Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

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By: Karen Valenzuela (@VictoriaNoir89)

I am fully aware of how polarizing this film’s reception has been, so I feel it’s my duty to say that these views and opinions are mine and do not reflect those of The Nerd Machine.

Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice premiered Thursday night, and you’d better believe I was right there in the front row of the theater – literally in the very front. In a recliner! Which was nice!

So without further ado, we’re going to get right into the meat of the film. Be warned, if you haven’t seen the film yet, there will absolutely be spoilers in this review. Stop reading now if you don’t want to be spoiled!

Batman is fighting Superman? But why?

We discover the answer to that pretty quickly, as the film starts with a long flashback scene detailing the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Because what Batman film is complete without that? It’s the catalyst for eventually becoming the scourge of Gotham’s criminals.

But now he has decided there’s a new scourge in the world, one far more dangerous than a few criminals on the streets of Gotham.

If you saw Snyder’s Superman flick Man of Steel, then the beginning of Batman v Superman was total deja vu. Superman’s final battle with fellow alien General Zod, the one that nearly obliterated Metropolis from top to bottom, is presented this time through the eyes of Bruce Wayne. His own building collapses in front of his eyes, with his people inside of it, and Superman is to blame.

Then there is U.S. Senator Finch, played as a rough’n’tough, raised-on-a-farm, takes-no-nonsense browbeater by Holly Hunter, who has been holding hearings for complaints against Superman. She’s publicly questioning whether having someone that powerful hurts mankind more than it helps.

While many in the world still see Superman as a god, there are a growing number of people who see him as a threat. Add to that list Bruce Wayne – the Batman.

I’m giving credit where credit is due. Ben Affleck did a phenomenal job as Bruce Wayne. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say this was a triumph that supersedes even Christian Bale. That’s saying something, since I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s Bat flicks. Under Affleck’s care, Bruce Wayne’s anger was a slow burn, mixed with obsession and a tinge of leftover PTSD from his childhood. The film tossed in a few legitimately startling nightmare sequences to let us know Mr. Wayne does not have a clear mind. (And can maybe see the future?) In fact, he’s pretty unbalanced. And as the years have progressed, his methods in taking down criminals have progressed. I use the word progressed loosely, however, because years and years of being Batman has hardened him, and has made him infinitely more violent, his view of the world even more pessimistic than it has been in any rendition of Bruce Wayne that I’ve seen before this.

He doesn’t believe in giving criminals second chances, he says, as Alfred diplomatically questions his methods – in particular the method in which he brands criminals. He literally has a little bat-shaped branding iron for this purpose. He seems to have lost his way over the years, and is simply going through the motions. Another day, another criminal put away…and branded. Every time he takes one down, another one pops up in their place. He feels like he hasn’t made any kind of actual difference in Gotham in the long run.

But with this new threat, Bruce sees a chance to finally make a difference, make the future better. And he has to take out the overly-powerful Superman, whom he sees as a danger to mankind.

(Let me pause for a moment and thank the movie gods for giving us a not-long-enough-at-all scene of shirtless Bruce doing ridiculously intense cross-fit training to prepare for his face-off with Superman. THANK YOU, MOVIE GODS.)

We receive insight into Bruce Wayne’s hero angst through his brooding, the way he stomps around his epic waterfront home, begrudgingly listening to Alfred’s words of wisdom laced with some great one-liners. Jeremy Irons is a high point as Alfred, who spends his time in this film being way cooler than just a butler. He works on Batman’s suit, on his Batmobile, and the rest of the Bat tech. He’s the brain behind the entire Bat operation. Bruce makes him tea, okay?

Which brings me to Superman (Henry Cavill), whose inner conflict wasn’t quite so inner. His hero angst needed Lois Lane (Amy Adams) as a sounding board. Lois was there for Clark to verbalize his emotions, keep him tethered to our planet. This isn’t his world, he tells her. And he promptly zooms off to seek solitude from a civilization that has stopped seeing him as a necessary good. In one scene in particular, Supes saves a little girl from a burning factory during a Day of the Dead celebration. The onlookers crowd around him and reach for him, reverence and tears on their faces. It seemed like a throwaway scene at the time, something to make the audience go, “But look! He still makes a difference!” Being Team Superman, I don’t need reminding. But it’s more than that. All of us seek validation when we forget why we do what we do, what it’s all for. For me, it was a moment of humanity, of vulnerability, from a superhero who typically gets slammed by the comic book community for being without an Achilles heel outside of Kryptonite.

