Let’s be clear on one thing: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a bad movie. It’s riddled with plot holes, bad characterizations, and perhaps worst of all, is just plain dull for long stretches of its runtime. However, that doesn’t mean it is entirely without merit. We’ve already outlined the many things wrong with this film, so in the interest of acknowledging the other side of the argument, we’ve assembled a list of things that Batman v Superman actually gets right. Spoiler alert: Lex Luthor is not one of them.
(For real though, this post contains plenty of SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, continue at your own peril.
10. The Opening Scene
No, we’re not referring to the pointless retelling of Batman’s origins that ends with a young Bruce Wayne being symbolically lifted up by a swarm of bats; we’re talking about the scene that should have opened the movie: Bruce Wayne witnessing the destruction of Metropolis. Showing Man of Steel’s most controversial sequence from Bruce’s perspective proves to be a fantastic way of establishing Batman’s motivations for wanting to destroy Superman throughout the rest of the film. As Bruce races through the streets of Metropolis while buildings fall and innocent people die around him, it’s hard not to get swept up in the moment and get totally on board with the idea of stopping Superman, who looks positively terrifying from this vantage point. Of course, this scene is also just the first of many that wrongfully depict Superman as a seemingly-remorseless alien who begrudgingly helps people, but in terms of Batman’s character development and starting the movie off in exciting fashion, this scene is a resounding success.
9. Batman’s Brawl
The big fights in Batman v Superman are by and large letdowns that fail to deliver on their promise (although to be fair, it was probably impossible for the Batman and Superman brawl to live up to expectations). Thankfully, there’s one action scene in particular that the film absolutely nails, which is Batman’s takedown of the goons holding Martha Kent hostage. Pulse-pounding, kinetic, and well-choreographed, this is easily the best Batman fight scene put to film so far, playing out like the best fights from the Batman: Arkham video games. For all of the film’s many faults, Zack Snyder should at least be proud to have shot what is now the definitive Batman takedown scene; one which will be difficult for future films to top.
8. Interesting Themes
When you boil Batman v Superman down to its basics and strip away all the needless fluff, the kernel of a good movie with some important themes emerges. This film asks some pertinent questions about the role of superheroes in society and what the response would be like if an all-powerful alien came to Earth. And while the film misinterprets Superman on a fundamental level, there is something intriguing about the idea of a Superman who is not sure if he should even be helping people in the first place. In addition, the stuff surrounding Batman’s increasingly unhinged and lethal methods of crime-fighting, while wrongheaded, is at least thought-provoking. It’s a shame that all of these interesting themes get buried under piles of convoluted storytelling, but at least they’re there. A lot can be said about Batman v Superman’s faults, but you can’t say that Zack Snyder and his screenwriters didn’t put some deep thought into this film’s development.
7. Its Ambition
While it may trip over itself at almost every turn, it’s hard not to appreciate what Batman v Superman attempts to accomplish, which is quite a bit when you think about it. It doesn’t excuse its faults, but Zack Snyder and his crew really had their work cut out for them with this film and though they didn’t deliver, that hard work is evident in every frame. This is a film where The Flash comes through a portal to warn Batman about the future, a scene so ostentatious and jarring in tone that you can’t help but admire the audacity of the filmmakers for putting it in. Oh and let’s not forget how ballsy it is to just bypass four or five movies of build-up and try to establish an entire DC cinematic universe in one go. Batman v Superman is a film that runs before it walks, an ambitious train wreck that is bewildering in its execution and full of so many bad ideas that you kinda can’t believe it actually got approved. Basically, it’s a bad movie, but at least it commits itself fully to that quality.
6. The Visuals
For all of his faults, Zack Snyder is a fantastic visual director and he doesn’t disappoint with Batman v Superman in this regard (unless you’re not a fan of his particular visual style, in which case, he does). In addition to featuring some well-done CGI work (Doomsday being the exception, of course), Batman v Superman is one heck of a nice film to look at if you enjoy Snyder’s brand of filmmaking. It’s true that this film could use a bit more color and far too many scenes are shot at night for our liking, but to write this film off as nothing but grim and ugly is doing it a disservice. Batman v Superman is the kind of film that should be watched on the largest IMAX screen available and definitely not in 3D; this film is dark enough as it is and 3D conversion only makes it worse.
