Dawn of Justice starts during the climax of Man of Steel where we see the Superman vs Zod fight from Bruce Wayne’s perspective and after one of his towers is decimated in metropolis he starts on the path to tracking and putting down Superman. Post destruction Superman is also being vilified by the media & government and outcry is being made for him to also stand trial and be held responsible for the collateral damage he has caused.
Lagging behind Marvel (in terms of success as well as time) DC is finally starting to catch up and brings together arguably the two biggest comic book names there has ever been. It was always going to be difficult not to go into this film with high levels of expectation and this ends up being to the movies detriment.
The biggest problem with Dawn of Justice (DoJ) is that its narrative is scattershot at best and ridiculously unbelievable at worst. It starts off in a believable direction. There are those who want Superman to be held accountable for his actions and Clark Kent is having a crisis of conscience over whether he can keep doing what he is doing and at what cost. That is all fine. Bruce Wayne wanting to take him down after seeing one of Wayne Towers destroyed is done is a pretty convincing way to complement this and that too is also fine. About an hour through though the plot changes and Lex Luthor is now involved for reasons that I’m still not sure of, and events start move away from what the first half of the film was about. Then there’s a Wonder Woman plot shoehorned in in between all this and it’s around two thirds of the way through they seemed to have forgotten that they needed to set up the Justice League and so threw some stuff in there to tease future films. The Wonder Woman stuff is actually quite good but it just doesn’t have any relevance to what is going on and is just there for the sake of growing the Justice League Universe. There’s a really good reason Marvel does this in the post credit scenes of their films and it is so it doesn’t fuck with the flow of the movie. This is Zack Snyder’s biggest downfall and goes further to support the opinion that he is just a style over substance director.
For his failings of managing the plot Snyder does make up for with the aesthetics of DoJ. Stylistically everything looked on point, the set pieces was mostly good fun to watch and Snyder’s trademark pallet of vibrant, almost neon colours contrasting with darkness suit the characters and the Gotham/Metropolis vibe. There are also some cool shots throughout. Snyder not only has an eye for big style mayhem but also can bring the best out of the smaller moments too. There’s a shot right at the start when going through Batman’s origin in the opening credits where the mugger goes to take Martha Wayne’s pearls and they are caught around the gun which then fires in slow motion, the recoil of the barrel breaking the necklace and spilling pearls everywhere. This sort of shot is where Snyder shines and there are a few dotted throughout.
Performance wise Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot stand out and are the most convincing. A lot of criticism in particular was thrown Affleck’s way when the casting was announced but hes responded with a well rounded performance. Bruce Wayne is nearly at his “I’m getting to old for this shit” stage and goes about being Bruce/Batman with a disdain for pretty much all those around him. Branding villains with his ‘Bat’ symbol is now a regular occurrence and you can see him start to tread the line of what is moral and what is right very lightly. Even though not in it for very long Gal Gadot appears that she will make a fascinating Wonder Woman. She has charisma and some proper dry sass about her whole demeanor to react to what would be all the big boys having there own way. Her action shots are well executed and kick a lot of ass, the Wonder Woman stand alone film is worth looking forward to. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is as as convincing as he is cutting and is if anything, underused. Considering Bruce’s sliding morality one of the only things missing from Alfred was one of his legendary moral anecdotes to keep Batman’s moral compass in check. One thing however that didn’t make much sense was that the first half of the plot revolved around Superman and yet there was very little time given to his development. Henry Cavill did what he was required to but was never given any decent scenes to make events that happen later in the movie have any emotional weight. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane was in it more than I thought she would be, her only function appeared to be to further the plot and Jesse Eisenberg’s take on smartest man in the world Lex Luthor just didn’t hit the mark.
The DoJ theatrical release runs at 2.5 hours, so when you hear there’s going to be a 3 hour plus ‘R Rated’ version that makes more sense it makes you wonder why they even bothered to shoot it this way. Even at 2.5 hours the start and the end are drawn out and given what is explored in the time you are watching you have to question the writing, perhaps the 2 incredibly famous superhero plots they brought together for this film was just a little too ambitious. There’s a lot of time focused on the media and government officials as part of the Superman arc who were superfluous and a curious amount of time spent in random visions of one of our heroes. One in particular felt less like a vision and more like a theatrical part of the story that was taking place and even though it looked good, felt out of place.
In Man of Steel Snyder came under a lot of criticism for the amount of casualties there must have been with the destruction of Metropolis in it’s final act and he responded to this by making the final battle happen in Gotham but at night and have the viewer told twice that there is no one around to get hurt. Two issues with this, one it seems a little contrived to have to repeat this point to the viewer as it is very evident anyway, and two, part of Batman’s whole reasoning is that there was so much destruction when Superman was fighting that he wanted to stop this from happening again, so when it is he who brings Doomsday back to Gotham where there is arguably MORE destruction it completely compromises him as a character. Yes, there is another reason he went back there but between our hyper intelligent heroes I’m not convinced they couldn’t have found another way around it. Speaking of poor decisions there’s something Lois Lane does around this time that is ridiculously stupid and makes no sense especially when she has to undo this event no more than 2 minutes later.
The majority of the action was good, but the actual fight between Batman and Superman was horrendously underwhelming. Not only was the action underwhelming but you had no emotional investment in either of them. The movie should have spent much more time around just these two instead of unnecessarily bringing other characters into it and concern itself with setting anything else up. Saying that the scene where Batman takes down a room full of villains is superb and is a nod to the fighting style in the Arkham Games. Brutal take downs and good use of gadgetry make it an entirely compelling sequence and great to watch.
Batman Vs Superman – Dawn of Justice isn’t a bad movie, it just isn’t a very good one either. Problems with the plot and shoehorning scenes meant to set up future films leave it in a bit of a mess and out of shape. There are good performances, some great action and aesthetically it looks good. It is however hard to overlook how poor the basic storytelling is and you are left with something that never gets anywhere near to matching the hype.