Film Review: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (spoiler-free)

Please Note:  this review is deemed ‘spoiler-free’ on the basis that readers have seen the previously released full length trailers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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Starring:  Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons

Directed by:  Zack Snyder / Written by:  Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer / 151 minutes

What’s it about?

Believing that the consequences of Superman’s actions may present a threat to humanity, Bruce Wayne shifts the focus of his war on crime as the Batman to facing off against the Man of Steel…

In review

The “grudge match of the century” is finally here as Warner Brothers’ DC Comics superhero sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice comes thundering onto cinema screens.  Both continuing the story which began in Zack Snyder’s 2013 Superman reboot, Man of Steel and setting the stage for the larger canvas of the big screen DC Comics Extended Universe, BvS happily succeeds more often than it might fail.

With Snyder returning to the director’s seat and a screenplay written by Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel), BvS picks up during the cataclysmic events at the climax of Man of Steel, the decimation of the city of Metropolis wrought by General Zod and Superman’s desperate efforts to stop him resulting in personal tragedy for Wayne Enterprises CEO Bruce Wayne.  Flash forward eighteen months and Wayne still grieves for the loss of his employees and becomes increasingly angered by the presence of an incredibly powerful being given liberty to act freely with no check in place.  Most see Superman as a heroic figure or a messiah but Wayne feels it’s time to reassess the Kryptonian Man of Steel’s place in the world and can only present a challenge as the Dark Knight of Gotham City.

Drawing heavily from Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, BvS carries a lot of narrative weight via it’s psychological examinations and philosophical debate and is arguably all the better for it.  Just as Frank Miller explored (and satirised) the political and social landscape of the 1980s, this film equally poses the questions that would present themselves in today’s climate of anti-terrorism and accountability.  There’s no doubt that Superman’s intentions are true but we see that there are consequences to his actions that affect others.  Likewise, Bruce Wayne’s methods as the dark vigilante known as Batman are also questionable as we’re left to ponder about how far is too far.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of BvS will equate to how you felt about Man of Steel, Zack Snyder as a filmmaker and dark, brooding – yet cerebral – superhero stories.  This is certainly a dark film, even in its few lighter moments and amongst the requisite and effects laden comic book action.  Similarly this is very much a Zack Snyder film in that BvS is not as intricately conceived and as masterfully executed as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight but is non-the-less a well-constructed and visually impressive film.  There will be flaws should you look too deep yet with this in mind then in more instances than not it’s likely that your geek voice will prevail over any critical mumblings.  With some time taken to sow the seeds for next year’s DC heroes round-up in Justice League Part One there is a fair heft of mythology and a number of WTF?! moments (one sequence in particular) that, to a degree, become jumbled in the mix and might leave the more casual viewer (or at least those who are not as well versed in DC Comics lore) bewildered.  Similarly there are some narrative elements that feel they warrant further exploration or elaboration – hence the announcement that Warner’s home video release plans include an extended cut of the film.

Whilst there is some great depth to the story and themes of BvS, this is also a comic book film and Snyder bombards the senses with nerve jangling and explosive action sequences that some may find a little heavy and energetic, albeit not as overbearing as, say, Transformers: Age of Extinction.  The inevitable face-off between Batman and Superman is as exciting and cool as would be hoped for and although the climactic battle with the Doomsday creature might come off as a little ‘videogame-y’ it’s part and parcel of today’s blockbusters and facilitates sizeable stakes and a powerful threat to unite the central heroes.

Snyder and Warner Brothers assemble an enviable troupe of actors here.  Firstly, Henry Cavill slips comfortably back into the role of Clark Kent/Superman and together with Amy Adams’ Lois Lane pick up where they left off in Man of Steel, Jesse Eisenberg surprises as an enjoyably eccentric and psychotic Lex Luthor and Gal Gadot delights as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (her triumphant entrance as the latter leaving no doubt that next summer’s solo outing is going to be a treat).  Yet their biggest casting coup, greeted with such controversy and trepidation, is Ben Affleck.  Affleck quickly allays any fears or doubts and proves to be the perfect choice for this iteration of Bruce Wayne/Batman.  As Wayne, Affleck exudes the right measure of assuredness and arrogance of his Playboy bachelor persona whilst effectively conveying the torture and continuing trauma of his parents’ murders and a dynamic range of humanity as he unloads both his fears and determination to his one true confidant and sounding board, Alfred (a reliably well-mannered Jeremy Irons).  Weary, cynical and tired of twenty years of fighting crime in Gotham City, Affleck proves to be adept in cranking up the intensity to present us with a Batman torn straight from the panels of The Dark Knight Returns, a shadowy, almost demonic figure striking fear into the hearts of criminals, often pushing himself to the edge to deliver a more brutal solution to the failings of ‘true’ justice.

