‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ Review

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Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jessie Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto, and Holly Hunter

Synopsis: Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on Superman, while the world wrestles with what kind of hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is no end-credits scene.*

*Reviewer Note 3: There will be a spoiler discussion released later this week*

 

 

The DC Comics Cinematic Shared Universe is alive! While arguably Man of Steel started this new gritty version of an interconnected universe, but Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the true start to their shared universe that will lead to Justice League movies. Whether you liked the movie or not, Dawn of Justice does something that many thought they would never see: Batman and Superman on the big screen together. However, is it any good? Are the negative reviews justified? Well, sadly yes, for the most part.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice begins by giving us a look at the new Bruce Wayne (Affleck). We get a brand new, and beautifully done, retelling of Bruce’s parents getting gunned down. But, we skip ahead in time and see him trying to get to a Wayne Enterprises building in Metropolis during the battle between Superman (Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) from Man of Steel. As Bruce stands in the wreckage of what was Wayne Enterprises, he sees Superman and Zod fighting off in the distance and his facial expression says it all. He’s powerless at that moment, and wants to get back in the fight.

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We skip ahead in time a little more, as some LexCorp employers find something in the wreckage of one of the fallen Kryptonian ships that could help them fight Superman – if it ever comes to it – a rock of Kryptonite. The Kryptonite of course goes directly to Lex Luthor (Eisenberg), who might also have his own plans for it.

While all this is going on, Senator Finch (Hunter) leads a hearing against Superman and his actions. The brunt of it being that Superman should be accountable for his actions and whether or not he should be put in check. It’s not completely out there, as seen in Man of Steel, but also given the fact that Superman can if he wanted to – as Bruce says at one point – bring everything to the ground. This is what starts also sparks Bruce to don back the suit and become Batman again. If no one else is going to put Superman in check, Batman will. What follows is an eventual fight between our two heroes and the eventual team up with Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gadot) to fight off a creation of Luthor’s doing; Doomsday.

Alright, let’s start off by saying this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not the perfect movie. However, it’s not a terrible movie either. There are some parts that standout, some that are underdeveloped, some that don’t even make sense or are too ambiguous, and others that just don’t really work – like all movies. But, when it comes to BvS, it’s a little more true. The main thing about the film is that it’s too busy, and with it being too busy, it’s a bit of a mess. I hate to say it, but it suffers a tiny bit from The Amazing Spider-Man 2-syndrome. There’s a point in the movie where it introduces the bigger world, which I’m sure everyone knows – and given the title – where this is leading. But while the introducing the grander world, it comes off underwhelming. Sure I was excited to see the universe expand, but the way it was handled left something to be desired – at least for me.

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Thankfully, the film only spends a handful of minutes on expanding itself and keeps the focus on Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent/Superman. The film takes its time for us to get to know them as much as possible. Although they could have been more developed and given just a tad bit more depth, you know where each of them stand. All Superman does is try to help everyone, but because of what he and Zod did when they battle, he’s still considered dangerous – as he should be in reality – and Bruce aka Batman sees him the same way, and has his own way of bringing justice to Gotham as The Batman. This leads to Clark thinking Batman is a ruthless vigilante that has to be stopped, and Superman might be the only way to do it.

With that ideology for both men, it was bound the two would eventually butt heads. Of course, the two do fight in this, but it takes a long while to get there. When it finally does happen, it’s pretty rough-and-tumble. It’s a bit more brutal than I thought it would be, but I kind of wish it was longer. The movie is long itself, something I try not to be nit-picky about, but BvS could have used some more time on the cutting room floor. Anyway, back to the fight, I think there is enough there for fans, and casual fans, to get a kick out of it. However, the way the fight ends is bound to leave some people, in the most hardcore comic book fan, a bit disappointed and unsatisfied.

However, when it comes to seeing Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman team up at the end against Doomsday, no matter if you’re a fan or not, seeing them together is so great. I won’t mention anything from the fight with Doomsday in the review, but to say it gives us a nice preview at what could come with future films.

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So let’s talk a little more on the cast, more specifically the new cast members. Ben Affleck’s Batman is fantastic. He’s a much more brutal Batman than we’ve had on the big screen – his solo fight scene is incredible – but it makes sense for the world the film is set in. He’s a Bruce Wayne that has been doing the hero thing for a while, and he has potentially finally met his match. Everyone complained when Affleck was casted and now many are saying he nailed it. I was always behind Affleck and, yes, he does nail Batman down here. Helping him along the way is his trusted butler Alfred, played by the great Jeremy Irons. Irons’ Alfred is more of a partner-in-crime here as he helps him when the situation calls for it, and knocks on Master Wayne when he can.

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman is a great addition to the film. Like Affleck, Gadot’s casting was criticized, even to the point of people saying she wasn’t right because she didn’t have bigger breasts, which is one of the stupidest things I read online when it broke out. And, like Affleck, Gadot is being praised, by many, for her work in the film. Seeing her fully embrace Wonder Woman character is a sight to really see. I know because I’ve seen the movie twice and when she appears in her Wonder Woman costume at the end to help fight Doomsday, both theaters loudly applauded.

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Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch character only appears in the first half of the movie and while her character plays a bit of an antagonist to Superman, you know what she’s doing is for the “greater good.” Scoot McNairy also pops in as someone who was affected by the events in Man of Steel, although Hunter and McNairy, who are great actors, are kind of wasted here in their small roles. Callan Mulvey also appears as a secondary villain, who comic book fans will know more of, but doesn’t really do too much to standout.

Finally, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. You want to talk about being audiences being split on something; Eisenberg’s Luthor is going to be one of them for sure. I, unfortunately, had a kneejerk reaction when Eisenberg was casted, but I knew that Eisenberg probably had what it took to play Luthor. Well, he played of version of Luthor alright. I appreciated that Zack Snyder was going for a new iteration of Luthor, but this new version came off as annoying and a bit unhinged. This is fine for a character if you’re taking him a certain direction, but that wasn’t the case with this Lex Luthor. Something about this Lex just didn’t click with me and his motivations are a bit murky at best. Eisenberg is a find actor, so maybe it was just the script or how Snyder told him to play it, but I wasn’t sold on Luthor.

All in all, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has a lot of things going against it. Some things are even bought up that are never fully developed or are left with unsatisfying conclusions. Is that hard to say as a fan that’s been waiting to see two of the biggest superheroes on the big screen together? Hell yes it is. However, despite all of that, there are some great things about the film. Look, might be weird considering this is a review – not that I’m getting paid to do these reviews – but don’t listen to the reviewer out there. If you want to listen to the guy or gal that already saw the movie and you trust their opinions on movies, then okay, but if you had intentions to go watch the movie, than watch it. Some movies are review-proof whether their good or not (I’M LOOKING AT YOU TRANSFORMERS).

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice won’t be for everyone. Yes, it’s a bit tad long, even for a guy that doesn’t like thinking about films runtime, and it has some pacing and timing issues. However, the new players to it all in Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jeremy Irons are great. There is also some interesting and nice twists to see that they put in, but I don’t know how that will come across to everyday movie fans. Is this a good sign for the Justice League movies? Who knows, and some are already saying probably not, but you know what? We’re going to watch it anyway. And a lot fans are liking the film. So, what’s more important, critics or fans?

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

3.5 out of 5

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‘300: Rise of an Empire’ Review

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Dir: Noam Murro

Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, Jack O’Connell and Rodrigo Santoro

Synopsis: Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be an almost spoiler free review. Reason being is that the movie serves as prequel, side-story and sequel to 300, so some stuff will come up. However, I won’t spoil anything from Rise of an Empire.*

 

As stated above in the Reviewer Note, 300: Rise of an Empire is a prequel, side-story, and sequel to the 2006 hit 300.  The movie starts with Queen Gorgo (Headey) giving a speech about fallen 300 Spartans and gives a brief history of the Battle of Marathon. We then go witness the Athenian army, led by hero Themistokles (Stapleton) attacking King Darius’ men. From there we get the origins of the “god king” Xerxes (Santoro), who is Darius’ son (not a spoiler since IT’S HISTORY).  But we also find out that the only reason for Xerxes plans of revenge of world dominance comes from a ruthless general Artemisia (Green).

As you’ve probably seen in the trailers and TV spots, the action mostly takes place at sea.  The Athenians, which are the heroes this time around, are skilled sailors and battle Artemisia’s much larger army across the ocean.  But during all the action we occasionally cut to moments from 300 to get a concept of the timeline or even scenes with Themistokles going to Sparta to meet Queen Gorgo or a pre-Hot Gates injured Dilios (David Wenham).

Themistokles is very different from King Leonidas. Themistokles is fighting for a united Greece and wants to spread the new Athenian concept of democracy as opposed to Sparta’s self-preservation.  Also, opposed to the Spartan soldiers, the Athenian navy is made up of farm-hands, tradesmen, and more.

Artemisia, on the other hand, is ruthless, quick-tempered, and at times blinded by vengeance. Which is a recurring theme in the movie with most of the characters driven by revenge of something.  Her plan “to erase Athens from history” is an extreme one however, as are her actions throughout the film – which makes her one, if not, the best character of the movie, but Artemesia is given some real context, and when you discover the reason for her wrath, she becomes somewhat sympathetic.

Director Noam Murro’s only previous credit is romantic comedy Smart People, so it’s a bit of an unusual choice for the director’s chair. Thankfully, Murro makes Rise of an Empire into an enjoyable and fun action movie.  He makes some stand-out sequences included a fiery sea battle, the last fight and even the love scene is filmed like a brawl. A literal battle of the sexes that’s more erotic than you would think (and probably should be).

Acting wise, Eva Green owns the role and like I said before is probably one of, if not the best, character in the movie. She has a femme fatale quality to her but is very manipulative toward Xerxes. Anytime she’s on screen she isn’t chewing the scenery but pushing the story forward or ready to kill someone. She’s truly an amazing character. If Green wasn’t on anyone’s radar she will be after this.

Sullivan Stapleton heroic Themistokles plays his role as a man that is driven to bring the nation together to fight the greater threat but is also a character filled with guilt over his involvement in the starting of the war, and his regret at sending so many young men to early graves. Being a fan of his from his Cinemax show Strike Back, it’s nice to see Stapleton on the big screen and he definitely has a leading man screen presence.

In smaller roles, Lena Heady who returns as the Spartan Queen Gorgo delivers some of the film’s best lines but isn’t really anything more than a cameo.  Jack O’Connell, plays Calisto, a young warrior who wants to make his father Scyllias (Callan Mulvey) proud of him. Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes really takes a back seat in this, only appearing in a few scenes mostly with Artemisia, but doesn’t really do much.

But, the real highlight in the movie is the action. The sea battles are pretty cool to watch although some will probably be thrown off by some of the wonky camera work (I’ll admit I did at times). The sword battles are also pretty cool this time around and some are fast hitting that you loose yourself in the action. They’re, dare I say, more hard hitting and extreme this time around than 300.

All in all, 300: Rise of an Empire is a great action movie and thankfully it doesn’t completely try to copy what made 300 what it was, although there are some things that are welcomed. The way the story is set up and told really works as it all comes together (obviously) at the end. For a sequel that some people wanted, I’d say some will be happy with the outcome.

 

300: Rise of an Empire

4 out of 5