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Easter is upon us and with it comes one of the most highly anticipated films of the year – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The bombastic title alone gives you a sense of the epic nature of this film as it aims to be a springboard to set up the future of the DC Cinematic Universe. The film has a LOT to live up to and that is no understatement. I do think that your enjoyment of the film will depend on your expectations of it but considering how much pressure this film is under and how many plot lines it has to juggle, I think it makes for a highly entertaining viewing experience albeit with a number of undeniable flaws that are difficult for any hard-core fan (myself included) to ignore.
The beginning of the film is, in my opinion, one of the best I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie. Giving the viewer the opportunity to view the final battle in Man of Steel from street-level immediately sets the tone for the film and was a truly inventive and exciting way to grab the audience’s attention. The anguish in Bruce Wayne’s face as one of his business towers is destroyed perfectly conveyed the turmoil he felt as he realised that many of his employees had perished. That moment alone was a fantastic way to set into motion why Batman’s hatred for Superman is so all-consuming.
In terms of the performances, I thought everyone did a commendable job. I have to take back all the insults I aimed at Ben Affleck when he was first cast as I’d say that he gives the best performance in the film. Even when the narrative started to lull, Affleck repeatedly brought me back into the film with his utterly badass interpretation of Batman. He embodies the dual personas of the character extremely well and, although his thirst for violence may be unsettling to some, I really enjoyed this new, older, more world-weary interpretation of Batman who’s had enough of criminals giving him grief.
Henry Cavill continues to be a great Superman and he does the best he can with the material he’s given. Superman/Clark Kent continues to be a cipher rather than a fully-fledged character with a complex personality and consequently, Cavill doesn’t get the chance to show his full range. I hope that in future films we see the writers give more layers to Superman rather than just being brooding and conflicted. I love Amy Adams as Lois Lane and she maintains the excellent work that she did in Man of Steel. Unlike most love interests in superhero films, Lois has her own agenda and her decisions actually help to move the plot forward.
However, I hated the way she was repeatedly used as a damsel in distress as her character seemed to take a step back from the capable, logical character that we had previously seen. There is one scene where Lex Luthor takes her to the top of a tower purely to throw her off as he’s so sure that Superman will save her. Dear writers – if a character’s motivation is purely to be pushed off tall buildings in order to be rescued then you probably need to go back to the drawing board!
Lastly, the actor that I was most worried about was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and I stand by my argument that it’s ridiculous to cast an actor to play Superman’s arch-nemesis who is younger than the actor playing Superman. I have to admit though, I enjoyed his performance more than I thought I would. There are scenes where he is genuinely very menacing and there were numerous moments when I was quite disturbed at how psychotic his actions were. However, it cannot be denied that he hams it up in a number of scenes which can be a little jarring.
The Lex Luthor character has a history of being portrayed as a campy villain but Einsenberg’s performance will be like marmite to a lot of fans. Although he could’ve taken it down a few notches in one or two scenes I personally thought he brought some much needed levity to the film and it was nice to see someone having a bit of fun with their role. A special mention goes to Jeremy Irons as Alfred whose dry line-delivery gets the most laughs and Holly Hunter as Senator Finch who is an excellent foil to Lex’s philosophical but patronising humour.
In terms of the narrative structure, the first hour of the film is extremely unfocused. We are given a lot of information in a very short space of time and this may cause a lot of audience members to nod off. The plot jumps from a scene with Bruce to a scene with Clark, then Lois then Lex then back to Bruce with no real through-thread or explanation. The film is in desperate need of some establishing shots and transitions in order to make the story flow more smoothly. It is not until the second/third act that all of these subplots are tied together and I wouldn’t be surprised if some fans give up by then.
Also, as much as I enjoyed Batman’s dream sequences I think they could have been cut out entirely as they serve no real purpose in the main narrative and waste screen-time which could have been used to develop more of the characters. For example, Lex Luthor’s motivations are very lazy as his only reason for hating Superman seems to be that he’s a classic xenophobe with a mental problem. Kevin Costner’s cameo as Jonathan Kent is also completely pointless and slowed down the narrative at what should have been a pivotal moment.
Despite these narrative issues, the action sequences are spectacular and brilliantly choreographed. The fight between Batman and Superman, while disappointingly short, is brutal and raw. I also loved the final battle with Doomsday and, although it was fairly generic and overly reliant on CGI, it was truly magnificent to watch on the big screen. I got such a buzz when Wonder Woman appeared and her fearless and fiery nature was a joy to watch despite her appearance being so brief. Sadly, I can’t help but think how awesome a reveal it would have been if Wonder Woman and Doomsday had been left out of the trailers entirely.
Overall, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a classic case of juggling too many stories and subplots and not knowing which ones to prioritise. I really wish more films nowadays would realise that less can sometimes be more. However, I genuinely had a brilliant time watching this film with my dad and I can’t wait to see it again. I know I should be more bothered by the gaping flaws in the editing and narrative but I can’t deny that I found the film to be hugely entertaining with a surprisingly emotional finale. Maybe I’m easy to please or I’m too forgiving but I believe that if you watch the film with an open mind then you’ll find something to enjoy in it. The iconography of these characters and the strength of the actors involved were enough to keep this film afloat for me and I personally cannot wait to see what lies ahead in the DC Cinematic Universe!