Movies

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" Review

[Date: April 4, 2016]

Reviewed by: Stephen W. Wright

Batman v Superman FINALLY! It's here. The movie we've all been waiting for, for 3 years. Everyone is excited... The critics are LOVING it! There is harmony in DC Fandom. The Superman Homepage can be moderated with my eyes closed. And, this movie is making so much money that Zack Snyder has been named CEO of Warner Brothers... and... and...

Sigh... I'm sorry... I got caught up in the excitement... that last one was a bit over the top.

Let's try this again shall we?

Finally! It's here. And to say the movie is a bit divisive is like saying that Donald Trump is a bit controversial. If by "a bit" you mean just slightly less than Defcon 1 level Decisive then, yes... totally only a "bit" decisive.

So if you've been online since the day this movie came out you know that I kid, I kid. You also know that despite my jovial beginning I really liked this movie. I told Steve Younis before I reviewed the prequel comics that I wanted to do a review for this movie from a fan perspective. One that is not going to nitpick every little flaw, although I will point out some of them as I go, but one that is just going to look at this movie and see if it answers two questions in the positive.

First: "Was I entertained?"

Second: "Would I see this again and recommend it to a friend?"

The reason I want to look at it in this light is because as much as we argue and debate every little scene in this movie, the general audience really only care about those two questions. They don't care about how much screen time was allotted to each hero. They don't care that it's not exactly like a specific version of a character that we all attribute as the best there ever was, because we all have different ideas as to which one is best. No one is more correct than the other, no matter how loud some of us may be when giving our opinion. My perfect Superman is Chris Reeve's Superman. Nothing else will ever come close to me. I've introduced my daughter to his movies and she loves them. My only real beef with this universe is that I can't take my 6 year old to see Superman on the big screen. Other than that, I am willing to accept anyone's version of a character, because at the end of the day, it's only one version. It's not the definitive version, because the definitive version varies according to each individual's taste.

I'll leave the nit picking and overly critical reviews to others. That's not a knock, I just don't want to do a review that blasts all the plot holes (of which there are a few), takes a shot at the tone (it could stand to be a bit lighter. There's that word again), or just generally repeats the same gripes we've all heard repeated over and over. If that is more your style then you are reading the wrong review. But, if you just want to read a light-hearted fan's perspective on a movie that he has waited for his entire life, from the moment he first put that towel around his neck and took a running leap into his bed humming the Superman theme and watched the Batman TV show in repeats (early 80s y'all... Adam West was all I knew) then continue reading. But, if someone liking this film and stating the reasons why is something you can't stand because ZACK SNYDER RUINED MY CHILDHOOD MAN! then look elsewhere. Okay, so if we understand each other, let us begin.

Story:

The movie starts out showing the funeral and death of the Wayne family... and OH GOD... REALLY ZACK? REALLY? IS THIS REALLY NECESSARY?

Yes... actually... it is. And, I'll touch on why later in the review.

So, we see the usual. Wayne family shot by Joe Chill (at least I assume it's Chill since it's not really clarified). The difference is that we get to see it in ZACK SNYDER SLO-MO BABY! It's actually quite beautifully shot and manages to seem fresh. It still manages to hit the heart strings no matter how many times I've seen it depicted, and the closing shot of Thomas Wayne whispering Martha is heart breaking.

This is intercut with Batman discovering the Bat Cave and having the bats raise him out of the cave by creating a small vortex to float him to safety. This is a dream, so it's not quite clear if it's a faulty memory or what actually happened, but even though it could never happen in real life, it's still a cool sequence.

Then it's time to cut to the battle of Metropolis. Except this time, instead of seeing it from above the city, we get to see it from ground level. This is a quite effective way to bring us back into the story and very clearly explains how this Bruce Wayne would snap and view Superman the way he does for the rest of the movie. He was already at the end of his rope and this incident, seeing these "gods" destroy a section of the city, causing mass damage and death, is what puts him over the top. His reaction mirrors that of the "Man of Steel" detractors that just couldn't let it go three years ago.

