Directed by Zack Snyder
March 19, 2016 (Auditorio Nacional) / March 25, 2016 (United States)
Having witnessed the devastation of Metropolis firsthand, Bruce Wayne decides that Superman is a threat and must be stopped while the world comes to terms with the repercussions of having a God like alien among them.
Henry Cavill returns as Clark Kent/Superman. Clark has settled into his life as a Daily Planet reporter and begun a relationship with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who he keeps calling “Lo” as a nickname. That bugged me. It was a bad nickname and far too casual for the character. Clark Kent/Superman is a good and kind man but a guy using “Lo” as a nickname for ANYBODY would also use finger guns as a greeting and Superman is just not that guy.
Jesse Eisenberg was definitely an unusual choice to play Lex Luthor. Eisenberg created a villain that even without superpowers was a true threat for a character with god-like powers. Luthor was thoroughly nuts. Jesse Eisenberg usually plays manic characters of some type and Luthor was manic evil but a completely unhinged manic evil. That peach tea moment with Sen. June Finch (Holly Hunter) alone shows how creepy crazy he was. That was just a saying that he turned into a gross death notice.
Lex Luthor was trying to bring a god down to Earth because of what happened in his own past. Luthor was physically abused by his father. Superman was saving everyone and Luthor had desperately wanted someone to save him as a child. He was angry at the world. He was angry at God and Superman with all his powers represented God who did not save him when he was calling out for help. He was lashing out in the only way his mind could come up with.
Initially I was one of those people that wanted Bryan Cranston to play Lex Luthor. He certainly could look the part and he is a good actor but after seeing what he did in the 2012 version of Total Recall I am not one of those people anymore. It took me a while to get around to that particular film and I just thought he was not good in a not good film. He does not know how to perform well in a film with fantastical elements. That could be because he cannot take the material seriously as an actor. He certainly would not be the first actor to be like that. At any rate I think Eisenberg took the character in a new and interesting direction.
For me at times this felt more like a Batman movie though than a Superman movie and that was mostly the point I guess. A lot of the story took place in Gotham and the focus was on introducing Ben Affleck’s iteration of the character. Here Batman has been fighting crime for a long time and there are moments in this movie when it seems as if it is getting to him. It is certainly getting to Alfred (Jeremy Irons), his loyal butler, who is worried about the man he has been caring for since his parents were murdered.
As his alter ego Batman, that man is going around branding people with some kind of portable branding iron so that when they are dumped in the prison system everybody there knows that Batman put them there and it puts their life at danger. This seems extremely dark and perhaps more than a few screws loose.
Believing that an all-powerful God cannot be all good or that an all good God cannot be powerful Luthor’s plan is to bring Superman down to Earth. He manipulates people and events to turn opinion against Superman as well as to make the hero doubt himself. This I could see the comic book Lex Luthor doing. This feels like a possible storyline from a comic. It is not some super powered villain doing battle with Superman. It is a deranged human using his mind to take out the hero.
Part of the plot here involves Luthor using Bruce Wayne’s fear to turn him against Superman and force Superman to either kill him or he to kill Superman. Bruce Wayne saw the destruction in Gotham firsthand and has been afraid ever since of what could happen and that is what propels the story mainly via Lex’s manipulation. I am just trying to figure out how Luthor found out that Bruce was Batman. In the beginning of the film Luthor’s plot is just about knocking Superman down a few pegs but then it seems as if he had some kind of knowledge about Bruce Wayne being Batman not to mention he figured out that Clark Kent was Superman. I was not exactly sure how that bit of understanding came about. In the comics Luthor is always one step ahead of everybody but at some point you do get to how he found stuff out. Not really here.
Despite that issue I think Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a good film. I think the story is great and the action scenes are fantastic. It is a slow burn that lays out story elements until the end. As the film transpires, Clark becomes less and less sure of himself and what he is doing. He is trying to make the world a better place but what he is and can do has consequences.
One could view the world’s reaction to Superman as an allegory to America’s reaction to 9/11 and the fear of unknown outsiders. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), a man with serious issues to begin with, is pushed over the edge by what he sees in Metropolis. Bruce’s desire is to be proactive and stop Superman before he becomes a genuine threat, and it is too late.
This is a dark story about characters and society being pushed to the edge. It is about sacrifice and how tragedy can damage people and make others fearful. We see a bitter and angry amputee (Scoot McNairy) get manipulated by Luthor. Luthor takes out anyone in his quest to destroy the world’s newest savior from his friends to those caught in the crossfire.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does a nice job of teasing the characters that will show up in Justice League as well as what would have been the ongoing storyline of all these films. Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher all appear as Barry Allen/Flash, Arthur Curry/Aquaman, and Victor Stone/Cyborg via brief clips that make you excited for more in the next film.
Gal Gadot enters the DC universe as Wonder Woman after having to pass on a role in Man of Steel due to pregnancy. She is not too well rounded of a character though. She shows up to kick ass and banter with Bruce really. We are given nothing of her background in this film other than she was after a really old picture that Lex Luthor possessed that proves her to be older than she appears. She was a little bit of a disappointment as a character but what she did get showed enough potential that I was not really too worried anyway. I was nervous about her as Wonder Woman, but this assuaged me.
I have only watched the director’s cut of the movie and I think it is absolutely fantastic. It is definitely a slow burn but it’s a slow burn that builds to a frenetic finale with Doomsday. Doomsday was everything I hoped it would be. This was just an unstoppable force of destruction. It ripped through everything and its very nature forced the finale. I do not see how everybody surviving would have worked. It would have cheapened the ending and whatever ending would have come would not have been as impactful.
People focus too much on that Martha moment and it is not that big of a deal folks. Bruce Wayne still mourns for his parents. If he did not, he would not be Batman and speaking for myself I know it is a bit of a jolt to hear my mother’s name come out of people’s mouths. I think Superman should have built up to his mother’s first name rather than saying it outright. That felt unnatural but the rest was just fine.
What they do here in my opinion is something that Marvel does not often do which is honor the source material. While not a direct transfer, we get characters recognizable as coming from the comics. A one-to-one translation is not possible because most comic book characters have 40 or 50 or more years worth of mythology and doing one-to-one may not necessarily work but doing things that reference the history can.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a very good superhero movie. It is not perfect, but the Ultimate Edition is a great film. Watch that one!