Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★

"What a beautiful noise
Comin' up from the street
Got a beautiful sound
It's got a beautiful beat."
                   - Neil Diamond 

In a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the status quo, with its constant winking to the audience, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice comes as a welcomed palette cleanser. Whereas those films are stake-free, cookie cutter affairs, BvS offers thought provoking allegories, real stakes, and fresh looks at classic characters.

Those fresh looks are a bold move when they're used on characters that have been around in comic books and various media for the better half of a century. In this universe, we're faced with the fact that Gods walk amongst us and the sheer panic that the populace would experience in such a situation. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are all Gods in both a literal and philosophical sense. Larger than life personas that we'd be hard pressed to understand or approve.

The 9/11 allusion has been done before, most prominently in follow-up films to Marvel's The Avengers. It's well intentioned there but clunky in execution. In BvS however, it's superbly done, and frankly, rather disturbing. From the opening sequences we're placed at Ground Zero in Metropolis as a frenzied Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, more on him later) races to save a close friend as the city is torn to ruins during the climactic battle that closed Man of Steel. Wayne running into oncoming debris and dust, we're on the ground with him seeing the destruction from his perspective, taking in every gruesome sight. Dazed survivors stumbling though the mist, a police horse wandering, Bruce Wayne being the hero we know him to be, surrounded by the corpses of thousands.

The DC Cinematic Universe is going to be one of taking responsibility, something that Superman is compelled to realize. Actions have consequences and the parallel to the United States invasion of Iraq is crystal clear down to the "1% chance" Dick Cheney quote repeated by an enraged Bruce Wayne. We all need to take responsibility, no matter how far that pushes us.

Others have said there's no thrust to the first act and that its start-stop method of storytelling leaves the viewer lost. The initial hour of BvS is told in a series of vignettes, mirroring the way we read comic books, never seeing between the panels. A character here, a plot point there, which when seen as a whole have a flow rarely seen in this genre. This is where that fussy thing called "character development" happens! Crazy that a comic book film would do such a thing! Baffling! 

This is as much a Batman film as it is a Superman picture so it goes without saying that the story would be disjointed to a degree. These are two very different characters and the two halves of the movie should reflect that. In Gotham City we have Bruce Wayne aka Batman showing of his detective skills in true Bats fashion, even going undercover at one point (Matches Malone?!) to further his case. Meanwhile, Clark Kent wishes to investigate The Gotham Bat to his editor's dismay. The romantic interplay between Henry Cavill and Amy Adams here is lovely and feels true. Theirs, along with the relationship between Bruce and Alfred are high points for the film.

As for the cast? Stellar, all around. Ben Affleck is the best on-screen Bruce Wayne / Batman we've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. His determination and pathos are palpable and frightening. That's to say nothing of his rapport with Alfred, played to perfection by Jeremy Irons, whose quick wit can be a form of levity in an otherwise serious affair. Henry Cavill's Superman / Clark Kent continues to grow and mature, giving a measured performance for this modern take on the Man of Steel, quickly becoming a favorite. The true gem of the show has to be Jessie Eisenberg as a different take on Lex Luthor. Here is an emotionally disturbed, phenomenally evil individual, willing to go to great lengths to bring his plan to fruition. (And to force feed Jolly Ranchers to Senators)

Oh and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman? Maybe the literal best. 

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was always going to be a divisive film, just like any comic book movie. Too much like the comics, it's bad. Too different from the comics, it's bad. On a technical level, it recalls Watchmen with its attention to detail and its overall look (Based Larry Fong, cinematographer, delivers yet again). It also recalls what a comic book can be. They don't always have happy endings and they usually lead to big crossover events (Justice League incoming), these aren't detrimental to BvS's story but a boon. This has got to be one of the more interesting cape films in memory and if you meet Zack Snyder's latest on its own terms, and not your preconceived notions on what superhero movies should be, you'll find a lot to appreciate.

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