Following the events of the already divisive Man of Steel by director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), the highly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is sure to please hardcore comic book fans, but might not be received the same by the casual audience or those looking for more serious cinema.
What really worked in this film was the performances by its actors. You can tell all the actors gave their all with their roles, though some interpretations of comic characters might be open to discussion among die hard fans.
Henry Cavill returns in his second appearance as Superman. Fans of the character will be relieved that Superman has a lot of time to shine and develop, and is not overshadowed by Batman as some feared. Cavill makes his Superman more optimistic and inspiring than previously in Man of Steel, and you can feel that he really does carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. His Clark Kent is just as interesting as he stands up for truth, justice and journalistic integrity.
Cavill has a heartwarming relationship with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, that really pays off in the third act of the movie. Like the intrepid reporter from the comics, Adams is feisty, strong and brilliant.
Ben Affleck proves his controversial casting choice was the right decision. As Batman, he has an intimidating presence that believably would scare the hell out of criminals. He is also very aggressive, and fights criminals in excellently choreographed fight scenes with brutality and mercilessness. This Batman even indirectly or directly causes several criminals to be killed, which is more in line with Frank Miller’s gritty take in The Dark Knight Returns comic. But, this might not sit so well with some fans of the character who wanted to see more of a mainstream take on the character, who has a very strict no-killing and no-gun policy in the comics. As Bruce Wayne, Affleck excellently portrays him as a man who’s tormented inside, even when he’s playacting a billionaire playboy.
Affleck has great chemistry with Jeremy Irons as Alfred, who like in the comics, acts as the snarky voice of reason when he feels Bruce is going too far into the darkness.
Jesse Eisenberg was also a contentious casting choice as the megalomaniac Lex Luthor. On the surface, his portrayal might seem erratic and unstable. But, this is a Luthor that has only just begun his descent down into darkness, and eventually a sociopathic genius begins to unravel before our eyes. Perhaps his wayward personality is a part of his public persona, in contrast to Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne for Superman and Batman. Though some might be disappointed, as the Luthor in the comics tends to be much more stoic and cold-calculating.
Gal Gadot steals the show from the get go, as she enamors the characters and the audience alike, as a mysteriously beautiful woman who clearly knows more than she’s letting on. That is because she’s secretly the Amazon Princess known as Wonder Woman. Without spoiling too much, she very much lives up to decades long anticipation of finally seeing Diana of Themyscira on the big screen for the first time.
The other supporting actors of Diane Lane as Martha Kent and Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor in chief Perry White, also put in memorable performances.
As stated previously, the choreography is top notch. The famous DC Comics trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman move and fight in shots that look just like comic panels come to life. As in Man of Steel, the fight scenes are extremely intense and will leave you in absolute anticipation of what will happen next.
What also stands out is the magnificently epic soundtrack collaborated by Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel) and Junkie XL (Deadpool, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). The powerful Superman theme is carried over from Man of Steel and is expanded upon, while new themes for Batman and Wonder Woman are just as captivating. The guitar riff for when Wonder Woman first appears on screen is very memorable, and other parts of the soundtrack use heavy drums and choir voices, adding an almost biblical sound.
All this being said, there are parts of the movie that fans and critics alike will agree could have used improving. Especially as the DC Extended Universe continues to grow on screen next year in Wonder Woman and Justice League: Part One.
A major issue is pacing. The first act does a great job introducing us to the characters and their struggles, and the third act brings everything together in an exciting and emotional climax. While the main draw of the film is the conflict between Batman and Superman, there are scenes in the middle where it feels they drift away from that. Those scenes feel like they’re only there to to set up future movies, and it feels like they were pressured by the Marvel Cinematic Universe to do too much, too quickly.
In fairness, it was very exciting seeing the Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman getting their big screen debuts alongside Wonder Woman and Affleck’s Batman.
Man of Steel was released in 2013, and this film was originally slated for a 2015 release, but was then pushed back to this current date. Perhaps after three years of anticipation, rumors, speculation, controversial casting choices, a script by Oscar-winning Chris Terrio and comparisons to Marvel Studios, this film could never really completely live up to expectations.
Overall, fans of the DC Comics characters will really enjoy seeing their beloved heroes together on the big screen, and their comic storylines adapted with reverence by the actors and director. The dawn of the DC Extended Universe has arrived, and soon we will join the Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and the Justice League in the sun.