Saturday, March 26, 2016

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


I'll admit it, when I first heard the casting news that Ben Affleck was tabbed to play Batman in the new Zack Snyder helmed Batman v Superman film, I was very concerned.  Affleck had recently had a career resurgence but I couldn't imagine him as being an effective caped crusader (or Bruce Wayne for that matter).  Thankfully I was way off base in my assessment and Affleck totally nails his turn in the bat mask which helps make Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a very entertaining film (despite some flaws) and a solid boot-up for the DC comics Justice League film franchise.

Dawn of Justice picks up right where the muddled Man of Steel left off.  We see all of the Metropolis getting destroyed by Superman's (Henry Cavill) battle with General Zod (Michael Sheen returns in a thankless role as a dead person) from Bruce Wayne's perspective.  The country then starts to turn on Superman and hearings are held (with Holly Hunter in a key role as a Senator) to decide whether Superman should have full reign and no accountability for his actions.  Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) join in on the fun and we eventually get to a climactic battle between Batman and Superman in a rain-soaked Gotham City.

The action is great throughout and all of the Batman suits and set pieces are.  There is a reference to the voice modulator in Batman's suit built by Alfred (a regal and fun Jeremy Irons) that seems genuine and it's very cool to see Batman's armored glow-eye suit get mangled up in battle.  I thought this was probably the best overall Batman we've ever seen on screen (no disrespect to Christian Bale).  Affleck is just perfect as an elder, wiser, more passionate Bruce Wayne.  I really never thought he could pull this off, but Ben just continues to surprise me. Kudos to the production department for nailing the Batman suit(s) and bat cave. Cavill is solid as Clark Kent / Superman even though he really doesn't emote too much.  Gadot is great (and drop dead gorgeous) as the new Wonder Woman addition although we really don't see her in full costume until a couple minutes towards the end of the movie.

There are definite problems here.  The movie is way too long and I was thinking through parts of it that some of the filler could definitely have been tidied up to make this closer to a 2 hour film (as it is, it's bloated at just over 2.5 hours).  The special effects overall are really awful.  There are so many cartoony sequences that I found myself longing for the more practical effects of a Christopher Nolan Batman film.  Snyder also pushes in too many 300-style sequences near the end with quick zooms and dark overtones.  He needs to push back and show a little more restraint at times.  Amy Adams' Lois Lane is kind of annoying and her presence at the end of the film in a key sequence seems really forced.  Some have mentioned that Jessie Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is over-the-top and a bit too much like a poor-man's imitation of Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight.  However, I didn't mind his performance.  It was quirky enough and edgy to make me interested and invested in his character.  The surprise twist on the rooftop near the end of the film felt more authentic and effective the way Eisenberg played his hand.

This movie is currently getting murdered by both critics and some of my friends/reviewers (*cough* Omar *cough*).  I'm really not sure why this film is being picked apart by the "experts".  Now I'm not a huge comic book nerd so I'm not as invested in this nonsense as a lot of others are.  Maybe my fresh perspective keeps me from nitpicking plot issues and some of the pacing problems others are commenting on.  I simply enjoyed the movie from start to finish, and while seeing yet another Bruce Wayne origin story shoved down my through is a bit annoying, I was able to look past those types of issues.  This is NOT a perfect film and Marvel is still head and shoulders above DC in cinema right now.  However, Cavill, Affleck, Gadot (and even Eisenberg) make for a solid nucleus for the Justice League and I am indeed interested in following on with this franchise (it was cool to see some hints of the Justice League cast throughout the film). I was not impressed by Man of Steel but I was very much invested and entertained by the events of this movie.  Give me more BatFleck in the future.  Ben's presence alone helps this movie achieve a solid 4 out of 5 JRs.

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