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It’s difficult not to feel for the guy when he has two very powerful and rich men trying to weaponize Kryptonite to kill him. One of them is a psychotic version of the stereotypical Silicon Valley millionaire youth, buzzing through life like his sh*t don’t stink. And the other man is almost as psychotic, driven by a hero complex to end all hero complexes. I’m looking at you, Bruce.

Back to Lex Luthor, though, because he makes me seriously uncomfortable. From the way he stutters his way through his speech at the gala, to the sounds-brainy-but-is-actually-insane way that he talks to everyone, from Senator Finch, to Lois, to Superman himself. He’s seriously unbalanced, but the craziest part is that you don’t realize just how dangerous he is until he hacks into the archive on Zod’s scout ship. That is the moment when Lex Luthor becomes more than a rich egomaniac with daddy issues. He’s suddenly a twisted psychopath with more knowledge of what’s to come than someone that bad should have. (“Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!”) Jesse Eisenberg did a surprisingly good job with the role.

And what of the message he gives Batman when he’s visited in his prison cell after he’s arrested in connection to the press conference explosion and Doomsday’s creation? Everything points to the eventual arrival of Darkseid. Superman is presumably dead, leaving our world vulnerable. And it’s possible General Zod’s attack on Earth in Man of Steel brought our little planet’s existence to the attention of bigger baddies. Batman’s apocalyptic “knightmare” starring Evil Supes was maybe more of a premonition than anything – especially considering The Flash’s time-traveling warning to find “the key” Lois Lane. Those winged creatures looked a lot like Darkseid’s parademon minions. ScreenRant posted a theory that delves into the Darkseid references in greater depth, and it’s honestly brilliant.

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But let’s address the way BvS introduces the rest of the Justice League for a second here, because it had me and the guy sitting a few seats away from me flailing in our recliners. First with Bruce accessing the files he stole from Luthor and discovering the beautiful, slippery thief who outsmarted him at the party (go ‘head, Diana!) is another meta-human. (I lost the ability to breathe when we’re shown the picture of Wondy and her cronies in 1918, something we’ll be seeing in next year’s Wonder Woman.) And then with Diana Prince opening the rest of the files to see footage Luthor’s collected of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. There’s our Justice League, people! I have chills just writing about it.

The eventual showdown between Batman and Superman was absolutely stunning. It was electric. The way Batman used Kryptonite to even the playing field – total call-out to the comic with that canister emitting Kryptonite gas into Superman’s face after he catches it. How quickly Superman gained his powers back again and took the upper hand from Batman. The way the fight took them through each floor of the building. Magnificent. And then there’s the final battle between Doomsday and the Trinity. I’ll cover my girl Wondy in a second, but just seeing those three standing together, and watching the way they combine their efforts to take Doomsday down, made me cry a little. It’s probably one of the most iconic moments in the superhero genre.

It’s time for the Wonder Corner!

Now let’s talk about the best part of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. For as much as I enjoyed a lot of the pieces in BvS, Wonder Woman steals the show. From the first moment we see Gal Gadot as Diana Prince at Luthor’s shindig, the film is hers. We have no idea what she is doing there as she slinks through the room in the background of scenes – eye candy for Bruce Wayne until she proves she’s so much more than that. Sneaky Diana.

Gadot is Midas – every scene she touches turns to gold. When Lex Luthor babbles to his guests about Zeus and lightning bolts, she has this look on her face that says, “I was there and that isn’t even how it happened.” If you know about Wondy, then you know Zeus and the Olympian gods as a whole are very much involved in her story.

Her motives throughout the first half of the film are unclear until Bruce discovers why she was after Luthor’s research – a photograph. And not just a photograph, but one that very clearly points to her immortality. The photo is dated 1918, yet there she is in the forefront with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine!) and other dudes who we can only assume will be a part of next year’s Wonder Woman. That reveal, with Hans Zimmer’s musical score behind it, made me cover my mouth to keep from screaming.

But that was nothing compared to her role in the final battle. Wonder Woman makes an epic entrance. (And the music!) Every single shot of her in the fight looks like she’s having a blast. When she’s knocked down by Doomsday, she gives a snarling look of absolute glee before she attacks again. While Batman and Superman have hero angst throughout the film, Wonder Woman embraces her heroism, and in a lot of ways, she even looks to get off on it. She’s a superhero with power, strength, intelligence, and wisdom, but Gadot and the DCEU embrace her sex appeal without it mitigating her strength. I AM ALL FOR THIS. You slice off Doomsday’s hand, Wonder Woman!! Use that lasso! Yes!

