Now here’s a film that got a lot of flak from critics and DC fans alike.
I’m not going to pretend that the film didn’t have any problems at all. But do I think it was panned by critics unfairly? Perhaps.
The film was an ambitious project, there’s no doubt about that. The eponymous battle between the two heroes was merely the second act of the film, and really didn’t last very long at all in the grand scheme of things. This is merely an observation though, I don’t think that this point in itself is a valid criticism. I certainly didn’t want to see Batman and Superman scrapping for a good few hours.
Having said that, there were a lot of things I really liked about the story in this film too. Ben Affleck’s Batman was one of these things. We finally see a Batman who isn’t tied down to a code; not only is he able and ready to kill Superman, but he also kills a host of criminals throughout the course of the film. This is variety we need – we can’t have two golden boys leading the Justice League. Whereas Superman bemoaned killing Zod in Man of Steel, Batman shows no remorse whenever he is reproached by Alfred for his violent and extreme tendencies. I also really like the hints that are dropped as to how our weathered Batman reached this point, and none is more poignant than Robin’s old suit, with the Joker’s graffiti scrawled over it. DC fans will know that this is an allusion to the A Death in the Family arc, and I hope that more is said of this to drive Batman’s story forward, particularly in the eyes of his peers. After all, his story is just as important for them as it is for us.
It might be a clichéd theme, but I still enjoyed the story’s main question too: does the superhero really have a place in the world? Like many superhero films recently, it questions the need for a superhero. In my encounters with the superhero genre, it is always the birth of a superhero that results in his/her antithesis, and never the other way around. Humanity is invariably worse off for having superheroes who bring with them supervillains, so why not just leave us, and let us keep trudging along to our own mundane extinction?
So what exactly were the problems? I think that the main criticism is that the plot jumped around too much. It was too convoluted, and had too much packed into it so that it ended up a bunch of haphazard scenes that only overlapped ever so slightly. We have Batman’s short origin story, the discovery of kryptonite, Lex’s experimentation with Zod and the ship, the introduction of the metahumans, the clash of our two heroes, and their encounter with Doomsday. All of this is brought together with the single weak link of Lex Luthor, who somehow has a hand in all of it, though we never know how or why, short of the fact that he’s got that classic villainous combination of being both incredibly intelligent and completely insane.
I did enjoy this film a lot more than I thought I would, and yes, I agree that there are certainly problems with it too. But I think therein lies the mistake. Instead of looking at Batman v Superman as a film, as a standalone story, we should be looking at it for what it really is: the beginning of a story, the setting of a scene. The Dawn of Justice, if you will.