My Rating: 7 out of 10
Going into Batman v Superman, I tried to avoid as many spoilers as possible. Being someone who knows very little about the story lines of American comics, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t hear anything that would tip me off about who would win the fight between these two iconic heroes and what the aftermath of their battle would be. And while I did a good job of avoiding lengthy conversations with my comic-literate friends, I did end up finding out major spoilers from one of the last trailers before the release. If you have not seen the film and want to avoid spoilers, I recommend avoiding the trailers until after you go. If you have seen the trailer in question that gives away large parts of the ending, you will absolutely know it.
On top of the spoiler in the trailer, I ended up hearing from a lot of people that the movie wasn’t very good. This disappointed me since the premise seemed so excellent, but I didn’t want to press anyone and find out any more plot points. I always assume that my friends who are really into comics will be disappointed by slight changes and inaccuracies in movie versions of their favorite stories, and my friends who are really into movies will see films like Batman v Superman as shlock regardless. After actually seeing the movie for myself, I was slightly underwhelmed by some aspects and throughly impressed by others. But I will say that in order to truly appreciate the film, you will need to separate it from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and the original Superman films. Batman v Superman is a continuation of Man of Steel and that is the lens it should be viewed through.
To start, I loved the initial premise and the intro of the film, which begins with the fight scene at the end of Man of Steel in which Superman is fighting General Zod and destroying all the buildings. This time, we get to see the fight from the perspective of Bruce Wayne and other terrified bystanders, which brings to mind the fear and destruction of 9/11 and some of the alien attack scenes in War of the Worlds. In many superhero films (like the Marvel movies, for example), we see cities being destroyed, but there is no discussion about the death toll of these epic battles. Batman v Superman made this the focal point of its tension, which was really unique and thought-provoking for the genre. From the very start of the film, the audience relates to Bruce Wayne and begins to root for him despite how bitter he is.
To elaborate, the Batman of this film is very different from Christian Bale’s Batman in the Nolan movies. He is a jaded and suspicious older man who feels that his life has been somewhat wasted. However, he is far more human and relatable than Superman, who is at times arrogant and detached. When I went into the film, I expected a battle between two heroes similar in age and temperament, but what I got was far more interesting. Batman represented humanity, but he also represented experience and the exhaustion that comes with that experience. Whereas Superman represented youth and the feeling of invincibility that comes with it. This film seems to center more around Batman, but also continues the thread that began in Man of Steel with Superman trying to figure out his place in the world, who he is, and what he should stand for.
In terms of casting, everyone seemed to be so up in arms about the choice of Ben Affleck for Batman, but I thought that he did a fine job for the Batman of this story. With the film centering more around character interactions than fight scenes, we were able to get a better understanding of Bruce Wayne, who I think was portrayed phenomenally by Affleck. Jesse Eisenberg also did a great job playing Lex Luthor. He was quirky and unhinged, but also terrifying and believable as an evil billionaire trying to destroy Superman. With that said, I think his persona worked for Luthor partly due to the amount of quirky, young entrepreneurs that find themselves extremely wealthy in modern times due to the rise of Silicon Valley-type software companies. Luthor was less the maniacal genius of the old Superman films and more like an evil social media company’s CEO jealous of Superman’s power.
Characters are what drove this film far more than anything else, which I thought was both good and bad. On the good side, we got to understand what these characters were going through and what motivated them, especially Superman and Batman. On the bad side, a movie literally named after a fight only spends about 15 minutes on said fight. However, the fight itself was incredibly well done and very exciting, though the way that it ends was ridiculous and made very little logical sense. For a movie that is over 2.5 hours long, the ending (which included the majority of the action) was rushed and many of the major plot points felt forced. I think that the writers may have been going in a different direction and been told to include certain plot elements from the comics, which led to the unraveling of an otherwise great story towards the end of the film.
Now with that said, most people understand that this movie was merely a lead up to the upcoming Justice League film (hence the Dawn of Justice in the title). However, I’m a little skeptical that DC will be able to pull off the same kind of movie franchise as Marvel with such an enormous power disparity between some of their biggest named heroes. Batman and Superman were obviously the center of this movie, but had they not been specifically played off against one another, Batman would really not be able to hold up against Superman or any of the other major DC heroes. While I am open minded about the Justice League film and love when hints are dropped about future sequels within a movie, I thought there was a little too much set up for the future in Batman v Superman. Without getting into major spoilers, the Batman dream sequences were very confusing and the foreshadowing they did totally would have gone over my head without the help of my friends who are familiar with the comics. I think the filmmakers wanted to drop hints in a way that showed the audience instead of told them, but for non-comic fans there was a bit too much setup without a payoff.
Before I go on to the spoilers at the end of the film and some of the biggest issues I found with the plot, I want to talk quickly about how well the movie captured modern themes and politics into the superhero genre. Some of the best Marvel films (Captain America) are the ones that focus not only on the epic battles and powers, but take a look at the human side of things by delving into the politics of superheroes. This focus was front and center in Batman v Superman and was handled excellently. In particular, the Senate scene was one that stood out long after the film had ended. I also loved how Lex Luthor had so much sway with the government in the same way that the wealthiest members of society have enormous lobbying power in the political realm. The inclusion of these political plot points really helped make the movie more real and made the interactions between the characters more believable. With that said, there is definitely some things that could have been done differently to keep a consistent tone throughout.
**MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD**
To further elaborate on the end of the film, I think there was a good amount that could have been changed in order to make the tone and character personalties match up with the setup in the first two-thirds of the movie. For example, the inclusion of Doomsday was probably interesting to some hardcore comic book fans, but really wasn’t necessary in this film. On top of the clutter it added to the ending, the Doomsday plot made it a bit more difficult to understand exactly what Lex Luthor was going for. If he wanted personal power and the opportunity to show people that Superman is not a God, the original plan to have Batman kill Superman made the most sense. The whole Doomsday thing seemed a little too easy for him and didn’t achieve his goal of showing the world that humans could kill “Gods”. I think a better way to end of the film would have been for Batman to kill Superman with the kryptonite spear, then have Lois run up and explain the whole situation with Martha Kent, thus giving Batman a reason to realize he was wrong about Superman that wasn’t so forced and goofy.
I loved the inclusion of Wonder Woman, but wish that there had been a little less set up for the other members of the Justice League. Perhaps an after credits scene showing the video clips of Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman would have been a better choice so as not to break up the action of the current film with more setup for a sequel. These issues all seemed to stem from the forced inclusion of specific plot points that I mentioned earlier. While this is merely speculation on my part, the addition of Doomsday seemed to be tacked onto a story that really didn’t need it. Hence the overall tone ended up as a jumble between the Avengers, the Dark Knight trilogy, and the final installment of both Spiderman film series.
Overall, I liked the film a bit less than I had thought I would, but a bit more than my friends did. I feel like it is worth seeing despite the flaws, but may not be a movie to see in theaters since hardcore comic fans will be disappointed by some changes and more generic moviegoers may be confused by all the clutter.