This weekend sees the highly anticipated release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After all the initial fuss about casting, will audiences finally embrace Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman? Will the Man of Steel get the cinematic respect he so deserves? With some much pretty, and so much over-the-top Snyder-fied action, will it matter?
Continuing to fan the flames of superhero and action film fans’ love/hate relationship with director Zack Snyder, this release is exceedingly uneven, alternately exasperating and exhilarating, confounding and compelling. Rumors abound that concerns about Superman as a weak continued headliner led to a focus on Batman, placing the Man of Steel in the back seat in his own sequel.
To outline much of the action or plot is to reveal a myriad of spoilers. Batman does figure at least equally in the storyline, and aspects of his origin are examined. We meet Oscar winner Jeremy Irons as the new Alfred. We see Bruce Wayne’s life, and his alter-ego’s gadgets, and Batcave, and we see why he’s so at odds with Superman. Clark Kent, aka Superman and his lady love, Lois, continue their romance, which proves to be a small kernel of optimistic in an otherwise dark film. It is likely no surprise that there is a lot of violence, although not of the gory variety. Hundreds or thousands are killed in various scenes, and largely both Batman and Superman are involved in the mayhem. In fact, without reflection, the film feels at times like just a series of fights strung together, which is a common complaint lodged against Snyder as a director. Several of these scenes take place as dream sequences, and those are the most confusing and stultifying to the forward movement of the movie.
After more consideration, however, it’s quieter moments that resonate and stay with viewers. The interactions between characters save Batman v Superman, and no surprise. There is some significant thespian power activated here. Any questions about Ben Affleck’s casting will be silenced forever. He is certainly effective, and capable of convincing the audience of the dark cynicism necessary for many of his choices, not an easy task since some of them do stretch credulity. Henry Cavill as Superman continues to be underutilized, but viewers get glimpses beyond his formidable bare chest to his as-yet-unplumbed skills as an actor. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman shows serious star power, and creates huge buzz and excitement for her upcoming stand-alone film, and for all her woefully limited screen time, is a bright spot in the film. Amy Adams gets many more pages of dialogue to show Lois as more than just a damsel in distress, and her every scene commands the focus of even the most distracted viewers. The biggest surprise of Batman v Superman is Jesse Eisenberg’s grandiose, expansive portrayal of Lex Luther. Here he’s a psychotic Steve Jobs with Daddy issues, but he actually plays it all with impressive restraint.
Despite some pretty significant flaws, the actors bring some greatness to this film, making it, while not super, well worth seeing.