'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' review: Ben Affleck's Dark Knight one of the worst things about new superhero film
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams
- Directed by: Zack Snyder
- Written by: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
- Duration: 151 minutes
This is frustrating: Half of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is brilliant. Unfortunately, the other half of Zack Snyder’s epic-length superhero movie is so bloated that it blunts the effect of the good stuff.
This live-action comic book movie, with an overwrought running time of two hours and 31 minutes, gets bogged down in too much existential angst, too much deadly soul-searching and too much post-9/11 fear-mongering. Not that those elements should be eliminated — because they are part of enriching the DC Extended Universe — but director Snyder and screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer layer it on too thick. This dreary darkness overwhelms us, even during the excessive action scenes.
So my three-star rating out of five is generous. Yet that brilliant stuff goes a long way. Including towards opening up the Universe to come in Snyder’s two Justice League instalments, the Wonder Woman standalone movie now in post-production and a total of 11 movies by the end of 2020.
There may even be a 12th if rumours of a new standalone Batman — starring and directed by Ben Affleck — come to fruition. Snyder nearly confirmed as much to me in a recent interview.
In addition to establishing a new Bruce Wayne/Batman in Affleck, Dawn of Justice gives us our first big-screen Wonder Woman in Gal Gadot. Hurrah! It also briefly gives us “found-footage” glimpses of Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa). All for future movies.
The new movie also merges the worlds of Batman and Superman into one sprawling physical space. So this is a DC geography lesson, not a spoiler: Gotham City, where the Batman serves nightly as an angry vigilante, is a twin city with Metropolis, where Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent still works as a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. The two cities are separated by a large bay (like San Francisco and Oakland).
This is critical for the plot. The death and devastation we saw in Man of Steel (2013), when Superman saved Planet Earth from the ravages of his fellow aliens from Krypton, left parts of Gotham City in ruins as well as swaths of Metropolis. Bruce Wayne suffered personally, and his resentment has powered up enough for him to consider killing Superman, thus eliminating what he perceives as a future threat of total annihilation. Hence the title, Batman v Superman.
Anything more about the story would invite spoilers. Instead, here are the three things I like the most … and the three things I hate the most:
Love-it #1: The casting: Gal Gadot is great as the 5,000-year-old Amazon princess Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince when disguised as a mere mortal. This augers well for the standalone Wonder Woman. When Godot finally shows up as Wonder Woman in the climax, she saves us from some of the murky mess surrounding the death-battle —welcome relief from the macho bullying of the boys. Likewise, casting Jesse Eisenberg as psychotic Lex Luthor is as devastatingly clever as it was unlikely. When Eisenberg’s face is twitching with madness, when his character is plotting Machiavellian twists, Eisenberg’s Luthor becomes a classic uber-villain. Also kudos go to Holly Hunter and Jeremy Irons in support roles.
Love-it #2: Affleck’s Bruce Wayne: Bringing depth and new complexity, Affleck’s version of the Gotham City playboy takes him into middle-aged ennui. It is fascinating and sometimes moving.
Love-it #3: As you would expect from a project reportedly costing $250 million, the special effects are first-rate and the twin worlds of Metropolis and Gotham City make visual sense. On the large scale, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos and cinematographer Larry Fong both work at the top of their game.
Hate-it #1: Affleck’s Batman: There is nothing really wrong with his performance. But, when he dons the armoured version of the Batsuit to battle Superman, Affleck looks like a big, bad, clunky RoboCop. He become impersonal. Therefore, no emotional impact.
Hate-it #2: Doomsday: When superheroes have to fight a common foe, it would be more interesting if it did not look a slobbering, mutated version of King Kong.
Hate-it #3: The endless repetition of convoluted plot points about B & S — all leading to the obvious climax — is tiresome.