Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
(M) Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill
What happens in the world when the symbol of hope becomes the centre of hatred for many in the world? Chaos ensues and people look for someone to give them answers.
Rising from the aftermath of the battle between General Zod and Superman (Henry Cavill) in the final on-screen battle of Man of Steel (2013), Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) determines that Superman does more to harm society than help it. Batman’s alter ego wants Superman to be put into check for his future actions. This head of industry determines that the only way to hold the caped crusader accountable is to put on his own Batman mask and set up a showdown. In the process of getting the necessary information to prepare for a battle of the titans, Bruce comes across Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). She’s an intriguing woman of means who is involved in recent city events, but the billionaire playboy fails to determine her intentions. Is she working with him or against him in the process of gathering intelligence?
While all of the heroic players are distracted by each other, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is planning for the demise of the caped crusader and anyone else who gets in the way of Lexcorp’s purposes. In a masterful game of manipulation, Luthor becomes the catalyst for the battle between modern-day gladiators Batman and Superman. A fight that starts as the ultimate death match, but leads the two warriors to the realisation that they must work together to defeat a new nemesis — from the past.
To say this graphic-novel-inspired project has been under extreme media scrutiny would be an understatement. The production and the promotion have come under fire since the concept was announced but, now, the finished product is finally here. So, what’s the verdict? Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice conjures up a mixed bag of emotions. It has components that are familiar, includes new ingredients that allow for cutting-edge concepts, and cinema audiences are introduced to portions of the new Justice League. Director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, 300) has the herculean task of trying to get all of these elements packed into his newest creation. His stars, Affleck and Cavill, do decent work with the dialogue they are given, but so much is going on in this film that the two leads come across as confused and frustrated as each new element is added.
Many may ask about Affleck’s ability to fill the bat suit. He did well, but did not add anything new to the role except for some grey hair and a deep-seated need for revenge.
Just like the battle between these two iconic heroes, Snyder’s direction becomes an exercise in an uncomfortable mash-up of multiple storylines. There are great elements in the mix, but with the introduction of each new layer, the overall message becomes convoluted and confusing. An example is the battle itself between these beloved heroes. The continual back and forth between the lead character’s personal lives, their back stories and the eventual inclusion of additional heroes dilutes the purpose of the film. With Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Snyder’s recent Superman film still fresh in our memories, the back story of each character becomes redundant. Also, unfortunate dream sequences in both of these men’s lives were irrelevant to the continuance of the narrative.
Another challenge that Snyder has to contend with is the role of the villain. When directors forget that the villain is the key ingredient to any superhero story, their film can fail to deliver. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect as the annoying, but brilliant Lex Luthor, but suffers from directorial confusion about whether he is the main villain. Throughout the film, there is an attempt to develop his character, but it is undermined by the inclusion of another bad guy, Doomsday. Even the altercation between the central characters and this supposedly indestructible creation of Luthor erodes the message — and reason for the original difficulties about societal safety that causes the rift between Superman and Batman. These duelling characters leave the role of villain diluted and less than satisfying.
Even with all of the confusion with the storyline and lead roles, the hope is that this film will recoup its costs and allow for the DC Universe to expand at cinemas. The elements that were most intriguing about this film are the introduction of the Justice League characters. Without spoiling any key plot points, Wonder Woman was one of the best elements of Batman v Superman but, like the Lex Luthor character, she is under-utilised and brought into the picture too late.
After all of the build up over the past few years, Snyder delivers a less-than-satisfactory answer to the The Avengers. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is dark, with minimal levels of humour, and Snyder attempts to do too much in one outing.
What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Multiple discussions about God within Batman v Superman open the door for possible discussion points after the film. It is hard to go past the messianic elements of a superhero film, especially Superman. Yet, the writing team went out of their way to provide a healthy dose of biblical references and enquiry about justice, mercy and God. Lex Luthor is obsessed with many celestial beings and the desire for man to kill God or be God. This begs questions of why we have a tendency to deify people and then tear them down when they fail? Also, determining who the true God is in our lives and if we are working for God or against God?
- Where can we find truth? (John 14:6, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
- Can we ever find justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
- Who will bring about peace in this world? (Revelation, The Gospel of Luke)
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