Warning: Spoilers ahead.
I was nervous for what was to come. After I watched the first official trailer for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice nearly a year ago, I did not know what to think. Having already seen the constantly debated, and subpar Man of Steel, I was instinctively wary of director Zack Snyder, who would be returning for Batman vs Superman. However, the combination of the increasing popularity and quality of superhero movies, and the possibility of having the two greatest heroes of all time’s feud on the big screen, made my decision for me. I was in.
As soon as the Warner. Bros. insignia faded into darkness, Batman vs Superman delved straight into the action with events that directly follow the conclusion of Man of Steel. The audience is immediately introduced to Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), as he is precariously driving around a rapidly crumbling Metropolis that is being devastated and destroyed by the fight between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zodd (Michael Shannon), the main antagonist from Man of Steel. Within the first five minutes, you see a whole city brought to almost complete destruction as a result of this battle, though it was a battle fought to save it. It is this issue that becomes the central conflict between the many characters within the film. Enraged by the casualties and destruction caused by Superman, Batman decides that he must put a stop to him, even if that means Superman’s death. Public outcry reaches a dangerous height, as the human race does not know whether to love or hate Superman. Similarly, Superman himself questions if what he is doing is right or wrong as well. To add another layer to the story, villain Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) manipulates both heroes from behind the scenes, trying to make both Superman and Batman defeat one another in order fulfill his own secret agendas.
During the first hour of the movie, I found it difficult to stay interested and involved in the story. For a “superhero” movie, the first half of the film felt incredibly dialogue-heavy. Batman vs. Superman is not the usual, fun, vibrant, and enjoyable “superhero” movie that fans and movie-goers alike have come to expect from the genre. Mirroring its dark and dim setting, the film tries to explore the varying themes, such as excess power and responsibility for your actions. However, it does so in an unengaging, and often convoluted fashion. There were a couple of scenes that were shown within the movie that were either confusing, or led me to wonder why they were included. The first of these puzzling scenes began with a vision that Batman has where he is in a post-apocalyptic world where Superman reigns supreme, and the second was a scene in which (presumably) The Flash is trying to tell Batman something, even though he has not been introduced within the movie series yet.
To be candid, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is part superhero movie, part drama, and part setup for future movies in the franchise. While watching the film, it became apparent that there were a multitude of different storylines, and I found the large number of plots to be excessive. There was the primary feud between Batman and Superman, the conflict between the public and Superman, Lex Luthor manipulating Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman being introduced, hints at other superheroes that may exist within the world, and the final resolution that leads to a reconciliation between Batman and Superman, as they team up with Wonder Woman to fight Doomsday. If you read that sentence, and it seemed like too much to understand, imagine watching it in theaters. The plots and subplots meld together to create a large soup that has too many ingredients mixed in. When you taste it, it’s not too bad, but it’s nothing special either. In reality, the movie should be called: (Wonder Woman) Batman vs. Superman (Kind of) Against Lex Luthor and Doomsday: Dawn of (The) Justice (League).
The acting in Superman vs. Batman is where the film really shines. Ben Affleck, who received early scrutiny and doubt over his casting as Batman, shatters all of the doubt and discontent that individuals had before the movie. Looking suave enough to play Bruce Wayne, he also pinpoints the portrayal of the intimidating and forceful Batman, creating a convincing performance that has earned him recognition from many sources. Henry Cavill, returning once again as Superman, seems as if he emerged straight from the pages of the comic book, looking exactly as Superman would, and providing enough emotion to convince the audience that he is a man with morals—morals that he is trying to define for himself and others. The best performance, in my opinion, was that of young Jesse Eisenberg, who assumed the role of the maniacal scientist/businessman Lex Luthor. Everything ranging from his various tics and gestures, to his quivering voice and eccentric words, truly exuded the air of an intelligent man wavering between genius and insanity. Gal Gadot also makes a great first impression with her premiere as Wonder Woman on the big screen. She exuded elegance and grace in her normal form, and just as easily radiates power and confidence when she dons her costume.
The action scenes in the final segment of the film immediately reawakened my interest and excitement with the story. The eventual showdown between Batman and Superman does not disappoint, including the usual cunning and intelligence that Batman uses to combat foes that are usually more powerful than him. In his scenes, the filmmakers succeeded in portraying the fear and dominance that Batman exudes when he fights others. The final confrontation between Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman against Doomsday was a highlight of the film as well. Watching all three heroes use their various powers and abilities to combat the alien monster was exciting, and the exuberant and palpitating music by Hans Zimmer only added to the action and scenes, even giving me chills during the final fight.
Receiving a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a contrasting 7.4 out of 10 on IMDb, reviews and reactions to the movie seem to be split. Fisher Mountcastle (17’) says “It was a good start to the DC superhero movies… but it won’t be as good as Captain America: Civil War.” Offering more insight, Jess Speight (17’) states, “The movie had a slow and boring start. I was tempted to leave at some points during the first hour… But the middle was entertaining, and the end definitely was worth staying for.” Mirroring these differing opinions on the film, some critics have dissected and bashed the movie, while others have praised it, even going so far to say that it was “triumphant.”
Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice definitely exceeded my expectations—given they were very low. Though suffering from an overabundance of plot and a slow start, the ending action sequences and interactions regained my interest as well as respect for the film. I recommend seeing it if you’re a fan of the characters, or just like superheroes. Otherwise, it might be a movie you should see on demand in six months.