Considering the mixed critical and commercial reception – and endless pro/con fanboy soapboxing – garnered by 2013’s Man of Steel, a sequel was never really a sure thing. But Zack Snyder, returning director and main architect of this new DC Comics Cinematic Universe, got crafty. By not just including Batman in the follow-up film, but actually having the Dark Knight throw down against Superman in a titanic slobber knocker that draws its inspiration from Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns”, Snyder and the folks at Warner Bros ensured that rabidly excited fans would turn out in hordes for this comic book clash years in the making.

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But then Batman v Superman suddenly morphed from just a Man of Steel sequel to the de facto launchpad of an entire movie universe, and people – myself included – started worrying. Just looking at the newly christened title alone, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was over-stuffed, ungainly and embarrassingly clumsy; could the actual movie, with its butt-numbing 150 minute running time and gallery of rumoured cameos, be following suit as just as over-stuffed, ungainly and clumsy?

The short answer: Not quite. The slightly longer and more descriptive answer: Batman v Superman delivers like a superpowered Kryptonian punch to the face, with all the subtlety that entails, although Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman and Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman both get a bit more narrative depth to work with than previous iterations. This is mainly due to the script by screenwriter Chris Terrio (fresh off an Oscar win with Affleck for Argo), which cleverly takes all the Man of Steel criticisms about collateral damage and transforms it into the core dramatic force underpinning this conflict in a believable fashion. That and also dropping a third act bombshell into the mix that left me slack-jawed not just for how brilliantly it ties together these two iconic characters, but also in how damn obvious it was, and yet which, in my nearly three decades of comic book reading, I had never seen anybody do before.

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The self-referential adjustments don’t stop there though, as there are several one-liners tossed out by characters directly addressing several of the negatives thrown Man of Steel‘s way – the minimization of destruction, Superman behaving more heroic, etc. They’re just sly enough to not be fully-on-the-nose, but there’s no denying Snyder and co are indeed speaking directly to the audience in this case. They’re also speaking directly to that lizard part of the brain that gets all excited when things collide in spectacular pyrotechnic fashion as Snyder orchestrates some of the most utterly gobsmacking superhero action beats I’ve ever seen, ranging from epic widescreen godly slugfests to brutal close-quarters fights courtesy of the Dark Knight’s vicious limbs.

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And as the Caped Crusader, Affleck comfortably silences the naysayers with a performance that is both physical and psychological, giving us a believably troubled Bruce Wayne and one of the best Batmen ever both in terms of straight-off-the-comic-book-page looks and and bone-breaking badassery. And finally doing proper detective work! Much like his much derided disguise, Cavill’s Clark Kent is almost non-existent, while his Superman is still not exactly the most exciting or inspiring – compounded by Snyder’s unerringly and insipidly morose messiah approach to the character – but he does get a few key moments and sells them well enough, even if he does almost end up a bit player in his own sequel.

As primary villain Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg turns in a performance that is luckily not just a copy of his role in The Social Network but something entirely new. Actually, this Lex Luthor is unlike any version of the classic character we’ve ever seen, sitting somewhere between the almost corny mad scientist Lex and the deviously manipulative businessman Lex, with a dash of millennial neuroses thrown into the mix for good measure. There’s a brokenness to him that is both tragic and maddening, and which may irk some traditionalists (which is sort of silly as there have been so many different versions of this character already), but which also dovetails snugly with the overwhelming daddy issues that permeate so much of our two titular heroes’ tales.

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Moving on from the gentlemen, the two leading ladies in the cast also hold their own. Amy Adams as reporter and Superman love interest Lois Lane proves her Oscar nominated acting credentials with just about every frame she finds herself in, even though she doesn’t exactly have to do the heaviest lifting around. But it’s Gal Gadot, making her debut as the final member of DC Comics’ vaunted heroic Trinity as Wonder Woman, which deserves the biggest ovation. It’s a cinematic bow that has been unforgivably long in the making, and while fairly thrifty it definitely doesn’t disappoint. As both her civilian alter ego Diana Prince, and as the demigod warrior Wonder Woman, there’s an unmistakable raw vitality and exoticism to her that just lights up every scene.

