Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Scoot McNairy and Gal Gadot
Plot: Batman (Affleck) and the people of America fear the wraith of an almighty alien, claiming to be a hero, but posessing the power to wipe them all out. Superman (Cavill) sees Batman’s brand of justice as vigilantism, making him no better than the criminals he is trying to stop. The ultimate fight begins.
Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as Batman and Robin, but for a long time, it looks like it is going to come quite close.
Snyder finds himself at the helm of one of the biggest movements in cinematic history. Marvel Movies have done the impossible and created a film franchise with more entries than Police Academy or American Pie, each attracting the same A-Listers each time, and pretty much becoming a blockbuster series. It seemed logical to try and recreate that for DC. However, Snyder, finding himself the job of bringing the Man of Steel, the Dark Knight, Wonder Woman and so many more characters together in time for a Justice League Movie, he forgot the first rule: have fun. And thus begins an epic saga, so weighed down by plot and gloomy set-pieces that Dawn of Justice becomes far more hard work for the audience than it has any right to be. The story is pretty self-explanatory from the title. Batman and Superman see each other as the villains in their own stories and begin the biggest heavyweight match of all time. The origins should be fairly straight-forward. Snyder explained his version of Superman in the last movie and there have been so many adaptations of Batman that his background history is more ingrained in society’s subconcious than the story of Adam and Eve. However, like any heavyweight match, there is a mandatory amount of pointless jabbering and plot. Lex Luthor is introduced, not necessarily a bad idea in itself, but he is given a half-thought out plot that kills too much time. Time that could be spent on extended duels between the two heroes. There is also the unforgiveable overuse of dream sequences, which act as foreshadowing and an excuse to pit Affleck against Cavill, scenes before they actually meet. Snyder probably thought he was being clever. Truthfully, he is being lazy. The D.C world-building isn’t actually too complicated, reduced to a few side-references and an epilogue, but it does feel like the writers are juggling too many balls. The supporting cast are reduced to cameos. Harry Lennix, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane were crucial points of Man of Steel, but are now squeezed in, more to remind the audience they exist, rather than being any use to the story. Jeremy Irons, while pretty strong as Alfred, is also reduced to a few witty gags. Holly Hunter and Scoot McNairy fare better with stronger and more interesting characters, but they still feel like a distracting from the main event, becoming part of the problem rather than a real benefit to the movie.
It does enough right to make it bearable. For one, the leads are great. Ben Affleck, while handling a Batman far more miserable and brutish than Bale’s or Keaton’s (he brands criminals and it is going to be hard to justify one moment where he throws a grenade into a building), is a welcome addition to the DC universe. Soft-spoken and always keeping his performance believable, Affleck dissuades any doubts we might have once had. Some of the punch-ups with the Bat are expertly choreographed, suggesting that when Affleck finally gets his own solo movie, we could be in for a treat somewhere down the line. Cavill is also great, once again bringing Superman to the screen, without any cheesiness or melodrama. The central debate is also a great one. Superman is loathed because of what he is able to do, rather than what he wants to do. As he soars around the world, diverting natural disasters and defeating terrorist cells, we can see his heart breaking as the world he protects turns on him. There is also strong support from Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. When the movie takes a shocking twist ending, it is even more important to have Lois on the side. With the packed storyline and visual overload, you are grateful for their scenes together, adding central emotion to this hard-shelled movie. It is a shame that the story never catches up with them. When the finale kicks in, we are back in the movie we want to see, but the wait to get there, like 2014’s Godzilla, is far too frustrating. There is also a double-edged sword, where one more villain for the heroes to face is added to the pot. It will divide audiences. For one, it could be described as the leaf that topples over an over-loaded stack of a movie. It is also CGI at its worse, harkening to the superhero movies of old, all set-piece and no substance. However, it does deliver some solid action (although Batman is so hopelessly outmatched, he feels more of a cheerleader than a member of the Justice League), as well as give us the sucker punch of an ending that will probably help it earn forgiveness for the dull first and second act. So yes, a mixed bag of a director’s decision. At the end of the day, good or bad, it belongs in another movie.
However, it does get a massive bonus for introducing Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. In a movie full of problems, her first in-costume appearance is flawless.
Final Verdict: An over-loaded narrative full of pointless sub-plots kills what should have been a sure thing for DC. A few good points should please the majority of fans.
I really just have to bite the bullet and watch this sometime to see how it went, though I am really not expecting much.