Fearing the actions of a god-like Superhero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’ most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.
The Detective Comics Cinematic Universe begins to really unfold this year, with Man of Steel having laid the foundation for this setting back in 2013, Dawn of Justice begins to open things up, introducing Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and more. Zack Snyder is at the helm once again, alongside writers David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio, with much inspiration from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”.
Dawn of Justice is an ambitious undertaking, it tries to walk a fine balance between cramming so much material into one film, while still allowing each element sufficient room to breathe, and ultimately it suffers under the weight of its own lofty ambitions. It seeks to tell the story of how the trinity of DC’s biggest and best heroes unite, with particular focus on Batman and Superman, utilising their contrasting personality traits to bring them into conflict.
Without enough time spent nurturing key relationships, and with an unconvincing short cut taken in the film, the final conflict isn’t sufficiently setup by the preceding drama, resulting in a lost opportunity. Batman and Superman’s characterisation in this film lacks some of their traditional dominant personality traits, leaving them almost too similar in trying to convincingly build up the sense of conflict before it erupts.
Dawn of Justice brings in a number of new characters, and it seeks to thoroughly explore the kind of philosophical debates that would emerge in the wake of events like those depicted in the finale to Man of Steel. It takes the time to delve into a societal debate while articulating a version of Superman still wrestling to find his place in the world.
With so many characters to juggle there’s a tendency to tell a much more abridged version of events than what might have otherwise occurred. There are a few key elements that feel simply too glossed over, as character points of view shift around with seemingly little reason other than to progress the key plot points. By the final act it starts to become more evident that it has over estimated what it can effectively deliver in the one film.
This films interpretation of Lex Luthor is a dramatic shift from the more traditional take which is likely to be divisive amongst fans, he’s more of an eccentric Gen-Y millionaire with sinister intent that the calculating, corporate genius he’s usually depicted as.
Wider audience reactions to this film will be interesting to follow in the coming weeks, this is undoubtedly the most comic book-like live action DC film to grace our screens in recent years, with a multitude of cameos, references and nods to the DC universe. In parts it can be downright confusing, and editing wise somewhat messy, but fortunately, for the most part, the film binds together with a cohesive flow.
Ben Affleck delivers a stand out performance, his physicality in the role is mind blowing, and it’s satisfying to see the sleuthing element of the character played up a bit more than usual. Cavill is sound but overshadowed by Affleck, though the material written for Superman just isn’t as well fleshed out as it is for Batman. Amy Adams has less to do than in Man of Steel, but her portrayal of Lois Lane as the intrepid adventure reporter finds its niche.
Gal Gadot turns out a solid addition to the film, her portrayal of Wonder Woman soundly complements what Affleck and Cavill are doing on screen and it’s refreshing to see a shift in focus from the dark brooding nature of the other characters in the film, to something a bit brighter, particularly in the final fight sequences.
Action sequences are utilised fairly sparingly for the opening half of the film but are in over supply by the final act, with the Batman v Superman component the highlight. The design of Batman’s suit for this fight is spot on with some sequences almost directly lifted from the comic book page and thrown up on screen. For those seeking an action heavy extravaganza there’s a decent wait in store, as Snyder has very patiently paced out his action sets while seeking to build up the social conflict arising out of the events of Man of Steel.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is fascinating in some aspects, there’s a lot of merit in what it delivers, and while not excellent, Snyder has constructed a reasonably well crafted film which was at risk of becoming a convoluted mess. It opens far more strongly than what it concludes, as it gets caught up in its awkard position of trying to be a Man of Steel sequel, and Justice League prequel, which by the end starts to feel a bit contrived. With engaging action and some interesting drama it’s a sound film that will no doubt secure the continuation of the DC Cinematic Universe for now.
I’m giving it 6 out of 10 stars, you can catch Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in cinemas from Thursday 24 March 2016.