Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

BatmanVSupermanBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice entertains with booming sound, endless series references, and some surprises, but it’s not quite a marvel.

This Zack Snyder-directed action adventure serves as a sequel to the 2013 film Man of Steel, also directed by Snyder.

This emotional superhero epic keeps a fairly grim tone with a little bit of fun and promising developments with Superman in Metropolis and Batman in Gotham City.

Following the plot can be challenging since filmmakers basically hit the reset button on the Batman/Dark Knight movies while incorporating some passage of time. Ben Affleck (Argo) stars as the Caped Crusader (a.k.a. Bruce Wayne) with Jeremy Irons as his long-time partner Alfred.

Superman (a.k.a. Clark Kent), played for the second time by Henry Cavill (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), is a giant among men. His limited scenes of solitude give some insight into his emotional/mental struggles while his awe inspiring works for good help anchor his deity-like standing among the people.

Gal Gadot (Fast Five, Criminal) plays Wonder Woman/Diana Prince who has a 100 year-plus background in saving the world. She fits well into this world. She obviously does not need to be saved in a world she takes responsibility for. It’s also an intriguing warm-up for her origin movie next summer.

Filmmakers balance these main characters well and give Lois a large role in the story. Other supporting characters were possible (perhaps Vicky Vale?), but jettisoned to hold focus on the main characters’ stories, especially the growing rivalry between Batman and Superman.

As the amazed world wrestles with type of hero they need, government officials like Senator Finch, played by Holly Hunter, focus on ways to keep Superman’s powers in check.

Lois Lane, played again by Amy Adams, continues bonding with Clark in a working relationship at the newspaper the Daily Planet, a romantic relationship in a humble apartment and both out in the field of Metropolis among the public.

The heroes’ villain is Lex Luthor, played by Jeese Eisenberg, who brings some energy to the role, but does not measure up well to past baddies. His actions makes sense among forward thinking strategy. Eisenberg negotiates between philanthropist and mad scientist fairly well.

Screenwriters jettison smaller characters while promising the appearance of other characters including three DC superheroes. Laurence Fishbourne returns as Lois’ boss, Daily Planet editor Perry White, while Diane Lane returns as Martha Kent.

Filmmakers also expand the role of innocent bystanders/general public with the addition of a paraplegic protester played by Scoot McNairy (12 Years a Slave, Argo).

Filmmakers depend too much on association in the real world and do not produce an adequate sense of the state of Metropolis and Gotham City. They rely on audiences bridging the real world with scenes echoing 9/11 and the Vietnam monument for important emotional attachments.

Filmmakers keep a certain level where the epic circumstances are assumed and filmmakers feel they don’t have to work to connect with the audience.

Affleck’s performance reflects Batman’s current stature and struggles well while Irons basically melds tech expert Lucius Fox’s considerable talent/knowledge into Alfred who has the strongest personal relationship with Bruce.

This team has the will, compassion and power to humbly do good using logical and strategic moves without gloating or assuming. “Twenty years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stay that way?” Bruce says to Alfred.

Bruce’s brutal training regime does not just show you the body and expect instant credibility from the audience. Filmmakers show specific workouts giving audiences more reasons and insight as Bruce prepares to take on the most powerful being on Earth. Bruce also wisely incorporates the limits of his human strength into his strategy.

Bruce demonstrates great research/strategy skills on his rest time as well. It would have been great to see more stealth tactics, which are briefly showcased during a thriller-styled encounter with Gotham police who are now deathly afraid of Batman. This interesting story element reflects past painful experiences as well as future potential.

Every character experiences real danger. Superman has the most to lose since everyone’s gunning for him and his loved ones. Cavill shows the struggle to handle his powers responsibly as the media demands accountability, which he experiences first hand as his alter-ego, reporter Clark Kent at the Daily Planet.

Overactive imaginations (…or concisely predictive visions) and genuine surprises also factor into the story written by Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, Dark Knight trilogy, Blade trilogy). This team creates logical relationships among the events while challenging/supporting audience beliefs and social values.

The editing impresses except for one sequence where bad angles confuse audiences between Superman and Lex as being the intended target of an attack. Hans Zimmer’s collaborative musical score with Junkie XL is average, which is an unfortunate disappointment even with talented musicians like Sheila E providing back-up in the percussion section.

The incredible sound really helps the audience escape into this world. That familiar haunting sound from invading ships in the Metropolis disaster from Man of Steel still packs a very emotional punch here. Great special effects, but more 3D enhancement would have improved this enjoyable film.

Admirable themes include teamwork and the best strategy over stature/authority, which hopefully remain the focus of the future Justice League movie installments.

An entertaining film, but not enough substance here to win over non-fans who did not plan to see this movie in the first place. Recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality with a two hour and 31 minute running time.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now showing in IMAX and other large format theaters. Do not watch the previews or any clips before you see this film, which spoil surprises and key story lines/elements.

The Ultimate Cut version has already been announced for home video release on July 16 and will reportedly include an unrated/rated R version. DC will release Suicide Squad in theaters a few weeks later on August 5.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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