“It’s time for the biggest gladiator match of all time. Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham”
In a summer chock full of blockbusters that are expected to defy box office records, dare I say this may be the most anticipated one of them all? When news about this film was first released, opposition rang out on both sides of the spectrum. Some argued that films that feature two characters facing off rarely work, especially when it comes to two heroes. I have to admit that I found myself agreeing with this argument. In my defense, this appeared to me as a clear strategic ploy to fast-track the introduction of the much-anticipated Justice League franchise. Now, albeit true, my resistance did waver upon watching the trailer. So as I sat in my seat, anxiously awaiting the lights to dim and the screen to illuminate, one question dawned (pun intended) on me: can the film live up to the hype?
The events of Man of Steel are seen again, this time through the eyes of Batman, albeit in Bruce Wayne form, as he arrives in Metropolis during the conflict to lead the evacuation of a Wayne Enterprise satellite office in the city. Arriving too late, he can only witness the destruction and havoc left behind by the epic battle between Superman and General Zod. Two years later, when the Man of Steel comes under scrutiny due to mysterious deaths believed to be the result of a misuse of his powers, the caped crusader is among the first to take up arms against him. Believing that the Kryptonian poses a risk to humanity, Bruce Wayne sets about preparing to do battle with Superman. Simultaneously, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenburg) puts into motion an elaborate plan to discredit the hero and turn the public against him.
Notice in my synopsis that most of is about other characters rather than Superman; draw your own conclusions from there. As initially suspected, this was a platform to bring the Justice League to fruition. That said, it is not necessarily a bad thing, because I must admit that I am sufficiently excited for the upcoming film. To be a sequel to a Superman movie, it seemed to be less about the character that it was inspired by. Don’t misunderstand me; Henry Cavill is featured plenty, but I highly doubt anyone can say that he is the prominent figure of the story. That title belongs to another.
“Courage is running towards danger while all others are running away.”
The opening of the film perfectly encompasses that quote as the audience is treated to a daring rescue attempt on the part of Affleck. My hat is definitely off to Ben Affleck, who brought much-needed intensity to his portrayal of the character. In my opinion his most pivotal scene comes when he’s not in the suit; my guess is the reasoning for that is the ability to see his face. It is the resolve he shows, especially during an argument with Alfred (Jeremy Irons), that lends credence to an assessment made solely out of fear.
Though Affleck’s performance was excellent and there is no shortage of A-listers in the story, there was one other person who brought an interesting quality to their character, and that was Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg’s interpretation gave the mastermind a slightly unhinged quality that I found mildly compelling. The one factor I found lacking was his motivation for wanting to bring down the hero of Metropolis. Clarification on this point would have helped give a better understanding as to who Luthor is as a person. As it is, all we know is that he possesses a great intellect and is severely damaged by repeated trauma in his past. Just something as simple as a brief flashback would have done the trick. Hopefully the character is expanded upon in the extended version.
The story itself was quite imaginative in the signature style that Snyder has perfected (found myself having a Sucker Punch flashback), but all the moving parts do more harm than good as far as I’m concerned. All the different perspectives did give understanding for each character’s motivation (with the exception of Lex); however, the dipping in and out of everyone’s imagination makes it difficult at time to discern when things are actually happening. There is one Easter egg specifically featuring the caped crusader that I’m still wondering about.
Now, what about the extended material? I have to say that many of the story issues have not been solved by this extended edition. The film still feels like a series of disjointed vignettes that take an even longer time now to get to the good stuff. The film is an ambitious project intended to accelerate the DC Universe toward what Marvel has already established. Yes, you’ll have more blanks filled in, but you will not really find it a smoother ride.
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The ultra-high-definition image is arrived at by an HEVC codec. The first complaint might be that the IMAX aspect ratio portions have not been preserved here as they had been for the home video release of The Dark Knight. Your complaints should end right there. This is a dark and moody film. There is disagreement over how good an idea that is. There is no argument that all of this translates into a rather splendid ultra-high-definition image presentation. The first thing you will notice is how deep and pure the black levels are. Shadow definition runs about as deep as I’ve seen in a home theatre setting. There is a nice element of film grain here that works quite effectively to give the film an organic and richly atmospheric feel. Colors blast when the rare chance arrives. The colors are reference, and facial close-ups are pretty spot-on. The green mist of the kryptonite weapons allows a nice ethereal study in contrast and texture. Speaking of texture, you get to see some fine detail on the hero costumes. There is much more to these costumes than my theater screening allowed me to see. The image stays sharp throughout, and you’ll find an illusion of depth even on this non-3D version of the film.
The Dolby Atmos track defaults to an explosive 7.1 audio presentation. If you want aggressive surrounds that don’t appear to ever stop, this is the one for you. Subs rock almost constantly, providing a dynamic depth to everything from simple dialog to the earthshaking battles. The audio mix keeps you immersed in this moody world. Everything from simple water drops echoing in the distance to the ricochet of bullets buzzes your ears with little letup. Through all of this you get perfect dialog levels and a score that can get the pulse racing throughout. Best of all is that it’s all so perfectly controlled that you can set the volume and ride it all out. I can honestly say I’ve not encountered an audio presentation with this much going on and mixed well enough that you can hear it all clearly.
The Blu-ray version of the film only includes the theatrical cut along with quite a few extras.
Gods And Monsters – A Meeting Of Giants: (12:28) We get the history and buildup to the meeting of the titular characters.
Uniting The World’s Finest: (15:05) The cast and crew give us a bit of history and context for the DC Universe. We get a good look at the origins through comic panels and a pretty solid look at where it’s all going. There is some behind-the-scenes footage from the film here, but not a lot. We get a closer look behind the scenes of the three heroes glimpsed briefly in the film. You get a better/longer look here. There’s also an extended look at the upcoming Wonder Woman film.
The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder: (21:16) Obviously this is an extended look at the Wonder Woman character. We get to see origins here and the evolution through the various decades and the cartoon and Linda Carter live-action shows.
Accelerating The Design – The New Batmobile: (22:46) This is a special feature on the new car design. Sportscaster Sal Masekela hosts the designers and builders of the new Batmobile. We get to see the process from concept art (on a napkin) to where the rubber hits the road. Sal finishes it all off by getting to drive the car.
Superman – Complexity & Truth (7:08) / Batman – Austerity & Rage (8:15) / Wonder Woman – Grace & Power (7:12) / The Empire Of Luthor (12:33): These features give us a profile on each of these four characters. The actors give us their takes and we get a look at everything from wardrobe to fight choreography. There’s plenty on the comic evolution, as well.
Batcave – Legacy Of The Lair: (7:12) I have to admit that this was my least favorite of the film Batcaves. It’s still interesting to take this feature tour from styro-construction to practical sets with CG help.
The Might And Power Of A Punch: (5:15) This is a brief look at the actual Batman vs. Superman fight.
Save The Bats: (4:27) This is basically a PSA on bat conservation, which was a cause taken on my the cast and crew of the film. Pretty cool shots of real bats.
In the long run, I think it will be the lack of focus on the titular character that hurts the film the most, especially given that he is the one with the biggest emotional arc in the film; he is the one with the most to overcome. There needed to be more angst shown, more of a struggle and questioning of the ideals he believes in. On the plus side, there was a great philosophical question raised that really drives the plot: just because it is within your power to intervene, does that give you the right to?
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani