“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” opened to record breaking box office results, and though the feedback has been less than stellar, it’s still a formidable foe for other films in the super hero genre. And with the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominating this field, DC takes a shot back, proving that it, too, can create carnage and destruction in a world begging to be saved by a costumed vigilante or two. But there are a few missteps along the way, bogging down what could have been with what unfortunately was. And though the darkness of villainy represents what this film may have been, there’s still a slight glimmer of brightness, much like a superhero in that dark world. “Batman v. Superman” is like any hero story in that it is fraught with both good and bad.
Opening up in the midst of the events of “Man of Steel,” we see Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) witnessing the destruction of one of his buildings, a result of the fight between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon). This initially sets up Bruce Wayne’s animosity towards Superman, and the film then heightens that disdain through the efforts of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and the varying media outlets questioning Superman’s friend or foe status. Meanwhile, Clark Kent’s participation in the media frenzy, and his desire to write on the moral fallacies of Gotham’s own Dark Knight, ignites his own animosity towards Batman. Thus, the stage is set and the two are slated to go head to head in this (supposed to be) epic battle of heroes.
There are a couple of things that distract the film from its intended purpose, with many unexplained things dragging the plot down, each meant to foreshadow what is to come in DC’s own slew of films. There are dream sequences that are complete distractions, taking the film in directions that it needn’t have gone yet. And there are revealing moments that cue the inception of the Justice League, which lends a dichotomous layer to the film in that is it both rushed and slowed down. It hurries into the future while decelerating the present. A few hints here and there (like the tiny smidgen of a Joker reference) is all it needed to lay the groundwork for future films, but instead, “Batman V. Superman” dedicates whole scenes to things completely unrelated to this film’s plot. Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) inclusion worked, but ultimately took away from the meat of the film which was Batman and Superman.
But what works in the film is its core cast of characters, each one fleshed out with a driven purpose and life. Though some of those purposes are twofold due to the cinematic future, we still understand why certain characters are doing what they do. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is given a lot of time and is a pleasant joy to watch in her probing attempt at understanding the truth. Batman’s loyal servant Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is also a welcomed addition, lending his guidance and expertise to the caped crusader. But who is perhaps the star in ways he likely never intended is Lex Luthor. There’s an oddness in the way Luthor is portrayed, not at all the familiar one of comic book lore. Instead, he seems to be a bit psychotic in his obsession with power and Superman, almost acting as a meshed version of The Riddler and Joker. In the sense of who Luthor is, it’s a miss, but in the sense of how he was portrayed in this iteration of the character, he’s a win.
And then there’s Batman and Superman, and the rivalry between the two. Both characters have always represented a different form of taking down baddies. Where Batman uses his wit, Superman uses his brawn, and the fight between the two showcases those differing approaches, highlighting both superheroes as powerful. But the power of those vigilantes begs the question of whether it is absolutely good, or if it can possess a moral ambiguity in the realm of what makes a superhero a hero. This brings out a different Batman than is customary in that he doesn’t hesitate to hurt. That’s a major no-no in Batman’s world, but the hints we’re given in the timeline of when this Batman is almost justifies his actions, and thus develops the fight between heroes, creating villainy and darkness in the characters that were meant to foster goodness, each questioning whether or not the other truly is on their side or just a vigilante wickedly using his power. But because this focus of the film was dampened with outside extremities, this epic clash of the titans sputtered to a lackluster finish.
Overall, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” juggled a lot, and as a result dropped a few balls. It almost appears as if its purpose is simply to set up a future instead of focusing on itself. While the little action there is does seem exciting, it’s too few and far between in the overall scheme of things. The film’s also too serious, lacking any light heartedness and charisma that contributes to the success of Marvel’s universe. There’s a fun depiction of characters and their interactions with one another does work, but plot-wise it’s a muddled mess. Still, this epic showdown elicits thought of what power does to one, and whether power can be absolutely good. Sadly, the thought is lost in a cacophony of confusion.
Overall grade? C+