March 24 saw the Australian premiere of Zack Snyder’s highly-anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
We find ourselves in the wake of the epic battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) at the end of Man of Steel (2013). On the devastated streets of Metropolis, we see Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who, after witnessing the collateral death and destruction caused by the battle, is now convinced that Superman is a threat to humanity. What follows for the next 2 hours and 33 minutes is the story of Batman’s personal vendetta to defeat Superman for good.
While Ben Affleck lends himself perfectly to the character, delivering a stellar and gritty performance, the film’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne lacks the crimefighting billionaire’s typical charm. Cool, calm, collected and charismatic Bruce is replaced by a brooding, irrational, thuggish and egocentric Bat of Gotham, with only one thing on his mind: kill Superman. Snyder’s Batman is burnt out. He is resentful, bitter and tired of losing. The disheartened superhero has allowed himself to become more bat than man.
Under the pretence of nobility and justice, Batman begins his obsessive crusade against the Man of Steel – but he appears to be driven more by jealousy and fear of what Superman could become, and it is through this haste and pettiness that he acts. However, following an unexpected tragedy Batman returns to his former dignity, ultimately leaving the audience impressed with Affleck’s portrayal and excited to see how The Dark Knight rises.
The concerns shared by Batman and the citizens of Metropolis regarding Superman stem largely from the irrational and innate human fear of what cannot be understood or controlled, unlike Clark Kent’s concerns regarding Batman and his sadistic and criminal delivery of harsh vigilante justice. This unique portrayal of Batman is not the only way in which Batman v Superman challenges the conventions of DC’s characters.
Henry Cavill’s Superman is simplistic and disconnected from humanity, rarely betraying his stern demeanour, even as the mild-mannered, bumbling Clark Kent. Previous portrayals more deeply explore Superman’s battle within himself, his heroism versus his humanity, and his desire to have elements of a normal life. However, here we see Superman has become detached from those he protects, acting as a symbol of hope and catalyst for change. Cavill faultlessly captures both Superman and Clark Kent.
Perfectly cast in the role of Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg is undoubtedly the film’s standout. Pushing the boundaries of Lex’s usual guarded and calculated persona over the edge, Eisenberg plays a psychotic and sadistic mad boy-genius, devoid of reason. From his first snarky line, the audience is hooked on this floppy haired, fast-talking, manic, millennial version of Lex who uncharacteristically sports a graphic tee and jeans. It is from here the action finally begins.
After a slow start, the audience is treated to the cinematically perfect and beautifully choreographed prize fight. Full of action and suspense, the battle royale concludes with a twist bigger than Doomsday himself.
With great power comes great responsibility – this is certainly an overriding theme throughout the film, as both heroes fight under the same misguided notion that neither can be trusted with their own power. Lex, however, takes the stance that absolute power cannot exist without corruption and uses Superman as a pawn to prove his theory.
Unlike her male counterparts, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is a representation of a pure hero. She fights entirely for the sake of humanity without questioning who is or is not worthy of power or saving. Gadot is strong, confident, and effortlessly intriguing in the role.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice serves not only as a sequel to Man of Steel but as an establishing pilot for the imminent Justice League films. With a stellar cast and nail-biting ending, Snyder leaves you anticipating what the future holds for the heroes of this DC universe. – Kaitlyn Wilson
Running time: 2 hours 33 minutes
Top photo of movie poster from the Batman v Superman official Instagram.