Going into the theater Thursday night, for the early premier of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was more than a bit worried. In the preceding days I had devoured every spoiler-free review I could find, and they weren’t good. BvS is currently sitting at 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics panning the film for myriad reasons, while fan reviews have remained fairly positive at 74%. I tried to keep an open mind, but some of the more critical comments still lingered as the house lights dimmed.
The opening scene did little to quell the growing concern, as we’re forced yet again to relive the death of a young Bruce Wayne’s parents; this time with The Walking Dead alums Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan taking their turns as Ma and Pa Wayne, respectively.
Thankfully, the title sequence passes quickly enough, and after a weird bat-aided levitation; we’re whisked away to the Battle of Metropolis – this time from the perspective of Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne. This pivotal opening action scene sets the stage for the premise of the film, showing the events that lead to Wayne’s anger and resentment towards Superman.
From there, things really kick into overdrive, as the film quickly jumps to present day and between different locations across the world; reintroducing us to familiar faces from Man of Steel, introducing us to new characters, and (too) quickly setting a ton (too many) of plot points in motion. Mix in some introspective and brooding Clark Kent/Superman moments, a little witty-yet-dark banter between Jeremy Irons’ Alfred and Bruce, some twisted foreshadowing nightmare visions, and a bit of social espionage – and before you know it we’re to the the first big battle of the movie.
By the time Batman and Supes are done knocking each other around, it’s time for the huge, special effects-driven climactic fight (and our first official Wonder Woman siting). For as long as the film is, things wrap up very quickly from this point and it’s over before you know it.
– Cinematically, the scope of this film is amazing. Big sweeping shots that quickly zoom in to focus on the action are well supplanted with top-tier SFX and tight-shot, dialog-driven scenes. The production team also pays perfect tribute to the two main comic book sources, with a brief recreation of the Dark Knight Returns #2 cover, as well as a perfect (and moving) recreation of my favorite panel from Superman: Doomsday.
– The film is incredibly audibly satisfying, from the sound effects to the top notch soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. “Is She With You?” the Wonder Woman theme, is my personal favorite. Not only is it a great song, but it comes at the coolest moment in the movie and fits it perfectly.
– Ben Affleck turns in an incredible performance as an older, more brutal Batman. This isn’t the Gotham Knight from your childhood; Batfleck isn’t afraid to fire guns, use knifes and inflict torturous pain on his adversaries – with little-to-no sympathy. The Dark Knight Returns-inspired Batsuit is a perfect homage and might be my favorite yet. All of Batman’s gadgets and vehicles also reflect those from the comic and fit well. They also finally perfected the Batvoice; opting for a digital take, which is the most believable yet.
– Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is mysterious, gorgeous and kicks ass on a whole new level. Her introduction steals the show, and her armor and weapons are a sight to behold.
– Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is more hands-on than previous incarnations, constantly tinkering on Batman’s equipment and vehicles. He delivers one of my favorite lines of the movie while discussing what Batman has been through in the last 20 years.
– The introduction of Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg are really well done, don’t feel forced, and were much smaller cameos than I expected; which is a good thing. If it weren’t for Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller’s two brief Flash scenes would have stolen the show ala Quicksilver in X-men: Days of Future Past (but on a MUCH smaller scale).
– The story moves at a breakneck pace, trying to cram in a few too many plot devices, which causes the film to skip in-depth explanations for a lot of things. As a hardcore fanboy, it wasn’t hard for me to keep up, but I could see how a casual fan, or even someone taking a quick trip to the bathroom, could really get confused quickly. They could have easily spread this story over two films, spent more time developing certain aspects, and it would’ve been a lot better.
– Jesse Eisenberg’s Alexander Luthor was, in a word: awful. It seems like he’s trying to channel an entirely different, psychotic character. His portrayal of Lex would’ve been much better suited for The Riddler, which I think he would’ve played well.
– Nightmare visions happen a few times throughout the film, to a mostly negative effect. One features a cool cameo, while another foreshadows a scary adversary but is entirely too long, and the rest are just unnecessary and slightly annoying.
Final Grade: B+
Overall, BvS was a really good film, that hit on all the major points it needed to, set up a believable connected DCU universe, and left us with a ton of questions (in a good way), while setting the stage for more heroes and villains to come about. The pacing and overflow of content couldn’t bring the movie down entirely, as it was still highly entertaining and chock full of awesome Easter eggs for hardcore fans. I will definitely be seeing it again and absolutely recommend it.