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Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Movie Review

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MovieFloss is posting a SPOILER WARNING for this review just so that those of you who think everything that isn’t in the trailer is a spoiler will know that we warned you.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Movie Review: I was never what you’d call a big-time comic book kid growing up, but I did read comics. Mostly I read Marvel because that’s what my friends who were comic geeks collected and also because the storylines in the Marvel Universe always seemed more gritty and down to Earth. Marvel subsisted on allegories for real world issues while not addressing those issues outright. Marvel stories not only strived to exist within the real world, but often attempted to shape the views of or educate their readership, and they still do. DC always seemed to be set more in the fantastical, centered around a being of inconceivable power from another world, a super-powered Amazonian from another time and well… Batman. The villains were more defined and the heroes? Well, the heroes were more heroic. The younger me preferred the mature content and moral ambiguity of Marvel comics and dismissed DC as silly and whimsical. Nowadays, I’ve gained a greater affinity for DC. DC comics are more of an escape, with likable characters one might look up to more than empathize with. It’s curious, then, that Marvel has taken the more light, adventuresome and mostly bloodless route so far in their approach to their cinematic universe, barely scratching the surface of inner demons and moral turpitude. Meanwhile, Warner Bros and DC Comics have made the odd decision to place their entire continuity firmly in the middle of the gritty, dark world that Christopher Nolan created for his Batman Trilogy. Their initial Superman offering, Man of Steel, set the stakes impossibly high from the outset, destroying towns and cities wholesale and leaving tens of thousands dead in its wake. Where is there for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to go from there? Can they rein it in or will they take it to the stratosphere. The answer seems obvious.

Batman vs Superman

Batman vs Superman
Henry Cavill as Superman

BvS begins with a seemingly unnecessary rehash of Batman’s origin and then another more interesting rehash of Supes’ battle with Zod at the end of Man of Steel shown from the perspective of Batman (Ben Affleck) and at least setting a foundation for the enmity the Caped Crusader feels towards mankind’s new alien savior. You see, Bats had an office building full of employees in downtown Metropolis and Bruce Wayne is not your typical heartless CEO-these people meant the world to him. Fast forward a couple of years and Superman (Henry Cavill) is a media darling, but some people, including super rich scientist business person Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), are less impressed. After an improbably successful attempt to frame Superman as a danger, Luthor proposes to create an ultimate deterrent in case Superman ever goes rogue. Rebuffed by the government, Luthor takes a different tact, one that could lead to the ultimate confrontation. Superman gal pal Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is hot on the trail of the conspirator who framed Superman while this is taking place, and Superman is just going round saving people and trying to be a good guy. At the same time, Batman, the world’s greatest detective is trying to uncover plots of his own, all the while haunted by concerns of an all-powerful Superman. Did I mention the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is digging around for something as well? All of these plots finally come together, albeit clumsily, leading to the showdown we’ve all been waiting for and much more. Rest assured, stuff is gonna get blown the hell up.

Batman vs Superman
Superman is seen as a God to mankind.

DC has two big problems with its cinematic universe in my opinion. The first is that they seem desperate to catch up with Marvel, as if they are afraid there is a determinate shelf life for superhero movies that might come due before they get to all the stories they want to tell. In Man of Steel, they’re already saving the world. Where do you go from there? The problem, of course, is also that Superman is so powerful that lesser issues kind of feel like a joke. But they’ve written stories around that before and while they don’t do a completely horrible job of it in this film, there’s just too much going on and it’s all so rushed. I wouldn’t want to give away anything here, but they’re definitely going all in as far as iconic storylines go in Dawn of Justice and we’ve barely established the world these heroes live in.

Speaking of the world they live in, the second problem, and by far the bigger one, is that they’ve decided to plant the Justice League in Gotham. Not specifically Gotham City, but that gritty, murdery world where Batman spends his days. That’s fine for Batman, he’s the only really dirty main character DC has, but you’ve got to take him out of there to play with others-not the other way around. This is The Justice League, not the Suicide Squad.  It should be more fun than this.

Batman vs Superman
Ben Affleck as Batman

Despite all the griping Affleck is fine as Batman, it’s just that the Batman he’s given to play isn’t that great. Catering to that block of fans who love Frank Miller’s criminally violent and brooding Batman above all else just doesn’t do Dawn of Justice any favors. Cavill’s Superman has little personality to counter Batman at all, but that’s not his fault either. Superman kind of blows as a developed character in most tellings. Jesse Eisenberg is more interesting as Luthor, but you can almost hear some suit in a meeting saying, “Can’t we make him more-I don’t know-Joker-y?” Amy Adams is predictably great as Lois Lane even if the movie did not need this much Lois Lane. Finally, there is a reason Gal Gadot has gotten serious buzz for her Wonder Woman. She’s great, entirely underutilized and the only person who is truly having a good time here. She gets credit for a major save.
Batman vs Superman

The storytelling takes a lot of leaps. It’s necessary to make it kind of convoluted because Batman is a detective. It’s what makes him formidable to Superman, so you’ve got to create a mystery, but it’s such a lame mystery that requires you to ignore a lot of silly motivations and other devices that make little sense. When you find yourself rolling your eyes and throwing your hands up this often in a movie you can’t help but wonder how they ever got this far. Where director Zack Snyder saves himself somewhat, and where he always does justice is in the framing of it all. The film may be a bit too literally dark overall, but when the fists start flying and the bombs start falling-confusing as it may sometimes be- few can offer up such a visually stunning plate.

I know I’ve been hard on BvS: Dawn of Justice, but not nearly as hard as others. The truth is, as disappointing as many elements of the film are, it’s still entertaining. It’s got larger than life heroes and larger than life villains. It’s got gadgets and fights and scenery you’ll enjoy. In a couple of years, it’ll make the rotation on basic cable and I’ll watch it commercials and all far too many times, and that’s got to be worth something. It’s not so terrible; it just could’ve been so much better.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Movie Review

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Director:  Zack Snyder
Studio:  Warner Brothers
Genre:  Action, Adventure
MPAA:  PG-13
Release Date:  March 25th, 2016
Author:  Stephen Hanning

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