Movie Review: Batman v Superman - Dawn of Justice

From the visionary director of acclaimed superhero flicks Watchmen and Man of Steel, as well as the grim and violent 300, the much-anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice entered theaters to a welcoming that many predicted, but not many expected to be true. While it was a box-office success all around, the film was met with a brutal response by critics, as many called it too dark and humorless for its own good. While some of these critics may be justified in their statements, Dawn of Justice might be one of most daring superhero films of the decade -- not only introducing a plethora of famous characters to the big screen for the first time, but also successfully concocting a brilliant visual treat for fans of the comics. While it may be flawed in more ways than one, this legendary dive into the ever-expanding DC Universe was well-worth the price of admission. 

Two men toiled by regret, scarred by loss, and drained of all hope -- one a fading warrior whose lost nearly everything, the other a monarch branded a terrorist -- the secret identities of millionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and reporter Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) enter a battlefield of more than just war. Following the catastrophic events of Man of Steel, which found the alien savior Superman battling his Kryptonian foe General Zod (Michael Shannon) and ultimately leaving the city of Metropolis in turmoil, a scarred and weary Bruce Wayne soon puts the alien in his sights. Convinced that Superman has become a threat to humanity, Wayne embarks on a personal vendetta against him -- all while the flamboyant and conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) enters the game with a deadly new weapon. All culminating into an all-out brawl of both brains and brawn, ideologies and physical limits aren't the only things tested by the close of the film.

Engulfed in shadows, but never too dull to leave me uninterested, Dawn of Justice left me with both an array of excitement and unanswered questions. With its many hints to the future of the DC Extended Universe, and a plethora of fantastic performances that made me beg for more, Dawn of Justice was ultimately a fan-service to comic book nerds who have been dying to see this film since they were kids. Rather than leaving me feeling empty or regretful of the two hours of punching and more punching, the film left me with a great sense of hope, as this daring project initiated by one of the top directors in the superhero business pulled off something I never would've expected. Resulting in an enjoyable -- and visually stunning -- investigation into the minds of both leading superfriends, the minor flaws of this superhero epic is made up for by its ambitious storytelling. 

Before I go into the nitty-gritty of the film, one of the most defining aspects had to be its surprising cast. From Ben Affleck's fascinating and brutal take on the Bat of Gotham to Jesse Eisenberg's brilliantly insane Lex Luthor, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the cast in this film. While Henry Cavill's Superman may be the star of the show, it's Affleck's Bruce Wayne that really shined above all. Marred by the events of not only Superman's destruction in Gotham and the death of millions in the city he has sworn to protect, but also the recurring nightmares of his own clouded past, Bruce Wayne is continually haunted by regret in this film. Ultimately creating a new and far more investing layer to the character that we've never seen on the big screen, I believe the only actor who could've captured this aging and tormented Batman was Ben Affleck. In support of his casting from the very beginning, I knew Affleck would deliver something special in his interpretation of the Caped Crusader. Breathing a brooding -- yet entirely interesting -- new life into the legendary character, there's no doubt that Affleck's Batman will stand out as one of my favorites.

Even if the film begins to feel more and more like a Batman movie as you go along -- with Bruce Wayne's own agenda overshadowing the somewhat forced subplot of the Man of Steel's threat against humanity -- there's no doubt that Henry Cavill's conflicted hero is just as essential to the film as the Caped Crusader. Even with a multitude of new characters rushing in to steal the spotlight, the film manages to squeeze in just enough exposition for Superman/Clark Kent so they didn't leave him in the dust. Exploring a deeper side of the character that we only got a glimpse of in 2013's Man of Steel, the film showed us a man toiled with regret and driven to action once he is provoked by the Batman. While Cavill's Superman may not be fleshed out completely, it was great to see Zack Snyder's version of the famous character evolve throughout the film, leading up to a conclusion that will ultimately change the character forever.

