Batman v Superman: Dawn of Disappointment


Anna Finley

Batman v Superman was the first major blockbuster of the year, and grossed nearly $200 million domestically its opening weekend. However, the film failed to impress critics.

Sean Muth, Sentry Online Editor

“The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world. God versus man. Day versus night. Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham.”

This is how Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor sums up the inevitable confrontation between two icons of pop culture, Superman and Batman. The two superhero allies have faced off several times before on the pages of several comic books and graphic novels. However, this is not only the first time the two heroes have fought on the silver screen, it is the first time they have appeared together in the same live action film. Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice was a movie that fans of the characters have been excited for since its announcement back in 2013 at San Diego Comic Con. But how exactly does this conflict between heroes transition from the pages of comics to the big screen?

The film begins with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s billionaire parents outside of a movie theater, the traumatizing event that will cause the young Bruce to become the Batman as an adult, a masked vigilante who fights crime in Gotham City. The film then shows the conclusion to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman’s predecessor, from the perspective of Bruce Wayne. He watches helplessly as Superman’s fight with General Zod from Man of Steel’s climax results in the destruction of the city of Metropolis and Bruce Wayne’s financial building, and Wayne finds one of his worker’s crippled in the rubble and a young girl orphaned by Superman’s actions.

Batman v Superman starts off strong, establishing Batman’s motivation and hatred of Superman. Ben Affleck steals the show as Bruce Wayne/Batman, playing a much more ruthless Batman than we have seen on film, one who kills dozens of criminals in combat. Affleck’s Bruce Wayne also spends most of his screen time doing detective work with the aid of his butler Alfred, played by a charmingly sarcastic Jeremy Irons.

But even Affleck’s performance can’t save Batman v Superman from all of its problems. While Affleck steals every scene he is in, Eisenberg makes you cringe whenever he appears. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a cartoony, over the top psychopath in the vein of Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever. His diatribes on the relationship between man and God and the Devil get old after appearing in several scenes, and his hatred for Superman is never really explained. Does he hate Superman because of his powers, because of the destruction he caused or because some laud him as a hero? No explanation is given other than he does because he is Lex Luthor and he is supposed to hate Superman.

Henry Cavill’s performance as Clark Kent/Superman is even bland. In a movie where his character’s name is in the title and he is one of the two main leads, Cavill’s Superman is never given any time to develop as a character. It would have been interesting to see how Superman wrestled with the hate he received from humanity after the events of Man of Steel and how he tries to earn their trust by trying to become a hero who saves innocent lives. Instead all of Superman’s plot lines are either rushed or shoved to the side to make room for Batman. When the motivation and character development in a film with two leads and a villain only works with one character, in this case Batman, the actions taken by characters in the film don’t feel real, and take the audience out of the experience.

As for the supporting cast, they aren’t all that great either. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is a typical damsel in distress whose presence in most scenes is simply to be saved by Superman. Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, shows up in the film for around 15 minutes in a shoehorned attempt to set up Justice League Part 1 which will show up in 2017. Fans were excited to see Wonder Woman for the first time in a live action film, but her presence is completely unnecessary and her screen time just takes away from Superman, who got lost in all of the rushed world-building this movie is bogged down in.

The fight between the two superheroes features shots and images right from the pages of The Dark Knight Returns the graphic novel by Frank Miller that features one of the most famous fights between Batman and Superman. While the fight in the film is fun, it takes only five minutes for it to end. This cheats the audience out of what the movie has been building up to for the first two hours of the film. This lack of payoff is hurt further by the fight’s resolution which can cause reactions from the audience ranging from confusion, to shock, and even to audible outbursts of laughter in the theater. While it would have also made sense for the fight to be the climax of the film, be prepared to sit in your seats at the cinema for another half hour of pointless destruction and mind-numbing special effects and loud explosions. The film slowly drags on until it reaches the two and a half hour mark before it mercifully cuts to the credits.

Batman v Superman is a jumbled mess of several ideas that could have worked as their own films. There is potential for a fantastic solo Batman film as Affleck shines as the caped crusader. There is a sequel Man of Steel that would have allowed the audience to spend more time with Superman, and watch him grow to become the great hero who stands for truth, justice and the American way. There is a Justice League movie, who is set up lazily and distractingly in Batman v Superman. Sadly, this is a film with too many moving parts, and Batman v Superman collapses under the weight of trying to move too quickly into making a DC Comics cinematic universe.