation who can’t focus for more than 1 or 2 minutes at a time.

  • The film wasn’t bad at all. It could have been better. The build up was a bit long. They could have either deleted the scene where Bruce Wayne lost his parents or did a separate movie for the Batman, like marvel did for the Avengers. If they wanted too reference Martha Wayne for the reason Batman didn’t finish off Superman, a funeral shot with headstones would have sufficed. The whole Batman doesn’t kill, but here he’s killing didn’t really sit well with me. I saw Snyder’s reasoning behind it, but I didn’t agree with it. The real flaw of the movie is how Lex Luthor was portrayed. I don’t know if he was a cross between the joker and the riddler or what, but that’s not Lex in any D.C. portrayal I’ve ever seen. Lex is calculating, calm, a genius, and a mastermind. This Lex seemed a bit schizophrenic. It was a great set up for the coming of darkseid. They never explained how Lex knew about the kryptonite, and the affects it would have on our caped crusader. Overall, I give it a solid B. I’m hoping the next movie will be better.

  • Chris Hutton

    Thank you! What the hell is wrong with some of these other critics?! Giving the film bad marks for being such a dark gloomy movie. That was their intention! It’s not supposed to be this fluffy comedy filled film like The Avengers. These critics need to get off Disney’s dick and start grading DC as its own thing. I swear they watch and compare to other movies and it’s not fair for Zach Snyder, Warner Bros. or the rest of the HUGE film crew who gave 2 years of their life to what I believe (and hope) will be on of the best comic book movie ever. At least from an entertainment perspective. I’m gonna listen to the fan reviews because all of these critics CLEARLY don’t understand DC Comics

  • M

    Also Gotham isn’t tha far at all from metropolis. They’ve shown it in Thi comics and Wayne always has braches of his business all over. Even in dcuo the game Jim leer (I believe worked on) it is just a huge long bridge away. Great review. The location stuff was about other critics.

  • Jeffrey Lyles

    Thank you M. The cross the bay aspect of the cities really wasn’t even a big deal for me. The important aspect that they felt very different from each other was more important and that remained intact.

  • Scott S.

    Sorry for being late to the party, Jeff, but here’s my take.

    I am a massive DC fan. Always have been, probably will always be. I wanted this movie to be really great, and, to be fair, I was expecting a good deal from it.

    After I left the theatre, I felt numb. Not numb like my senses had been deafened, numb like I felt this equal weight of both tremendous sadness and happiness weighing down upon me.

    The Good:
    Ben is Batman. Every scene of his was convincing. This was absolutely the best Batman we have ever seen. I laugh in the face of those who call him a “worthy successor to Bale”. Bale is nothing compared to the Batfleck. I nearly lost my mind at the “I believe you” line.

    Gal Gadot was a brilliant Diana. She nailed the role. I could not have been more impressed.

    Cavill keeps bringing it as Supes. Not the biggest Superman fan here, but I appreciate the performance. He looks so dedicated to his role.

    The rest of the Justice League had me super excited. JM looks fantastic as Arthur.

    The dialogue was surprisingly solid for something that came originally from David Goyer. A couple platitudes from Alfred, but that is to be expected from our divine fountain of wisdom.

    The actual BvS fight was really fantastic and just a joy to witness.

    The Bad:
    The first half was a disaster. The scenes were cut together at nauseating speed. It was unbearable.

    The rest was an incoherent mess with a horridly convoluted plot. By the end, I really could not care less about what ended up happening.

    The destruction was kinda obscene at this point. I understood and supported the MoS destruction, but this was excessive and ridiculous. JUST STAY ON STRYKER’S ISLAND!!!

    I really dislike Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. Irritating in all the wrong reasons and not serving as the everyperson for the audience.

    Eisenberg committed hard to his Lex, which I appreciate, but this was not the Lex we needed in this story. Entirely unconvincing as a man who could manipulate these behemoths of justice.

    The Ugly:
    (I don’t know what to categorize as ugly, so these are just personal complaints)

    I love the KGBeast, why not put him in his cool costume at some point?

    Why did Supes have to die? That was really pointless. Now we’re gonna get a dumb ex machina to see him in the JL movie.

    I can get behind a manslaughtering Batman, but why did we miss the clash of ideologies? That could have made this movie great!

    Where was Arthur when the spear was thrown into the water? That could have been cool.

    Was the Flashpoint-esque appearance really necessary?

    Why couldn’t we get just a glimpse at good ol’ rock-face? I would have lost it!

    I am left giving this movie a 6/10. And to be honest, that feels generous. I am very worried to see Snyder helming a JL movie.

  • Jeffrey Lyles

    Hey Scott, it’s never late on this party 🙂

    I agree with your good so let’s see about the bad.

    I like Amy Adams, but there is something not quite Lois Lane in her portrayal.

    Superman dying actually made sense to me so Doomsday wasn’t just some chump one-off villain. In the comics, Doomsday couldn’t keep Superman dead either so it won’t be a big stretch for him to come back.

    I liked the Flashpoint sequence a lot more than the random JL surveillance. I couldn’t imagine Lex not immediately bringing them into the fold especially as pawns against Superman.

    It’s so interesting. I keep reading a lot of people hating the first half but liking the more action packed second half. I’m more of the opposite, but that’s probably because the Doomsday fight scene was so over the top it took me out of the movie a bit.

    With Lex, I felt he was more taking advantage of the situation and their natural opposition to one another. He was there for the final push.

    It’s funny. I tried to stay so far away from spoilers I didn’t even realize that was supposed to be KGBeast. Likewise I won’t consider that first victim Jimmy Olsen either.

  • Scott S.

    The problem with the death is that we knew he was just gonna be back like nothing has happened anyways. In a perfect world, save Doomsday for a later movie (and don’t neuter him) and kill Supes when we don’t know going into the movie that he’ll be in the next one.

    What made me really cringe is that Snyder had planned to cast Eisenberg as Olsen at first (but was going to kill him immediately anyways).

    I’ll definitely agree with you on the Flashpoint vs. surveillance.

    One thing critics keep saying that enrages me is that the movie was “joyless”. Give me a break. That is not a valid criticism. Plus, I was smiling ear to ear watching Bats with his foot on Clark’s neck. So I would disagree with that statement anyways.

  • Jeffrey Lyles

    True, but I’m almost kinda glad they got the shocking major death out of the way and can just focus on telling great stories from here on out. I didn’t get the whole desire to kill Olsen anyway. That’s the random comic book nod with a twist Snyder keeps doing that I can see why he’s earned the ire of a lot of comic fans.

    I really think a lot of critics wanted the Marvel cinematic storytelling with DC characters. That was never going to work. Clearly, a lot of folks aren’t thrilled with the current DC movie take, but just imitating Marvel would be a foolish decision.

  • G.L. Ric Kage

    Indeed it would be foolish to ape MARVEL. Despite the constant yin-yang-Monkey see-monkey do-type relationship between the big TWO, to complete that metaphor the comic twin companies MUST have distinctive differences that complement one another. DC&Marvel not DC/”Marvel” and Marvel/”marvel”?
    The critics and neophytes don’t get it– well,some of “US” so-called “fanboy” nerds don’t get it either. Lol
    I just saw it. I found it powerful and objectively I can see the issues that some are having with elements of the film. I’m apathetic to those issues. After having oh so many super/bat films it was refreshing to see the presence of DC’s princess of power! (Watch your back,Black Widow! Hahaha!) Yeah,I went to see WonderWoman. The lovers spat between the world’s finest was just the icing on the cake!
    Now that I’ve seen it,I can lift my media blackout and read some of these ill reviews I’ve been hearing about. I had only one problem –and no,it wasn’t “not enough Diana”? it was the absence of using a proper device to distinguish the dream sequences. How About changing to black and white,monochromatic or even,and I know this is a crazy suggestion;Animation!(maybe in animé style?)

  • Jeffrey Lyles

    Ric, I think you’re dead on my friend. Part of what fanboys complain endlessly about is how Superman is too perfect and too pure so when a movie comes that tries to make him more grounded and less do-goody and hopeful, fans complain it’s not Superman. They need to make up their minds.

    Wonder Woman was a lot of fun. They handled her great. I’ll be interested on your thoughts as you read other reviews.

    Good point about the dreams. They could be a bit less real to get the point they’re visions/nightmare scenarios.

  • Scott S.

    If I weren’t so Bat-obsessed I’d say Diana was my favorite, far and away. I simply cannot wait for her solo film.

    Personally, the Knightmare’s sepia-ish tone was enough for me to distinguish. Additionally, that was one of my favorite scenes (mostly because of the Liberty Files-esque attire Bruce had on)

    On an aside – it’s good to see you on Jeff’s site, Ric.