Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★½

Although my third return to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel brought upon a poorer experience than I had anticipated, revealing many of its imperfections that I was previously blinded to, I felt a sense of pessimistic certainty in the upcoming months towards the awaited sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It is only in the last couple of days that an excitement flooded over me as I recalled the strengths that I had found in Snyder’s other works, splashes in his filmography that I failed to include in my perspective, realising that hope exists of Snyder recalling back to the gritty, engaging, and thematic depth that was peaked in his 2009 Watchmen, another superhero based film that demonstrated a passion towards the material, accessible yet also unapologetic for its inclusion of its faithful intricacies.

Now the time has come for the film that would propel DC’s take on the long term superhero lineage, one that would match up against the now titan Marvel anthology, and with Zack Snyder back at the helm from his spotty reception in Man of Steel, it leaves one to question whether his return was a strong decision for Warner Brothers and DC. I cannot wholeheartedly state that Snyder would not be the right man for the task, as there are redeeming qualities to be found in Dawn of Justice, while simultaneously there is enough room for improvement that could not rule out the possibility of a more capable filmmaker that would appeal to Warner Brother’s specific direction for the franchise.

In following the vein of Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice carries a self-serious, densely thematic, and broodingly epic scope that would undoubtedly stir up much of its viewers. For many years, we have been spoiled by the more enthusiastic and comforting outlook of Marvel’s formula, finding that accessible centre that would generate mass appeal. The successes of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy has demonstrated a commitment from the studio to embark on similarly driven films to generate a similar appeal, to find that dual effect of critical appraisal and strong box office returns. There is without hesitation that Nolan is a far more subtle and engaging filmmaker, especially in his ability to mould the perspective of his audience and create a graceful movement in his storytelling that is able to balance moments of character development and opportunities of thrilling action, not to mention his capabilities of drawing and stimulating tension and shock, a quality that is found in many of his strongest works.

Snyder is not a stranger of developing films with a dark touch, as 300 and Watchmen are examples of brutal filmmaking in comic-book adaptations, and though Man of Steel restrains itself back from this sense of ruthlessness in favour of accessibility, there is however a hint of return in Dawn of Justice, although a significant amount of room still present for the film to dwell on such viciousness. There is now little of that hollow slickness that existed in much of Man of Steel’s fights, and by tapping into the emotional core of his characters and amplifying them in their desire to inflict pain, the titular battle becomes a duel that validates its throws and punches. It was only in the final battle in the film, a climax that would finally reveal the magnificent Wonder Woman to the screen in spectacular fashion, that the film reveals signs of a potential departure from this darkness, to glorify its characters in moments of battle triumphs and excrete moments of humour that would recall the banter of what is prominently rooted within Marvel’s The Avengers series. Only time will tell if Snyder would choose to remain within the confines of its darker outlook, yet given the reception that the film has recently received, there is a possibility of a shift that would attempt to compensate for its disappointed viewers, hoping to restore their faith in the franchise.

Personally, I feel it would be a tragedy for the franchise to shift its direction, with already two films in place that have moulded the mindset of its audience, and the fact that Snyder and his writers, which in this case would be Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, simply requires to work against the need to tap onto the desire to undertake an origin subplot for its characters, which here surprisingly restrained enough from having another detailed dissection of Batman’s history. They just need to allow these characters to exist within this universe and allow the natural course of events to stimulate the necessity to retrace their past, even if awoken sporadically and in short bursts. It is difficult to say if the addition of Terrio and the daily rewrites that Affleck attended to during the production of the film, attributed to its general improvement.

One can find this improvement through the film’s polarising positions between the two titular characters, representing different aspects of its overall concept, brimming for much of the film in psychological churning and then manifesting itself in physical exchanges. The film is not afraid to tap deeper into its existential tendencies, particularly through Superman’s position as either an alien or saviour, and the motivations of its characters are well defined, even if a little too on the nose, reflected impressively by the performances of its cast, with new additions like Ben Affleck and Jesse Eisenberg leaving me with optimistic of their upcoming portrayals of their respective characters. I was engaged by the ideas it suggests due to the delivery of its acting, with Eisenberg convincing in his need for over ambition and insecurity when placed along side the emerging titans, and Affleck’s Bruce Wayne demonstrates a shade of the character more wrapped in his own determination and past trauma that fittingly reflects the heated anger that is externally manifested throughout the film, and finally Henry Cavill’s Superman recalls the tugging war that was found in the preceding film, with this time the presence of his co-stars aided him from complete responsibility in creating characterisation for the film.

I am left further shocked on the disappointing response towards the film, especially from critiquing community, as though it lacks the humour and basic sense of fun that would be found in its competing franchise, there is enough content within to create a sense of complexity and soul to its characters and its attempt at seriousness adds further to the film’s emotional weight, notably in moments of potential loss or death, where acts of mourning and sacrifice would actually hold meaning. I cannot deny the film’s inability to reach its full potential under Snyder’s direction, and the potential room that the franchise would create for itself for glimmers of optimisms in its upcoming assembly of the Justice League could crumble further under his hands. It is a remarkable improvement upon Man of Steel, and its compact ability to deliver without a hint of bloating even with its running time, is something worthy of some form of praise. Faith may not be completely restored, but hope remains intact for the franchise ahead.

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