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Hers is also a much needed enervation in a movie that is almost comprehensively grim, with not much in the way of levity throughout its running time – though here, with the prominence of the traditionally dark Batman, it feels far more tonally appropriate than it did in Man of Steel (and all bolstered by a fantastically dramatic score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL).

But if you had a huge problem with some of the morality in Man of Steel, then a few of Snyder and Terrio’s character choices are going to possibly rub you up the wrong way, as it kind of did me. Even though there’s a definite logic to it in the context of this universe (which slightly softens the blow for me), hardcore comic book purists are undoubtedly going to have a conniption as Snyder once again butchers defining traits of characters – and one in particular – all in the pursuit of post-modern grittiness.

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And while the film’s final two acts delivers some seriously bombastic action, and Snyder treats us to two very different, but both equally impressive opening sequences, the script’s first hour then develops a helter-skelter pitter-patter feel to it, as we rapidly jump from forced plot point to plot point to get this narrative ball rolling. It does admittedly strike a good balance of info dump hand-holding and respecting the audience to just figure it out, but there’s a definite lack of logical narrative structure as things just happen followed by other people doing other things with no coherent logic other than to setup the next Thing That Needs To Happen. I can also see that complete comic book newbies are going to be scratching their heads at some of the “big reveals” just foisted on them. And yes, those include the rumoured cameos and Justice League setups, which are luckily brief enough to not feel shoehorned into the plot but rather feel like glimpses into this wider universe, but is still about as setup-y as you can get. If you even know who and what you’re actually looking at, that is.

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You may have noticed that we’re more than 1000 words into this review now already (sorry), and I’ve yet to actually mention the film’s plot. This is intentional, as the woefully mismanaged trailer campaign already spoiled so much of it, and I just don’t want to add to that bungling. I will be unpacking some of the film’s finer narrative points in detail on Monday, but for now I will just say that what Snyder has given us here is a film that improves on its predecessor in nearly every way – even retroactively making it better – but then repeats its previous fumbles in critical character aspects, while adding new problems with extremely muddled character motivations. And its examination of differing ideologies underpinning this conflict as well as its ruminations on theology and mythology, while initially a highly engaging argument as to why these heroes would come to blows, eventually also just devolve into a series of violent misunderstandings.

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That being said, on the whole, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice still offers enough gawking comic book spectacle to stand as a viscerally enjoyable if monumentally grim while not feeling as butt-numbingly long or over-populated as many had feared, even though it does indeed double down on setting up what’s to come in the future DC Comics Cinematic Universe.

Last Updated: March 23, 2016

Batman v Superman
While it's biggest missteps are mostly of the sort that will just rankle the comic book elite instead of the general movie-going public, they are unavoidable, leaving the finicky lifelong fanboy in me to give this movie a half star less than I initially would have liked. Not that the rest of me has noticed as it is just still grinning too hard at having seen the world's two biggest superheroes - and Wonder Woman! - finally sharing the screen in such epic fashion. And then punching each other in the face real hard.
7
44/ 100

83 Comments

  1. Metacritic 47

    Our guy 4.5 / 5 – 90 over 47

    I loved the review, thanks Kervyn. I have had massive doubts about the movie, but your review, in your words, makes me think I will enjoy the crap out of the movie. As with all movies and things, go in with an open mind, with little to no expectation and hopefully be pleasantly surprised.

    This universe has been done and redone so many times in comics, cartoons and the like, that I believe the major fans will be hard pressed to enjoy any single movie. Too much diversity in characters from comics alone AND a movie is made for all, not just the die hard, slow-mo through a movie looking for clues, fan.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      March 23, 2016 at 09:20

      *3.5

      Reply

      • miaau

        March 23, 2016 at 09:23

        Yes. Hey look, ninja edit so no one else will ever know.

        Yes. No one must know I struggled to count to 3.

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in New York

          March 23, 2016 at 09:23

          MOST!

          Reply

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:24

            est. Most-est.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 09:29

            miaau3.5

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:30

            Was version 3 not good enough?

            Also, do you have a changelist?

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 09:31

            version 3 had an increment counter bug, hence 3.5 was implemented

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:35

            so, the bug in version was increment counter to the next version? Ouch.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 09:37

            Maths.dll was problematic

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:42

            not for the first time, either. Man, testing team needs to define proper testing for the basic maths.

