Film Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Eighteen months after the events of Man of Steel, Superman finds himself subject to scrutiny from the US government. Among his doubters are Bruce Wayne, weary from two decades of fighting crime in Gotham City; and Lex Luthor, who has located a certain glowing green rock in the wreckage of Zod’s world engine…

Primary Cast and Crew

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent / Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Jeremy Irons as Alfred
Holly Hunter as Senator Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Scoot McNairy as Wallace Keefe
Callan Mulvey as Anatoli Knyazev
Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves
Brandon Spink as the young Bruce Wayne

For the full cast list, see IMDB’s cast page

Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster


Eighteen months after Zod’s attempt to turn Earth into a new Krypton, Metropolis has rebuilt around Heroes’ Park, where a giant statue of Superman sits at the centre of the memorial to the dead. Clark and Lois have settled in to life together, but the world is not entirely comfortable with the presence of a God-like alien in their midst, and questions are being asked by Senator Finch about Superman’s accountability. Lex Luthor goes to the Senator with an offer to develop an ‘insurance policy’ in case Superman ever needs to be stopped: all he needs is an import licence for a glowing green rock found in the wreckage of Zod’s world engine.

In the mean time, Bruce Wayne broods over the destruction of a Wayne Industries tower during the battle with Zod and whether anyone can be trusted with the kind of power that Superman possesses. He is not idle, however, and while investigating possible links between Lex Luthor and Gotham’s latest organised crime ring he encounters a well-dressed woman who has her own reasons to be snooping around inside the LexCorp files.

High Points

Alfred and Bruce’s introductory scene together perfectly conveys their relationship, an enormously deep friendship forged over Bruce’s twenty years as Batman.

Bruce’s second meeting with Diana. No, he really hasn’t ever met anyone like her before.

The idea of the “metahuman thesis”, mentioned almost in passing as something everyone’s heard of, doesn’t entirely take seriously, and will allow the entire rest of the DCU movies roster to exist.

Low Points

An early scene contains some very obvious and very unsubtle foreshadowing. This might have been forgiveable except that it is repeated almost verbatim later in the movie, just in case we hadn’t noticed the first time.

The “I thought she was with you” joke after Wonder Woman turns up works well in the trailer, but within the context of the movie it’s completely nonsensical given what some of the characters involved have previously discovered.

Some utterly ridiculous overuse of slow motion.

At one point, Bruce Wayne has a dream which introduces a plot thread that is then completely ignored for the rest of the film. We presume this sets up for later films, but within this film I’m left rather confused by it.

Does anybody now not know Superman’s secret identity?

Would you fly a helicopter right next to an alien artefact that’s shooting lightning bolts everywhere? Would you?

The Scores

Originality is somewhat difficult when depicting characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor. We’ve not seen Batman and Superman come to blows on cinema screens before, but it must be said that how they get there isn’t particularly original. It’s effective, but it’s also fairly predictable and the movie makes little attempt to conceal what’s coming up and who’s behind it. 3/6.

The story is pretty solid if largely unsurprising. It mostly hangs together and it certainly delivers on bringing three iconic heroes to the same screen for an almighty battle, which is all the film ever pretended it was going to do. 4/6.

The emotional response is fairly limited for me at least, until Lois’s final scene which managed to tug the heartstrings quite effectively. The man two seats away from me in the cinema did start to cry at that point. It’s a shame the rest of the film doesn’t move the audience in anything like the same degree in any other direction beyond the occasional chuckle, and that deep-seated fear most of us feel if we ever think about what happens when someone launches a nuclear missile. Yes, someone does launch a nuclear missile. 3/6.

It’s a big-budget Hollywood film so we expect excellent effects and we largely receive them. There are a few things which don’t really work out in their detail, but the biggest flaw with the effects work is that a lot of it’s completely chaotic. I’d almost wish to take away a chunk of their rendering cluster and make them tone down the particle spam a bit. 5/6.

