Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will always be DC’s biggest failure. Man of Steel was meant to be the start of a DC Extended Universe, but the movie’s polarizing reception wasn’t the best start. Meanwhile, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was consistently successful with several movies between 2013 and 2016. Rather than take things slow or rethink their plan, DC made the unwise decision to simply rush to the Justice League without fleshing out all of their superheroes. Making this the unceremonious first on-screen appearance of Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Although it seemed like a bad idea, I couldn’t deny my excitement when a Batman vs. Superman movie was finally in development. Superman & Batman will always be the most iconic superheroes of all time.
So seeing them together in live-action on the big screen was long overdue. It’s honestly kind of pathetic that despite owning the rights to the entirety of DC comics, Warner Bros. never bothered to make this a reality until now. The biggest mistake was letting Zack Snyder take the reigns. In order to differentiate DC movies from Marvel movies, Batman v Superman became excessively dark, grim, and practically joyless. That may work for the Dark Knight, but the Man of Steel needs to be the exact opposite. That’s what made so many animated portrayals work a lot better. I never thought this before, but I very nearly considered skipping Dawn of Justice when the response turned out so negative. Not because I listen to critics, but because I knew I’d be devastated by seeing two of my favorite superheroes treated so unfairly…
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice made me nervous all throughout its production. The title alone was confusing. No matter what Zack Snyder says, calling it Batman v Superman instead of Batman vs. Superman was a ridiculously decision. Attaching the Dawn of Justice subtitle just made it a mouthful. Then came the casting. As I said in my Man of Steel review, Henry Cavill is the perfect Superman. He remained in perfect shape and continued to wear a similar red & blue costume. The main difference is how shiny it is. It’s hard to make out any other differences considering Superman is almost always seen in the dark. Which is the biggest problem with his portrayal in the movie. Since Dawn of Justice isn’t technically a Man of Steel sequel, Superman is almost constantly brooding and hardly ever smiles. That role should always belong to Batman. The very reason why it seems like Zack Snyder only directed a Superman movie to get to Batman.
The DC Extended Universe was going to reintroduce the Dark Knight eventually, but it was still very soon after the completion of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Christian Bale was never considered since his Batman very much exists in his own Gotham City. As per tradition, the well known actor chosen to portray Batman became controversial. This time it was Ben Affleck taking the heat. 13 years ago, Affleck swore off ever playing a superhero again. Although Daredevil wasn’t his best, I do think he got too much criticism for it. Ironically, Ben Affleck technically played Superman in the movie Hollywoodland. Batfleck definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but I gave him a chance. In the end, Batman surprised fans and audiences alike by being the best thing about the movie. Even if he is way more brutal than he should be. The first teaser made it clear that a lot of inspiration came from the renowned Frank Miller storyline The Dark Knight Returns. Although Affleck was in his 40’s, he got into impressive shape. Just like the comics, Batman often has the same bulky physique as Superman.
This was also the first time Batman was depicted with his original black & grey costume. Unlike all of the black armor we’ve seen before, this batsuit is fabric with a fat bat symbol, shorter bat ears, and a darker utility belt. The bleak political tone of the teaser felt too much like Watchmen without being R rated. I was a little uncomfortable knowing kids were going to see a superhero movie this mature. Especially since toys and LEGO sets made it seem more kid friendly. I’m honestly not sure what my opinion would’ve been had I seen Batman v Superman as a kid. The second trailer emphasised the battle of the titans, but that was never the story I wanted. I never had a problem with the two of them fighting, but they really should’ve become super friends a lot sooner. I’ve always liked Superman & Batman’s friendship because despite their differences, they have a mutual respect for one another. Which is why the third trailer spoiled the ending by emphasising the DC Trinity finally together on the big screen.
Wonder Woman is just as iconic as her fellow DC heavyweights, but she’s never been given a chance in a live-action movie. Although it feels very tacked on, Wonder Woman’s presence was another highlight of the mostly disappointing movie. Her casting choice similarly drew criticism. Like most fans, Israeli actress Gal Gadot seemed a little too thin to play the athletic Amazon. Although she did manage to get into shape, her seriously desaturated Xena warrior costume didn’t inspire much confidence. Until a second image that got it to an appropriate shade of red & blue. I was just happy that she wasn’t wearing pants, but rather adopted a more gladiatorial design that didn’t stray too far from the comics. The same can’t be said for this movie’s version of Superman’s archenemy. I knew Lex Luthor had to be introduced after Man of Steel, but Jesse Eisenberg is not who I had in mind. They really should’ve gone with someone who already played a convincing bald villain like fan favorite Bryan Cranston. Although Eisenberg is actually the same age as Cavill, he’s still too young to run LexCorp.
Which is why he’s turned into a super annoying rich kid with daddy issues and a distracting head of hair. Of course Luthor has faced Batman in the past, but making him too similar to the Joker or Riddler was a mistake. Eisenberg’s overly eccentric mannerisms are so out of place that he earned a much deserved Razzie win for Worst Supporting Actor. Despite the multiple Razzie nominations, record box-office drop, and Rotten Tomatoes score as low as 29%, I still saw Batman v Superman in theaters with my family. Although Dawn of Justice very nearly ended up on the same day as Civil War, it’s clear which hero vs. hero movie ended up better. Apart from the 3 hour & 3 minute long Ultimate Edition, I haven’t seen the theatrical cut since. Even at its original runtime of 2 hours & 31 minutes, Dawn of Justice is 2 hours too long. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem for a superhero movie, but there’s so much unnecessary crap in the movie that drags out everything until the climax. Literally every cool moment in the trailer occurs in one night at the very end of the movie.
Batman v Superman begins with yet another adaptation of Bruce Wayne’s parents being shot in an alley. Only this time it’s in 3 minute slow motion with Thomas Wayne calling out to his wife Martha Wayne (remember that!). Thomas is played by the Comedian himself Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Martha is played by fellow Walking Dead actress Lauren Cohan. Batman’s origin gets weirder when Bruce falls into a well and the bats lift him to the surface. All of this is shown alongside a rather boring title sequence. The only interesting thing about the credits is Batman co-creator Bill Finger finally getting the acknowledgement he deserves. That’s followed by the Battle of Metropolis from Bruce Wayne’s perspective. Turns out the billionaire owner of Wayne Enterprises was there the entire time. Since the immense destruction seen at the end of Man of Steel was so controversial, Dawn of Justice directly acknowledges the consequences.
Bruce proves his heroism by running directly into a cloud of smoke, but Superman is made to look like a bad guy with all the death General Zod caused. Turns out a Wayne Towers building was the one they fought in, and Bruce for some reason needed to go all the way to Metropolis to tell his employees to leave. Unlike any other media, Metropolis and Gotham City are literally right across the street from one another. 18 months later, Lois Lane is seen again on an assignment to interview a terrorist in an African village. Amy Adams is about as good as she was before, but the same can’t be said for Jimmy Olsen. Michael Cassidy plays the famous photographer who very annoyingly gets shot when it’s revealed he’s an undercover CIA agent. Lois is held hostage, but thankfully Superman comes to her rescue. My biggest problem with Dawn of Justice is their treatment of Superman. I’m really not interested in philosophical questions about whether or not the world needs a Superman.
There are nonstop TV reports, talk shows, and interviews with real life personalities discussing if Superman is good for humanity. All I want is a bright, hopeful Superman, but all Clark does is mope around and question why he should bother being a hero. It doesn’t help that Ma Kent continues to give him inconsistent advice. Diane Lane is given a much more active role as Martha and even Kevin Costner returns as Jonathan in a weird hallucination. Lois & Clark have understandably become a couple in the time since Man of Steel, but it leads to a truly cringy bathtub scene. Cue obligatory shirtless moment. The Daily Planet is also shown in more detail with Clark taking on his traditional journalist role. Laurence Fishburne returns as Perry White, but he really comes across as a jerk for some reason. Maybe it’s because no one buys newspapers anymore. I was fine with the religious parallels in Man of Steel, but they go way too overboard in a much more offensive way. Most of that can be seen in Lex Luthor’s reason for hating Superman.
Luthor constantly compares the last son of Krypton to God, but he lost me as soon as I saw him playing basketball. Eisenberg is an Oscar nominated actor who could’ve very easily been a sinister villain, but instead he pesters U.S. Senators and force feeds one a Jolly Rancher. Luthor’s evil plan makes even less sense. His overly complicated plot involves framing Superman with the crime of burning African villagers when he saved Lois. The task was handled by Callan Mulvey as the Russian terrorist Anatoli Knyazev. In the comics, he goes by KGBeast, but in the movie he just uses a flamethrower. Holly Hunter plays a Southern Kentucky senator named June Finch who Luthor needs to get through to import Kryptonite. The famous green meteorite makes a substantial appearance thanks to Zod’s cashed ship. Luthor plans to use Kryptonite against Superman and other metahumans like him. The Kryptonian scout ship also makes a substantial appearance with Luthor using the corpse of General Zod for further nefarious purposes.
Mercy Graves, Lex Luthor’s bodyguard from Superman: The Animated Series, makes her first theatrical appearance too, but Tao Okamoto is given practically nothing to do. Most of Luthor’s evil plan involves getting Batman & Superman to fight each other. Batman’s reason for hating Superman is made pretty clear when Metropolis is destroyed. Scoot McNairy is given way too much attention as an original Wayne Enterprises employee named Wallace Keefe who resents the Man of Steel for the loss of his legs. Spray painting “False God” on a Superman monument was a step too far for me. Luthor exploites Keefe’s resentment by giving him a high powered wheelchair for an upcoming court hearing for Superman at the Capitol. The Batcave is actually pretty cool with a work area for Alfred Pennyworth. Rather than be a straightforward butler, Jeremy Irons is a much more hands on Alfred. Bruce has now been Batman for 20 years. You can tell by an easter egg of Robin’s bronze costume with a message from the Joker written on it. It’s only recently that Batman’s become more violent. This Dark Knight has absolutely no problem with killing criminals, carrying Batguns, and branding his enemies.
Superman’s reason for hating Batman is a lot less clear unless you watch the Ultimate Edition. Everything makes more sense when Clark uses his journalism skills to expose Batman as a maniac vigilante. He’s first seen branding a human trafficker who gets killed in prison. Since the police don’t seem to care, Clark grows resentful. Lois is also off using her journalism skills to track a mysterious bullet linked to the attack on the African village. Only in the Ultimate Edition do we see Jena Malone as a S.T.A.R. Labs employee analyzing the bullet. Secretary Swanwick also makes an appearance helping Lois find answers. Meanwhile, Bruce uses all of his world’s greatest detective skills to trace the “White Portuguese.” Clark Kent & Bruce Wayne finally meet when they’re both sent an invitation to Luthor’s gala. Their back in forth is everything I ever wanted for a first meeting. Including an indirect reference to the Joker. Unfortunately, it’s all undermined by Lex making their encounter seriously on the nose.
The only saving grace in this scene is the first time we see Diana Prince. Her very brief role sees her in fancy dresses looking for something that Lex has on her. Bruce is understandably attracted to Diana, but they don’t meet again until the climax. Superman’s public image is saved when he rescues civilians at a Day of the Dead celebration. He also rescues people in a flood and pulls an enormous tanker through the ice. Bruce still isn’t convinced when he has an extremely out of nowhere Knightmare. A post-apocalyptic future shows Batman in a trench coat shooting followers of Superman and encountering Parademons. An evil Superman drops in to heat vision Batman’s men before ripping his heart out. As if that wasn’t out of nowhere enough, the Flash suddenly shows up in a blaze of lightning to tell Bruce to find the rest of the metahumans. I’m a big fan of DC comics, but that was just too much. When Bruce’s file is completely decrypted, he finds what Diana is looking for, as well as the location of Lex’s Kryptonite importing ship.
Batman hops into a cool weapon-toting Batmobile with a sleek military design. Ignoring Alfred’s pleas not to go to war with Superman, Batman plans to steal the Kryptonite. More than an hour into the movie is when Superman & Batman finally come face to face. Superman tears through the Batmobile and threatens Batman not to answer the Bat-Signal. Batman retorts with the awkward “Do you bleed” line before he flies away. Superman later flies to the Capitol where he’s met with a divided crowd. Senator Finch discovers Lex’s deception, but she’s too late to do anything about. In what is easily the most cringy scene in the entire movie, Lex calls back to an earlier scene by peeing in a jar before blowing up the entire capitol with Keefe’s wheelchair. Superman doesn’t do anything to stop it, but at least the Ultimate Edition makes him look heroic by rescuing people afterwards. It’s also made a lot more clear later on that the wheelchair was lined with lead.
Bruce goes over the edge when he receives messages from Luthor telling him he let his family die. So Bruce gets into bat-shape, weaponizes the Kryptonian, and dons a heavier armored Batsuit inspired by the one seen in The Dark Knight Returns. The suit modulates Batman’s voice even more than it already was. Lex gets Superman’s attention by throwing Lois off a roof when she discovers his plan. Superman of course rescues his true love in time, but Luthor’s final push is threatening to kill Clark’s mother Martha if he doesn’t kill Batman in an epic fight. After 2 whole hours in the Ultimate Edition, we’re finally given the Batman v Superman fight we were promised. Made extra dramatic by being set during a dark and stormy night. Their battle starts off slow with Clark pleading for Bruce to listen to him, but he continues to attack anyway. Normally Superman would destroy Batman in an instant, but they’re put on equal footing with Batman’s Kryptonite gas and high powered suit. When Superman regains his powers, they’re not so even anymore. One last Kryptonite blast is enough to bring down Superman with a demented Batman planning to kill him with a Kryptonite spear.
