REVIEW: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes & Nick Deal
We both love Batman more than any other fictional character, and whilst we’re ambivalent towards Superman, our excitement levels surrounding ‘Batman vs Superman’ had been uncontrollable for months. With Jakob on a self-imposed trailer ban, it was left to Nick to act as the voice of reason and to temper expectations slightly, given that the trailers weren’t universally well-received. Add to that an arguably scathing response that the film has received (44 on MetaCritic) and you have two superhero fans going into this film praying that Zack Snyder would, in fact, deliver the goods and that the majority of critics were wrong.
Following on from the attack on Metropolis via the hand of General Zod in ‘Man of Steel’, we are introduced to a Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who has his sights set on reigning in the freedom with which Superman (Henry Cavill) simultaneously saves the human race whilst causing mass destruction. Enter, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to orchestrate the “greatest gladiator match in the history of the world”, as Batman looks to take down the Man of Steel. The quirky, evil mastermind’s plan is soon realised to be part of a greater threat, causing our heroes to unite and save the day, with a little help from a special friend.
Is the world ready for a new Batman? When it’s as good as Ben Affleck’s portrayal, the answer is a resounding “hell yes”. There were murmurs months back that Ben Affleck would finally be the definitive combination of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, but with this high praise coming from Warner Bros. executives, we had to take such a statement with a pinch of salt. After seeing Batfleck in action, however, we’re happy to say that the praise could not be more deserved. This is a different Batman to what we’ve seen previously on the big screen, with Batfleck more akin to the dark, violent and ruthless Batman that we’ve become accustomed to in the graphic novels and the highly successful Arkham gaming franchise. We weren’t entirely sold on Henry Cavill before this; he certainly looks the part, and ‘Man of Steel’ wasn’t a bad introduction by any means, but there was something not quite right. But here, he absolutely nails the iconic role, introducing again a much darker approach to a character we all have our own expectations of, and Cavill works really well alongside our new Dark Knight.
We can understand those who might find Eisenberg and Lex Luthor to be slightly annoying, but again we think that worked perfectly in contrast to everything else that was going on. Don’t be fooled by his bizarre and weirdly comedic presence, he is a dangerous man who again we are looking forward to seeing more of further down the line (hopefully). Upon release, most of the limited praise was directed towards Gal Gadot and her portrayal of Wonder Woman. In our eyes, she was flawless. Everything was just right; she was on screen a perfect amount of time, she was intriguing and engaging and looks like she could be a formidable addition to the universe. We wouldn’t go as far as to say that she steals the show, but she is certainly a major highlight and from what we’ve seen here it certainly looks like she could kick her caped comrades into touch. To put it simply – we love her. At this point we should mention the score put together by Hollywood legend Hanz Zimmer and current go-to guy Junkie XL, with Wonder Woman’s “theme tune” being a standout piece of writing, and as a whole the score was a perfect musical accompaniment.
The subtitle ‘Dawn of Justice’ hinted that we would be introduced to further members of the forthcoming Justice League, and that this film would act as a platform for the universe going forward. The cameo appearances of DC’s future heroes are brief but brilliant; teasing us just enough to whet our appetite, but not taking the limelight away from our leading stars. There is a slight sense however, that this film does lose its focus at times because there is so much to introduce, with Snyder perhaps too concerned with laying the foundations for future films, and indeed it could be argued that the headline battle isn’t given as much screen time as it could have been. But, sacrifices have to be made, and the foundations do need laying, so we can appreciate it’s an unenviable task of trying to strike a balance and we think Snyder did a good job considering the task at hand.
The fight scenes were sensational, particularly those involving Batman. As we said earlier, the influences of the Arkham game franchise were clearly evident and brilliantly executed, and this intensity added to that sensation that this is a new breed of Batman. Visually, the film is awash with comic book references for the avid fan, and for those unfamiliar with the canon, it’s still striking to watch. Fans of Batman in particular will be covered in goosebumps at the return of the Batmobile in all its glory, during one of those iconic chase scenes. There may have been an overload of explosions – too much so for some – with the climactic battle sequences being highly destructive. But, if you love your superhero flicks to be action-packed, this is arguably the pinnacle as it doesn’t get much more explosive than this. The character of Doomsday is a large contributor to the carnage that unfolds, and is an aspect of the film that has received criticism from many, not least for the trailer spoiler, which was a big marketing error in our eyes. It would have been so much better for him to explode onto the screen as a surprise, instead of us waiting for him to appear. That said, he’s a worthy villain for the scale of the film, but one that was let down by his introduction in the trailer, and some dodgy special effects leave the character’s aesthetics in question.
Our only other criticism would be that this is a pretty poorly edited film, with the action jumping about all over the place quite haphazardly, meaning that at times, there was a distinct loss of momentum. But overall, we genuinely loved the film and everything it promises going forward.
The criticisms of the film being too dark, too dull or not funny enough are completely unfounded and irrelevant. Sure, if you compare it to a Marvel film, it is dark and brooding and violent, but surely that’s the whole point? This is a new breed of superhero film and although people may not instantly warm to this more serious approach, in the long term it could be the revitalisation that the genre needs in order to survive. Snyder has fallen victim to a lot of criticism, but if we were at the head of the table at Warner Bros and DC (maybe one day), we would wholeheartedly trust Snyder with his vision for the universe. Rightfully or wrongfully, there will be a lot of pressure placed on ‘Suicide Squad’ and the solo ‘Wonder Woman’ film set for release next year, to win over the critics and ensure the DCEU thrives. But we say “bring it on”.
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg,