It is finally here, the clash between two of the most famous superheroes of all time, a movie waited on by kids of many generations now turned into adults, which makes this film a very tricky one to review. Mostly because no matter what you say there is always going to be someone whose feelings are so invested by what their childhood heroes represent that there is always going to be disagreements one way or another. That being said, this review is going to keep nostalgia to a minimum to be as fair as possible.
Unfortunately, I have to begin talking about what for me was the biggest weakness of the film. It lacks focus and identity. This movie does not know what it wants to be; is it a Batman movie? A Superman movie? Or a Justice League movie? You tell me because I left the theater not knowing. As the film opens up showing Bruce Wayne’s childhood and the events that ultimately push him to become Batman, you may think this production is going to be Batman-centric and in a way it is. He gets the most screen time, but then we have the subplot that centers on Superman defending himself of the questionings brought up by the government and some fraction of the public while another portion of the public’s opinion supports him. Overall, the script is focused on Batman but with Superman taking the spotlight now and then to set up the long-awaited fight. Which would not be so much of a problem by itself, but it goes further than that.
The film needs an antagonist to force the two heroes,to face off that’s where Alexander Luthor comes in. Here we have another weak point of the script. Luthor’s motives for wanting to make Superman and Batman’s fight are just that because he wants to make them fight, because that is the point of the movie, nothing more. And here is what may very well be the biggest flaw of the story: Batman and Superman fight for the most stupid reason possible. Here we have two ingenious characters, and they face off because of something so dumb it hurts. This is disappointing enough but wait, there is more. There is also Doomsday in this, so the script is already overcrowded up to this point. A good way to go would have been to have Luthor plan an ingenious plot to have Batman and Superman facing each other while he uses that distraction to create Doomsday and have it show up in a future movie. But we have Doomsday taking away screen time that could be used to tell a better story, just so that we can have Wonder Woman to show up and fight along with the other two superheroes in an overblown battle full of explosions. The script has good moments which save it of being a complete failure. The dialogues between Clark Kent and his mother or the interactions between Bruce and Alfred are examples of good moments, but they are just little moments in an overall messy and unfocused story.
With that out of the way, it is time to go to the best things the film has to offer, the action. Every action sequence in this production is masterfully done. In regards to Batman, I have no doubts when I say this is the movie in which we have seen him fight best. He displays an excellent use of strategy and gadgets all peppered with brutal fighting that seems straight out of the Arkham games. There is an action set piece which is totally Batmobile-focused. Yes is an explosion fest, but a good one and it will get your blood pumping if you are not too taken away by the fact that Batman most certainly killed people in this scene, there is no way for the occupants of the cars wrecked by Batman to be alive after that. Superman’s action scenes are very well handled by the director Zack Snyder here as they were in Man of Steel.
Regarding the fight between Batman and Superman. It was well choreographed, lengthy and exciting, but it was one-sided with detracts significantly from the dramatic factor the fight should have been. It is fun to watch, and if you love well-made fights with an excellent use of the environment, then this scene alone is worth the price of admission, but if you like balance and clever fighting that keeps you on the edge of your seat regarding the outcome, it will not be for you.
The environments of the film are very well crafted. I loved the Batcave and the dark and rainy streets and buildings where the big fight takes place. It is also worth to mention that there are a couple of very dark and creepy dream-like sequences which are handled properly. It is a shame that all of this is obscured by the disjointed storyline and lack of focus of the film, as it sometimes jumps from one scene to another in a forced and confused fashion. Let us hope the Director’s Cut version fixes these problems a little bit.
As far as performances go, they are mostly good. Ben Affleck knocks it out of the park with his performance of Bruce Wayne alter ego, Batman. Compared to Christian Bale, I always felt he was an excellent Batman but an underwhelming Bruce Wayne. Ben is a really a complete package. Like Bruce, he acts confident and cocky but in his private moments we see the deep trauma he faces, and when he puts on the mask; you can feel the brutality and fear.
If you liked Henry Cavill’s performance on Man of Steel, you will like what he does here. Even if there is not much of a character progression due to the lacking script, the more emotional scenes performed by Cavill are well handled, especially the ones near the end. When Cavil is not wearing the cape and wears the glasses to play Clark Kent, there is not much to say in this regard, except when Kent and Wayne have a little back and forth which is very well handled.
Jeremy Irons gives the best performance second to Affleck in this film. His portrait of Alfred is the most complete and versatile we have ever seen on a flick before. Here, Alfred is not just the wise adviser. He also helps Batman with tactical support during his missions.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor is a mixed bag for me. There are lots of moments when the “mad scientist” approach works well, and Eisenberg does an excellent job showing that insanity, but there are also times in which the excessive hand gestures and fast speech can get annoying. Towards the end of the film, we see a character progression regarding Lex which Jesse handles well. I would have loved to see more of that, but I guess they will explore that side more in the next movie.
As I stated before, there is no real reason for Wonder Woman to be in this film other than to fight against Doomsday and set up things for the Justice League film. It is hard to judge her performance because the script did not allow anything of substance to be seen, for the same reason, what was shown was not impressive. Her accent was too forced and she does not even have a real interaction with Superman or Lex in the movie. Her performance is one which is not allowed to shine because of the overcrowded script and should have been saved for a next film.
The score brought to us by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is exquisite, special mention to the Lex Luthor theme song. However, again the disjointed nature of the script and scene jumping does not allow to enjoy the score at its full potential. To do so, we are going to have to listen to it on its own and that is a shame because a movie and its score should support each other, but the bad storyline gets in the way of that.
In the end, what I can say is this movie lacks identity and focus. The storyline cripples all of the good aspects of the film. If this movie were just called Batman v Superman and not Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it would have been better, but the approach of trying to set up a universe in one film completely disjoints this project. If you can ignore the bad script and you just want to see good fighting, this movie is for you. But if you seek a quality story and a film that flows nicely, do not get near this project.