Well, the day finally arrived, after months of hype and waiting, to see this film and I was expecting a lot. I was expecting too much. And that is exactly what I got: too much. Too much of what I didn’t need and not enough of what I wanted. This film overshot its mark like a poorly aimed batarang and collapsed under the weight of what it was trying to and imploded like the red sun of Krypton.
The beginning of the film started out right, as Zack Snyder has a talent for telling a good story in a credit roll (see the Watchmen intro) as we see Batman’s origin story play out in a well shot slow motion scene depicting the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents.
We then see a grown up Bruce Wayne racing though the streets (in a special edition Jeep that was advertised non-stop before the movie) of Metropolis (oddly positioned right across the bay from Gotham in an unorthodox positioning of the two cities, which usually lie farther apart) to get to his building during the Superman/Zod fight of Man of Steel. He arrives too late to save it from destruction, instead saving a small girl. Many of his employees die in the building collapse, and coupled with the death of the small child’s parents in his own building, he vows revenge on the other-worldly threat. I can’t help but feel this would have been done better if his own stake in the battle had been higher, say if we had seen Commissioner Gordon or Lucius Fox die, as we know they are Batman and Bruce Wayne’s allies. It is one of the many problems of developing back story and motivation in this film.
Batman himself has been fighting crime for years in Gotham, and Ben Affleck does a good job of conveying the weight and fatigue of a battle weary Batman who has lost much (read Jason Todd’s Robin suit/memorial in his hyper-modern Batcave ala Dark Knight Returns) and who is done with taking the high road ( he brands criminals with his emblem to help ensure their punishment once they are in prison).
Superman seems similarly weary, having to defend his good will and intentions against the distrust and hate the masses and government have for his alien nature (read : immigrant status) and OP powerset. Lex Luthor (neurotically and annoyingly played by Jesse Eisenberg, whose motivation seem complex and layered, but disappointingly end up with him just being fearful of not having control of the government, Batman and Superman) arranges a poorly delivered scheme to frame Superman for killings in Africa and the destruction of the US Senate (using a disgruntled, disabled Wayne Enterprises employee testifying against Superman as a bomb). This has the effect of pushing Superman away from the city to climb a mountain and talk to his dead father in his head, convincing himself his Dad was an advocate of his journey to be Superman when, according to Man of Steel, his Dad never wanted that path for him to begin with (it was Jor-El instead). I know, makes no sense. He then returns to Metropolis/Gotham where Batman has been investigating Lex, discovering that the Bat has stolen Kryptonite that Lex stole from the government.
Oh and Diana Prince gets thrown in the mix, our lovely Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, who steals the show in each scene. She bewitches Bruce as a fundraiser and steels info from Lex on other soon-to-be Justice Leaguers (interesting cameos by Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, which cool and exciting ) as well as evidence of herself (an old photo from WW I with Steve Trevor).
Lex Pulls the old I have your Mom hostage villain move to coerce Superman into a protracted battle with Batman. Superman tries to explain the situation to Bats, but he won’t listen because of his stubborn conviction that Superman is a threat. Superman gives up trying to talk pretty easily, engaging with Batman in a pretty amazing, protracted battle, which could have easily been avoided if they had just taken the time to calm down, sit down and talk for five minutes, and compare notes to realize that Lex is playing them both, is a huge dick, and should just be taken out by both of them immediately. But they don’t, because they need a movie, and that’s what bugs me. The fight, the whole conflict, felt too forced. Their ideologies may not be the same, but they find ways to make them work together, in comics and cartoons, and I suppose, eventually in this film too, but that resolution doesn’t come organically. It comes through Lois being a convenient plot delivering device (she has nothing to do in this film really), not decisions that are reached organically, though one may argue that Superman does finally realize he can never be a perfectly good being in an imperfect world, and sacrifices himself against Lex’s trump card, Doomsday (an Kryptonian fusion of Zod’s dead body and his own DNA, and in this case a forgivable departure from the comic book canon) in order to resolve this paradox for himself and for humanity.
Batman realizes he can’t stand alone against all these forces and in a reversal, tells Diana after Superman’s funeral he wants to recruit more powered people and work together, which may hint at healing his damaged soul, since we know he lost Robin and was hesitant to work with another (besides Alfred, who was excellently played by Jeremy Irons, however grossly underutilized). This also seems to go against Batman’s lone man against the world type demeanor. However he has been shown hints of Darkseid’s impending invasion from Flash’s time-travel dream communication (crazy Flashpoint connection) and then when it is again confirmed by Lex’s prison bound ranting at the end of the film, as he as had full access to Kryptonian archives now, we get a sense he feels more then ever his powerlessness on the stage he now plays upon.
If my review seems a bit verbose, disjointed, parenthetical, unedited and and confusing, but hinting at excellent action and adventure, then I have indeed given you an accurate reflection of this film. Too much in too small a space. It seems to me that Warner Bros. plan is to move forward from this point in time with the Justice League movies, hinting at Superman’s return as Batman assembles the Justice League with Wonder Woman’s help. Indeed she was the only real innocent fun in this film, as he love for the thrill of battle is palpable onscreen and she’s the only one having any fun in his movie at all. It also strikes me that some of the stand alone films for the Justice League Heroes may happen before this film, bringing those characters up to the current crisis. Dawn of Justice may be the nexus for the films to come: Justice League movies moving forward from this point and stand alone films for our DC heroes behind in time from this film, bringing them up to the current event. It would be a new and exciting way to do things, and it may or may not be happening, and if it does, it may not work, but at least it would be interesting. And that’s what is really super.