Monday, March 28, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Features a Few Bright Spots... But Not Enough [Guest Poster: Jon]

There have never been two comic book characters more iconic than Batman and Superman.

For decades, these two titans have become iconic not only within the comic book industry, but also within all aspects of our world's media, from film to TV alike. Even these heroes' logos have become iconic, and instantly recognizable. Fans have been waiting for these two superheroes to meet up and/or fight in a feature film together for years, but were never given the opportunity.

Until now.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice picks up two years after the events of Man of Steel. The world has recovered from the world engine, but they still question the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill). And Superman himself wonders whether or not he is doing the right thing as a hero. And there are many out there who don’t trust his unchecked power — chief among them, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who brutally fights crime as the vigilante Batman. Wayne has seen Superman’s power firsthand, and fears Superman will wipe out humanity if not kept in line. And who, might you ask, intends to keep him in line? Bruce Wayne.

But a bigger problem for both heroes looms in the form of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who has a plan to take them down permanently.

As you can see from the plot above, I am being as vague as humanly possible. This is due, of course, to not wanting to reveal spoilers for the highly-anticipated film, should you choose to see it.

After years of hype, one of the most anticipated superhero films of all time — if not THE most anticipated film — has finally arrived. Not only did this movie have a gigantic task of pitting two titans against each other, but it also faced the issue of establishing well an entire cinematic universe in order to catch up to Marvel's own. Does it succeed?

Yes... and no. While there is a lot in the film to enjoy, the film ultimately does suffer from pacing issues, plot holes the size of the Phantom Zone, and story elements that are fairly inane.


Let’s begin with the positives, because there are a few. One of those positives is Ben Affleck. For anyone who feared this would turn out just like another Daredevil (or worse, Batman and Robin), those fears can be washed away. Affleck does a fantastic job as both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Affleck brings a sobering and cynical take on Wayne/Batman. In addition to becoming disillusioned by what he’s seen, Wayne has witnessed the magnitude of what Superman is capable of, and he’s terrified by this. Affleck expertly conveys the desperation and lengths Wayne will go to in order to defend the world. He also handles the physicality of Batman extremely well. This may be one of the most vicious and brutal portrayals of the Dark Knight to date, with an excellent mix of car combat and hand-to-hand combat used.

The two other standouts are Gal Gadot and Jesse Eisenberg. While she only has a short amount of time in the film — and even shorter in costume as her superhero alter ego — Gadot makes a great first impression as Wonder Woman. Not only is she mysterious and elusive, but when she is in costume, she manages to convey the warrior side of her character incredibly well, delivering some of the most cheer-worthy moments of the film.

Eisenberg was the biggest surprise here, as he genuinely came across as creepy and a bit crazed. While Lex Luthor is usually calm and measured, Eisenberg’s performance is the complete opposite, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’s slightly unhinged and a bit eccentric, the result of which is that his villain is more hyper than he is calm. Eisenberg looks to be having a blast in the film, chewing up scenery from start to finish.


Unfortunately, Henry Cavil takes a backseat in his own movie, as he isn’t really given a lot to do here. While Superman is given some development — as the source of his inner conflict is whether or not he’s doing the right thing — we already got to know this iteration of Superman in Man of Steel, and on a deeper and more intimate level, no less. Therefore we already know this version of the character and what he’s agonizing over, internally.

And as much as there is a bit in this film that I genuinely enjoyed, there’s also quite a lot I did NOT enjoy. For one thing, the pacing is all over the place. Throughout the film, I wasn’t sure whether the plot was supposed to slow down, move at a brisker pace, make me feel a certain emotion, etc. This could be due to the film having to balance so many new plot threads and characters, but the pacing (and, in turn, editing) was all over the place.

In addition, the film has plot holes and problems that are wider than the entire Phantom Zone. For example, Lex’s plan makes zero sense. He first wants to expose Superman as a fraud and turn the public against him... and then suddenly switches courses and wants to kill him. Wouldn’t “exposing” him be simply enough? And some other plot points are also pretty lame, never really making any sense within the context of the film. Examples of this include the reason WHY Superman and Batman even fight in the first place, why Batman and Superman eventually stop fighting, and the end result of the battle against Doomsday.

Finally, speaking of the fight itself, the big showdown between the two heroes does not really occur until two hours into the film. The vast majority of the film is simply a set-up, then, as it serves launch both the Justice League film as well as the DC Extended Universe (its official title). Admittedly, some of the set-up involved is pretty cool and interesting to watch, as it offers some intriguing insight into what the DCEU may contain.

Overall, is Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice a bad movie? No. There’s a good amount to like here, with a commanding presence in Affleck and standout performances from Gadot, Eisenberg, and even Jeremy Irons. The film’s final half-hour is also impressive.

However, is this one of the greatest superhero movies ever made? Not even close. The film ultimately suffers from pacing issues, ridiculous moments, and massive plot holes. We can hope that the Wonder Woman film and the Batman film directed by Batfleck himself redirect this franchise onto a quality course for greatness.


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