The Dawn of Justice is Here
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is far from a perfect film. But it is more than adequate in achieving its objective: warming up audiences for the cinematic debut of The Justice League.
THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE
I went into my Thursday night showing of BvS with tapered expectations. I'd read enough negative reviews in the last two days to resign myself to the fact I might actually hate this film. Being the admitted fanboy and a Batman fan for nearly four decades, that was admitting a lot to myself. But I've been disappointed by director Zack Snyder before ...
Love Him or Hate Him
It's important that we remember a filmmaker is a storyteller first and foremost. We've all known great storytellers in our lives. Someone who has that gift to make the most mundane tale interesting and take the most riveting tale and make it epic. Preferences in storytellers is a matter of taste. In the world of film, historically this has been one of the most divisive issues between fans and critics alike. Why am I bringing all this up?
Because your reaction to BvS is going to be greatly influenced by your position on Zack Snyder, the storyteller. If you really enjoyed some of his previous work such as: 300, The Watchmen, and Man of Steel, chances are high you are going to really enjoy BvS. If you have been much more critical than complimentary of the director's films thus far, you're likely to be highly critical of this one as well. For me, I've often been critical of Snyder feeling his work is at its best mere cotton candy for the brain — visually spectacular but often shallow.
Why BvS Works
If anything, Snyder is consistent here. For the most part, BvS is visually spectacular (with the exception of some CGI work in the third act). But is the film shallow? No, but I'm not going to go out of my way to give Snyder credit here. His A-List talent comes through for him and rising above ridiculous scenes, even making the most awkward moments compelling. Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot and Amy Adams all earn high marks in their respective performances. Irons and Gadot in particular may be surprises to some, but each as delivered near flawlessly (albeit with limited time) in bringing their comic characters to life.
Don't believe for a minute that BvS is a true sequel to Man of Steel. Henry Cavill's Superman is often reduced to a supporting character in his own film. For hardcore fans of Sup, this is likely to be a major (and justified) complaint. However, the BvS works as an introduction to the Dark Knight. This is a Batman that many viewers aren't familiar with and an incarnation that we've never seen on film. Snyder has rightfully given a lot of credit to Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns as the inspiration for major parts of his film. This was evident already from the trailers but Miller's influence runs deeper. Affleck channels Miller's older, more cynical crimefighter in a way that is both tribute and continuation of the comic writer's work.
Warming up for the Justice League
A big question on many minds going into the film will be whether or not Affleck delivers as Batman. As I already alluded to the answer is a strong 'yes'. Moreover, his performance is the definitive cinematic version of the Dark Knight. He doesn't just wear the suit, he is the Batman. He captures the darkness in ways much deeper than any of his predecessors. His Bruce Wayne is both more mature and yet still the youthful playboy. When he's on screen with Jeremy Irons (who plays his most trusted ally and surrogate father, Alfred Pennyworth), it's impossible not to get really excited to see a "solo" Batman film. What these two men are able to capture is depicting this critical late chapter in Batman's mythology is nothing short of awesome.
It's clear from a very early point that BvS is designed as a go-between film. It's a bridge to take us from Man of Steel to Justice League. And it's in serving this role that the film both works and fails. Yes, it's a more than apt appetizer from The Justice League films. But standing on its own feet (merits), the film stumbles. There are significant plot points that will likely be filled in with the formal introduction of The Justice League ... in two years! This is something Snyder has to take blame for but in fairness, he's not alone. The same flaws can be pointed out in Whedon's Avengers: Age of Ultron and Abrams Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's fundamental storytelling gap that we've been forced to accept not only by the filmmakers, but by the big studios who have committed multiple sequels before their first film even finishes production. So in following along with unfortunate trend, BvS works just fine.