Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

At one time, DC ruled the super hero genre uncontested, from the creation of “Superman” in 1938, to the Caped Crusader’s debut a year later. Both ruled short film and TV kingdoms from “Adventures of Superman” (with George Reeves) in the 1950s to the campy, but entertaining “Batman” (starring Adam West, which ran from 1966-68). In 1978, the first real super hero feature (with Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando and others) appeared, along with its superior sequel in 1980 (the less said about parts three and four, however, the better).

As far as Batman, Tim Burton created the first franchise in 1989 (starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson), but it went downhill from there. Attempts to revitalize the series were very successful under director Christopher Nolan (although the last,“The Dark Knight Rises,” did not live up to the first two). The Superman movie history has sputtered with the last two efforts, “Superman Returns,” an utter disappointment from 2006, and Zack Snyder’s 2013 pyrotechnic, yet heartless display, “Man of Steel.” Since then, however, Marvel has taken over as the epitome of the genre, beginning with 2002’s “Spider-Man” and hardly stopping since (I know, I know, there’s always “Fantastic Four” . . .).

Well, like the old adage says, “two are better than one,” so the plan to combine this pair of the most successful DC standard bearers into one picture that ultimately leads to the inclusion of others in a Justice League attempt to push the Avengers aside, if even for a few hours each in upcoming productions in 2017 and 2019. In this effort, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it is a hit at times, but mostly a miss. The film, which sounds almost like a Supreme Court case, is a sequel, but again, it goes an entirely different direction with the addition of another character in the company’s galaxy. Henry Cavill (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”) returns as the brooding Christ-like figure who isn’t really sure why he is in the position he is in. Treated now like a demigod (with statues and other idolatries in his honor), he finds himself being called out by various people, including Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, “Gone Girl”), who somehow crosses his path in a loud and extremely confusing sequence where Superman destroys his Gotham City skyscraper.

We see a few minutes of Wayne’s familiar backstory, with his parents shot after coming — not out of a fancy theater this time — but from a showing of the 1981 film, “Excalibur.” Like “Batman Begins,” he then falls into a bat cave, but that is all glossed over quickly to get to the main plot, and within minutes, Wayne is soon working with his faithful manservant, Alfred (Jeremy Irons, “Race”), on an invincible suit of armor as well as a computer-generated Batmobile, among other gadgets.

A subplot featuring an injured Wayne Foundation employee (Scoot McNairy, “Black Sea”) who blames Superman for the loss of his legs, as well as the Man of Steel’s killing of several Middle East terrorists who kidnapped Lois Lane (Amy Adams, “Big Eyes”), as well as a snooping senator (Holly Hunter, “Manglehorn”) and the scheming son of Lex Luther, named, ironically, Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg, “American Ultra”) make Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 30 minutes longer than it should have been, with Snyder’s famed explosions and destruction of hundreds of huge buildings (as well as thousands of deaths — unseen of course) giving way to unnecessary exposition until near the conclusion, which is ultimately not a very positive achievement.

Motivation for hating (and just as quickly) loving Superman the way he does is a bit murky, and with both characters carrying so much history and baggage, even the longer running time does not allow much development. Also, the inclusion of a Wonder Woman/Diane Prince (Gal Gadot, “Furious 7”) hero is more of an annoyance than a blessing, and even the return of the deceased General Zod (Michael Shannon, “99 Homes,” but in a more monstrous, mutated form) is not much of a satisfying endeavor. Furthermore, the addition of real news broadcasters Anderson Cooper and Charlie Rose (plus retired senator Patrick Leahy) do not add any more genuineness to the proceedings and an unfortunate bombing scene reminds one of what just took place last week in Brussels (I know that’s not the movie’s fault or intention, just a distraction to this scribbler).

Still, the acting prowess of the individuals in this film is certainly a plus. With Academy Award-winner or nominated stars, including Affleck, Adams, Kevin Costner (who makes a cameo as Clark Kent’s late father stacking rocks in Alaska), Shannon, Irons, Laurence Fishburne (as gruff Daily Planet editor Perry White), Diane Lane (as Clark’s mum) and Eisenberg, the pedigree is certainly there for some fine work, but only Eisenberg as the smarmy villain really shines here. To be fair, though, Shannon is dead and then revived into a huge demon, but the others do not make much of a dent.

