Seven scowling Ben Affleck’s out of 10
I’m sure some of you might have heard negative things about Dawn of Justice, and ultimately none of them are really wrong. But the incredibly harsh criticism of the film is largely just an example of people bandwagoning onto hating a film simply because it doesn’t meet their expectations of what it should have been.
For better or worse the DC film universe isn’t taking notes from Marvel. It takes itself very seriously, continuing the trend Christopher Nolan began in his Dark Knight Trilogy, and continued in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Personally, I see it as a positive move for DC, differentiating itself from Marvel so that they really aren’t competing. However, in the case of Dawn of Justice, it just isn’t executed well.
Batman V. Superman opens with a veteran Batman (Ben Affleck) witnessing the horrific aftermath of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) battle from Man of Steel. The film then fast forwards a year and a half to when Superman is implicated in a massacre he didn’t take part in, setting an already suspicious Batman on the warpath. However, this main plot of the film is often lost in a cacophony of new characters and world building.
At this point, I have to make the comparison that anyone reviewing this film inevitably will. Dawn of Justice flounders for the very reasons that Marvel’s wildly popular Avengers films have succeeded. The Avengers worked despite it’s large cast because the audience already knew everyone in it. Ironman, Thor, Captain America, The Black Widow, and The Hulk all already had films in which their characters were developed. People knew what Captain America was going to do and why he was going to do it. In Dawn of Justice we’re bombarded with new characters that, despite its two-and-a-half-hour long runtime, leave it feeling cluttered. This is one of the largest failings of the film, and probably the most unavoidable. As a consequence, however, it does the vast majority of the groundwork for future films set in the DC universe, but judging the film as it is it’s a detriment.
The second major issue with the film is that it’s poorly paced. At one point nearly an hour goes by before anything besides talking and politicking happens. Fight scenes are sparse and few between, surrounded by unexciting plot points and dialogue. I imagine Dawn of Justice is poorly paced for the same reasons why the film is cluttered. It spends so much of its time trying to develop characters and the world they live in that it never gets a chance to really do much. However, it is becoming a popular theory that when the film was edited for theaters a number of its scenes were cut, leading to its poor pacing. I hope this is the case, because not only could a director’s cut potentially remedy the dismal pacing, but also help make the film feel less cluttered. Whether or not that turns out to be true we’ll have to wait and see, but for now Dawn of Justice is badly paced.
Now the film is deeply flawed, but it still manages to do a lot of things right. It’s casting work is excellent, Ben Affleck makes a great old and embittered Batman, and Gal Godot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman left me excited for her upcoming solo film. Many people questioned the casting of Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network, Zombieland) as Lex Luthor, but his portrayal of the villain really fits within the state of today’s society and industry. On top of that, the action scenes are excellent. They really are everything you could have hoped they’d be, highlighting the godlike power of superheroes like Wonder Woman and Superman and making Batman a terrifying presence.