I thought the acting was largely excellent. Eisenberg delivers a suitably intelligent, utterly insane Lex Luthor, while Henry Cavill shows us a slightly greater range. This time we get to see “romantic Clark Kent” and “really angry Superman”, and while they’re both well-conveyed it’s a shame his range isn’t bigger (but we may blame the script for that rather than Cavill himself). Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is tired after fighting for two decades, but still dedicated to doing what he thinks is right. There’s a lot of standing around looking broody for the two titular superheroes to do, and both actors do it very well. The supporting cast are fairly universally excellent, and Gal Gadot gives us a tantalising glimpse of what Diana Prince and Wonder Woman could be like in her own film due next year. 5/6, on the basis that the script is to blame for most of the failings in acting.

The production is occasionally brilliant and occasionally questionable. Did we really need so much slow motion? Did we really need to see one of those slow motion scenes almost entirely twice? Did we have to cut into Bruce Wayne’s dreams in a way that makes us wonder for an unreasonable amount of time whether it’s actually a dream sequence or not? Of course we didn’t, but we got these things anyway. We also get various fast-moving fight scenes in which it’s impossible to tell what’s going on, some muddy sound and a fairly overblown score which is more impressed with the idea of being “epic” than adequately supporting the on-screen action. 3/6.

Overall I did enjoy the film, but it largely fails its attempt to address deeper themes (what does it mean that an alien with God-like powers is living on Earth?) and occasionally degenerates into a confused and noisy muddle. I hope very much that this tendency is addressed for future DCU films, as otherwise Justice League is going to consist of nothing more than the camera moving very quickly while Superman flies at high speed through a series of differently-coloured explosions. 4/6.

In total, I award Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a total of 27 out of 42.

6 replies on “Film Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

  1. Literally just left the theatre about an hour ago. I’ll be completely honest and say up front that I’ve always been a Marvel guy (except for Green Lantern I never really got into DC). IMHO the early reviews have been a bit harsh. I don’t think Afflecks Batman is as good as Christian Bales, but I think his Bruce Wayne is better. And your insight regarding Supes secret identity is something I totally agree with. While it wasn’t the best comic to movie adaptation I’ve seen, it was a fun movie for anyone who’s into comic books and is willing to accept that the screenwriters took a liberal brush when it came to “artistic license”.

    All that being said, my daughter was extremely excited about seeing an actual super-hero that isn’t a man and that made it worth the price of admission.

    • Wonder Woman! Maybe DC will beat Marvel in having a major theatrical release based around a super-woman.

  2. The negative reaction from so many people may bode well for the Justice League movie. Just before this one came out, Snyder said the TV Flash wouldn’t work in the JL movie because he’s too light for its darker tone. After reading the reviews, he said that the Justice League movie won’t be as dark as Batman v Superman w/ Wonder Woman because it will contain “lighter” characters, like the Flash. I haven’t watched this movie yet, but the conflicting interviews suggest (1) Warner can be influenced by the reaction to it and (2) at a corporate level, they really don’t understand what makes the DC properties work.

  3. It’s not that it was completely terrible, so much as, after years of wanting to see DC’s major characters together in a live-action movie, we get this.

    This generation finally has its Phantom Menace.

  4. I am curious if this will be better with the Directors Cut, which from the rumors I have heard, had an extra hour of footage?

    • I don’t know. I can think of at least two things that would have improved the film if they’d been cut.
      1. We already know the Batman’s origin. We don’t need to see it again and, while they used it as an element of the film, it cluttered the far better opening the film would have had without it.
      2.The dream sequence / dropped thread Matt mentioned under “Low Points”
      3. The dream sequences, period. Because what a dark, confusing, cluttered movie needs is dark, confusing, cluttered dream sequences, especially one that snipes the first meeting of Batman and Superman (in their heroic identities).
      But who knows. Maybe there is some good material that had to be dropped.

      By the way, did any of the Metropolis/Gotham football game make it into this movie? Because I seem to recall that was one of the first things filmed, at considerable expense.
      Not, of course, that this film needed football highlights.

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