At long last, one of the most anticipated film releases of the past few years has finally arrived. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was originally advertised as Zack Synder’s Man of Steel sequel, with Henry Cavill continuing his role as Superman. Given that Man of Steel received mixed reviews and was seen as a sub-par entry into the Superman film canon, it was already questionable whether this sequel would be able to tweak the shallow, poorly written first Cavill movie and finally give Superman the recognition he deserves. However, given Synder’s track record of lackluster money machines (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch), film and comic book fans alike remained decidedly skeptical.
When it was announced that Batman would be included in the movie, with Ben Affleck as the film’s caped crusader, things hit the fan pretty quickly. In addition to what was a questionable move on the part of both Synder and executive producer Christopher Nolan, more and more announcements flooded in—Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Lex Luthor, and Superman’s infamous enemy, Doomsday, were declared to appear in the film as well.
This purposefully stacked, highly promising cast was Snyder's and DC Comics' reaction to Marvel’s long-term plan to release multiple Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers movies until the end of this decade.
Thus far, the feedback has been incredibly mixed—to say the least. Despite crushing the box office and raking in an estimated $420 million worldwide on opening weekend, the superhero epic received a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes and currently holds a 7.4/10 on IMDB (at one point having a 9.4/10). What this says more than anything about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is that there is both good and bad to glean from the experience.
There are many moving parts in the film, muddling the plot line and leaving little room for character development. The opening sequence—a five-minute brief synopsis of Bruce Wayne’s origin story—offers a scene that presumes the audience is familiar with Wayne’s past. Told in a rushed fashion as the credits roll, the reintroduction to Batman’s beginnings lacks the story’s quintessential emotion.
Regardless, the sequence makes sense in context. After the credits, Bruce Wayne sees Superman smash an enemy through Wayne Enterprises tower, where dozens of people are killed as a result— including a young girl’s mother, with which Bruce can sympathize. This ignites his rage over Superman’s reckless nature, as well as that of the US Government’s Committee on Superman. Since the government can only plead to the alien with God-like powers to compromise, the caped crusader dons a kryptonite-power super suit and decides to take action. This is a highly intelligent concept that could have carried the movie on its own—depicting Superman as someone who thinks he is standing up for truth and justice, yet is oblivious to the damage he is wreaking and the fear he inspires in an entire country.
Then comes the scene in which Batman and Superman actually fight, which is as disappointing as fans feared, considering it is the title of the movie. One would hope that Snyder would spend enough time making sure the actual fight scene was drawn out and filled with punches through building walls and flying batarangs laced with kryptonite. There is a fair amount of butt-kicking to go around, but it is minimally focused on the two heroes; there is in reality more energy spent on stopping Doomsday. Although he should not have been included in the movie in the first place, Doomsday’s epic fight sequence against Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman may be the best Synder had to offer visually. If only they could fit Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman v Doomsday into a title—but even then, that could not capture everything the movie attempts to introduce.
The conflict between the two titular heroes would have actually been a silver lining in Batman v Superman if not for the overflow of story arcs that surrounded it. The writers had a solid superhero movie at its base, but they decided to nosedive into a sea of DC characters to craft an ostentatious superhero epic. In many ways, that is what it is, and maybe years from now when the rest of the Justice League movies are released, Batman v Superman will be seen in a much better light. For now, that seems doubtful.