Advance Review: “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”

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Please Note: Radio Monash’s pre-release reviews aim to be as detail-free as they reasonably can while still offering a critique, but as everyone’s spoiler sensibilities are different, we advise you read on at your own discretion.

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

Walking away from the IMAX advanced screening of “Batman V Superman” yesterday, I felt a certain numbness that can best be described as the feeling you have after being hit by 7 trains in rapid succession… and rest assured, I do mean that in the best way possible.

First things first: This is an incredibly long film, but only because it has to be. With something as monumental as the very first cinematic meeting of two of the most iconic characters of all time, logically one has to expect the occasion to be marked with a bang. This is a film that not only requires, but demands a massive commitment from its audience to totally surrender themselves for the duration of the film and be swept up in the atmosphere, action and suspense that is present from its very first moments until arguably the most emotional and rewarding conclusion of any superhero film. Period. Yes, it is a long film – though it needs to be stressed: of that 152 minutes, not even one of them feels wasted or inappropriately paced.

“That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.”

With quite a daunting brief, there is always the risk of the movie biting off more than it could chew – and though this humble reviewer is choosing to look quite favourably on the film, there will no doubt be others who will see it as being occasionally congested. As a pseudo-sequel to “Man of Steel”, the film does an admirable job in depicting the worlds reaction to Superman’s existence. Henry Cavill continues to be, in my eyes, the best portrayal of the character to date, and his dedication to capture the strain Superman is under both physically and emotionally throughout the film is without fault. On the other side of the pond we have Ben Affleck’s Batman, who really is something to marvel at. He effortlessly captures everything the character of Batman has ever been, enhancing it with his own unique flare that I have no doubt in time will become one of the most iconic to date. Both heroes come with their own posse of supporting personalities – notable mentions including Jeremy Iron’s unorthodox (though utterly brilliant) portrayal of Alfred and the return of Amy Adam’s Lois Lane, who once again exceeds expectation. Perhaps another surprising addition comes in the form of Diane Lane’s Martha Kent – who too is given great justice throughout the film holding a more important part to play towards the concluding act than previously believed.

Cavill Superman Day of the Dead

When it comes to surprises however, nothing can surpass the brilliance of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who, despite playing the part of a silent observer for most of the film, owns every scene she is present for. Perhaps the greatest strength of this film is its ability to tease the greater story that is to come – with both the exhilarating inclusion of the Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman and of course Wonder Woman as well as the foreshadowing of future battles ensuring many will be counting down the days until the story is continued November next year. This truly feels like the dawn of something historic.

“Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be… or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.”

Once again, DC has tapped into the merits of a darker and more character focused approach which they pull off remarkably well achieving a rewarding balance of action and emotional suspense.  This is very much a film of three acts, the first of which introducing us into the moral debates that serve as tinder boxes for most of the film’s latter sections. At the heart of this section is Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch who provides a slightly convenient, though confident intersection to unite the previously separate paths of Superman and Lex Luthor. While crucial to the narrative, this first act does run the risk of turning the film into a slow burner… but rest easy, as soon as it gets started, it REALLY gets started – and doesn’t really stop. The titular battle between our two protagonists doesn’t disappoint, not being too short or too long and finding an utterly satisfying (and quite frankly, unexpected) resolution that drives the story into its explosive, epic, emotional and thrilling final act. Regardless of how telling the promotional material seemed, this really isn’t the plot you might expect to see heading into the theatre. A number of welcome surprises – especially the motivation for the main conflict – have been kept well under wraps.

“Piss in a jar and call it Granny Peach’s Ice Tea… I still won’t drink it”

Without question the one aspect of the film that I dreaded the most walking into it was Jesse Eisenburg’s interpretation of Alexander Luthor. Despite my preconceived criticism however, both Eisenburg’s performance and Lex’s role in the film came as a welcome surprise. While not quite reaching the level of success one would award Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight”, Eisenburg’s villain is a mammoth leap ahead of “Man of Steel’s” General Zod and does well to achieve the status and menace required to fill the role of the antagonist for essentially two heroes simultaneously. There’s an unmistakable tension that is present throughout the whole film – and I don’t believe it’s too spoilerly to say those hoping for a happy ending for every loved character will quickly have their thoughts dismissed by the lingering sense of impending doom that hits hard towards it’s conclusion. Snyder has taken many big risks with this movie, and one in particular does its best to challenge the audience’s confidence regarding the safety of its characters. Perhaps a more fitting hashtag for the film instead of #WhoWillWin would have been #WhoWillLose – the answer to that being quite a few people, but definitely not the audience.

“We know better now, don’t we? Devils don’t come from hell beneath us. They come from the sky.”

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is so much more than your average ‘run of the mill’ superhero movies. Its exploration of how a hero thinks – be that hero a ‘man’ or a ‘god’ – is what sets it apart from a petty action film. It’s intellectual, thrilling, energetic and, at times, quite emotional – though in a way that only enhances the atmosphere and gravity of the piece. Stylistically and visually, Zack Snyder has once again produced something spectacular. Hans Zimmer too needs to be congratulated for teaming up with “Mad Max: Fury Road”’s Junkie XL for one of the most captivating, vigorous scores in cinematic history. It is an absolute home run. “Batman v Superman” has bold, breathtaking action in a story propelled by character conflicts on a mythic scale. This is the film DC fans have been waiting for… and it’s only the beginning. 

Nightmare Batman DOJ

You can read our thoughts on the first addition to the DC Cinematic Universe with our “Man of Steel” review here and listen to an in-depth discussion of “Batman V Superman” on next week’s edition of ‘Deja Moo’ – Mondays at 6pm on Radio Monash.

Connor Johnston

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