            Unit testing also needs to be beefed up.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 09:43

            So you will submit your unit for testing to be beefed up?

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:47

            a) not detachable from main system
            b) too much beefing up is not always desirable.
            c) testing seems well in hand. Um. in progress. Yes, in progress.
            d) this went South pretty quickly.
            e) that was an extremely funny comment you made

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 09:52

            f) Most

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            March 23, 2016 at 09:53

            I always thought f) was Off.

          • Ottokie

            March 23, 2016 at 09:54

            g) ?

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            March 23, 2016 at 09:57

            g) 0

          • Ottokie

            March 23, 2016 at 09:57

            That makes perfect sense

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 10:03

            42

          • Ottokie

            March 23, 2016 at 10:06

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 10:10

            That is my exact disqus description (hover over my avatar to see)

          • Ottokie

            March 23, 2016 at 10:12

            xD

            But that will not save you in the race to MR20 !

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 10:13

            The student has surpassed the master, you have no power here muahahahahaaaaaa

          • Ottokie

            March 23, 2016 at 10:13

            I coil before the strike

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 10:19

            You are going to down tools and picket?

            (granted, that would be super annoying)

          • Ottokie

            March 23, 2016 at 10:20

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 10:23

            Good news, mostly

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:54

            What is your obsession with Most today?

          • Ottokie

            March 23, 2016 at 09:55

            Well it’s most.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 10:04

            The most is quite applicable here on Lagz, mostly

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      March 23, 2016 at 09:23

      3.5 😉

      I’m really looking forward to seeing this over the weekend.

      Sometimes I think comic book fans are their own worst enemies when it comes to movies/TV, consuming so much whine that we’ve run out of sour grapes. Nothing is ever good enough for the purists. They forget that they’re not made for them, they’re made for everyone, and most people don’t give a damn about the minutia.

      Reply

      • miaau

        March 23, 2016 at 09:27

        “Nothing is ever good enough for the purists”, you cannot change that.

        People are people so why should it be……

        Reply

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          March 23, 2016 at 09:31

          You and I get along so most?

          Reply

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:34

            most-> awfully.

            So we’re different colours

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            March 23, 2016 at 09:39

            Yes, I’d hate for us to be 50 shades of grey.

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:41

            And we’re different creeds

            And different people have different needs

            It’s obvious you hate me

            Though I’ve done nothing wrong

            I never even met you

            So what could I have done

            I can’t understand

            What makes a man

            Hate another man

            Help me understand

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 09:42

            Very most

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:44

            I get feeling I am humming the tune, waiting for other to join in, but I am left humming alone.

            People are people so why should it be

            You and I should get along so awfully

            Help me understand

            Now you’re punching and you’re kicking

            And you’re shouting at me

            I’m relying on your common decency

            So far it hasn’t surfaced

            But I’m sure it exists

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            March 23, 2016 at 09:47

            Depeche Mode, or as I like to call them, Depress Mode.

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:48

            Yeah, I know you know. I also know you know I know that you know. So the question is, if you know I know you know I know you know that I knew you knew, why did you not hum along?

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            March 23, 2016 at 09:53

            Well I did hum the tune, and I sung the words I could remember. Like people do when singing along in the car. I even did the *boom boom boom* sound.

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:54

            Did you shake the room?

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            March 23, 2016 at 09:54

            I’m not that fresh. :/

          • miaau

            March 23, 2016 at 09:55

            Glad to hear that.

      • RinceThis

        March 23, 2016 at 13:07

        You’ll enjoy it man. Really good movie.

        Reply

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          March 23, 2016 at 13:10

          So that’s your cunning Hitman plan. You’re going to disguise yourself as a movie usher. I see through you.

          Reply

  2. Admiral Chief in New York

    March 23, 2016 at 09:21

    Damn, well written K-man!

