Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill

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Slow, underdeveloped, messy buildup to the awesome action-filled final act

It has finally come true — two of the most iconic comic superheroes in the same live action feature disagreeing and fighting each other. Although the film is two hours and a half long, the film doesn’t waste too much time on developing the new characters in this DC cinematic universe. Director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, 300) and writers David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, Batman Begins) and Chris Terrio (Argo) simply expect their audience to be at least half a comic book fan and just know who these extraordinary people are and what they (and their equipment) are capable of — like a movie spinoff of a long series of cartoon, except that it’s not. For those who don’t at all, well, prepared to be bored and confused.

The narrative kicks off with Bruce Wayne’s flashback dream of his parents’ death before taking us back to the reckless final fight between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) at the end of the previous instalment Man of Steel (2013), showing the spontaneously courageous Wayne (Ben Affleck) running towards the falling and burning skyscrapers to save the people at Wayne Enterprise. What an amazing scene this is and coming from Snyder, the visuals are bound to be spectacular (except of Doomsday’s CGI). Wayne sees aliens as threat to the world and plans to kill Superman. A government committee, too, holds Superman responsible for the deaths surrounding his heroics. There’s this theme about the right and wrong of unauthorised saviour and illegal justice but as the film goes on, it fades and never reaches its point.

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Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo, Good Will Hunting) proves to be a very good weary and aging Bruce Wayne with his classy arrogance, and a very wild and violent, even if goofy, Batman like in the animations and comics. However, he can seem like a stubborn, blind asshole due to the poor narrative. Wayne’s progressed friendship with his butler Alfred, played by Jeremy Irons (The Man in the Iron Mask, Die Hard with a Vengence), is very well portrayed, like how two old friends would be to each other after staying with each other for decades. Cavill’s (Man from U.N.C.L.E.) Superman may still not be the one that people would prefer or remember as he is still too depressing and there isn’t an opposite personality when he’s Clark Kent. Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network) is basically being a Joker-version of Mark Zuckerberg for Lex Luthor here. The character is Superman’s classic wealthy and intelligent villain but unfortunately he’s very underdeveloped here. The gorgeous Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious 5 and 6) is an elegant Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and she pretty much steals every little scene she’s in despite not being in the main plot.

Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, Doomsday (a surprise spoilt by one of its trailer), link to Justice League, a lot of in-your-face easter eggs (some are too damn unnecessarily forced) — it goes without saying that there are just too much to tell in single movie and by not overbloating it, everything feels underdeveloped with vague explanations. What’s the motive of Lex Luthor? How does Superman always seem to know where and when exactly Lois Lane (Amy Adams) needs to be saved every single time? You might understand why Batman needs to hate Superman, but you just can’t feel it. And with the film’s dark and grim tone, more so than Man of Steel, and the lack of humour, the first two acts can seem very long despite rushing through the depth of the characters while missing emotional attachment.

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After two long acts of building up to what one could already predict, then comes the very Nolan-Dark Knight-ish moment — “All he needed was a little push” followed by “Where is she?!” — but not as well executed or cleverly written to make this part as impactful. The final act is what the fans have been waiting for and it doesn’t disappoint. Extremely cool full-fledged action. It even got me fist-pumping inside while screaming “aw yeah, finally!”. It’s not very long, but it was probably worth the wait. Look out for the score by Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, The Lion King) and Junkie XL (Deadpool, Mad Max: Fury Road), it made me feel like crying even though I didn’t really feel sad.

Although the story doesn’t done enough to justify the need for the titular two to fight each other, they do fight and there is a victor, even though it’s not entirely fair. And surprisingly, the film also ends by being somewhat faithful to the comic, I’m not going to say which one. FUN is not the word I would use to describe this SUPERHERO flick. It doesn’t quite live up to expectation but at least it delivers what most fans want to see most.

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Post-credit scene? There was none at the press screening. This ain’t Marvel anyway.

What I would’ve named the film: “Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman v Doomsday: Rush to Justice League”

Malaysia censorship: I did notice one awkward jump in Batman’s dream sequence. Other than that, seemed fine.

To watch in 3D? Try looking for a cinema that has bigger screens (like IMAX) for the taller aspect ratio regardless of whether it’s in 3-D or not. It was filmed in 70 mm format thus standard cinema screens may have the top and bottom cropped off. Some of the scenes with skyscrapers crashing down and burning are pretty amazing. I watched it in IMAX 3D and although it has little to no depth, it probably shows more than standard size screens do.

Second opinion: My friend Joel said he has mixed feelings about the film but did not dislike it despite its obvious problems.

Verdict: Not your typical superhero flick. Takes a long time to reach climax but when it cums, I mean, comes, enjoy the short awesomeness.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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batman v superman movie poster malaysiaBased on: DC Comics’ characters

Genre: Superhero
Running Time: 152 minutes
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriters: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons

Malaysia Release Date: 24 March 2016
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: DC Entertainment, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films

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