I enjoyed Man of Steel and the visual style of Zack Snyder is always superb. Yet going into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justive (BvS) I was not sure what to expect. In many ways this film is at odds with Christopher Nolan’s films, although the dramatic-realist tone is on par. This version of Batman is quite different from what we are used to though. This is midlife crisis Batman who is wrought with guilt and jaded with his crime fighting ways. I was at odds with the casting of Ben Affleck in this role, but he owns it and perfectly captures this Batman. Affleck’s Batman is easily in the Top 3 (I am still a fan of Michael Keaton) and I look forward to him taking on the role in future films.
The other half of this film features Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman. In this outing he is more at odds with his place on Earth. Is he a hero or threat? People are evenly divided by this question and, quite refreshingly, Snyder does not give a clear answer to this question. Instead, we are left to ponder on these questions outside of the film. This is an interesting aspect of Snyder’s films which people tend to overlook: he assumes people are smart and do not always need to be spoonfed answers in a nicely wrapped parcel. Confusingly, people want smarter films yet seem critical of those films which do not dumb it down enough. The majority of films being released now are not new IPs, so it is refreshing to have a smarter superhero film here.
Much of this film deals with the consequences of Metropolis being destroyed at the end of Man of Steel and the many casualties involved. In fact, I think this is the first superhero film to at least acknowledge the consequences of the destruction on-screen (we see buildings being rebuilt and the scars of the Metropolis battle are still fresh). In Marvel’s movies the destruction is usually acknowledged in one line, but the loss is never really dealt with.
It is these consequences which motivate both Batman and Superman. Batman blames the destruction on a self-righteous alien while Superman is not sure if he should even bother helping because his actions seem to make things worse despite saving the day.
We get to understand both of their motivations and Snyder favours neither, rather showing us both sides equally and letting us decide (although both sides have merits). The great battle between the two only comes towards the end of the film, whereas the first 2/3rds is dedicated to laying the groundwork. While the battle between these two is worthwhile and entertaining, it does not last too long before they unite against a greater threat. We are also introduced to Wonder Woman (who is not only hot but a badass Amazonian woman capable of holding her own) and a few other superheroes ever so briefly.
There are a few WTF moments as well, mostly Batman having a dream about the future and receiving a visit from a future The Flash. These things are odd for those not familiar with the comics or cannon, yet it will probably make more sense in future films and should be viewed with a grain of salt. This scenes do not actually add anything to BvS and you will not enjoy the film less for not understanding what these dream sequences are about.
The reviews for BvS have been mixed, but I found it to be entertaining and poignant when it deals with some strong themes about right and wrong and the consequences of being a superhero. Each actor brings their all to these roles and it makes the film all the better for it. I might enjoy watching this film a second time and appreciate it even more. Once we see the rest of the films too it will make more sense. For now, it is a solid film.