    Reply

  3. Ottokie

    March 23, 2016 at 09:21

    Great review. I just feel that all superhero movies are becoming stagnated because the current genre is so over used the last few years. I personally loved when this genre was all new and shiny with pretty effects. These days I might watch 3 or 4 movies a year because I tend to enjoy a story line more than boom boom pew pew with Samuel Jackson everywhere.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      March 23, 2016 at 09:23

      I have had it with this MF SJ in every MF movie

      Reply

    • miaau

      March 23, 2016 at 09:26

      Samuel L Jackson is the man. Just ask Shaft. Terrible move, but he had presence.

      Also, 51st State. Samuel L Jackson is the man. The end.

      Although, he did not truly come across as the THE MAN in the first Avengers, I thought at times he as little bit petulant, in the beginning of the movie.

      So yes, point may be taken. May.

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        March 23, 2016 at 09:30

        51st state!!!!

        Loved that movie

        Reply

        • miaau

          March 23, 2016 at 09:43

          It was crazy, off the wall, and sort of unpredictable. It was made, I think, just for fun and it shows.

          Reply

      • RustedFaith

        March 30, 2016 at 21:50

        Pulp Fiction …

        Reply

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      March 23, 2016 at 09:30

      The Marvel movies are starting to blend a bit for me because they’re getting very same-y. Ant-Man was really bland & uninteresting. Not a fan of Ultron either. It’s cool seeing the characters realised on the big screen, and the action scenes are fun, but the stories are kinda dull sometimes.

      Reply

      • miaau

        March 23, 2016 at 09:32

        “It’s cool seeing the characters realised on the big screen, and the action scenes are fun, but the stories are kinda dull sometimes.”, is that not the point?

        Think of the first Transformers movie, the final fight. How cool was that? The rest of the movie could have been almost rubbishy and that final fight scene would still have been breathtaking? (although, perhaps parts of the fight scene relied on feelings generated through the movie, but still)

        Reply

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          March 23, 2016 at 09:37

          Well my point is kinda that you’re getting a couple of these a year now, and they’re doing little to differentiate themselves. It’s like watching a standard procedural show that has the same story beats every episode. It gets dull if you watch too many & they don’t make an effort to change things up every now & again.

          I actually was thinking of comparing the Marvel movies to Transformers when making that comment, but didn’t want to upset the fans lol.

          Reply

        • miaau

          March 23, 2016 at 09:37

          I regretted this as I wrote it. Sigh. movies do need some content, cannot just get by on cool action sequences. But I hate it when movies try too hard. I really, really enjoyed the first Avengers movie, and the 2nd Captain America movie. They did not feel forced to me, where some of the other marvel movies did.

          Reply

        • Ottokie

          March 23, 2016 at 09:37

          Yup that is kinda the point I guess.
          But I personally find much more story value in Anime these days than Hollywood movies xD

          Reply

  4. Geoffrey Tim

    March 23, 2016 at 09:27

    I got to watch it last night, and I liked it a lot less than Kervyn did. It was an enjoyable romp, and I liked Affleck’s Batman – but Cavill is a damp squib as Kent/superman. I think, like much of Snyder’s other work, that it’s another case of style over substance.

    I really, rally liked Gal Godot as Wonder Woman, and Adams as Lois Lane; they both held whichever scenes they were in. Eisenberg’s Luthor was, frankly, annoying. It’s like he tried so damned hard to channel heath Ledger, that it came across as more Joker than Luthor.

    Some nice action, but some terrible stilted delivery, weird plot holes that don’t really make much sense and a sort of forced plot progression that had me rolling my eyes far more than I should have.

    Reply

    • miaau

      March 23, 2016 at 09:29

      So, pretty much a summary I gave of the Force Awakens. BUT I still enjoyed the crap out of the movie, as it was fast paced, mindless fun. That, as with games I play, as all I care about. Was. It. Fun.

      Did you walk out feeling you had a great time or did you feel a bit betrayed?

      Reply

      • Geoffrey Tim

        March 23, 2016 at 09:31

        I can;’ have been betrayed, because I’m not a mega fan of either. It was mildly enjoyable, but I did walk out feeling…that I’d really like to go home. It was decidedly *ok.* Worth watching for the action, but there’s nothing in the flick that’ll stick with me.

        Reply

        • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

          March 23, 2016 at 10:45

          So now my question is, did you watch Deadpool?