This was a great opening act to the movie that really gets it started on the right foot. The movie slows down from there, however. We are introduced to the rest of Team Batman, which consists of Alfred... and... umm... okay just Alfred I guess. We get to see Clark Kent at the Daily Planet going against Perry's orders to investigate the Batman, when a package containing proof of what he is doing to criminals arrives on his desk. Gee... who would send THAT to Clark Kent. I don't know about you guys, but I think it's Lex Luthor (spoiler alert. I'm right). We get to see Clark save Lois when she gets herself caught by some of Lex's hired goons. It's a pretty cool scene that makes it appear that Superman put a bad guy in traction, but since Clark stated that he didn't kill anyone during this rescue, we are going to assume that he took the brunt of that wall and the guy is just fine. Why? Because we believe that about every other comic book character... **cough** Marvel **cough**... that Superman deserves the same benefit of the doubt. To say otherwise is hypocritical, in my opinion.

After Superman rescues Lois, the goons take out everyone in the village, making it seem that Superman was somehow responsible. Something the news runs with for their broadcasts. Obviously we know that's not what happened. But, Lex is playing the masses perfectly. He's controlling the message and by doing so, the world is starting to turn against Superman. Plenty still trust him and revere him but there is a growing movement around the world away from trusting him. We get a cute scene with Clark and Lois in their apartment with Lois in a bath tub that people actually had a problem with when we saw it in the trailers. For the life of me, it's those people I just don't get.

Throughout the movie Clark is torn. He's not sure why he should do what he's doing if they are going to just hate him for it. Lois is on the side that he's a hero and they need him. His mom Martha is on the side of... ehhh... not so much... I'll let you guys argue about that Martha scene.

Anyway, the action moves to a party that is being thrown by Lex Luthor. Bruce is there to place a device on a LexCorp server so that he can download all his evil secrets. Clark is there because he is a reporter and anybody who is anybody will be there. Diana Prince is there to LOOK HOT! Good God, Gal Gadot is gorgeous people, and after this movie, I believe she was the perfect choice to play Wonder Woman. She steals every scene she is in. Her interplay with Bruce was great, as is her out smarting him to do the same thing Bruce is doing. Although for her, it's to get a picture of hers that proves she is immortal. Bruce doesn't know this of course because he's too busy putting the moves on her because GOOD GOD, GAL GADOT IS GORGEOUS PEOPLE! Lex is there as well and we get to see the scene from the trailer of Clark and Bruce.

Okay... so here is the ONE THING I am going to go really negative on. I just didn't dig Jessie's Lex. At all. He was way too over the top at times and just seemed off. There are moments in the movie where he is truly frightening in his mannerisms, but his manic talking kills any of that almost as quickly as you realize he is frightening you. I was hoping there would be an Omega symbol on his forehead at the end which would explain his manic acting, but no such luck. If he comes back for the sequel I hope he concentrates more on those moments that were frightening and less on the moments that were Mark Zuckerbug on red bull.

On last thing about this party that I really liked. They show how Clark is hearing the conversation between Alfred and Bruce. So, right away he knows who he is and he begins to follow him. His investigation is interrupted however by a news report of a little girl trapped in a fire. He flies off to rescue her and we get a nice Superman moment for our hero. It's one of the few times that he shows happiness that is visible to the audience when being the hero. He gives the family a smile as he hands over their little girl and it was GREAT! More of that please Zack. We get a nice superhero montage of Superman saving people that I wish was longer, but still pretty cool. Forgive me guys if that fell at a different point in the movie as I've only seen this once and I'm trying to remember the timeline of events, so if I skip something or get it wrong, don't be too upset.

During all of this Lex Luthor has managed to convince the US Government to hand over General Zod's body for, you know, TOTALLY non evil purposes. Like, come on... no way would Lex Luthor do something dastardly with the body of a dead Superman-like evil bad guy. Pfft! Whateves! So, Lex has managed to convince some in the government to trust him, but there is one senator who isn't buying what he's selling and refuses to help him. That senator has guts. So much guts that you just know Lex Luthor isn't going to stand for this defiance. But, we root for her anyway. Probably because it's Holly Hunter... and I know that her voice can grate for some, but I've always found her adorable. Probably has to do with the movie "The Firm" with Tom Cruise. Great flick! Netflix it.

So the next big set piece in the movie... seriously... we still haven't gotten to the fight and we are almost an hour and a half in? Zack... dude, I love you, but get to the point will ya! Weve been waiting three years for this fight! Anyway, the next set piece takes place at the capital where Superman has agreed to speak to the committee investigating him. Apparently he used his private email or something. I don't know. But, Donald Trump wants to build a wall around the world to keep Superman out. So, it MUST be bad. In all seriousness however, this is actually one of the most shocking scenes in the movie... If you haven't seen it yet, and judging by the drop in box office some of you may not have, stop reading if you want to be shocked and not spoiled. Go make some brownies or something.

