In preparation for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” I attempted to re-watch 2013’s “Man of Steel,” which I hadn’t seen since it first premiered. It seems that I failed to remember how dull the film is. Honestly, other than Henry Cavill’s strong jaw and even harder build, I found director Zack Snyder’s Superman origin story rather lacking. As a result, I had no idea what to expect from “Batman v Superman,” much less understand all the hype and questions surrounding it.
With Cavill reprising his role as the Kryptonian come to earth, I was most interested to see how Ben Affleck would gel as the Caped Crusader, especially since Christian Bale’s performance as Batman is the one I’ve grown most accustomed to.
“Batman v Superman” opens with Affleck’s voiceover as Bruce Wayne; there’s a short retelling of his parents murders, and then Synder thrusts us forward in time. Through Wayne’s eyes we watch Superman and Zod come to blows as they did in “Man Of Steel,” but this time, the perspective shifts to the massacre left in the wake of the attack. For Bruce Wayne, this moment solidifies his opinions about Superman, and as he watches the chaos around him, it further hardens an already war-weary man.
A great deal happens in this 2 hour and 30 minute homage to two of the world’s most iconic superheroes. Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne’s stories move and shift around one another before colliding epically at the very end. And yet, as someone who admittedly only has surface knowledge of the DC Comic world, I often felt exhausted trying to keep up. The various dream sequences especially, felt overdone. Likewise, Clark Kent’s relationship with journalist Lois Lane relied way too much on the “damsel in distress” narrative in this film. I’ve long since appreciated Synder’s casting of seasoned actress Amy Adams in the role of Lane. Nearly a decade older than Cavill, she’s so much more than a pretty face, but in this film Lane does litte more than wait for her unbreakable beau to come and save her.
Still, for any fan of superhero films, there was plenty to enjoy.
Perhaps it was the extra $25 million Synder had to play with this go-round, or maybe technology has advanced significantly since “Man of Steel” was shot, but either way, everything in this film—fight sequences included—was more lush and fun to look at. As for Affleck, what he brought to the character of Batman was surprisingly one of my favorite parts of the film (though his beefed up Batsuit and voice were comical at best). Massive, despite his humanity at 6’4,” Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is broody and somber. This is Batman in his 40s, with hair streaked silver and weary lines around his eyes. Bruce Wayne has seen and done just about everything at this point, and it shows. Caring deeply about others has cost him a great deal and he does not apologize for his apathy. The only time his eyes truly come alive is when he’s interacting with his trusty confidant Alfred (played to perfection by thespian Jeremy Irons) or when he’s trying to flirt with Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who will be getting her own film next year.
More than anything, Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne is fixated on the legacy he’ll leave behind.
Meanwhile, Jesse Eisenberg, for his part, is just as impressive as the criminal mastermind, Lex Luthor Jr. He’s manic and disturbing and yet his performance—which includes his lust for Jolly Ranchers and all white ensembles—leaves you entranced.
There is much to claw through here, so much so that the audience might easily find themselves exhausted from the overall aggression of the film. However, a lot of the story does work. The action is good, and the emotion feels real most of the time. A great deal of “Batman v. Superman”, though, feels like Zack Synder might just be taking the easy way out, never digging too deep below the surface. Still, Synder does what he set out to do. Ben Affleck’s Batman provides the impetus the film needs to move the narrative forward. The clash between the hero of Gotham and the hero of Metropolis is just as epic and grand as we’d hoped. And also we are introduced to the characters we will see in “The Justice League” and future DC film franchises.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” really is a battle of God versus man, and you would be foolish to think anyone is left unscathed in the end.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” hits theaters Friday, March 25, 2016.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami