This film is arguably the most polarizing and in some cases most heavily vilified comic book movie in existence. I know people that hate it, I know people that find it boring and I even know people in real life that are offended by it.
Almost none of them were in my IMAX theater for the advance showing as far as I can tell, because my theater applauded loudly at the end of this film and I was right there with them. Still am, to be honest with you.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice remains the best shared universe comic book movie ever made in my opinion and presents us with one of the most powerful and introspective superhero stories we have ever seen, which I’ve always suspected is a huge reason so many people don’t like it, because it didn’t provide them the escapism from reality that they wanted and expect from comic book movies.
Our relatable and “human” Superman continues his journey here, in the aftermath of the Black Zero event in Metropolis with Zod’s attack in Man of Steel. Superman is now facing a world that is divided about his presence on it, half of them proclaiming him a savior while the other half decry him as a false god, and it notably shakes him and his human-instilled faith as he begins to question the nature of his presence on Earth as a good or a bad thing.
That’s when he hears about The Batman in Gotham City, a terrifying, menacing vigilante that has done his part to keep the streets clean where the cops can’t, but something’s up with him now because he’s gone too far. He’s branding the criminals he catches, he is using incredibly excessive force and he is hellbent on taking down what he believes is the most dangerous threat to mankind itself: Superman.
I was one of the people that was irritated when I first heard Ben Affleck was cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and then I woke up the next morning and kept an open mind about it. Then I watched the movie and realized I couldn’t have been more wrong to doubt his ability because he is now what I consider the greatest live action Batman we have ever had. Seriously. His size, his stature, his suits, his fighting style, his gadgetry, his detective skills and his behavior, are all straight from the page in every facet, and that includes him killing people. Batman HAS killed in the comics before and it is well documented.
What BvS does so well is further the real world implications of the DC world actually existing in our reality and what questions we would be asking and how they might be answered in the wake of these larger than life characters becoming very much real to us. Some of the strongest moments in this film are the conversations about Superman and Batman’s existence and what kind of world do we have with them in it. This is all just the allegorical part of the story without even getting into the meat of the plot, which is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor orchestrating a grand manipulation of both heroes along with resources from the crashed Kryptonian ship in Man of Steel to not only turn the men against each other, but ultimately trigger the death of Superman, which does happen unwittingly and shockingly at the end of this film via the means of a Luthor-created Doomsday creature in a final battle to once again save the world.
What did excite almost everyone about this movie whether they liked it or not, was the long-awaited appearance of Wonder Woman on the big screen, played incredibly well here by Gal Gadot for the first time. Her reveal in full costume at the beginning of the Doomsday battle, coupled with her brilliant and now iconic theme music, drew a major reaction and applause from my theater, I remember. She was awesome, and you figure if the battle had gone on too much longer she might have been able to take down the monster herself, but it was a great introduction to a hero that was long, long overdue for her cinematic turn.
So we saw the Trinity in action for the first time on the big screen, we got modern interpretations and callbacks to The Dark Knight Returns and Death of Superman comics, and it was all fleshed out in yet another incredible epic and visceral piece of storytelling from Zack Snyder, Director of Photography Larry Fong, composer Hans Zimmer and many, many others. It should have been a rousing triumph for WB/DC, and yet while it made $873.3 million worldwide, it was firebombed and unjustly torched by critics and bloggers because it was a serious movie for adults and not a “World’s Finest” romp that was appropriate for kids of all ages. To this day, people still won’t let go some of the most inane criticisms they can find about the film, like the “Martha scene” or their hatred of Jesse Eisenberg as an actor for examples.
About the only valid criticism I agree with is the difference between the Theatrical Version and the Ultimate Edition of this movie, as the latter puts back an extra 30 minutes that was cut from the film which includes major subplots and scenes, like Lois Lane discovering the truth of Lex Luthor’s plan through her own investigative reporting, Clark Kent learning more about the dangers of Batman and how he might have to deal with him when the time comes as Superman, and a really cool shot of Batman’s signature swoop takedown move on a security camera. If you had issues with the actual structure and pacing of BvS in the theatrical version, then you should certainly watch the Ultimate Edition for greater clarity and a better, more epic film. It’s a shame that it wasn’t released in theaters as it was intended.
Sadly, this wouldn’t be the last time that we would say that about a DCEU movie. In fact, it was only just beginning.