An issue with comic book films is their intended audiences are so wide and varied there is no way to please them all. The “best” elements to some will be the aspects that ruin it for others. “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” is certainly blessed/cursed by this very paradox.
Zack Snyder sets the tone for his super-friends-magna-opus with the opening sequence. We’ve already seen the murder of Bruce’s parents at least a half dozen times by now, but never quite like this. With Bruce narrating, we watch his memories of two defining events in his youth, intercut to highlight their parallels. These parallels and contrasts are a theme that resonates throughout the entire film. Not just between Bruce and Kent, but including Luthor as well. We can see what motivates each of them, and how they can each be manipulated by their deep seated fears. (And their severe Mommy/Daddy issues.)
On one hand, this can be far more psychology and mental deconstruction for those hoping to see a rock-em-sock-em battle between gods and monsters. But on the other hand, every story benefits from characters that are well defined, three dimensional, and have flaws we can identify with. It’s nice to see Snyder and company took the time and effort to put some thought into who these heroes are. The script and dialogue are exceptional…. Except for when it isn’t. With so much that’s on-point, it’s quite jarring when something is momentarily stupid. (ex: When Bruce Wayne finally discovers the identity of the White Portuguese.)
Visually the film fares as well as the script. While still sadly undersaturated, the film does have a surprising number of awesome visual metaphors and iconic imagery. Some of these are taken straight from classic comics, others are fresh and new. Again, all of these great compositions only make the bad scenes that much more unpalatable. Much of the character CGI is as cartoonish as it was in “Man of Steel” and immediately deflates any tension in the scene. An ambitious long take fight sequence during Wayne’s “Knightmare” deserves credit for what Snyder was attempting, but the fight choreography is so slow and staged that doesn’t care any “weight” to it. Thankfully a later warehouse fight, that is more heavily edited, is considerably more satisfying.
But these aren’t the questions that everyone is asking about the film. Let’s move on to the important stuff. Yes, Ben Affleck is amazing as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. He somehow seems to be able to emote better behind the cowl than perhaps all previous batmen. Frankly, everyone is exceptional in their role. Gal Gadot, while condemned by many for being too small does convey a surprising fierceness as the Amazon Warrior. (Especially when her new Junkie XL theme kicks in!!) Jesse Eisenberg take on a younger Lex Luthor is a refreshing mix of genius and madness. His arrogance is matched only by his ability to achieve what he sets out to accomplish. Yes, there are characters from the upcoming Justice League and standalone films, but for those worried they would crowd an already packed film, worry not! These appearances are little more than cameos and teasers for the comic fans in the crowd. It should also be noted that there are a few surprises in the film that never hit the rumor mill. In fact, Snyder pulls a Hitchcock and at the beginning of the movie asks the audience to preserve those surprises for the fans who have not yet seen it.
Dawn of Justice in undeniably a mixed bag. But the sheer impressiveness of what Snyder has successfully pulled off coupled with the massive amount of fun this film delivers tends to overshadow a lot of its shortcomings. While it pales against “Watchmen”, “Batman v Superman:Dawn of Justice” still ranks among Snyder’s best.