Okay... I think it's safe... they're gone.

So, this scene starts with Lex once again trying to convince the Senator to get on board. That's just not going to happen because Elasti Senator is not having any of it. Lex directs Mercy to go save his seat. GUYS! IT'S MERCY! WE ARE GOING TO GET TO SEE MERCY GRAVES KICKING ASS AND TAKING NAMES! YES! Ehhhh... maybe not so much...

The committee begins the hearings as Superman arrives. I love his entrance and walk into the chambers. It is a great moment and feels straight out of the comics. Probably because it is straight out of the comics. Superman arrives and looks at the government's star witness. A man who lost his legs in the battle of Metropolis. A former Wayne Enterprises employee who is like totally sane guys... no grudge at all. He's got a spanking new hot ride for a wheel chair courtesy of LexCorp. Senator Holly Hunter is speaking and asking Superman a question when she looks down at her desk and sees a jar of Grandma's peach tea. She recalls her earlier conversation with Lex Luthor and becomes very concerned. Superman picking up on this immediately begins to look around and focuses on the guy in the wheel chair. Just has he does THE FREAKING US CAPITOL BUILDING EXPLODES from a bomb in that awesome new wheelchair. It's a shocking scene. And, I have to give the producers major props. NO ONE saw that coming. Not even Superman and it's something that he even mentions later that he SHOULD have seen coming. We get a heart breaking shot of Superman standing alone in the building as it burns around him.

Now... I know people have a problem with this scene because he's just standing there instead of zipping around looking for survivors. And, I actually concede this nitpick. I think they could have easily shown him using his super speed and then coming to a stop and still have that shot we got. Who knows, maybe they did and cut it. But, it's something that I will give the detractors a point for in their complaints. It's truly a shocking moment and doesn't leave your mind right away. Superman is shaken by what happens and he needs Lois to center him and remind him of what he stands for and why we need him. He's not truly convinced as he flies off. At this point the world and public are starting to really turn against him. This is his lowest point in the movie, at least you would think it is... but it's about to get lower.

Elsewhere Batman has stolen the kryptonite that Lex had retrieved from the India Ocean remains of the World Engine and has weaponized it to take down Superman. Alfred is trying to convince him that it's folly and bring him back from the edge, but it's just not working. Batman is convinced he has to destroy him as no one man can be trusted with that kind of power. Lex now moves his master plan into its final stages. He kidnaps Ma Kent, who is a waitress in this universe. Just one more thing that Hack Snyder got wrong... sheesh! Yes, people actually complain about this little nugget. He has persuaded Batman/Bruce Wayne to take down Superman. He just needs to convince Superman to take on the Bat. He meets with Lois on the top of a LexCorp tower and explains his master plan. He full on monologues to Lois. After explaining what he has set in motion he pushes Lois off the building. She is of course saved by Superman. Who flies back up to confront Lex. He's about to take him out when Lex calls him Clark, thereby revealing he knows who he is and that he has his mom, MARTHA being held hostage in a building that even Lex doesn't know the location of in order to make sure Superman has to take on Batman to save her life. Superman reluctantly agrees and flies to Batman's bat signal where a fully armored Batman is waiting.

Who Will Win? Here we go people... Get ready for it. Three long years... this is going to be E.P.I.C. For like 8 minutes anyway.

Batman

Superman

Round 1

FIGHT!!!!

Superman does the "superhero landing" and begins to try to talk to Batman. Batman cuts him off and starts firing weapons at him, guns and sound wave amplifiers. Superman quickly dispatches these weapons and gives Batman a little shove that throws him about 200 feet away. He warns Batman to stay down that he can end this fight in a second if he chose to or wanted to. This is stated by Superman, because I believe it's the writers way of telling the audience that, yes, we know in actuality this would last a second. But Superman won't do that. And, it's this reason that Batman can gain the upper hand and ultimately defeat him. Batman fires a projectile weapon at Superman that he catches mid-air in a clear nod to the comics. In fact this entire fight takes huge inspiration from Frank Miller's story and it works really well here. When he catches the arrow it explodes releasing a Kryptonite gas that gets in Superman's system weakening him to the point that Batman can now beat up on him.

