Spoiler-Free Review: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

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Right before the start of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, the director Zack Snyder appeared on screen pleading with the audience to “not reveal any spoilers or plot twists” to anyone who has not seen the film. While I was in agreement, the feeling of giddiness was unshakeable. Were we really about to witness arguably the two biggest icons in the comic book world go toe to toe? It seemed like it was just yesterday that my best friend Chad and I were seven years old, in my backyard acting this very scenario out (he was Batman, and I was Superman.) Well, to look at this film as purely two titans fighting it out for two hours and thirty minutes would be relatively simplistic. What Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice succeeds at is laying the groundwork for an exciting/exhilarating DC Universe while still taking their time and developing characters.

The film starts out with the all too familiar sequence of events surrounding the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne (Bruce’s parents.) The one noticeable difference in this origin is that we see his parents try and fight back (which is contrasting previous depictions where they are just killed for no reason.) At first glance, this seems like a trivial detail, but this is one of the driving forces that jettisons this version of Bruce Wayne into a far more vicious version of The Dark Knight.

We quickly transition to an image of an older Bruce Wayne bearing witness to the destruction of Metropolis at the hands of General Zod and Superman (Henry Cavill). At this moment, we do see that same sense of helplessness he had the night his parents were killed (even if it is ever so briefly) come across his face as he witnesses catastrophic damage unfold before his eyes. Wayne tries in vain to get everyone out of Wayne Tower but arrives just in time to see the building toppled, killing many, but the focus is an injuring security guard.

While some might question why Zack Snyder chooses to lay out why Bruce Wayne is who he is from the get-go, in reality, it was crucial to the film. For starters, Snyder’s vision of Batman is far darker than we are accustom to so by doing this it allows us to understand what’s occurring on screen. In other iterations of Batman, we would never have seen the dark knight choose violence over tactics.

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Affleck’s portrays Wayne as a charismatic yet cranky figure. The years of being Batman are wearing thin on him and have resulted in someone who only trust his faithful butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons) and is skeptical of most others.

We see Superman 18 months after the devastating battle with General Zod when another crisis unfolds involving his one true love Lois Lane. During an interview with a known terrorist, Lois’s (Amy Adams) life is in danger and Superman swoops in to save her but can’t save the multitude of civilians who are slaughtered at the hands of the terrorist group. Superman is blamed for these deaths, and this ignites a barrage of scrutiny spearheaded by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter)

This event also invites the fervor of a young industrialist named Alexander “Lex” Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) who is immediately drawn to Senator Finch’s cause. While he tries to portray his devotion to her cause as genuine, we quickly realize that he is motivated by his agenda, one that involves mining Kryptonite from the Indian Ocean. Eisenberg portrays Luthor as an exuberant millennial programmer that offers just small glimpses into his psychosis.

Screenwriters Chris Terrio and David Goyer do a fantastic job of laying the foundations for DC Cinematic Universe. We certainly understand what motivates both Superman and Batman. Batman initially views justice as more an ambiguous term. By any means necessary, as long as the villain pays for what they have done, then justice was served. Superman views justice as more of a black and white term. If a criminal breaks the law, they must be punished but in an appropriate manner. It certainly brings the debate to the forefront of what’s more effective ‘vigilante justice’ or ‘justice with restraint.’ This dichotomy is both what pushes these two to battle one another and what brings them together as well.

Visually, Batman v Superman is unmatched. David Brenner (the editor) and Larry Fong (Director of Photography) manage to take the constant action and chaos that unfolds and piece it together into an engaging and entertaining two hours and thirty-minute spectacle. Hans Zimmer is masterful as well capturing the tension and intensity of the film with his best work since Backdraft.

The most memorable performances in this movie are Jessie Eisenberg, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot. Eisenberg’s portrayal of Luthor is both realistic and critical to the overall success of this film. If the audience does not think that he is willing to do anything to get what he wants, then this movie falls flat on its face( we still haven’t forgotten them casting Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.) Affleck drew some of the biggest criticism when it was announced that he was cast in the film. His portrayal of Batman will go down as one the best of all time (only surpassed by Christian Bale). Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) whose screentime is limited drew the biggest applause of the audience. Her portrayal is mysterious, sexy, yet tough. This isn’t your Linda Carter version of Wonder Woman; this is better than that. For as little screen time as she does have in the film, one cannot help but get excited for the Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman coming in 2017.

I’m sure that some of the naysayers will state that this movie isn’t “fun” What rule was written that every superhero movie has to be “fun?” Some might point out that Snyder does not stick to the source material. I am reasonably confident that Disney is not sticking 100% to the source material when it comes to Tony Stark. Otherwise, we might be seeing an entirely different portrayal by Robert Downey Jr.

Movies are not supposed to be about appeasing a fan base; it is about creating an entertaining /enjoyable experience and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is as good as it gets.

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Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.

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