Following the Events of Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice follows the collision course between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent after the destruction of Metropolis. Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) lives in fear of what Superman could do if he went rogue and feels Supes is a threat that needs to be taken down. His paranoia isn’t helped by Machiavellian social engineering done by fellow billionaire Lex Luthor that makes the two super heroes showdown inevitable.
The reviews on this film have been absolutely brutal. I’ve been a fan of director Zack Snyder’s work, especially his phenomenal adaptation of Watchmen in 2009, and was shocked at just how much people were hating on Dawn of Justice. I put off seeing this film for a while because of the backlash and wondered how could Snyder have gone so wrong. After seeing the film I realized that the criticisms had very little merit. Indeed, a lot of the internet hatred has been coming in since Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. Little did we know at the time that this film contains a huge nod to The Dark Knight Returns and Batman is a bit older than we’re used to in previous incarnations.
The biggest flaw with this film, as some have noted, is the editing. The first forty-five minutes of Dawn of Justice is a jumbled mess that feels like a pastiche of short films involving various characters. As expected, DC is trying to shoe-horn in too much too soon in order to catch up with the Marvel franchise when they should have been copying their rivals format and allowing their cinematic universe to branch out at it’s own pace. Also, it should be noted that DC isn’t doing themselves any favors in bringing their characters to the silver screen while flat out ignoring their TV franchises in which there characters have already been established. The cameos in this film are basically mini-trailers for up-coming films and have little to do with the actual plot. There is also the little nods to alternate timelines in the DC Universe that appear via dream sequences that serve no purpose to the overall plot and confuse non-comic book fans. With the upcoming Suicide Squad opening in August, I was expecting a bit of world-building involved in Dawn of Justice to give some introduction to those characters; especially since the Joker is involved. We do get a line about the Joker, and see Robin’s old outfit graffitied up by the Clown Prince, but that’s about it.
The film finally gets it’s footing about an hour or so into it and we get some cool action scenes, most notably from Batman who manages to be more brutal than previously scene on film. Ben Affleck did a great job with the character, and I felt owned the role. People only have a problem with Ben Affleck because he’s Ben Affleck. Along the way he manages to slightly romance the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) who turns out to be Wonder Woman and joins the fight because they are trying to cram as much as possible in here.
Henry Cavill returns as Superman and brings forth the angst of the characters old-school values and where they fit in a modern world. This is a big flaw in the film because it doesn’t really make the case as for why Superman’s ethics are still relevant; perhaps we’ll get an adaptation of Joe Kelly’s Superman vs. The Elite story line somewhere down the line to directly address this issue.
The most surprising part about this film is Jesse Isenberg as Lex Luthor. Instead of being a boring old bald guy, we have the lively spoiled CEO, hipster/hot shot. It’s almost like writer David S. Goyer modeled the character after Martin Shkerli (whom I don’t think would mind the comparison). Luthor’s storyline is the most complete and compelling as he tries to destroy Superman for no other reason than his own lack of belief in any “good”. His machinations are increasingly brutal and cruel and is the first time I’ve ever found the character to be remotely interesting.
The upcoming directors cut of Dawn of Justice will be dropping this upcoming Summer and will be the true test of if this film has more to offer fans or if it is just a flawed but interesting experiment from DC. Snyder’s full cut of Watchmen is one of the best comic adaptations of all time; and I feel that with proper editing and more focus there is a much better film to be found in Dawn of Justice; but all this remains to be seen.
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