          Reply

          • Geoffrey Tim

            March 23, 2016 at 11:18

            Yes I did. And I’m actually a Deadpool fan – so I went in with expectations. I enjoyed it, but was also underwhelmed. Reynolds nailed the character, but the story was weaker than my gran’s tea, the villain was uninteresting. The unrelenting flurry of jokes became a bit tiresome as well. fun, but also not what I’d call a “good movie”.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            March 23, 2016 at 11:28

            So what, in recent terms, is a “good movie”?

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            March 23, 2016 at 14:39

            I agree, I do believe that the story could’ve been beefed up a bit too, though, I would say that it was better than most of the comic book to movie adaptations I’ve ever seen, but that would be because of, as you’ve said, Reynolds nailing the character. Definitely a movie I’ll watch again, though I already have my doubts about seeing Bertman vs Alloy man in cinema, I’d much rather wait for the DVD…

    • Kervyn Cloete

      March 23, 2016 at 09:54

      I found Eisenberg to be… different. It’s not the Luthor I prefer (Clancy Brown’s version from the Superman Animated Series is still tops) but that didn’t necessarily make it bad.

      As for me enjoying it more, I guess I just like seeing comic book splash pages coming to life.

      Reply

    • oVg versus

      March 23, 2016 at 11:00

      Now that you have seen it, did that trailer that everybody in every cinema before every film WAS FORCED TO WATCH, give away the entire plot?

      FCUKING TRAILERS

      Reply

  5. Admiral Chief in New York

    March 23, 2016 at 09:36

    • miaau

      March 23, 2016 at 09:38

      Yecchh. Had Spiderman annuals and comics growing up. Now, just do not care about Spidey. I think the movies ruined it for me.

      Had Batman annuals and comics as well, they were and still are great.

      Reply

  6. oVg versus

    March 23, 2016 at 10:58

    Im SOLD at MUSIC by HANS ZIMMER. Same dude who did Beyond Two Souls. WIN

    Reply

  7. Gavin Mannion

    March 23, 2016 at 11:21

    I enjoyed the first hour or so then I fell asleep…

    so my review would be around 2.5/5 I guess..

    Superman was awesome, batman was stupid.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      March 23, 2016 at 11:29

      Old man falling asleep at the drop of a hat

      Reply

      • Gavin Mannion

        March 23, 2016 at 11:32

        pretty much hey…

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in New York

          March 23, 2016 at 11:33

          I hate it when my wife does that, but then again, I put her in bed and I go play Warframe or Division

          Reply

  8. WTFITBS

    March 23, 2016 at 13:32

    Going to see it three times this upcoming weekend. It’s on track to be the biggest box office opening in March of all time. I don’t think Civil War will be able to beat the record that will be set by this one.

    Reply

  9. Jim Hogan (Banana Hulk Hogan)

    March 23, 2016 at 14:54

    All I need to hear to go see it is…. it’s better than Batman and Robin.

    Reply

  10. Weezy

    March 25, 2016 at 21:46

    WOW, you’re such a geek! Well written as usual!

    Reply

  11. Gr8_Balls_o_KFM_Fire

    March 26, 2016 at 15:14

    DC Fanboy Review: 8/10.

    -5 points for being a bit sluggish in the beginning.

    +13 points for everything afterward

    Reply

  12. For the Emperor!

    March 29, 2016 at 08:24

    I liked the movie. Biggest issue for me was Alexander Luthor…that was cringe worthy. And sometimes I started feeling lost with all the jumping around. Action was VERY solid and exciting though!

    Reply

  13. Captain JJ the Isolated

    March 29, 2016 at 08:55

    Why do all the characters that eventually go full bald always have the same hairstyle as young men?
    I’m excited to watch this one, mostly to see the new Batman, since I’m a huge fan of the Dark Knight Returns.

    Reply

  14. chimera_85

    March 29, 2016 at 14:34

    Watched it yesterday, awesome film.

    Solid 8/10 for me.

    Reply

  15. Tbone187

    April 1, 2016 at 16:27

    You really have to see it yourself I suppose. The Force Awakens was a disappointment for me. Not huge , but a disappointment. Man Of Steel wasn’t memorable at all. Cavil’s got the look but not the act.Afleck’s a seasoned actor so no surprises his performance is better than Cavil.

    Reply

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