When all is said and done, BvS unites the DC Comics ‘Trinity’ (and founding Justice League members) of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman and provides a satisfying, epic and often thought provoking slice of comic book action that stands as a solid follow up to Man of Steel and a vital stepping stone in the burgeoning DC Comics film series.

The bottom line:  Dark and cerebral, epic and bombastic, please everyone it might not but for fans of comic book superheroes, Batman v Superman presents a solid next step in the DC Comics Extended Universe.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is in cinemas now.

The Dark Knight faces the Man of Steel in Warner Brothers'/DC Comics' 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'.

The Dark Knight faces the Man of Steel in Warner Brothers’/DC Comics’ ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’.

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30 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (spoiler-free)

  1. Great review. I’ve seen Batman V Superman twice now and enjoyed it even more the second time around. Sure, its got its faults, but its nowhere near as bad as a lot of the film critics have made out. Overall the story was strong and it did a good job of setting up the future of the DCCU. The Bat V Supes fights were awesome, and Wonder Woman was brilliant. Will look forward to seeing the extended cut when its released on Blu Ray

    • Cheers Paul, I definitely think some of the niggles will wear away with repeat viewings and ultimately when things are payed off in Justice League. Great to hear from you as always!

      • I concur. As I mentioned in my own little review, Scott Mendelson from Forbes put it pretty well: ‘What does it mean if Civil War does retroactively improve Age of Ultron? Will we be at a point where we really can’t judge a franchise installment on its own merits because a future installment may well fix the flaws a couple years down the line?’

        In my view, BvS is only the second instalment of a trilogy – or perhaps tetralogy would be more correct – that seems set to conclude in Justice League. And even without taking that into consideration, whilst it’s no masterpiece, certainly not the movie of the decade we wanted, it’s a fairly good work even with its many flaws, and didn’t deserve being mauled so much.

        Very excited to see Snyder’s vision be played out – though I have a sneaking decision that they’ll tap into Affleck to step at least partially into the directorial shoes as well as starring as Batman/Bruce Wayne, to rectify the issues that’ve come up. And we’re still waiting on news of the solo Batfleck adventure…

  2. Well I was very excited about this film aswell as perhaps a little wary. Zack Snyder isn’t exactly my favourite director and I was left a little disappointed after Man of Steel! (Don’t get me wrong I still did enjoy it) but from what trailers I have seen of BvS and of course all these standing ovation rumours after every test screening I had heard, I did start to believe that this could be a truly fantastic if not perfect comic book film!
    Then the film was released…
    Now bearing in mind that I haven’t seen it yet,
    And believe me I will! I’ve got to admit tho that my heart did sink when I first started hearing the reviews of Dawn of Justice! I didn’t even have to go look for them, word of mouth was just hitting me from every angle and from every one person who said it was good…20 people said it was bad.
    Anyhow your review seems to have brought fresh air into what I can only describe as
    “You”ll know once you have seen it”
    I doubt very much I’m going to be rushing anytime soon now though after the hype and then the let down. May even wait for the blu-Ray release? Who knows but still great to read a review that doesn’t focus on the bad or the good points and takes the film as a whole to wet your appetite and let you make your own mind up!
    Great work as always from the geek blogger though!
    If I do get to see the film sooner rather than later then in the words of Arnie “I’ll be back!” (To post my thoughts)!

    • Thanks very much for your thoughts! The professional reviews have not been kind but so far fan opinion seems to be more positive. The problem is that unless you’re a fan of these characters and have at least some knowledge of DC Comics mythology you won’t fully “get it”. It’s probably not as widely pleasing and as accessible as what Marvel Studios have to offer (and I love what they do) but as a fan I was less inclined to pick it apart and just get lost in the enjoyment of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman united on the big screen for the first time.

  3. Great review! Enjoyed reading your thoughts on BvS especially since your a comic book fan. Should be interesting to see where the DC movies go from here. I’m very interested in a Wonder Woman solo movie after this.

  4. I’m yet to see the film, but you’ve made me a little bit more optimistic than I’ve been feeling since the Rotten Tomatoes score came out. It’s good to know that fans of this kind of fare will not be disappointed.

    • Yeah, I may have oversold it a little in my review, my enthusiasm for the characters and general DC Comics fandom softening any critical misgivings that may have niggled.

      It won’t be for everyone and there are some bewildering elements that require knowledge of DC Comics mythology. But I enjoyed it and can’t apologise for that 🙂

  5. Hi. Neat review. I’m just curious – now that we’ve seen a bit of what the DCEU has in store for us, what are your excitement levels for the solo films? I think my top 5 would have to be:

    1. Wonder Woman
    2. Aquaman
    3. Batman
    4. Flash/Shazam
    5. Flash/Shazam

    • Thanks very much! I would say I’m mostly looking forward to Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman and of course the eventual solo Batman film.

