Three years after director Zack Snyder launched the latest rebirth of the Superman franchise with “Man of Steel,” he returns with an even more ambitious task: kicking off the birth of the larger DC Comics universe in theatres with Superman fighting Batman.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is much darker and more complex than Disney’s global box office-conquering Marvel properties, and takes itself more seriously than the raunchy jokester Deadpool over at 20th Century Fox, and for that it finds a great niche in our current superhero movie consumption.
Like “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman” contains some 9/11-like imagery. We pick up at the violent conclusion of “Steel” with Superman (Henry Cavill) battling General Zod while slamming in and out of the buildings of Metropolis (oh, and let’s not forget the “World Engine” doing damage as well). Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) Wayne Financial building is one of the skyscrapers that have been destroyed, killing a close confidant along with thousands of others in the city.
As far as Wayne is concerned, there’s only one person to blame for this destruction and loss of life: Superman. A god among men.
That’s a big part of “Batman v Superman”: When trouble happens, people look into the sky for a caped wonder to save them. And as he usually does, Snyder delivers some incredible imagery to portray this, from onlookers kneeling before Superman after he saves a girl from a burning building to a woman’s outstretched arms as he comes down from the sky to save her from a flood.
But does Superman’s powers need to be regulated? Wayne thinks so, and begins to find ways to stop him. And, out of very different motivations, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is also trying to find a way to curtail his powers.
Much of the 2-hour-and-31-minute running time is spent building up to when Superman and Batman finally go head-to-head. I wouldn’t say things drag, since the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL keeps you intrigued, and we get to let Affleck as Batman sink in. One highlight is an insane dream sequence Wayne has that you need to see for yourself.
Luthor finally devises a way to get Superman to face Batman, and that’s when the fun begins.
I can’t say Cavill is my favourite Superman, but he’s impressive in the fight sequences. Affleck does very well playing a believable Batman. He certainly will surprise many. And the connection between the characters of losing their fathers drives home their push to do good for others.
But the real electricity on-screen comes from Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
She steals ever scene she’s in, and has a look and swagger that are perfect for the superhero. Though Wonder Woman is in the background most of the movie, showing up here and there to be a thorn in Wayne’s side, her largest chunk of screen time comes when she’s needed most. And honestly, the way she’s teased throughout makes her worth the wait.
I would definitely watch a whole movie dedicated to Wonder Woman. Gadot knows what she’s doing.
Then there are some funny things you’ll catch, like news announcers making it clear where Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are fighting away from the public (a big gripe about “Man of Steel” was all the damage that was done in very public places). Or the bright idea of keeping the ship that did all the damage in “Man of Steel,” used by Luthor for evil purposes here, right in Metropolis. Shouldn’t it have been taken somewhere else?
“Batman v Superman,” though a little long a times, is an enjoyable superhero movie, even if you don’t love every superhero movie. It’s definitely a lot better than “Man of Steel,” and what it does best will no doubt make studio Warner Bros. happy: It makes you genuinely excited for the evolution of this new DC Comics cinematic world in the coming years. Hopefully with a lot more Wonder Woman.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” opens in theatres Friday.