Quick Review: Dawn of Justice

Despite the loads of negative reviews, we took the plunge and went and saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’m going to get into some spoilers so I’ll banter here for a moment before putting in a page break.

The spoiler-free review is that I didn’t really mind this movie at all. It had plenty of flaws (which I’ll get into), but overall I had low expectations, and wasn’t let down; in fact I rather enjoyed the experience. My wife and I think one of the biggest problems with superhero movies right now is that we’ve seen big and flashy over and over again. Every movie that comes out has bigger and bigger explosions, and when those come at the expense of a decent story, the movie tends to suffer.

You’ve had your warning, because here come the spoilers.

After watching the film my wife and I both felt that one of the biggest problems with this film is the fact that it couldn’t settle on which story it wanted to tell. The first half of the movie is a great story about what it means to be a god-like hero in our world, and how should people view them. It posed some great questions about looking at people who can wield tremendous power, and how we trust them, or don’t. Frankly, this whole narrative was something that could have been explored a LOT more over the course of the movie, but that might have been a bit too cerebral for a comic book flick.

Instead, the conflict manifests itself in the fear of Batman towards what Superman could do, and the desire of Superman to be the hero this his Kryptonian family sent him to earth to be. These two worldviews collide, even before the big battle sequence between the two. We see how Batman views the destruction that Superman has wrought in his battles, yet knowing that without his actions humanity would have been doomed. Batman has been getting the job done for many years, in the shadows, in his own way. Superman disrupts his world, and Batman has to find a way to deal with this conflict, both internal and external.

This conflict could have resulted in a wonderful battle, fought to a standstill. A kryptonite wielding Batman, bringing Superman to his knees, yet Superman’s inner resolve not letting him give in. What we ended up with however, was a really cool battle sequence that could have developed into a much better ending for the movie.

Lex Luthor had taken Superman’s mother hostage, and before Batman can use his kryptonite spear, Superman call out his mother’s name, which happens to be Batman’s mother’s name as well. This moment of connection causes Batman to pause and reflect on what he’s doing. He realizes that Superman has a family and a history, and perhaps he needs to rethink the entire situation. The movie basically stops there, with Batman suddenly fully accepting of Superman, and they go off to fight a huge epic battle against Doomsday.

What I would have much rather seen is a tentative acceptance of Superman, with an uneasy truce, to save Superman’s mother. I wanted to see Batman remain a bit more skeptical before he was willing to completely trust Superman. Instead, all of that took a backseat to CGI spectacle. This, I think, is the biggest flaw in the movie.

Instead of being a really great flick about understanding the role of a hero in the world, it because, yet-another-CGI-battle-with-an-unstoppable-enemy™. Wonder Woman shows up to join in, and it all boils down to a sacrificial attack by Superman with the kryptonite spear. In his weakened state, Doomsday takes one last final stab at Superman before dying, killing Superman in the process.

I realize that the producers wanted to add in yet another homage to the comic books, but the entire Doomsday storyline really felt like it was tacked on. It simply was there to provide some fan service, and blow a ton of crap up. It had no intrinsic value to the message of the first half of the movie, and frankly distracted from what could have been a much better conclusion.

It was obvious at the end that Superman will rise again, much like in the comics, and the franchise will continue alongside the other heroes. That, more than anything, became the overarching storyline of the film; the introduction of the future of the DC movie universe. We were shown glimpses of many of the other characters who will end up appearing in future DC films, and multiple storylines were set up for future movies. Batman seemed to hint at a possible Red Hood future; Wonder Woman hinted that she’s killed aliens before; and the Flash appeared to Bruce Wayne in a way reminiscent of Crisis on Infinite Earths. All of this setup was so forced, that it felt too obvious. Marvel has mastered the art of subtle hinting at future storylines, whereas DC seems to think it needs to ram it down the viewers throats.

I do need to take one moment and talk about Jesse Eisenberg. His portrayal of Luthor has been extremely polarizing on the internet. I actually really liked his character, but it wasn’t a traditional Luthor. Instead he felt much more akin to a typical psychotic Batman villain. He was charismatic, but had a hit of Joker-crazy in his mannerism. It’s a much different version of the character, but in a movie filled with fan-service, it was actually a bit of fresh air.

I’m hopeful that the future of the DC movie universe gets much better than Dawn of Justice. Despite being an average film, I think it certainly accomplished the task of setting up a much bigger universe. Unfortunately, this came at the expense of the actual story of this movie, which could have been so much better, and so much more fulfilling in its conclusion.

I am glad I went to see the film, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone who wants an interesting superhero romp. But, I could certainly see waiting for digital rental and saving yourself concession stand food prices. Maybe that’s the best way to sum up this film. It’s a good flick, but probably not worth the ticket PLUS the overpriced popcorn that you end up gorging on during the film.

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