CAVEAT LECTOR: This is the SPOILER-RRIFIC review of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice as well as some spoilers of Man of Steel, therefore, there will be intricate plot details and characters fates and actions. You’ve been warned.
That being said…
When I said in the spoiler free version of the review that Zack Snyder woefully misunderstands both his starring characters, it’s that both of his characters are killers. A tenant that unified both Batman and Superman over the years, and while Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns brings Bruce Wayne to his most psychotic and violent, and yet he doesn’t bring himself to use guns, Superman also has almost always been bound by a no killing policy, mostly because he doesn’t need to. So when Superman rams a terrorist through a wall, seemingly killing him for no reason, it doesn’t help or build on the ending of Man of Steel, in that, at least Superman was justified in killing Zod as he was an unstoppable force capable of wiping out the entire human race. Snyder has already made excuses as to why he has made this choice, but it doesn’t add up. The fact that this darkness is seemingly the only characterization of Superman is also somewhat lazy.
In terms of plot points, I said they were passable and some were preposterous. The notion to use a suicide bomber plot seemed to serve no purpose, especially if the actual culprit is named immediately after, just adds to bombastic bloodlust and does nothing to drive the plot. Batman’s motivations are clear, but Superman’s point of view outside of boilerplate “stepping on civil rights” that are never explained further, and he also never points that microscope on himself. Lex Luthor’s quip about his grandfather having to attend parades for tyrants is also nothing deep, it’s just for show, and it detracts overall. The most egregious point however, was the fight between Batman and Superman ending with Batman preventing his own victory after Superman laments that he’s “killing Martha”. Simply because he and Superman’s mothers share a common name is the reason for him to stop killing Superman? What I Ms. Kent was named Jenny, Beth or Cindy? Would Supes get a Krypotonian spear to the face then? It’s a point so ridiculous it belongs in a Fast and Furious movie, where it would at least be forgiven in the dumb fun of the latter entries, but in movie that wants so badly to be taken darkly serious, it falls flat, and stands as patently absurd.
As I said, the acting is half brilliant and half disappointing. Affleck is amazing as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, easing in an out of an act he made for himself in public (used very well on Mercy Graves as well as in his beginning dialog with Clark) and he shows great ferocity in the action scenes as Batman. When he drops the act around Diana Prince (Gal Godot) his chemistry with her smolders beautifully, and it is Gal Godot’s best work outside of the final fight.
Henry Cavill seemed very wooden here, especially when he’s talking to Lois after the bombing of the capital, there should be some level of emotion there, and there just isn’t, all the charisma of Man of Steel is gone, save for some moments of anger after he finds out that Lex has kidnapped Martha Kent. Jesse Eisenberg was just as disappointing, going for a comedy act of some sorts that just doesn’t work, and he is almost laugh worthy when he threatens Batman at the end of the film with the arrival of what is believed to be Darkseid, the big bad of Justice League .
As for the League, I am perplexed as to why Luthor has the information, but also gives them their names and makes the logos for their characters. This seems like a job for Batman, who is seen working as a detective in the movie, more than the others, and while sharing it with Wonder Woman seemed naturally, that text with the email was a little too much. The clips shown seemed to work, except for Cyborg’s, which seemed and though it was a scene from the upcoming movie, and I will give that it was a smart way around the criticism of overcrowding.
For some positives, the action scenes do work very well, especially the final fights. They may have taken a bumpy road to get there, but they are at least well shot and entertaining. The three heroes collaborating to defeat Doomsday looked incredible, and it gives me hope for their dynamic in the Justice League film. Most of the movie was worth of watch, warts and all, and it is not a total tire fire like some have suggested, it can certainly accommodate some popcorn and soda.
The decision to kill Superman, staying true to the storyline in which Doomsday kills Superman, was a gutsy yet ponderous move, it may create a hurdle for the larger story to conquer, and the dirt rising from Superman’s grace in the end was pretty unnecessary (the healing coma will commence and if critics thought plots here were ludicrous, wait ‘til they see that) but I can respect such a unseen turn in the story, that helps stick the landing for the later team up.
The visions and dream sequences were breath-taking, and I do wonder where they will go, however for some fans, they may piece together plot points from the Flash’s warning to Bruce that could gut an emotional impact of later films. It was still and interesting play, and DC’s reliance on Easter Eggs over post-credits scenes will be a wonder to watch how it plays out in the larger narrative.
Overall, this movie was enjoyable yet deeply flawed, and expectations must be tempered or it could lead to disappointment. However, it was something that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible, probably with fans, and there is certainly some morsels on which to pin hope for a better film to come. To compare with Marvel, the lackluster Iron Man 2 set up the wonderful Avengers. Hopefully the same happens here.