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'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Film Review: When the World's Finest collide

March 24, 2016Ben MK

For over 75 years, Batman and Superman have coexisted in the DC Comics universe, crossing paths — and even trading blows — on multiple occasions. However, even though the last four decades have seen several big screen incarnations of the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel come and go, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice marks the first cinematic showdown between the two larger-than-life heroes.

Picking up 18 months after the near-cataclysmic climax of 2013's Man of Steel, Batman v Superman finds the residents of Metropolis, as well as the world at large, struggling to come to terms with the enigma that is Superman (Henry Cavill). With public sentiment strongly divided, there are those who believe that the last son of Krypton is a force for good — a hero whom they can turn to and rely on in times of need. Others, meanwhile, think that he's nothing more than a ticking extraterrestrial time bomb waiting to go off — an alien with God-like powers, who, if left unchecked and unregulated, could potentially lead humanity spiraling down a path of destruction.

Falling firmly into that second camp is Gotham City's most prominent citizen, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), who harbors a growing distrust of Superman that stems from the death and devastation wreaked by Superman's epic throwdown with his Kryptonian nemesis, General Zod (Michael Shannon). Little does Bruce realize, however, that his resentment is woefully misdirected, for an even greater threat against humanity looms. Metropolis' number one tech billionaire, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), has cooked up an anti-Superman scheme of his own; and with Kryptonian artifacts in his possession, that leaves both Gotham and Metropolis poised for catastrophe.

And so director Zack Snyder and screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer commence "the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world," which has Batman equipping himself with Kryptonite-infused weaponry and donning a mechanized Batsuit to go on the offensive against Superman. Yes, this is the Dark Knight as we've never seen him before, and not just because of his Frank Miller-esque body armor and more imposing stature, but because of Affleck, who imbues his version of Batman with such seething, tormented rage that it makes Christian Bale's turn as The Dark Knight look like George Clooney's performance in Batman & Robin.

Of course, that's not to say that Cavill doesn't leave his mark on the film as well. Although if not for the vital part he plays in resolving the movie's final act, Clark Kent/Superman's role would register as little more than perfunctory. As for the other iconic DC heroes who will be joining Batman and Superman in the forthcoming The Justice League Part One, Gal Gadot's Diana Prince deserves special mention. Compared to The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), she's the only one to make any real impact on the story, and her brief appearance as a battle-ready Wonder Woman should instill in moviegoers high hopes for the character's standalone movie.

Otherwise, if you've seen 300, Sucker Punch or Watchmen, then you more or less know what to expect, tonally. Batman v Superman is grim and serious, but not to the point of nausea, surprisingly; there's humor here if you're willing to look for it, thanks to the huffing and puffing of Clark's Daily Planet editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne, channeling J.K. Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy) and the sardonic remarks of Bruce's butler and confidante Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons), who's essentially an amalgam of both Michael Caine's and Morgan Freeman's characters from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

The movie also brings back several other Man of Steel cast members, including Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Harry Lennix. However, the real stars of the film are undoubtedly its bone-crunching action set-pieces, which Snyder orchestrates with swift and brutal — not to mention, explosive — efficacy. From the titular confrontation, to a gleefully dystopian Mad Max style nightmare sequence, to a battle-to-the-death with a fan-favorite DC villain, there's virtually no stone left unturned when it comes to Batman v Superman's brooding exploration of comic book violence, which is great news for viewers who see eye-to-eye with Snyder's down-and-dirty visual aesthetic.

Ultimately, though, how much moviegoers enjoy Batman v Superman depends on what sort of expectations they bring to it. Expect something in-line with the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and you're most likely setting yourself up for disappointment. However, if you took a liking to Man of Steel and consider yourself a fan of the DC comic book universe, then Batman v Superman not only lives up to the hype, it delivers in spades. Granted, its jumbled narrative can feel somewhat incoherent at times; but this is a superhero movie, after all, and superhero season is officially in full swing. Now bring on Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse already.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice releases March 25th, 2016 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 31 Mins.

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