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Just as a small aside, one of the defining traits of Wonder Woman is how she’s one of the strongest superheroes in DC comics, but she’s also one of the most compassionate superheroes to ever exist. While she is only in BvS for a few scenes, that compassion still comes through in a huge way. We see it in her face when she watches Lois approach after Superman’s death. She knows this is a great personal loss for this woman. Then, as Batman strains to pass Superman’s body to Wonder Woman so that she can lower him to the ground, she holds Supes like he weighs as much as a feather would weigh to the rest of us. She doesn’t need an extra set of hands, but she very purposefully allows Lois to help her anyways.

If this is what we have to look forward to with Wonder Woman in 2017, I’m five billion times more excited than I was before seeing BvS. Which is not a statement I make lightly.

Leaving Wonder Corner behind, this film wasn’t without its weaknesses. There were things that could have been handled better.

Unfortunately, Lois Lane is one of the low points in BvS. It seems that Lois might be the key to keeping Superman connected to Earth and its people, especially considering the fact that he was going to propose to her before his untimely “death.” So it makes sense that she’s a damsel throughout most of the film, constantly trudging straight into danger. She gives Clark a reason to keep being Superman. Clark and Lois’ scenes were sweet, but for me their relationship was relegated to the background, as was, unfortunately, Lois’ character. She’s going to be very important as the DCEU continues (“Find Lois. Lois is the key.”), so here’s hoping they add a bit more dimension to her character than simply being Superman’s damsel in distress and Clark’s love interest.

The beginning of the film, with the Waynes being murdered, intermingled with scenes of young Bruce sprinting off into the woods in anguish during their funeral and falling into a pit, is unfortunately long. I swear that kid falls in slow motion for twenty minutes straight. I get that it is there to show the beginning of Bruce’s journey to becoming Batman, but how many times do we need to see that? Granted, it also cements the fact that the murder of Bruce’s parents still affects him in a huge way, that all of these years of fighting crime, enacting vengeance on criminals for the death of his parents, hasn’t done anything to alleviate the pain and loss. But I think they could have presented it in a more effective way.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not perfect by any means. Snyder and company took a lot of risks, shoving a whole lot into two and a half hours, including a SLEW of Easter eggs for comic book fans. But for me, there was a huge pay off. They missed the mark here and there, but the ones they hit were solid bullseyes. No superhero film has made me hold my head, gasp, squeal, and cry in the theater until this one. My heart was beating so hard and so fast through most of BvS that I thought it might bust straight out of my chest. No other superhero film has gotten me that revved up. Ever. And when a film delivers that kind of an experience, there’s no way I can give it anything less than a stellar review.

Ben Affleck: 5 out of 5
Henry Cavill: 4 out of 5
Gal Gadot: 10 out of 5
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: 4.5 out of 5


    3 Comments

  1. Benjamin PhillipsMarch 27th, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    I love this movie. The look and the story are amazing. Ben Affleck owned it as Bruce Wayne/Batman. A huge surprise, for me, is Jesse Eisenberg. He’s very manipulative and dark. I can’t wait to see Gal Gadot in the solo Wonder Woman movie.

    It’s just weird to me how much criticism this movie is getting. The tone is dark, but I just don’t get it. The is not perfect but it keeps getting slammed and I can’t wrap my head around why.

  2. BernadetteMarch 28th, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I loved this movie and mirror your review almost perfectly minus Lex. I hated the psychotic portrayal. He is supposed to be “The Greatest Criminal Mind of Our Time!” Wonder Woman is the greatest! Ben was devine! Thank you for your review!

  3. Tim MApril 1st, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Just saw the movie and it was great. I even liked what seems like the 50th version of the Wayne murder scene I’ve seen through the years. Batman characterization was ingenious and novel. I actually liked the Lex Luthor portrayal–he seemed to get more deranged as the film progressed and his role as the “puppet master” was interesting, though I didn’t quite get his motivation (Daddy issues?). I’m glad the social media buzz is positive. Christopher Nolan inspired films take super heroes seriously, and I’m happy that this one did–addressing broad themes like power, goodness, and even redemption in a solid action film. Certainly ranks with the Batman trilogy as a superior film in the genre. Great review.

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