Friday, April 8, 2016

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast Headliners : Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams
Original Release Date : March 25th, 2016
  Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is an interesting situation. It's one part a “Man of Steel 2”, following up on that 2013 Superman reboot. Yet also, after the end of the “Nolan trilogy” of Batman film's in 2012, it serves as a reboot of Batman for a new film generation. Lastly, it serves as the first major mixing of DC aspects together in their live action “extended universe” to set up a film franchise for years ahead (ala Marvel.) How does it do....? A wide variety of results, from the great , the muddled, the ugly. But it can't be called un-ambitious.

One can tell from the get go that this is certainly another take on this universe through the lense of Zack Snyder. It's expected on any Batman reboot checklist that his origin is shown, and of course it is here with the murder of his parents as seen so often before in other media. This immediately shows the slightly surreal, comic book panel (this film with a very large The Dark Knight Returns influence) take on the world Snyder deploys through extra dramatic music(But great, courtesy of Han Zimmer. Effective when orchestral, taking some adjusting to when techno and metal are used in later action sequences) and slow motion larger than life imagery of Bruce and the bats. The movie makes an effective use of the criticism against the ending of Man of Steel, by showing first hand the older Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck)'s reaction to the carnage caused by that film's ending and his distrust of Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) because of this.

A primary shining aspect of the film is this take on Batman. Ben “Battfleck” gives a wonderful performance both in and out of costume. Within it, he offers a fierce demeanor right from the comic pages and feels like a natural for it. In his civilian persona, he even more shows his combination of anger, sorrow, and determination to take down his enemies. It must be noted that this is the most cynical and mean Batman shown on screen to date, surpassing even a few comic iterations. He can be extra fearsome and is even willing to let a few casualities happen on the way. But it works through Affleck's performance and fits , for better or worse, within the dark iteration Snyder has crafted. The film does a good job with its scenes and delivering concerning Batman's motivation for doing what he wants to do. The only other true element from this side of the coin is iconic butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons), and he offers a great , humorous , sarcasting take on the character that meshes well with Battfleck. It makes one perhaps wish for a film focusing more on these two without the clutter that is around for much of the rest of BvS but when they do appear they are solid. As the above is about as much “reboot” as the movie gives for Batman's slice of the world.

The other main chunk of the film comes from Superman's perspective in leading up to the titular fight. Cavill once again is a solid take on the character, offering the requisite charisma when need be and expanding to a range of anger, coolness, or whatever else comes up. The movie explores more of the deeper themes from Man of Steel at length, and while some are good the point is hammered home just a bit too slightly. However throughout it, the scenes actually featuring him himself are good, despite being lost occasionally in the tapestry of it all.

While its titular leads are solid, its the third person who takes up the most screen-time that is also one of its major sore thumbs. Iconic business mogul Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is what ties the hero together acts as its primary villainous force. He is, to say the least, a very weak villain. While Eisenberg is capable of bringing the menace at times with evil doing, most of his appearances are taken up by failed attempts at humor. Or perhaps its when he attempts to come off as “unhinged” mentally but just frustrates the viewer. Now although (long hair or not) is not an accurate portrayal of the comic character, it doesn't matter since he comes off less as a villian and more as a waste of time.
The rest of the supporting cast is... alright. From here come the few specks of minuscule humor in what is a otherwise very dour film. There's Superman's love Lois Lane (Amy Adams) getting a lot of focus carrying on from her Man of Steel attributes. There's her and Clark's editor Perry White (Laurence Fishbourne) bringing some wise quips but little else. Much the same is to misc characters like Martha Kent (Diane Lane), memories of Jonathan Kent(Kevin Costner) , Mercy Graves (Tao Okamoto) , Wallace Keefe(Scoot McNairy) acting as minor plot advancers. Everyone is decent but nothing strikes out remarkably but doesn't detract too much either. There's a lot going on and a lot to cover in its role which makes sense. Even Zod( Michael Shannon) shows up in some way, perhaps connected to that CGI . Thing known as “Doomsday.”

While the film has a mostly compelling Batman vs Superman central arc, it also acts to bring in the larger DC Comics universe through easter eggs and moreso. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), known more to many as Wonder Woman has a level of involvement here. However it is very brief both as civilian and hero. Gadot has some slight charisma and mystique to her, and later perhaps fighting bravado which is welcome to see, but the film does not give enough time with her to give an incredible confidence in her leading her own film. However, she is a cool presence that's great to finally have on-screen in this modern cinematic age. The other Justice League and DCU influences are.... interesting, perhaps could have been handled better but do work in settting up the larger saga ahead very slightly. A dedicated fan will be delighted, and a more newcomer or outsider will be perhaps confused a bit. But this was the film that needed to do them, and those may be fleshed out in the many sequels ahead.

The film, in usual Snyder style, takes a very long time to be set up. The first 2/3's or so are devoid of most action and tension. This makes it a slightly different film from other blockbusters in the market today. Though once it gets going, it is very much worth it. The action spectacle, from the central final hero showdown to other action elements that come into play, are pretty stellar to see. The movie pushes past reality into frenetic scenes right from the comic books, and then some. If one has enjoyed Snyder's action in the past this pushes the envelope to some crazy stuff. That makes the mistakes with the villians and the occasional plot progression slowdown mostly worth it. The tension and payoff will get one excited to finally see a wider DC universe rolling when the time delivers.

Batman vs Superman is far from perfect. The movie's surreal tone and action may cause some ire with those who have a very specific want from these characters. There are some performances lame (Luthor..) to forgettable. There is a lot of buildup and a slight overabundance of the melodramatic deeper themes present. But though, despite some of Snyder's choices, he delivers a action packed thrill ride of DC mixing when result appears that will make dreams override cinematic construction quality. 8.71 out of 10