Boring. Over-inflated. Self-important. Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice has endured a lot of abuse since it lumbered onto the big screen back in June. But the release of the Ultimate Edition on DVD, Blu-Ray, and UV, gives fans the chance to re-assess the superhero mashup and ask: was it really all that bad?
The success of Marvel movies over the last decade has given audiences some very firm ideas about just what a super hero film should be. But there’s no doubt that we’re also about to reach saturation point. There’s only so many times we can watch guys in tights and capes trashing cities before it starts to seem a little passé.
That Dawn of Justice tries to break the mash-em-up mould is something to be roundly applauded. In fact, once we move past the pointless flashback in which Batman looses his parents (once again), the opening sequence looks very promising. Starting exactly where Man Of Steel left off, we see Superman fighting his fellow Kryptonians over the skies of Metropolis. Only we see it from Batman’s perspective, as he scrambles through the debris rescuing survivors. And it’s this sequence that tells us exactly what sort of film Dawn Of Justice wants to be.
This – it’s says – is a film without the usual comic book, black and white certainties. Instead what we are presented with is a series of conflicting viewpoints. Is Batman a villain? Is Superman a god? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? And who should watch the watchmen?
On one side we have Batman (Ben Affleck); a man who dreams of death and bats, and seems increasingly reluctant to don the mantle of Bruce Wayne. On the other side, we have Superman (Henry Cavill), slowly seething behind his Clark Kent persona, as he covers library openings for The Daily Planet.
Both protagonists are living lives fashioned by dead men – their fathers. Both are losing their way. The world their father’s knew has gone leaving them frustrated, angry, and fighting to find meaning. In between, we have Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg), who has some serious daddy issues of his own, and sees the flawed heroes as a means to an end.
Dawn of Justice may have disappointed cinema-goers but it’s a film that does reward the comic fan. We have cameos from The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. The dream sequences may seem nonsensical, but they not only reflect the heroes’ growing loss of self, but also hint at intriguing, future storylines. One of the most interesting being that Batman’s dream is actually a glimpse of the future curtesy of The Flash, who travels so quickly that he can time travel.
There are some fine performances throughout, although Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex veers a little too close to Joker territory at times. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) are a breath of fresh air, portraying the sort of strong, independent woman that have been sadly lacking in recent comic book movies.
So what’s wrong with Dawn Of Justice? Does it appear boated and gluttonous simply because we’re all so used to brain-candy, adrenaline-fix movies? Does it seem rambling because it actually has a plot that we have to pay attention to? Does it seem naval-gazing because it has something to say? Maybe. Then again, should super hero films be three hours of slow-burn set up, and cumbersome plotting? Maybe not.
The real problem with Dawn Of Justice, though, is that it isn’t one film but several. It’s taken Marvel a dozen movies to build enough backstory and fan appeal for a multiverse storyline like the Infinity Gauntlet to work. Dawn Of Justice tries to do the same in just one film: setting up a Justice League and Darkseid plot, while juggling Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S Goyer (Man Of Steel) are fine screenwriters but they’re not Joss Whedon.