The film also explored the evolved relationship between Supes and reporter
Lois Lane (Amy Adams), with decent -- if not mushy -- results 
Two other surprising characters that I thoroughly enjoyed in the film were Jesse Eisenberg's cocky Lex Luthor and Gal Gadot's seductive Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. Two characters I was more skeptical of because about their casting than Ben Affleck's Batman, I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up loving these two characters. While they may not be perfect interpretations of their comic-book counterparts -- especially the hipster-like prick of Eisenberg's Luthor -- Gadot and Eisenberg were refreshing takes on two characters that I never really knew much about. Yes, while I enjoyed the past incarnations of the billionaire supervillain Lex Luthor in projects like the 1978 Superman film and the 2001 Smallville television series, Eisenberg's mentally unstable and morally ambiguous take on the megalomaniac was both thrilling and creepy. Even if his take may not be what the fanboys wanted in their Lex Luthor, I enjoyed the role even with its many clich├ęs.

As for one of the newest characters we've seen on the big screen, Gal Gadot's brilliant and seductive Diana Prince was ultimately one of the highlights in the film. Introduced in a similar way as Selina Kyle/Catwoman was in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, a seductive thief out to steal from the hands of Bruce Wayne, Gadot's character soon evolves into something ten times more exciting -- and menacing -- than that of Catwoman. A mysterious Amazonian princess that has secluded herself from society for years now, Diana Prince embarks on her own agenda in the film, ultimately intertwining with the conflict of her fellow superpowered allies. As she enters the conflict between man and god, Gadot's Wonder Woman becomes one of the most interesting -- and flat-out awesome -- characters in the film. With her own past eluded to many times throughout the film, her strong-willed warrior persona is slowly revealed to us, ultimately leaving the best bits to be revealed in her solo film coming in 2017.

Mixing together a blend of new characters and old into a story of jumbled agendas and a plethora of references to future films, one of the toughest things director Zack Snyder did in this film was craft a plot that not only had to work for a two and half-hour film, but also introduce more new characters than any superhero film has before. While his thorough efforts may not have been perfect -- the film feeling disjointed at times and some of the plotlines too overwhelming to take in -- one has to give props to the guy who pulled off something only a handful of directors could do for a film like this. Similar to how he churned out 2009's brooding superhero flick Watchmen, which introduced a multitude of characters and a handful of dark ideologies to go along with them, Snyder managed to deliver something unique and thick in subject matter in this superhero epic. With the fate of the growing DC Extended Universe resting on his toned shoulders, Snyder did what he has always done, and worked with what he had to create a superhero film for the ages.

While the work of Zack Snyder and the film's respective writers and cinematographers may be special in their own ways, one of the most meaningful elements of this film's production had to be its musical score. Birthed from the mind behind some of my favorite films, including Inception, Rush, and the Dark Knight trilogy, the score in Dawn of Justice could be one of the best I've heard in a while. After hearing the news that composer Hans Zimmer would be stepping away from superhero films for a while, this instantly allowed me to appreciate this film's score more than I ever would. With the help of Dutch composer Junkie XL -- who previously worked on films like Deadpool and Mad Max: Fury Road -- Zimmer concocted a brilliant new sound that managed to be reminiscent of both Man of Steel and the Dark Knight trilogy, but also contain a whole new level of excitement. With respective musical themes for everyone of the film's main characters -- from an evolved version of Man of Steel's Superman theme to an dynamic new sound for Wonder Woman -- Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL's work on the film couldn't be overlooked.

Overall, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice may have been muddled in a gloom and at times sluggish atmosphere, racing to pack in as many storylines as it could, but it nevertheless was an ambitious project put forth as an excellent successor to a lackluster Man of Steel. Further escalating the struggles of Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, as well as introducing a handful of fresh and conflicting ideologies to create a new layer of political and philosophical elements for the growing DC Extended Universe, Dawn of Justice -- even in its flawed missteps -- was an essential piece to the puzzle as we get closer and closer to the much-anticipated Justice League film. Even if I may not be the biggest DC fan out there, at this point I might be more excited for JL than I am for the next Avengers film. Sorry, Thanos.

I gave this film a 7 out of 10, because even in its many missteps in terms of plot progression and character development, the film brought a legendary duo together to fight on the big screen for the first time ever. Getting me excited for not only the JL film, but also the respective solo films for characters like Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller's The Flash, and especially more of Ben Affleck's Batman, Dawn of Justice was a project I never thought I'd see on-screen, with its overwhelming elements thought to be too much for one director to handle. With that, I think Zack Snyder and Company proved me wrong.                         

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