Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg
Runtime: 153 minutes
“God vs. man. Day vs. night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of mankind.” The verdict? Meh.
I’m just putting this out there, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a great movie. It’s merely passable – and for a film starring the two biggest superheroes of all time, that’s a scarcely believable blunder.
Set 18 months after 2013’s Man of Steel, the film sees Superman (Henry Cavill) faced with deafening public outcry over the unchecked power he wields and the extensive destruction that Metropolis suffered in his battle with General Zod (Michael Shannon).
One man who aims to bring Superman down a peg or two is Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), who witnessed first-hand the implications of Superman’s actions from the preceding film; with the aid of his loyal butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons), Wayne wages his one-man war on the Man of Steel – whilst unbeknownst to them both, the nefarious Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is formulating a destructive plot of his own.
Affleck, in just his first appearance as the Caped Crusader, establishes himself as THE definitive live-action Batman; whilst Michael Keaton was menacing underneath the cowl and Christian Bale was more suited to Bruce Wayne’s tux, Affleck is the best of both worlds. He’s charming, tortured, gritty, and seething with rage. Without Affleck’s towering performance, the film would simply collapse in on itself. Gal Gadot’s maiden appearance as Wonder Woman is handled wonderfully also, with the Israeli actress briefly stealing the limelight during the final act. Let’s hope her solo movie is treated with the same eagerness and reverence when it hits cinemas next year.
Surprisingly, the weakest link is the actually Superman himself. Cavill’s performance isn’t that bad, it’s just that he doesn’t get an awful lot to do other than scowl and look solemn. Director Zack Snyder is more interested in Batman’s detective work or following Luthor’s hair-brained schemes to tell a decent Superman story. We never learn much about Clark Kent aside from that he loves Lois and hates Batman, an arc hardly befitting of DC’s headline hero.
Overstuffed and convoluted, the biggest issue with Dawn of Justice is the script. Even with a protracted 153-minute runtime, intersecting characters and meaningless subplots jostle with one another for your attention with muddled results. Screenwriters David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio revel in teasing us with enticing visions of the future, even when they don’t matter in the present; an extended dream sequence that thrusts Batman into a sepia-drenched post-apocalypse looks amazing, but I couldn’t tell you what it all meant. It’s a scene intended to get us excited about the forthcoming Justice League film, but it’s awkwardly shoehorned in and is never explained.
This desire for incessant sequel-bait will have fans of the source material wetting themselves with joy, but Lehman’s might be left scratching their heads at the perplexing references and generally haphazard narrative. Flash who? Cyborg what? This inability to tell a single, self-contained story isn't unique to Dawn of Justice, but it is the most egregious offender we've seen so far.
The first hour disjointedly hops around attempting to plot some kind of coherent arc for each member of the sprawling ensemble, whilst the third act suffers from the same extravagant, generic CGI battle sequences that Snyder pumped into Man of Steel.
The score from Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is pretty decent, with tracks like 'Is She With You?' and 'Their War Here' providing memorable and enthralling musical cues and riffs.
If nothing else, Dawn of Justice is certainly ambitious. It lays the groundwork for DC Comics’ broader universe, and sets us up for what promises to be an exciting tableau of heroics spearheaded by the mighty Affleck and the captivating Gadot. That being said, it’s also convoluted and incoherent, sullying the exhilarating moments with others that completely shit the bed.
The Verdict: 5/10
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is in cinemas across Australia now.
This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.