Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was always going to be a dubious proposition. Pitting two of the world’s favourite superheroes in a fight was taking a big risk. Does it pay off?
Unfortunately, no. Much like its predecessor, Man of Steel, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of Justice is bland and predictable. It even commits the worst possible crime for any film: it’s terminally dull.
The plot is largely divided in three. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is enraged that many of his employees died when villain General Zod (Michael Shannon) battled with Superman in Man of Steel. (Zod was attempting to wipe Earth of its inhabitants and colonise the planet with Kryptonians). Wayne blames Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) for their deaths.
So does businessman Lex Luthor (Jesse Einsenberg), who is convinced that the caped superhero must be stopped, by means of a secret weapon he is developing. Meanwhile, Clark Kent investigates Batman’s increasingly ambiguous interventions in the criminal world.
Almost as an afterthought, the film also follows Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), whose blockbuster activities (when not fighting epic battles) consist in attending parties, watching the news, and checking her email.
The film’s premise isn’t uninteresting. In Hollywood films we often watch New York city, or its fictional equivalents, bend under the weight of epic superhero clashes. Taking into account the resulting deaths and destruction is a first, and rather thoughtful. However, it’s gone about clumsily. It turns to over-used plotlines and builds to a predictable conclusion.
Not satisfied with being unoriginal, Dawn of Justice is also full of senseless developments. It’s never clear why Bruce Wayne holds Superman, rather than General Zod, responsible for the damage of the conflict. Rather, the whole idea seems like a clumsy attempt to get the two heroes to fight about something, while allowing the audience to remain sympathetic to both.
Nor is it explained why Lex Luthor is obsessed by destroying the alien superhero. Other elements are puzzling. Why does Lois Lane keep putting herself in harm’s way? How does Batman get Wonder Woman’s email address? And why does a key twist hinge on a bizarre name coincidence?
It’s not that the heroes aren’t particularly likeable: it’s that screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer fail to get their audience to care. The acting performances are generally disappointing. Cavill shows almost no emotional range, while Affleck only has one mode: angry. Gadot is given a tedious stereotype to work with: glamorous stranger with attitude.
The portrayal of women is overall poor - they’re secretaries with bob haircuts and tight clothes, or tropes, as in the case of Wonder Woman, or only there to be saved, like Lois Lane and Martha (Diane Lane), Superman’s mother. Holly Hunter as Senator Finch has a somewhat better deal, although her dialogue is built out of platitudes.
It doesn’t help that Dawn of Justice stays very serious in tone. The film loses out on the opportunity to make fun of itself (and there is a lot to make fun of), as well as the levity in dialogue which has kept similar Marvel films fresh.
Thankfully, Eisenberg brings in some energy. The actor excels at playing complex and nervy personas, and given that he’s the only one awake out of the otherwise comatose leads, it’s tempting to root for his Luthor. Jeremy Irons pitches in as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s trusted friend and employee, and is a much-welcomed (but too rare) comic relief, while Laurence Fishburne in the role of the acidic Daily Planet Editor Perry White does the same on the Metropolis side.
Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL deliver with the soundtrack, although its quality emphasises the deficiencies of the rest of the film. Snyder has brought in some solid special effects, but it’s a challenge to feel impressed when not invested in the story.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a disappointment. If DC Comics want to compete with Marvel’s blockbusters, they’re going to have to up their game.