[Note: This is a mostly spoiler-free review.]
FOR WARNER BROS. and DC Entertainment, the mission was simple: Use the new film “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” to build a popular launch pad for their own expandable and connected movie universe to rival Marvel Studios. By doing so, they would more fully exploit having the rights to some of the world’s most recognizable superheroes.
So having seen the film (opening Friday), Comic Riffs considers the question: Creatively, was the mission accomplished?
Our verdict: If not quite a creative victory, let’s call it a draw.
The film has enough going for it that it should serve as a successful bridge to a highly anticipated Justice League movie.
The best thing “B v S” has to recommend it is its visual effects, which are stunning. Batman and Superman have never looked better in a movie, and Wonder Woman makes a riveting entrance. Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot, respectively, also smartly look the part as the alter-egos to their super-identities. And arguably no comic-book movie has gotten the comic-book look down as brilliantly as “B v S.”
As for the action, it’s intense, and the destruction in the last act of “Man of Steel” is dwarfed by this film’s chaos caused by Doomsday’s being on the loose (as we know is the case from the trailers).
“B v S” has enough going on that it should merit multiple viewings by geeks (including for clues as to director Zack Snyder’s plans for the larger DC Universe on film). And the film has unforgettable moments that fanboys may debate for years. Let’s just say: The path to the Justice League movie is a dark and bloody one, and if this movie accomplishes one thing above all else, it leaves you intrigued about DC’s cinematic blueprint.
Here are Comic Riffs’s six takeaways from “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”:
1. Wonder Woman steals the show.
And to think that the casting of Gal Gadot was once considered controversial. She doesn’t even need the red-and-blue suit and gauntlets to resonate as Wonder Woman. Yet when she puts them on, it is spectacular. Many filmgoers will leave “BvS” wanting more of Wonder Woman. Her part is relatively small, but her impact on the rest of the DC universe on film will be huge. Gadot is a striking warrior who can even make Bruce Wayne get out of his comfort zone and stand face to face with Doomsday and not blink. One of my first thoughts leaving this movie was that the Wonder Woman movie can’t get here fast enough. (She also has the best theme music of all three heroes.)
2. Batfleck passes the Bat-test.
For all the months of concern, be assuaged: Ben Affleck works just fine. He wears a Bat-suit that looks like a second skin, providing the best Batman look ever on film. He also has a technologically enhanced Bat-voice and the suaveness to pull off the role of playboy Bruce Wayne.
3. Affleck’s performance could spawn multiple solo Bat-films.
Batman has never looked or sounded better, and the fight sequences are much better choreographed than in the Dark Knight trilogy. The Robin suit hanging in the Batcave is the biggest clue as to what Affleck’s Batman has been through. If WB and DC are smart about this, they’ll explore Batman’s past in the solo films, since there won’t be time for that in a Justice League movie. This won’t be the last time Affleck puts on the cowl — and that’s a good thing.
4. Is it possible for a DC film to be too dark?
Smiles are few and far between, and almost everyone walks in the shadows at some point. It’s important to realize that this movie is the first step toward the Justice League, and the formation of such a group in DC’s gritty movie universe only happens if really bad things occur. Some viewers might think “BvS” could warm the chilling tone on occasion. Well, if there is a lightness at the end of the tunnel, it won’t be from this franchise, which promises even more dark times when the Justice League forms.
5. Superman is at his most heroic.
Wonder Woman may steal the show by the final reel, but Superman is the biggest hero in this movie. Cavill has grown into the Super-role, aided by dialogue much improved over “Man of Steel.” And when he dons the Clark Kent glasses, the viewer gains the perspective to see the consequences of Superman’s actions — and how they affect a God-like figure who was raised to think and feel like a human.
6. In Zack we trust?
“Batman v Superman” will not be the film that silences Snyder’s haters. Some will still say that Warner Bros. should not have trusted him with its connected movie franchises. “BvS” might only add to the criticism.
Snyder has made some of the gutsiest decisions in the current comic-book-movie era, so you can look at it two ways: You can say that he’s not the right man for the job, or you can look deeply into the story he’s trying to tell and see that he’s taking daring chances. And his storytelling risks could spark something spectacular in future films. There is no denying Snyder’s ability to produce something visually stunning, but he will remain a polarizing figure between now and the Justice League movie.