Fearing the actions of Superman are being left unchecked, The Dark Knight takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With a new threat arising, it's up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences and stop the destruction of the world, their home. With a new cast of heroes and villains joining the universe that was setup brilliantly in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman cranks it up to 11, and as enjoyable as it may be, if falters along the way.
Dawn of Justice sees a new Bruce Wayne / Batman introduced for this universe, and i'm happy to say Ben Affleck nails this role as an older, more aggressive vigilante. His side of the story is well developed, there's a solid foundation on why he doesn't trust Superman and how he goes about planning his downfall. It may take a solo film to show how he became this way, but for now Affleck may be the best Batman yet. The new Alfred in Jeremy Irons and the returning Laurence Fishburn as Perry White are the older, wiser characters that provide much needed words of advice for our heroes. Superman himself Henry Cavill has a slightly lesser time of progressing his character this time round, and actually looks rather stoic in some key scenes. Yet him and Amy Adams' Lois Lane are the real heart of this story, and the closing scenes may get you a bit teary eyed. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is very good, even though she only has a dozen lines in the whole film. To see her in action during the last act is probably the best vindication for her casting. The inclusion of minor roles for Holly Hunter and Scoot McNairy give the sense of a more realised Metropolis. And finally there is Lex Luthor, an eccentric and manic take on the famous villain played by Jesse Eisenberg. This performance will either rub you the wrong way or you won't mind it much. In my opinion it works, with all his ticks and dark turns. Although different from previous incarnations, he embodies the qualities of Luthor, but only just.
The plot and subplots are engaging but uneven in presentation, so there's a lot of potential that feels squandered. For a film titled Batman v Superman, we never really see the two of them at odds enough. The motivation for them to fight is more down to misunderstanding. The introduction (or tease) of other Justice League members during one scene in particular, although interesting, felt rushed. In fact the film just tries to include too many ideas from sources like The Dark Knight Returns, Red Son and another that surprised me, which was my big worry going in. And despite all that, without doubt the most geeky, fanboy moment was the Knightmare Batman scene, weird and bizarre in all it's glory, a huge tease for what's to come in the franchise.
The film has a more comic book style than most, it never drags and gets to the point quickly, moving along like a breeze. Yet annoyingly the structure of certain scenes felt jarring, like it's about to reach greatness but then diverts to subplots that are either uninteresting or take too long to resolve. The last act is the biggest victim of this.
For whatever problems the film has, I feel it's dark and grim tone is not one of them.. The DC comics have always been known for their psychological and political themes, so i'm fully on board with the direction taken for this new universe. There are moments of humour from Perry White, Alfred and others several times throughout the film to break up the tension, so any accusations of this being joyless are just plain false. Definitely not the 'wink wink at the audience' kind of jokes that some comic book films offer, but enough to make these characters memorable. In saying that, there are moments of horror and brutality that may be too much for younger children.
The action scenes, when they finally arrive, are superbly shot. Batman's hand to hand combat against thugs is fast and fierce, while his showdown with Superman is the spectacle you would expect. The batmobile and batwing make appearances, they look and sound as frightening as ever. The final battle is given the 'everything including the kitchen sink' treatment, an explosion of CGI that some will love and others may hate.
Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL once again have produced a fantastic score to accompany this film. The standout tracks for me are the epic 'Their War Here' and the emotional 'Beautiful Lie'. And of course the Wonder Woman theme 'Is She With You' is ideal for the Amazonian heroine's grand appearance. Oddly, there are scenes where the music becomes intruding and loud when a more subtle approach was required.
As much as i loved watching these iconic characters finally on screen together, i feel it's a step back from the more focused Man of Steel. Wether it's the direction under Zack Snyder or the writing by Chris Terrio, Warner Bros will need to make a few changes to hit a home run next time round. The critics have made their feelings known with a nonsensical over reaction, but Batman v Superman feels like one for the fans.