The fight goes on for a few more minutes with Superman gaining and losing the advantage as his system battles the Kryptonite. Finally Batman has Superman pinned down and is ready to kill him with a Kryptonite spear. When Superman pleads for him to save MARTHA. This stops Batman in his tracks and he screams at Superman why he said that name. See, they both have mothers with the same name. What a coincidence, right? Batman when hearing this begins to have flashbacks to the night his parents died. He is still yelling at Superman when Lois shows up to stop him and she explains that it's the name of Superman's mom. This is what finally snaps Batman out of his psycho mentality. He flashes back to his father calling out to MARTHA, which just happens to sound just like Clark calling out his own mother's name.

Now, a lot of people are ragging on this scene because of how quick the resolution is and how chummy they become simply because they have a parent with the same name. It may seem that way, but I love it and here's why...

This scene is the reason we have to see the Wayne's murder again at the beginning of the movie. It doesn't have the emotional impact if we don't have that at the beginning of the movie. It's pointed out again and again in the movie that Batman's actions are not normal. He's not acting like Batman should act. He's more vicious and nasty then we are used to because he is a broken man. My guess is that it was the death of Robin that set him on this path and the Battle of Metropolis is what put him over the edge. Nobody can get through to him, and by nobody I mean Alfred. It's hearing his mother's name repeated from a man that is about to die as he is pleading for his own mother. Batman remembers his father pleading for Bruce's mom. This is what finally snaps him back. He realized he's about to kill a good man. Yes, it's a bit hokey, but in that moment it was Superman that saved him. Not consciously, and some would say, "Then it doesn't matter and is just bad writing" and they may very well be right. But, I choose to believe that this small connection to this "alien" is what makes Bruce realize that he is not the devil and not the enemy (as Alfred had already tried to explain to him earlier in the film). So, I liked this scene and it hit a nerve for me. I understand others' views are different and that's fine.

So, back to the story. The fight is over. They both realize there is a larger threat with regards to Lex Luthor and the creature he has constructed. Batman promises Superman that he will save Martha Kent so he can deal with the larger threat. And it is the rescue scene that is probably the single coolest Batman scene put to film. I don't think any of the previous movies have come anywhere close to this scene in showing how we expect to see Batman take out a bunch of henchman. And Batman's exchange with Martha after saving her had the theater cracking up.

Batman: "I'm a friend of your son's."

Martha: "I figured. The cape."

Not exactly correct I know, but I just had to call attention to this little conversation. I genuinely loved that moment.

Now in the interest of saving time for this review, because I've gone on longer than I thought, let's just jump to the battle with Doomsday. Forgive me if I can't recall this beat for beat, but what I do remember is that, while it was nothing we haven't really seen before, it had great moments for every hero. Batman doing everything he can to slow Doomsday down even though he is completely outmatched. THAT my friends is Batman. Superman letting loose with all of his powers but at the same time protecting those that he loves. His hearing Lois Lane's heartbeat as she was trying to get the spear and was near death was a great nod to the comics and a great moment for Superman. Even in that moment where there is this huge creature that is unstoppable and on the loose, he rushes to the aid of someone. Human life is more important in that moment. Superman retrieves the spear and heads out to defeat Doomsday, telling Lois just how much he loves her by admitting she is his world before he flies away. Lois instinctively knows what this means and pleads for him to stop, but Superman knows what must be done and will do it, no matter the cost.

Now, let me back track for just a second.

Wonder Woman

Seriously... Gal Gadot got a lot of heat when she was cast mostly because she was too skinny and her chest was too small. I never doubted her casting, however. I was a bit worried if she could act, as I was only familiar with the actress from the "Fast and Furious" movies, but I knew she would be up for it physically. Zack doesn't cast these rolls and not make sure these actors aren't physically fit for the part. But, I have to say she is, without a doubt, a revelation. Not only is she gorgeous, but it's as if Wonder Woman literally jumped off the page into this movie. I have a feeling that if her solo movie is a hit, she will have the same effect on this character that Chris had on Superman. And her solo movie's success will be what ultimately saves this universe. As the critical response and box office that is really good, but not great, has Warner's worried a little. And it should. As much as I've argued for the movie and about the box office, I have to admit that this movie not hitting the billion mark will make the studio nervous. Not enough to scuttle the major movies already planned or in the can, but certainly enough to put Zack on a very short leash. And that's a shame because it shouldn't be that way.