SPOILER ALERT! A close second for cringiest scene in the movie is the laughable way Batman & Superman instantly become friends. Clark tells Bruce to “Save Martha!” and he stops when he remembers his mother was also named Martha. The comic book coincidence is seriously enough to end their fighting. Some people try to justify the moment as clever, but it could’ve been done in a much less over-the-top way. Lois arrives to help Clark and Batman promises to save Martha while Superman goes after Luthor. Batman hops into a cool stealth Batwing that Alfred is able to remotely pilot from the Batcave. Batman brutally taking out criminals in a warehouse is easily the most awesome Dark Knight scene in the entire movie. It’s almost exactly like the Arkham Asylum video game as Batman defuses enemy guns, uses his grappling hook to fling crates, and deflects attacks with his wrist blades. Apart from a stray F bomb, it’s really in this sequence that the Ultimate Edition’s R rating is justified. Anatoli threatens to burn Martha alive, but Batman saves her using his cape. Batman immediately refers to himself as a friend of Martha’s son.
At some point between all the action, Bruce even managed to send Diana an email with the picture she was looking for. The picture is of Wonder Woman during World War I with allies who will soon be important in her own solo movie. The email also comes with specialized clip packages for the rest of the metahumans. Ezra Miller plays a long haired Barry Allen stopping a robbery at lightning fast speed. Jason Momoa plays Arthur Curry underwater taking out a surveillance camera with a trident. Ray Fisher plays Victor Stone being turned into a cyborg thanks to his father Silas Stone played by Joe Morton. Rather than give any of them their own solo movie beforehand, these minute long teasers are about all we get of the Justice League. The second part of the climax manages to squeeze in “The Death of Superman” on top of everything else. Lex has been studying Kryptonian archives and somehow managed to create Doomsday using his blood mixed with General Zod’s corpse. It would’ve been a complete shock if the trailer didn’t give it away! Giving everyone (myself included) the chance to criticize Doomsday’s CGI cavetroll design.
The monster is also given the power to create EMP blasts and only gains a more boney appearance after a devastating fight with Superman. The President voiced by other Snyder mainstay Patrick Wilson, sends a nuke into space that nearly kills Superman. His strength only restores when the sun comes out. Batman tries to fight Doomsday, but a heat blast manages to take down the Batwing. The only cheerworthy moment in the entire movie is Wonder Woman dropping in at the last minute with her indestructible bracelets in a power stance. Han Zimmer & Junkie XL teamed up to compose a real badass theme for the Amazing Amazon. Wonder Woman subdues Doomsday with a bracelet strike as she readies her sword, shield, and Lasso of Truth. There’s an awkward exchange between Superman & Batman before they join Wonder Woman in the awesome DC Trinity shot I always wanted. Superman & Wonder Woman are obviously the ones inflicting the most damage on Doomsday. Batman tries to survive by grappling away and recreating the thunderous cover of The Dark Knight Returns.
Lois really helps out when she goes underwater to retrieve Batman’s Kryptonite spear. The only thing lethal enough to kill a Kryptonian. Wonder Woman lassos Doomsday, Batman fires a Kryptonite gas bomb, and Superman deals the final blow at the expense of his own life. I really wish I could feel something, but Dawn of Justice does such a poor job with the character that everything feels so rushed. Despite criticizing Superman throughout most of the movie, the whole world holds a funeral for the fallen hero. A funeral is also held for Clark Kent in which Martha, Pete Ross, Lana Lang, Perry, Jenny, and Lois attend. Bruce & Diana also attend from a distance discussing plans for the Justice League. Lex studies a hologram of Steppenwolf before he’s arrested in the Ultimate Edition. Then Luthor finally gets his trademark bald head in prison. As if they weren’t trying hard enough to make him a Batman villain, the Dark Knight visits Luthor with the intention of branding him, but he decides to send him to Arkham Asylum instead. The movie ends with Lois throwing dirt on Superman’s grave before it suddenly starts to levitate. Batman v Superman has some cool moments, but it’s far too dark and messy to inspire confidence in DC’s rushed attempt at a cinematic universe.