Film review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

It’s been 18 months since Superman’s epic battle with General Zod almost razed the city of Metropolis, and humans’ discovery that they are not alone in the universe has come at a high price.

Mar 24, 2016, updated Mar 24, 2016

The widespread destruction and loss of life has citizens, including vigilante billionaire Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), struggling with the choice of either accepting or rejecting a super-powered alien.  Convinced that Superman (Henry Cavill) is corruptible and that his powers pose a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a vendetta against the clean-cut Kryptonian.

Batman v Superman is DC’c much-anticipated sequel to Man of Steel (2013) and represents the first expansion of the world established in that initial film into the full-fledged DC Extended Universe.  Zack Snyder has directed both films and has successfully delivered a rich and cohesive cinematic world in which to set his growing cast of superheroes and villains.

The casting choices for this film were brilliant.  Cavill reprises his role as Clark Kent/Kal-El, mastering the puzzled and disappointed expression of a misunderstood superhero.  And Affleck nails Batman; I’m withholding judgment until the next instalment before claiming he surpassed Bale, but he is convincing and impressive as the world-weary, seasoned vigilante.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, once you get used to his youth and the fact he has hair, is delightfully deranged and will work well in the films to come as a principal villain in the DC Expanded Universe.

The concept of a battle between Batman and Superman is based on a section of one of the most iconic graphic novels in comic-book history, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  Snyder’s previous success with film adaptations of famous graphic novels, such as my personal favourite Watchmen, made him an excellent choice as director.  In terms of style and mind-blowing action scenes, Snyder delivers a blockbuster straight from the superhero textbook.

However, there are some negatives. As a long-time fan of Miller’s work, this reviewer came to the film with expectations about plot and atmosphere – but the dark, brooding nihilism of Miller’s version of Batman is diluted down to a PG rating in Dawn of Justice.  Without revealing any spoilers, let’s just say this is an extremely loose adaptation of Miller’s book.

To balance my fan-girl enthusiasm, I took my partner along as a control subject. Having not seen Man of Steel, he found the first 15 minutes of Dawn of Justice highly confusing, while the film’s almost complete lack of humour had him wishing he’d been dragged along to see Deadpool again.

The rise in popularity of super-hero cinema, whether Marvel or DC, has been a wonderful ride for comic-book fans, but I do think we’ve had our fill of uber-male superheroes slugging it out. The introduction of Wonder Woman in this film is a breath of fresh air, although her character is largely under-utilised. A female superhero film would bring diversity to what is becoming an overworked trope.  To my mind, it is overdue.

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