Comments heard upon leaving the screening ranged from “so-so” to “average” to “worse than the first,” but I usually do not listen to such quick opinions. I do believe that the inclusion of the Batman angle makes Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice better than the first (which really turned the tale on its ear), but time wasted in long drawn-out conversations could have been better managed. Like I wrote after “Man of Steel” two years ago, the hundreds of millions spent on the impressive graphics will no doubt lure the young and uninitiated to the box office and, perhaps, break records. But for those who remember the original films, these two productions will leave one with an earnest admiration, yet they will no doubt sadly miss the fun and innocence and soul of those earlier, less costly, efforts of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Yes, today’s superheroes are a dark and introspective bunch, but is it asking too much for a little lighthearted fun (oops, I guess I forgot “Deadpool”)?

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
3 Star Rating: Average


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The Critical Movie Critics

I have been a movie fan for most of my life and a film critic since 1986 (my first published review was for "Platoon"). Since that time I have written for several news and entertainment publications in California, Utah and Idaho. Big fan of the Academy Awards - but wish it would go back to the five-minute dinner it was in May, 1929. A former member of the San Diego Film Critics Society and current co-host of "The Movie Guys," each Sunday afternoon on KOGO AM 600 in San Diego with Kevin Finnerty.

'Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)' have 18 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 10:29 am top heavy

    I enjoyed it but it may be the messiest superhero pic to date. Snyder juggles a lot of balls in this, drops most of them that have anything to do with defining his characters, and gets bailed out with city destruction again.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 10:41 am Gryffen

    Waste of talent, time and great opportunity. Fuck me.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 10:48 am lalalalalala

    Heroes: I thought Ben Affleck was a good Batman, Herny Cavill is a good Superman but you wouldn’t know it if BvS is the only movie you saw him in, Gal Gadot didn’t do anything for me, Jesse Eisenberg was bad.
    Movie: The pacing of BvS was terrible. Jumping between everyone to often and I didn’t understand the need for those dream sequences. Too much obvious CGI. Fight sequences were cool but looked incredibly fake.
    Overall: 5/10

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 11:04 am Denis

    DC is trying so hard to be the anti-Marvel that they’ve ruined their most iconic characters.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 11:31 am CozMoze

    Good review, I came to a similar conclusion about it.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 11:55 am rOry

    It’s in no way as bad as all the critics say it is. It’s got a bunch of flaws but it is entertaining as hell. It’s got Batman and Superman in the same movie!! Fighting each other!! Fighting Doomsday!!

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      March 27, 2016 @ 2:59 pm DeQuentin

      Don’t forget the lady who helped them too. What was her name again…?

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        March 27, 2016 @ 5:52 pm victorylane

        Wonder Woman, and she stole the moment from the boys during the Doomsday fight.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 12:10 pm harlantz

    I prefer the “dark and introspective” interpretation of these characters more than the “fun and innocence and soul” do-goodery interpretations. In my opinion, Snyder did a great job with motivations and conflicts and moving us closer to a Justice League which I’m thoroughly looking forward to..

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 12:43 pm solve_the_cipher

    Excited to see it when the crowds die down.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      March 28, 2016 @ 3:33 am Khanviction

      Which should be right about now… 3, 2, 1…

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 1:27 pm bigfoot

    Saw it. I liked it; but not as much as I wanted to. There was a lot going on that was confusing and maybe didn’t need to be there. Affleck did a really good job as Batman–I’d like to see more of him in the role.

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 2:31 pm JUNKETTE

    It’s a super average movie. All the actors did a good job though. They were let down by the people behind the camera—
    Subpar writing/dialogue,
    Too many plot points that don’t close or don’t add to the whole,
    Flashy camerawork.

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 3:34 pm surfer dude

    To save you from probable dissapointment, here it is in a coconut shell: Superman acts like a lost puppy. Batman is an angry old man. Lex Luthor is a manic brat. Wonder Woman is eye candy. Everything they do to be depressing x 10.

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 3:46 pm team unizoomi

    I’m glad they squeezed in ANOTHER origin story for Batman because god knows we needed another origin story for Batman.

  13. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 6:05 pm Brandon

    Entertaining but very much not the Superman/Batman/Wonderwoman movie I was looking forward to.

  14. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 5:11 pm Brian Terry

    Took a few hours to digest and piece together my thoughts but overall I liked it. It starts off slower than I would have liked it to, but when it finds its footing it delivers plenty of the superhero stuff you expect from a superhero movie of this magnitude.

  15. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 27, 2016 @ 9:07 pm mudvillehombre

    Thanks for the spoiler free review. Contrary to all I’ve heard and read I’m still looking forward to see it.

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