      I’ll also no doubt start getting excited about Green Lantern Corps but details are extremely sketchy at this point (no casting has been confirmed and no director, or did I miss that last one?).

      To be honest I’m not too enthusiastic about Flash at present, I’m really not sold on Ezra Miller but hope to be proven wrong. Likewise with Cyborg as he’s a character that may be good as part of the JL ensemble but not really all that interested in a solo outing.

      Thanks checking out the review and taking the time to share your thoughts!

      • No problem, always a pleasure to geek out with someone as passionate about this stuff as I am :). As for Green Lantern Corps – so far as I am aware, all we have is a release date. I empathise with you re: a Cyborg solo film – honestly I’ve never really felt too strongly about him as a character, so I’m pretty ambivalent over him. Maybe that’ll change after Justice League though. And besides, the theme that I would assume his film would address would be tech and humans interacting – and we already have a much, much prettier cyborg (played by the incredible Scarlett Johansson) set to do that next year, in Ghost in the Shell ;).

        As for Ezra Miller playing the Flash – personally, I’m intrigued, but Aquaman and Shazam have barely been done outside of animation, so I’m inherently more interested in them. I wasn’t particularly blown away by his cameo in Dawn of Justice though – I mean, he was barely on-screen for a minute, hardly enough time to judge! – was that the same for you?

      • Likewise! Ooh I forgot about the live action Ghost in the Shell. Big fan of that franchise (especially the awesome Stand Alone Complex series) so will be keeping a curious eye on that!

        Yeah, not enough of Flash to judge and guess I’m just attached to the tv series. Hope to be proved wrong, I’m sure the powers that be wouldn’tt have taken the casting of one of the key JL characters lightly!

      • Ah OK. Any other anime/manga you’re into? I’m appeased for now re: casting decisions – Affleck, Gadot and Eisenberg payed off, so in WB we trust for now :).

        Also, in the interests of geeking out, I was wondering if you could check out this little post I whipped out and give me your thoughts: http://wp.me/p5UGMa-4y

        Thanks!

      • Beyond GitS, I’ve enjoyed the 90s Patlabor movies (especially number 2), the 90s OVA Guyver series, Akira, Cowboy Bebop and more recently Knights of Sidonia. Studion Gibli have produced some good stuff as well: My Neighboutr Totorro, Porco Rosso for example. I’ve almost finished Attack on Titan and afraid I fin it to be overrated. Will check out your post right now…

  6. Well, I wish I could say the same in regards to my excitement for DCEU, the only movie I’m excited about is Wonder Woman. Interesting you said that your review is only deemed ‘spoiler-free’ if people have seen the full length trailers. Boy I think WB has spoiled a whole bunch of stuff already just in their promos, I mean the creator of Doomsday, Wonder Woman’s intro, etc., those are BIG ones I wish hadn’t been revealed by the studio itself.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Ruth! I’m defitintely sold on WW especially since it’s being directed by Patty Jenkins who was originally set to helm the Thor sequel.

      Yeah I put that up there in case there was still anyone out there who had somehow managed to avoid the marketing – I didn’t want to be risk anyone finding something out they didn’t…but yep, you’re right there was far too much revealed in the trailers.

  7. Beautiful and well-written review. I don’t know about you, but I think Marvel studios (anything and everything that leads up to Avengers) have set a standard for superhero movies that they shouldn’t have. It is a horrible mistake to skip on this movie because of critics. They’re arguments are almost all 100% invalid. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. My 2nd screening was even more amazing! 😀 I’m quite satisfied by Batfleck and really hope he gets the solo movie(s). If anything, this movie is for comic book fans, without any doubts. 😀

    – Lashaan

    • Thanks for your kind words my friend, I awlays enjoy hearing from you. You’re right about Marvel, I love what they do but unfortunately that means that DC are being unfairly judged by how they’re appraoching their film universe. It’s true that to an extent DC are rushing to get to Justice League but I still feel there’s ample opportunity to set things up further with Wonder Woman and within the first JL film (they’re doing 2 parts after all) and what would be the point in just completely copying Marvel?

      I haven’t had a second viewing of DoJ but already pre-ordered the Blu-ray (extended cut!) and look forward to enjoying it again.

      Oh and bring on the Batfleck films, especially if he gets to direct!

  8. Nice review. It isn’t perfect, but it still kept me interested enough. However, I do hope that the future DC movies get their acts together.

    • Cheers Dan, thanks for your thoughts! I wasn’t oblivious to some of the flaws in BvS but as an all out comic book geek I was more forgiving than most. But I agree with you, some niggles need to be worked out with the forthcoming movies to ensure Justice League turns out great.

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