Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


Genre: Superhero Action

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 151 mins.

Premise: In this quasi-sequel to Man of Steel, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) pits Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) against each other in "the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world."

Behind-the-Scenes: Warner Bros. has a lot riding on this sucker. About a month after Man of Steel opened big in summer 2013, but then precipitously dropped off, they announced at that year's Comic Con that Batman would be in the sequel.  Then they added Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and now BvS acts as a kick-off to the Justice League, with up to 10 other DC Comics superhero films set to follow. Zack Snyder is still directing. Eisenberg was cast as Lex after coming in to meet about the role of Jimmy Olsen.

The Good: The cinematography by DP Larry Fong is gorgeous.  He shoots the hell out of the movie, and Snyder uses Fong's keen eye to stage some truly breathtaking visuals.  Despite all the bickering about his casting, Affleck is actually quite terrific as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He imbues the character with the right mix of charm and rage, and looks fantastic in the costume (the new face-fitting mask is awesome). The early action sequence which recreates the climactic fight in Man of Steel as seen through Bruce Wayne's eyes, is captivating and sets just the right tone for what follows. Fans hungry for some Wonder Woman action don't get much of it, but she gets a heck of an entrance at the end that may just be the most crowd-pleasing moment in the film.

The Bad: Eisenberg is pretty dreadful as Lex - he plays him as a twitchy mess, and while I appreciate the actor's commitment, it's a characterization that just doesn't play well. In its rush to get to Justice League, the movie packs too much into its running time to the detriment of its story and its main characters. The discovery of other Justice League team members through a hard drive stolen from Lex's corporate headquarters approaches Batman and Robin-levels of bad. There is no need for Doomsday in this movie - should have saved him for another film. Snyder still doesn't get Superman, which leaves Cavill stranded, struggling to do anything interesting with the character. There's no room for humor or lightness in any of the scenes, the closest the movie comes is some of Perry White's (Laurence Fishburne) throw-away lines. Amy Adams' Lois Lane is stuck with a boring sub-plot and mostly just exists to be put in danger so Supes can rescue her. The first 90 minutes are a bit of a slog, throwing in a bunch of random scenes, none of which connect all that well to each other. The fight between Batman and Superman is short (about 10 mins) and underwhelming.

Should You See It?: While not as bad as you've heard, it depends. If you're a DC Comics fan, and have been dying to see Batman fight Superman, sure.  If you like spectacle on an IMAX screen, why not. And, if you need a Wonder Woman fix, yes. But, if you hated Man of Steel, or dislike Zack Snyder's aesthetic, and have no other rooting interest in the film, it's a hard no.

Star Rating: *** out of 5 stars.

Better Than: Green Lantern, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Worse Than: The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy

On Par With: Man of Steel, Avengers: Age of Ultron

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