Anyway, during the battle with Doomsday, Wonder Woman has an incredibly cool entrance. We saw it in the trailer, but somehow it wasn't diminished in my eyes. In just one movie DC has shown that Marvel, even though they have supporting female heroes, just can't compete with what DC can bring to the table. That's why she's so important to this universe. If she connects, and judging by the critics and fans she has connected in a big way, then they will bring a section of the public to their movies that Marvel has had trouble attracting. The young female audience. It's the reason that I still think that Justice League will be huge. Warner's will fix the mood and tone complaints and they will have a true female superhero front and center. Black Widow just can't compete. And, I love that character.

So, just as it seems the heroes are not going to be able to defeat Doomsday, Superman makes the ultimate sacrifice for mankind and defeats him. When I saw this, I was surprised. Not because I didn't see it coming, but because I was genuinely surprised they went there so soon. Having him die so early in this universe's story takes away from the emotional impact for the fans, but it does something that I really love. It will be Superman's death that will bring the other Metahumans/heroes out of hiding and willing to join the team when Batman comes knocking. I know people are a bit upset that Superman won't be there with Batman forming the League, but I would rather have Superman's sacrifice be the impetus for the League's heroes to come forward. Let Batman be the one going around and knocking on their doors. It won't be Batman's winning personality convincing them to join in my opinion. Superman's sacrifice has turned the world completely on his side. With his sacrifice the world realizes how special Superman was and how much he is needed.

Superman's death also holds great significance with Batman. He voices this as he states to Diana how he has failed him. Batman is a hero and in this movie he was very much NOT a hero. Superman was and is the better man, and Batman/Bruce Wayne acknowledged it. He has to be better for him. To honor his sacrifice Batman has to be a better hero. I don't see how more people haven't taken this out of the movie. But, I think that's just because people want to complain and not give it any credit.

We get a quick scene with Batman confronting Lex Luthor, who has shaved his head (by choice which is interesting), in prison. Batman doesn't brand him or hurt him in any way. Another sign he is not the same Batman that he was at the beginning of the movie. Lex gives Batman a warning. That he is coming. We know that "he" is Darkseid of course, which is why I was hoping to see the Omega symbol on Lex's forehead. But, no such luck.

The movie ends with Clark Kent's funeral and dirt rising off of the casket, so obviously our boy is coming back.

In Summary:

This movie was not perfect. It has some flaws. It has some pacing issues and some plot holes that I think will probably be lessened by the director's cut. But, this movie is GOOD. It is a fun comic book movie that just DOES NOT deserve the heat it's getting. There are some really good moments in this movie and some of the best comic book scenes we've seen. Seriously, the Parademon scene was worth the price of admission. Did we ever think we would ever get to see that? There is something to build on, and despite what people are trying to say otherwise, it deserves to continue. I liked "Man of Steel" and I liked "Batman v Superman" even more. And, I think that with repeated viewings and time more people and critics will change their tune. The acting in this movie is very good. The two biggest question marks, Ben and Gal Gadot, justified their casting and then some. Ben, I think will own this part more so than Christian Bale when his run as the character is over, and I've already stated what I think Gal's contribution will be to the character. Henry was solid. I wish he got more to do and was allowed to show a bit more enjoyment. But, I think that will come now that they've gotten their "Empire Strikes Back" movie out of the way. The weakest link for me was Jessie's Lex. I just didn't take to it. But, I've only seen the movie once, so he could grow on me with repeated viewings. The writing was a definite improvement over "Man of Steel", and I'm one of the few that thinks the writing wasn't as bad as people would have you believe. All in all a fine second outing. So, my grade... on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being "OMG Hack Snyder deserves to have his house blown up in super slow mo and should never be allowed to do another comic book movie" and 5 being "OMG... this is the most EPIC movie that ever EPIC'D WITH EPICNESS". I give this a...

Rating: 4/5

Final Thoughts:

This movie, like "Man of Steel", has caused much discussion among fans and critics. And, while I think discussion like this is healthy, I also believe that a lot of the negative response is a product of mob mentality. Once it becomes cool to bash something everyone just jumps on the bandwagon. This movie doesn't deserve it. It doesn't deserve to have petitions out there asking for the removal of its director. It's embarrassing to me as a Superman fan that DC fans are doing this. It's this kind of reaction that gives us all a bad name. Haters gonna hate I guess. For me it accomplished its goal. It gave me a good movie that I enjoyed immensely. And it set up the DC Universe effectively.

Stephen Wright