5. The Score
When a film features a composer as revered as Hans Zimmer AND the guy who did the music for Mad Max: Fury Road, you know you’re in for a treat. True, Batman v Superman doesn’t represent Zimmer or Junkie XL’s best work, but their bombastic, percussion-heavy score accomplishes its task of making the film feel epic in scope throughout. Rightfully, the standout track is Wonder Woman’s entrance music, which announces her arrival with blaring electric guitars and helps define the scene as one of the film’s best. Really, the best thing that can be said about the score overall is that it is perfectly serviceable and fits in well with the visual and thematic tones of the film. It at least leaves more of a lasting impact than the soundtrack of most Marvel films, which are some of the most unmemorable scores in blockbuster filmmaking today.
4. Jeremy Irons as Alfred
Barring the unfortunate miscasting of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, this is a film that is stocked with great casting choices. The highlight may very well be Jeremy Irons, an actor that simply disappears into any role he takes. Even as the film falls apart around him, Irons imbues his Alfred with wisdom and even a bit of sass. This is a more hands-on Alfred than we’ve seen in the past, as he’s shown making modifications to Batman’s armor and helping pilot the Batwing remotely, which helps sell Batman’s butler as an integral part of the vigilante’s war on crime. He’s also not afraid to take Batman to task for his increasingly-violent tactics and is in many ways the voice of reason in a film that feels positively insane at times. Like every other bright spot in this film, there’s nowhere near enough Alfred in Batman v Superman, but Irons makes enough of an impression to be considered a fantastic replacement for Michael Caine and we can’t wait to see more of him in the role.
3. Builds Excitement For Future Films
It’s hard not to dread going to see the Justice League film after bearing witness to Batman v Superman, but that’s because Zack Snyder will also be directing that and we really want no part of it. However, when it comes to the other future films in the DC cinematic universe, there is much more reason to be hopeful. Ben Affleck makes for a great Batman and based on his performance here, it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table for a solo Batman film featuring an older, wearier version of the character. Plus, if it turns out that Affleck is indeed also writing and directing that film, there’s even more reason to be excited given his track record. As good as the Batman movie may or may not be though, Batman v Superman’s greatest accomplishment may very well be successfully building the case for Wonder Woman’s awesomeness (more on that later) and right now, her solo movie is the one we’re most looking forward to in terms of future DC films.
For all the negative buzz that the casting of Ben Affleck created prior to the film’s release, it’s quite ironic that his performance is one of the few things that even the most vehement critics are praising about Batman v Superman. Affleck is a great fit for the character, handling the Bruce Wayne/Batman dichotomy better than any actor before him (yes, possibly even Christian Bale — it’s still a bit early to tell). Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is not only charming; he seems to be actively involved in his company’s affairs, a refreshing take on the character after Bale played him as a straight-up playboy. Although there are significant problems with Batman’s actual characterization — namely, his comfort level with taking lives — these problems are not Affleck’s to bear, who does the best with what he’s been given. If these issues are addressed in future films featuring Affleck in the role, we could very well have the best live-action Batman ever on our hands. At the very least, his Batsuit is a home run.
1. Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot got quite a bit of hate when she was cast as Wonder Woman, making it all the more surprising that she steals the show (which, to be fair, isn’t exactly difficult). True, Diana Prince gets barely any characterization and she only has maybe ten minutes of screen time altogether, but boy does she make a statement with those scant few minutes. Her entrance in the Doomsday fight goes a long way in saving Batman v Superman from being a total write-off; it’s honestly worth going to see this movie just to see the grin on her face after blocking one of Doomsday’s attacks. While Batman v Superman is neither a good Batman or Superman film, it at least firmly establishes Wonder Woman as a character that indeed works in live-action and should renew interest in the character for the foreseeable future. So yeah, the silver lining of Batman v Superman is that it is a great teaser trailer for next year’s Wonder Woman movie. We can live with that.