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Review: ‘Batman v Superman’ is flawed in the most predictable ways (Includes first-hand account)

Over the years there have been endless matches hypothesized between comic book characters, many of which have been played out in the panels. Where would the fight take place? What advantages would they have? And finally, who would win? Although Batman and Superman are on the same side of the fight against evil, they are fundamentally different types of heroes and have had many disagreements over the years. These conflicts have been worked out between the pages, but they’ve never been portrayed on the big screen — until now. With the proliferation of CGI effects and the popularity of superhero films, perhaps it’s the right time for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Following Superman’s (Henry Cavill) defeat of General Zod (Michael Shannon) at the expense of downtown Metropolis, most people still regard him as the city’s and world’s hero; but there’s also a minority that distrusts the super-powered alien. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) finds himself in the latter category. In the meantime, Batman’s brand of justice is becoming bolder and more brutal. While Gotham still relies on him to fight dangerous criminals, his type of vigilantism is raising some eyebrows — including Clark Kent’s. As the two heroes nurture their mutual dislike for each other, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is using the growing animosity to unleash his own sinister plan.

Overall, the film is “fine.” This movie and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War add a touch of realism to previous narratives by showing these large-scale battles that destroy cities and inadvertently kill the innocent do, in fact, have consequences (…forget the monetary costs). Even though he typically doesn’t throw the first punch, Superman is being held accountable for the various casualties of his gallantry. Not that any of that influences his or Batman’s future actions, but it’s the thought that counts. Moreover, the movie plainly outlines why these iconic characters and eventual Justice League teammates would justifiably dislike each other. Yet in spite of its desire not to be coy regarding their reasoning, it does take its sweet time getting to the inevitable and anticipated product of their hostility — “the fight.” This is especially absurd when one realizes that in this telling, the two cities exist next to each other and are only separated by a river. Nonetheless, the film is generally and superficially entertaining — if you choose not to look at it too closely.

On the other hand, the movie’s flaws are numerous and frustrating. First, leading up to her own standalone picture and the already announced Justice League films, this is audience’s first glimpse of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). But Diana Prince is infuriatingly rendered as no more than a Bond girl for most of the film, appearing at lavish parties in fancy, low-cut dresses that work to position her as a sex symbol rather than a competent warrior. It doesn’t lend anything to the character’s development, particularly when compared to how much cooler she is once wielding a sword and shield. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is similarly relegated to the role of damsel in distress, always in need of saving. Even when it appears she might finally be given the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the struggle, she’s unsurprisingly thwarted. Sadly, filmmakers still seem unable to consistently deliver strong female characters.

Henry Cavill  Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck star in  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck star in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’
Warner Bros. Pictures

Why they felt the need to once again re-enact the death of Bruce’s parents remains a mystery… and one of the many things that unnecessarily contributes to the film’s two-and-a-half-hour runtime. It would have been better if they tightened up the script and stuck to the core rivalry and debate rather than spend a lot of time on storylines with minimal impact on the main plot. Even the rumoured appearances of other Justice League characters — Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg — are no more than superfluous cameos. Predictably the ending is reserved for another city razing battle à la Zack Snyder, though it’s not necessarily the one viewers expect. The effects are very glossy, but gives each of the characters a chance to showcase their skills and weaponry. Unfortunately the action is interrupted by a gratuitous love scene that is beyond cheesy and unoriginal.

Cavill seamlessly resumes his role as the Krypton-born, Kansas-raised hero just trying to do right by everyone. Though he is allowed to get angrier this time around. Affleck fills out the Batsuit with his recently chiseled physique, though he may have to turn sideways to go through most doorways. He also portrays the always-angry Bruce adequately. There isn’t much to assess in terms of Gadot’s performance, except that she looked comfortable with her armour and one can only hope Diana proves to be more than just a snazzy dresser in the future. Jeremy Irons takes on the role of Batman’s loyal servant, Alfred, playing an edgier, more involved version of the wise Englishman. Eisenberg was widely considered an interesting choice for Lex Luthor; and although he undoubtedly has it in him to portray a supervillain, it may not be this one. Deviating from traditional representations of the character who is generally intelligent, meticulous and power-hungry, this version is also erratic and seemingly unbalanced. His personality appears to be an ill-fated attempt to recapture what was lost with The Joker, which Eisenberg ably depicts regardless of its appropriateness.

For those simply looking to be entertained, they will not be disappointed; but seekers of substance and innovation should look elsewhere. And even though the final second of the movie is cut so quick you’ll miss it if you blink, that is the end — there is no post-credit sequence.

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams

Written By

Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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