Ok before I dive into my “no spoilers” review of Dawn of Justice, I gotta remind you all that season two of Daredevil was released last week on Netflix and like the first season last year this new one is pretty epic! I watched all 13 in a three-day binge session and they went a little darker, yes darker and added some familiar Marvel characters to the show. They were wise to bring in the new blood slowly and the whole thing was a seamless and well executed second season. Bravo! Read my review from last year here.
Ok so the most anticipated superhero movie this year for me is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Just to be clear, I went into this film with modest expectations. I left the theater with those expectations exceeded but this film doesn’t deliver the post screening buzz that Batman movies usually offer. Certainly the Christopher Nolan versions with Christian Bale as the Batman were outstanding. But this is not a Batman movie, per se. Furthermore I cannot fail to omit the fact that I am a total batman fan-boy and that may have some bearing on my opinion of the movie.
My expectation level was low because this movie was a really tall order. Warner Brothers is trying to do in two or three movies what Marvel did in eight. They are trying to build up to an epic Justice League film. Trying to do it quickly tends to be a recipe for failure. Remember Marvel spent copious sums of screen time tying in the various movies and characters so that a quality and smooth flowing Avengers film could follow. They had those awesome Agent Coulson after credits clips and other Marvel character tie ins at the close of those eight leading films. They were nothing short of very successful.
This film had only the Man of Steel predecessor to tie in. The movie does make some suggestions that the Batman has been around for quite some time in Gotham prior to the emergence of Superman. There is very little in the way of Batman origin story and none was needed for Superman as that was handled in the Man of Steel film.
The first 30 minutes of this somewhat long film is very good. We see some basic Batman origin flash backs to the death of his parents but mostly the set up sequences for the plot of the story. We see the rift between Batman and Superman develop nicely as the early segments of the movie unfold. About a third to halfway through things kind of unravel in the flow of the story. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just loses traction. The last half of the film is a crazy action romp that seriously needs some pause points but gives us few.
One of the real nagging questions among the fan-boys of Batman was the decision to cast Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne AKA the Batman. They had similar reservations in 1989 when Tim Burton cast Michael (Mr. Mom) Keaton in the role. They were wrong in ’89 and they are wrong again in 2016. Affleck crushes it, seriously, he absolutely delivers as both Bruce Wayne and the alter-ego Batman. I think he may be the best overall Batman actor ever. Yes maybe even better than Christian Bale. WHAATTTT! Affleck is intense in this role. This movie script is nowhere near as good as the those from the movies directed by Christopher Nolan, but Ben takes what he is given and hits the long ball out of the park. Batman is a serious character. He is an intense character. Even in the campy 1960s TV show with Adam West, Batman was a serious type. Affleck captures the intensity of Batman and Bruce Wayne. You see it in his face. It may be as much a credit to the director as it is to the actor, but to whatever or whomever the credit is owed, he is Batman.
The next fan annoyance was the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Let there be no mistake I am very picky about Wonder Woman. She is the greatest female super hero ever and so I was also concerned. I even wrote a few stern editorials in the Evergreen Times in the old newsletter format regarding potential candidates for Wonder Woman movies that never materialized. Let me just lay to rest any and all concerns. Ms. Gadot is tall (5’10”). She has an authentically exotic look that certainly has the air of an Amazon Princess. She is a bit too skinny, but she has a very good aura of power and grace about her. As Wonder Woman she just rocks it. I like her in the role and whether or not another actress would have been a better choice, it doesn’t really matter because she did great. She isn’t in the movie much but when she is, she dominates the screen. Everything around her is a blur, you just focus on her. They did a great job with the camera work and direction on the scenes where Wonder Woman is fighting. It just felt epic when she was on screen. She commands attention and she gets it.
Henry Cavill as Superman presents the same problem we had with Henry Cavill as Super Man in Man of Steel. They wrote him too dark and nobody seems to like the “bad boy” version of Superman. That said, Henry Cavill should not take the heat for lousy character writing. But none-the-less, he does a piss poor job as Clark Kent in both movies. He just is not believable as Clark Kent at all. He’s not aloof or in anyway parallel to the Clark Kent in the comics or past films. Weak sauce.
Now let’s talk about Alfred Pennyworth, shall we? He has been portrayed by a series of fine British actors. Alan Napier, in 1966. Michael Gough played him in the Tim Burton directed Batman films, Michael Caine in the Chris Nolan films, Sean Pertwee has handled the character in the TV series Gotham. Jeremy Irons takes the role in this latest movie. I think I like Michael Caine the best. He is the best Alfred Pennyworth ever! Jeremy Irons however does an exceptional job in this film playing an Alfred clearly written to be in between the edgy and badass butler from Gotham than the more mild-mannered versions we have seen in the past. Jeremy Irons is a fine actor and does a good job. This Alfred is fine I suppose, but something was lacking that I can’t quite pinpoint.
Amy Adams is Superman’s best girl, Lois Lane. As much as I like Amy Adams… and I do like her 🙂 Lois falls flat in this movie. Lois lane was very well-played in the original Christopher Reeves films. Margot Kidder nailed the tough and stubborn Lois character. But again that character was well written, this Lois is not.
Lex Luthor was well acted by Jesse Eisenberg but yet again, the character was terribly written. If you want to see a textbook example of Lex Luthor, then look no further than Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns. Even the campy 1978 Superman with Lex Luthor played by Gene Hackman was much better than the raging lunatic written for Jesse Eisenberg. Lex is not a bad guy that lights the world on fire just to watch it burn. Lex Luthor has a plan, and his plan is not to destroy the world but to live like a king within it, often at other’s expense. He is clever and quite Machiavellian in nature, but also he is someone who can mingle with societies elite. This Luthor was written more like a nutjob, ala Joker or Riddler. WRONG!
You can see the theme I am building here. This was a good movie that could have been great if only it was better written. Oh well chalk that up as another near miss. But the movie’s sub-title is Dawn of Justice and we can see the build up to the Justice League. There is one point where Bruce Wayne accesses a file from Luthor Corp. and finds information on “meta humans”. We get a glimpse of what is to come in future movies and the ultimate DC clash of the Titans, a Justice League movie.
So this flick was good but not great. Watching Ben Affleck kick ass and take names as the Batman, being the billionaire Bruce Wayne, and doing it like an effing boss, makes this motion picture worth every penny of your time and admission price. I am not kidding, Affleck just kills it here!
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