FILM REVIEW – BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. With Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons. Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Directed by Zack Snyder. Rated PG – 13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality. 153 minutes.
The first of what’s going to be a year of many superhero movies arrives with the awkwardly-titled BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, which makes it sound as if Batman is suing Superman. With it, DC Comics finally get an opportunity to compete with the Marvel Universe (as they’ve already begun to do on TV) with characters and storylines crossing over from one film to the next.
Although this owes something to the Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” films with Christian Bale as Batman, this is really a sequel to “Man of Steel” (2013), the Superman reboot that opened to mixed reactions from fans and critics. The story begins sometime after the events of that film. Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) is romantically involved with Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and Metropolis has recovered to the point that Superman is deemed the hero who saved the city.
Meanwhile, across the bay in Gotham City (and who knew they were so close?), Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), is brooding because he doesn’t believe that the alien Superman can be trusted. Ironically, as Batman, he himself is a vigilante who has taken to branding some of the miscreants he’s turned over to the police. Ready to play off the tensions between the two heroic misanthropes is philanthropist Alexander “Lex” Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who is trying to get a hold of some radioactive material from Superman’s home world of Krypton in the belief it is the only thing that can stop him.
There’s more to the plot–indeed, at two-and-a-half hours the film takes a long time to get going–and most of the things critics were repeatedly warned not to reveal as “spoilers” are already out there in the film’s trailers. Here’s one that shouldn’t spoil anything: At a hearing led by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) to examine if Superman answers to the people or believes himself exempt from the rule of law, one of the other committee members is played by real-life Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, a serious legislator who is a “Batman” fan and has appeared in several animated and live action films.
Although this is primarily a dark superhero film in the mode that has become a convention at least since “Batman Begins,” it does have some lighter moments, including Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor Perry White, Jeremy Irons as a somewhat grizzled Alfred–not that Bruce Wayne seems to need a butler, and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, whose real identity has already been given away in the trailers. Indeed, without saying where the story is going, it’s clear that the hope is to get to a big screen Justice League of America, DC’s counteragent to Marvel’s Avengers.
While Snyder keeps things moving, the climactic battle(s) go on a bit long, although Cavill has grown comfortable since “Man of Steel” and Affleck successfully takes over from Christian Bale. Considering how fans were expecting a trainwreck here, the winner in “Batman v. Superman” is, arguably, the audience.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.