It doesn’t matter if you’re not a massive film fan.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not into comics.
It even doesn’t matter if you have no idea who Wonder Woman is.
When it comes to Batman and Superman, you know who they are. Quite simply, they’re the two most recognisable comic book characters of all time. They may not the best, or the most complex, but not even Donald Trump could argue they’re not the two most famous.
So, in a world where our cinemas have become saturated with superhero slog-fests (not necessarily a bad thing), it’s remarkable the behemoths of the superhero genre have taken so long to share the big screen.
But the important part is they’re here now.
And the most important part is that it’s good. Really good. It’s definitely not without its flaws, but it’s unmistakably good.
First off, the performances.
When Ben Affleck was cast as the Batman for the new DC Extended Universe (DCEU), many fans became gripped by an inconsolable rage. While this particular reviewer thought it was the best casting possible for the older and more grizzly Bruce Wayne/Batman the film depicts, it quickly became utterly clear I was in the minority.
I won’t be after this.
Ben Affleck is Bruce Wayne and is Batman in this film. No other live action depiction has come this close to replicating the Batman we’ve seen in the comics and the original animated series that defined the childhoods of so many.
His mannerisms are often so subtle as Bruce Wayne, a twitch of the cheek here, a loathsome gaze there, but they so clearly convey a rage that burns at the very core of his being at Superman for the destruction the Kryptonian caused in 2013’s Man of Steel.
As Batman, he’s completely the opposite in the best possible way. This is without a doubt the most brutal Batman we’ve ever seen on screen, and quite possibly one of the most brutal we’ve seen from even the comics. His fight scenes are choreographed (obviously), but Affleck’s performance and unbridled rage during them see him become animalistic in his brutal takedowns of multiple enemies. He’s so brutal, in fact, that fans of Batman lore will have plenty to debate once the credits roll.
Henry Cavill is great as Superman, and he shines through in Batman v Superman more than he did in Man of Steel because he is given more to do and more moments to shine. The fact he is rarely, if ever, criticised for his take on one of the more difficult tasks in comic book adaptions is the ultimate compliment.
And Gal Gadot. Unlike Ben Affleck’s casting, I was skeptical of Gadot from the moment she was cast. For one, there were far better actresses suited for the role (Jamie Alexander and Gina Carano to name a couple). Secondly, her thick accent makes it difficult for those who have been so used to the character having an American accent. There are more reasons, but needless to say Gadot, not Affleck, was my biggest concern coming in.
Considering that, she was solid. People who say she stole the movie are lying or were asleep for most of it. But she does well with what she’s given (which to be fair isn’t a lot, she has exactly 16 lines of dialogue in the film).
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was a bit more compelling as it looked in the trailers, and shows behind the facade he puts on in public he really is a slippery and conniving figure. Where his character is left in the film leaves the most promise moving forward.
The story? Surprisingly not as crammed as many feared. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say there were scenes that could’ve been cut out to make the movie a bit punchier (no pun intended). The first act is fairly monotonous, a mishmash of scenes trying to cover a lot of ground in as little time as possible, and it can be quite jarring because of it.
However, from about 30 minutes into the film onwards, Batman v Superman doesn’t skip a beat (or beatdown). Say what you will about Zack Snyder’s directing abilities, but this guy knows how to shoot action. The film’s major fight scenes are handled as well as humanly possible, and look like screenshots of some of the most iconic moments in comics.
There are, of course, the obligatory setups for future DC films, but the cameos of future Justice League members were handled more efficiently than I thought possible, and the other tie-ins with future films were subtle and separated enough to avoid becoming annoying.
Most impressive were the surprises the film has in store, particularly in the third act. The second trailer for this film worried many, as it looked to be a three minute summary of the entire film (ala The Amazing Spider-Man 2). While that’s partially the case, there are certainly surprises aplenty to be had when battle royale ensues, so it’s advised to keep as spoiler free as possible before entering the cinema.
All in all, Batman v Superman does enough to either satisfy or exceed the expectations of those who fear for the magnitude of its task. The performances are at the very least solid and at the very most masterful, and the script does a superb job of exploring the complexities of the two most recognisable comic book characters of all time. Sure, the film sometimes gets bogged down by the wealth of things it has to address and achieve, but in a film called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it achieves in delivering what Lex Luthor calls ‘the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world’, and succinctly sets up the dawn of the Justice League that will burst onto the big screen in 2017.
In other words, the DC Cinematic Universe is, like the Man of Steel himself, ‘up up and away’.
Rating – 7/10
Batman v Superman opens Australia-wide on March 24th (Rated ‘M’), and in America on March 25th (Rated ‘PG-13’)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg