By Alex Lingle and Hutton Jackson
Alex v Hutton: Dawn of the Critics
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuted this past weekend and was met immediately with mixed reception from critics, comic fans and general moviegoers alike. A&E and online editor Hutton Jackson and staff writer Alex Lingle go head to head over the film and debate whether it is a satisfactory take on two of the most influential comic book characters in history.
Alex: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the true introduction to the new DC Extended Universe spearheaded by Zack Snyder. Following the events of Man of Steel, many have placed their trust in Superman as their savior. However, there are some who question his actions and what his god-like abilities mean for the world. Bruce Wayne sees Superman as the ultimate threat—a being capable of obliterating the world. As Batman, he will do anything necessary to eliminate this threat, no matter what Superman’s intent. Lex Luthor considers both Batman and Superman his enemies and maneuvers them into even further opposition to each other.
Hutton: Alex makes the story sound simple, but it is heavily bogged down by poor execution of using Lex Luthor as an antagonist, confusing dream sequences and distracting attempts to set up the Justice League. The film features cameos from four of the other members of the Justice League and, with the exception of Wonder Woman, all are heavy-handed, poorly executed and don’t fit in naturally with the overall story the film attempts to tell.
Alex: There are quite a few subplots, teases and set-ups that cause the film to lose focus. All of these moving parts actually are reminiscent of the narrative of a comic book. The movie would have benefited from a stronger through-line to connect all the subplots, but I really enjoyed the dream sequences and even some of the subplots.
Hutton: It’s easiest to compare the film to 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which also not only attempted to take elements from a famous story arc, but also featured poorly developed characters and a messy story all while trying to set up several spin-off films. This approach failed, and one can only hope that future films in this universe will feature more enjoyable stories.
Alex: I think we can both agree that Batman was the best part of the film. Starting from the beginning, we see how this new Batman’s motivations, while similar to those of previous versions, are different, leading him to be the darkest and most violent Batman we’ve ever seen onscreen.
Hutton: We both can agree Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Jeremy Irons’ Alfred are one of the highlights in part because these actors play off each other so well. Affleck’s Wayne rivals Christian Bale’s performance, and although this film’s Batman is grimmer in his outlook on the world and more brutal in his methods, the result is a much more comic-accurate version of the character than versions past. We finally see the master detective and crime fighter Batman, complete with all his gadgets and vehicles. His arc and motivations are also the most fleshed-out and his initial hatred for Superman is thoroughly developed, until the third act when much of this built-up motivation is tossed out to further the climactic ending.
Alex: That’s absolutely true. Leading up to the movie, many fans were skeptical of Ben Affleck taking on the role of the Dark Knight—and none of their fears were realized. Affleck’s performance as both Batman and Bruce Wayne was the best version we’ve seen to date. The brutality of Batman, the anger and fear that drive Bruce Wayne and the pain central to the character are all masterfully portrayed by Affleck.
Hutton: On the other end, Henry Cavill’s Superman is given very little to do in a film that he headlines. While Man of Steel certainly split opinions for fans, Batman v Superman manages to further isolate the audience by giving regular moviegoers little to invest in the character. Superman appears to solely act out of his love for Lois Lane. While on the surface this may appear noble, it leads to him disregarding most of humanity for her. Superman merely acts for his own selfish reasons and his desire to help humanity is merely discussed, not truly shown. These aspects are not helped by Cavill and Amy Adams’ rather bland performances, with the exception of a couple scenes. This is largely in part to a weak script which give the characters little to do but advance the plot.
Alex: For the most part, though, the character development in the film is lacking. I felt that Superman’s reactions to his own failings and the world’s gradual rejection were not explored enough. The film also suffered from a lack of character exploration, especially apparent in the characterization of Lex Luthor. I did not enjoy Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor. While he did a good job as a crazy, close-to-psychopathic childish genius, a traditional approach to the character would have heightened the movie.
Hutton: Ultimately, the worst acting comes from Eisenberg, who manages to somehow play an even cheesier, over-the-top version of the character than Gene Hackman’s corny, egocentric character from the ’70s. Eisenberg’s voice and mannerisms are cringeworthy and irritating and Eisenberg verges on an unwatchable performance. Setting aside Eisenberg’s acting, the character is written with such juvenile direction that he comes across as a whiny, annoying anarchist instead of the cunning megalomaniac determined to ruin Superman’s image.
Alex: Performances and characterization aside, the movie is one of the most visually appealing superhero films ever made. If there was ever any doubt, Zack Snyder proved in this movie that he is a master of visuals.
Hutton: The special effects are good, and while Snyder does succeed in creating some memorable fight scenes, there is an over-reliance on CGI and the high-adrenaline action could have been edited better. There also could have been a greater contrast between the appearance of Superman’s and Batman’s worlds, which both are depicted as bleak stylistically. Despite this, the visuals at most parts are stunning, and Metropolis and Gotham look incredible.
Alex: In terms of action, there is one sequence when Batman enters a building and wipes out over a dozen men. The action in this scene shows off Batman’s brute strength as well as his tactical skills as he tears through criminal after criminal.
Hutton: Batman v Superman finally gives us a Batman whose skills in martial arts are fully displayed. The action may be the best part of the entire film. The fight between Superman and Batman is visually stunning and one of the most fulfilling parts of the film.
Alex: The movie didn’t try to do too much. However, the story and plot could have been a lot tighter, and should have focused solely on Batman and Superman’s clashing ideologies. Despite every scene and subplot being enjoyable, all together there was a lot going on, which led to a unique editing style that may turn off some people.
Hutton: Ultimately, the film is disjointed and underwhelming, which is disappointing since it had the right pieces but ineffectively utilized them. The film is frustrating because underneath all its flaws is a good film that unfortunately never came to fruition.
Alex: This movie sets us up for The Justice League and reveals a lot of exciting teases for the future of the DC Extended Universe. It brings us a new – and debatably the best – version of Batman we’ve ever seen. I think this movie succeeds in being the best version of itself that it can be. I enjoyed the movie and would highly recommend it. It had its flaws, but the entire experience more than makes up for them. It’s worth seeing just to see Batman kick butt.
Hutton: The film can be enjoyed by certain comic fans, but general movie audiences and even those familiar with the characters may be turned off by the film’s juvenile and incoherent story with one-dimensional characters and heavy-handed Justice League teases. Hopefully, Warner Bros. hires a visionary to replace Zack Snyder, because if he continues to direct The Justice League and have a hand in other DC films, the DC Extended Universe may fail before it even starts.
Alex’s Overall Rating: 8/10
Hutton’s Overall Rating 5/10
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout and some sensuality.
(Rates on a scale of 1-5, how much Suspense, Humor, Action, Romance, and Kid-friendly material is in the movie)
1- None to Very Little, 2- Little, 3- Average, 4- Much, 5- Very much
S 5 H 2 A 5 R 3 K 2