Film: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Music recommendation: Their War Here by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL

Sadly, Hans Zimmer just announced his retirement from scoring superhero motion picture films.

I’m going to go ahead and tackle this big one. I normally don’t review new films because it takes me a while to actually get myself interested in all of the new stuff that comes out. However, I have been waiting for this film for years – even before it was announced. Sadly, though, I left the theater not knowing how I felt about Batman v Superman. There were just so many things going through my mind and even as I type this, I still don’t know how I truly feel about the film.

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I don’t hate it, but there are so many things that are keeping me from saying without a doubt that I love it. The goal for this post is to air out all of my feelings and hopefully come to a decision about how I feel about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. First off, the title makes me cringe, so that can’t be a good start. 

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As an avid DC Comics fan, I have wanted a live-action Justice League / DC hero team-up film since my young days watching Bruce Timm’s animated shows including Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League: Unlimited (especially those last two).

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Squad goals!

I feel like the animated series are the holy grail for the main and most interesting DC storylines featuring the Justice League characters. In fact, a lot of the animated series and films are great references to use so that you know what’s going on in the comics if you are new to reading DC Comics (at least the core stories). JL and JLU kept me entertained and educated in my early days of reading DC Comics.

I understand that the animated shows were just another method of telling the stories of my favorite DC Comics heroes just like the comics and live-action television series and films. The main reason why I love the series Smallville is that it includes plot points and characters from the comics. They aren’t exactly like their comic book counterparts, but the show brings the comics to life in an original way: a teen Clark Kent tries to survive high school while figuring out his larger-than-life destiny to protect mankind. 

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Confession: Early in my Smallville watching days, I used the animated series as reference guides and became angry during the times when I thought the show missed out on capturing stories and characters exactly the way they are depicted in the animated series. I now understand that that was unfair, but at the time it was just how much faith I had in the animated series. I did not accept the concept that Smallville was another creative version of these characters and another way to depict the classic stories while showcasing new stories and characters.

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Hey Chloe!

The founding members of the JLA (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Jon Stewart), Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter) are my favorite ensemble of the league. I loved Smallville’s version of the JLA with Clark, Green Arrow, Impulse (Bart Allen), Aquaman, and Cyborg, but deep down I felt like it was an off-brand version of the league. Later on, Hawkman, Stargirl, Black Canary, and Martian Manhunter joined and though they were technically JLA members, I still wanted to see Batman and Wonder Woman. 

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Great, but where’s Batman?

In JLU, nearly every DC Comics hero is invited into the league, but the founding seven were the core. The decision makers. It was great to see the outlier heroes spotlighted in episodes, especially heroes like The Question, who really brought his A-Game in the series. Current DC Comics television series Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl are also great and I enjoy their team-ups and crossovers. The Flash just made his way over to Supergirl – a crossover to another network (CBS). How cool is that? In terms of Arrow, I really enjoyed seeing Black Canary spar with Oliver Queen just like in the animated series. 

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With all of that said, let’s talk about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – the actual purpose of this post. And yes, HUGE SPOILERS ahead…

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The Trinity

Batman…the demon knight?

One of the most exciting things for me about the film is that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman finally team up on the big screen. Warner Bros had to reboot the whole Batman character (again) just to make this happen. Initially, I thought that director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel film was a complement to director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise and maybe that was the case as Nolan is listed as an executive producer of MoS. However, Snyder began to helm the DC film universe and his vision for the DC universe is uniquely different from Nolan’s. Though Nolan’s darker and realistic depiction of the DC world is still present in Snyder’s, Snyder doesn’t hold back on showing the super in superhero – Kryptonians, Amazons, Atlanteans, and other meta-humans exist and Batman knows about them. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne as The Bat Vigilante of Gotham is every bit of what I loved about his animated counterpart.

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Bruce Wayne

All the initial doubt and outrage about Affleck’s casting should come to a screeching halt. I’m proud to say that I never doubted him. I actually loved him in the Daredevil film! Yes, I admit that the Netflix series is way better, but Affleck’s version of the character wasn’t terrible like a lot of people say. I’m obviously in a niche group. In BvS, Affleck is brooding as Batman and hell-bent on giving the bad guys their justice. He’s even charming as Bruce Wayne – when he’s not hungover. I don’t really agree with all of the gun-wielding, which struck a nerve just like Superman’s last encounter with Zod in MoS. It just seemed out of character. He doesn’t need to shoot anyone because he’s freaking Batman. 

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I’m Batman?

Bruce also seems uncharacteristically blinded by his rage and too unreasonable to understand Superman’s motives. He doesn’t even try to look beyond the media’s portrayal of Superman as a modern God among men. While I watched the film, I was like, “Bruce, wake up and put down the scotch!”

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I do realize that Bruce has been Batman for years – way before Clark embraced his Man of Steel-ness. Bruce has seen his fair share of misfits and dangerous foes – like The Joker. But there’s just something off about how angry he is at Superman. He should have the means to arrange a meeting with Superman to hear him out (and I don’t even think he should bother being in disguise). They could then skip the fighting and become friends sooner rather than the inevitable later.

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Thank you for being a friend.

I also wanted to see more of the playboy high-roller Bruce Wayne that made his way to the hearts of even the strongest of women, including Lois Lane. Maybe it’s because this version of Bruce has been a vigilante for so long and he’s become more Batman than Bruce. He’s so ticked off throughout the majority of the film and when he finally does crack a smile or quips, it’s a breath of fresh air.

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For example, I love how cocky he is when he meets Clark Kent for the first time. When Clark questions the intentions of The Bat Vigilante, Bruce throws it in Clark’s face that Metropolis worships Superman – an alien from another planet with the ability to take over the world if he wanted to. During their conversation, Clark becomes less of a boy-scout and more Superman-y after Bruce’s diss. In turn, Bruce turns off the charm as his rage festers.

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This moment reminds me so much of when Clark and Bruce meet in Superman: The Animated Series. I can’t tell if they immediately realize who each other really are during this moment of the film. Well, Clark probably could super-hear Alfred in Bruce’s ear but he may have thought that Bruce was some sort of spy or federal agent (though, I like to think Clark is smarter than that). Even Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t buy it. 

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Bruce in BvS actually reminds me of Smallville’s Clark Kent throughout seasons 7–10 of the series. Clark’s exterior is harder and colder than in his younger years. He has faced many foes (even those who were originally friends). His destiny gets in the way of him having a normal life. It is all enough to turn a good man cruel as Alfred says to Bruce in BvS (though Clark is never actually cruel – just a bit cold). 

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Cheer up champs!

By the way, I love this version of Alfred. He looks like he has so much swag. He seemed to have more of a friendship with Bruce than just being his much older guardian, butler, and gadget technician. He is the one that tries to talk some sense into Bruce when no one else can reach him.

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Alfred also looked more like Commissioner Gordon here but Jeremy Irons is fantastic as usual. 

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Let me just add some swag…

Superman…the man in question?

I wanted to see more Clark Kent in this film. Yes, Superman deals with a lot of crap due to Lex framing him to be a God-like tyrant. For most of the film, Superman has a solemn demeanor. The government, media, and justice system basically troll him after things go awry (all due to Lex’s plan). 

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On the other hand, Clark Kent displays some fight in him (yeah, I know they are the same person). He’s happy with Lois and he pushes Perry White to shed light on Batman rather than settling to write about sports. When he’s Superman, he’s either pissed off at his foes or he’s heartbroken to see how easily civilians can misunderstand his honorable intentions.

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Give me a break!

In my opinion, the film rushes through Clark’s storyline and we don’t get a chance to learn what happened to him immediately after his battle with Zod. He’s still fairly new to the hero business and a lot of people don’t trust him (though many people also worship him). How has he been dealing with his journey as Superman? He just figured out his true identity and origins in Man of Steel and his first spat with the bad guy is less than graceful. In this film, we hear a lot about how Bruce has been affected by Superman and the invading Kryptonians but we do not know how Clark is coping. Clark shows up to save Lois here and there, saves some more people, gets dragged by the media, and has to deal with a vigilante (Batman) and a troll (Lex Luthor). I was frustrated to see Clark run away from his problems after the explosion in the courtroom scene. He was just so defeated. I really wanted him to stand his ground.

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Sure, he comes back after a spiritual talk with his deceased adopted father Jonathan Kent, but I questioned his ability to be the superhero that the world needed. Would this version of Superman become a leader like his animated counterpart? Is that a fair question? I don’t know. 

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It was nice to see moments with Clark and Martha Kent when he feels like the world is against him. She reminds him that he does not owe the world anything and that he could just hang up the cape and live his life under the radar. Henry Cavill is exceptional overall, but I mostly enjoyed his human moments in the film. 

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What I love about Smallville is that we see Clark’s journey with his family and friends. We get to see him grow into the hero that he wants to be and make decisions about how separate his ‘human’ identity should be from his hero one. Sure, things become blurry at times but at least we have the opportunity to see Clark choose a path rather than just having him thrown into one. The Kents definitely play a huge part in guiding him throughout the early years of the series. 

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With great power, comes great…

There’s just so much Bruce in BvS and I feel like Clark gets the short end of the stick. We get Bruce’s motivations and bits of his origins and history as Batman. 

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I want to know more about what’s going on in Clark’s head. As the future leader of the JLA, I want to see that leadership role taken seriously. He needs to be the one to keep his comrades focused and motivated to do good on Earth (and beyond), to work with various governments, and to form human connections to keep them grounded (to avoid becoming an isolated powerhouse). That’s where those secret identities come into play.

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Lois Lane…the key?

What allows the JLA fit in on Earth and appreciate the human race? For Clark, it’s his connection to The Kents and Lois Lane.

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We get a feel for Clark and Lois’ relationship in BvS and how they have have fallen madly in love with each other. Clark is there for Lois when she’s a damsel and when she’s being reckless. Honestly, I scratched my head throughout the film as I tried to understand how and when they became so close to the point that they now live together. Clark even has a ring for Lois by the end of the film. These plot points are exactly what I mean by there being too much time missing after MoS. Clark obviously makes some big decisions in the interim but we aren’t given the opportunity to see them before things unfold in BvS. Sure, it’s lovely to see that Clark and Lois have taken their relationship to the next step, but I need more substance. He just swoops in and saves her in times where his reputation (and safety) is challenged and I want to know why Lois means so much to him (besides it being comic book accurate). 

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In Smallville, we get to see Lois slowly falling for Clark after all the time she lived with him and The Kents. They annoy each other and Clark finds Lois to be reckless and a little over-the-top. Lois finds Clark to be a boy scout. Little did they know that they were opposites destined to attract (though their relationship does get rushed after Lana Lang leaves the series). 

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I wanted to see Lois and Clark pick and prod at each other before realizing how perfect they are for one another in BvS (we see a slight version of this in MoS as Lois questions who Clark is). Lois should be headstrong and not so much dependent on her super hunky man. But to eat my words, I love it when Superman sweeps her off of her feet.

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Gods among men? 

As for his reputation, Superman is really in a bad place with the media and government. All of the mass destruction from Man of Steel divided the people into two factions: those that believe in Superman and those who distrust him. Some people understand that he tried to save the world from Zod and his Kryptonian followers, but others see only the destruction caused by the battle. Bruce is one of those people and so is a good portion of the government. However, Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch tries to make sense of all of the chaos.  

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She believes that power corrupts individuals (Lex Luthor being the prime example) and wants to exercise her strong belief in the justice system. She invites Superman to defend his actions before the people who judge him. Finch believes in fairness and doesn’t want to jump to the conclusion that Superman is too powerful to be trusted. Lex Luthor tries to manipulate her, but she doesn’t sip the tea. Literally.

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Superman v The People

The hearing becomes explosive and Superman is left to appear guilty. All he wants to do is air out the truth before the people but Lex Luthor has other plans up his sleeves. 

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The situation reminds me so much of the storyline in JL when the league is criticized for having too much power. The government creates Project Cadmus and is rightfully wary of such a large number of super-powered beings. They could, if they wanted to, take over the planet. Case in point, The Justice Lords.

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They declare themselves divine beings with the power, audacity, and authority to take control of the world. It’s important to keep in mind that the JLA are the good guys. They constantly prove themselves when they save the world from evil and destruction. However, even Batman begins to recognize that forming an unlimited league accrues too much power and humans would not be able to do much if the league decides to go rogue. Superman and the rest of the core members reach out to the government and form an alliance, but the government has its own agenda.

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Amanda Waller is the key figure here. She and Batman both believe that the JLA are far too powerful, however their different tactics in keeping things under control puts them at odds on many occasions. I cannot wait to see Viola Davis’s portrayal of Waller in Suicide Squad.

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Suicide squad

I have always been torn about how I feel about Waller’s beliefs and motivations. On one hand she wants to keep super-powered beings from taking over the world, but on the other hand she uses unethical methods to do so (creating the Suicide Squad). Creating a team of super-villains to do the government’s dirty work just lends itself to allowing them more access and opportunity to do more evil. Waller is a prime example of the government having too much power. There should be a balance. Senator Finch quotes the famous line by The Lord Acton: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 

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I admit that Amanda Waller is an amazing character and her dialogue in JL really makes me think critically about the philosophy of government and power. Waller is a bold woman with strong beliefs. She acts on them without fear, which makes her a terrific anti-hero. 

Will the real Lex Luthor please stand up?

Waller sometimes associates herself with some of the most devious characters. Lex Luthor, for example. Lex is my favorite DC villain. He’s intelligent, cunning, obsessive, rich, and great at being evil. His motivations vary, but he typically wants power and control over super-beings and meta-humans to do his own evil biddings.

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In JLU, he’s the most enduring villain. He plants seeds to give himself power in the government to have access to classified research and documentation of meta and super-human existence. He even gets elected as President of the United States in an alternative storyline. Superman does not handle this too well.

Lex’s obsession with power is also brilliantly executed in Smallville,  the best version of the character in my opinion. He becomes so obsessed with Clark and meta-humans (meteor freaks) that he spirals into a cold-hearted killer and unforgiving foe. We get to see his journey in becoming Superman’s nemesis. On more occasions than one, he becomes sick and tired of all of the lies and deceit from Clark, his best friend. He takes matters into his own hands and answers his own questions.

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When he succumbs to the darkness, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Actor Michael Rosenbaum totally nails Lex Luthor and you can’t help but root for the bad guy. There is often humor in Lex’s reproach against Clark, other essential characters, and the many scientists and researchers he often has doing his dirty work.

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Bye, Felicia.

You cannot help but laugh as Lex one-ups everyone. There is also a poetic relationship between him and Clark as he initially just wants Clark to trust and love him like a brother. Lex’s father does not show much approval or affection towards him, so he seeks out acceptance from The Kents. However, they never trust him enough to let him all in. 

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Clearly, I highly approve the Smallville and Bruce Timm versions of Lex Luthor. Let’s talk about Zack Snyder’s version of the character (played by Jesse Eisenberg). 

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Sigh…

I will start by saying that Eisenberg is comical in the role, but I do not take him seriously as Lex Luthor. His mumbling about gods, demons, and power comes off as unhinged and annoyingly snarky. Basically, he is just being Jesse Eisenberg in a Zack Snyder world. The wig that he wears does not help matters. Initially, I assumed that the wig was a tool to hide Lex’s bald head. However, the film uses the wig as Lex’s actual hair which makes him appear more ridiculous and clownish. The wig just looks too much like a wig. 

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I am just not a fan of this Lex Luthor. I can throw out a ton of other actors whom I believe could have done a solid job in the role: Ralph Fiennes, Michael Fassbender (who is busy playing Magneto in the Marvel/Fox cinematic universe), Thomas Jane, Julian McMahon, Luke Evans, Mark Strong, etc. I want to see someone stand toe-to-toe with Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman. Some who can strike fear in those around him. Jesse Eisenberg is more annoying than fearful. 

Here’s what Zack Snyder said about his version of Lex in Entertainment Weekly

“He’s not any of the Lexes that you’ve seen, that’s for sure, other than him being a captain of industry and one person to the world and another person to himself. And bald, of course. Our Lex is disarming and he’s not fake. He says what he believes and he says what’s on his mind. If you can unravel the string and decipher what he means, it’s all there.”

When the film was first announced, I imagined a Lex that would be a similar version to his animated counterpart – who proved to be undoubtedly evil, funny, strong-willed, and even kind of dashing. Previous versions of Lex were just as adamant about their desire to be in control, but we didn’t have to solve a ton of riddles to figure that out.

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Wait, I’m getting to the best part…

When he kidnaps Lois in the film, I wanted her to throw a punch or slap him. Her “psychotic” insult is taken as a compliment. I was even more disappointed that Superman doesn’t just throw him off of the building (not really, because that would be out of character). All jokes aside, Lex in the film reminded me more of a trickster than the versions of the character that I have grown to love. 

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I guess you didn’t like my evil plan.

I wanted to see a real battle between Superman and Lex. That would have been more satisfying than seeing Batman and Superman fight. The battle suit that Batman wears in the film could just as easily have been the green kryptonite suit that Lex builds in the animated series.

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Do you know how long it took me to build this?

Wonder Wonder…is she with you?

The amazing thing about this film is that we get to see Wonder Woman on the big screen…with Superman and Batman! It is really a huge milestone and something that DC fans have been waiting for a long time. To finally see a live-action version of Wonder Woman in a big Hollywood blockbuster film is something that I really cannot put into words. Sure, there were a ton of expectations. Bruce Timm’s animated version of the character set the bar high. And though I have never seen the Linda Carter version of the character on screen, my mom is a huge fan. With that said, I was super anxious to see Wonder Woman in the Snyder-verse.

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The animated versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are self-assured, forthright, and even kind of funny. There is a balance in their personalities. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is confident, but her Diana is a little wooden compared to the character in JL. She kind of just appears and disappears and takes her time getting to the Doomsday fight. Of course, she shows up just in time before Batman becomes a shish kabob.

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Gadot also seems detached in her acting but I am confident that we will get more from her in the Wonder Woman film. She will have enough space to really make the character her own and I trust director Patty Jenkins.

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I also love that Snyder allows Diana and Bruce to flirt like in the animated series.

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In JL, Wonder Woman does a fair share of rescuing Batman when his mortality gets in the way. We also get to see this in BvS, when Batman is benched while Wonder Woman and Superman battle Doomsday. When Doomsday targets him, his best strategy is to run away as fast as he can. 

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I am confused to why Batman does not recognize Wonder Woman when she shows up dressed in her warrior gear. Bruce saw her photo from World War I in Lex’s meta-human files, therefore he should recognize her. A potential explanation is that he assumes that she and Superman are from the same super-human clan, but he should at least know that she is the same woman that he met earlier in the film.

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Hello, it’s me!

The Rest of the League

Speaking of meta-human files, my favorite part of the whole film are the cameos by The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, despite the setup being a little bizarre (Bruce emailing the surveillance files to Diana). Nonetheless, I am pleased that the characters exist in the Snyder-verse and that there will finally be a Justice League film.

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I am excited to see what the group accomplishes together and how they lay the foundation for other members to join the team in the future – like The Green Arrow.

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Green Arrow: I think you guys forgot someone…

Smallville set the bar high as AquamanImpulse (The Flash)Cyborg, and The Green Arrow are also introduced. As for the DC cinematic universe, I am excited to see Harley Quinn and The Joker share the big screen in the upcoming Suicide Squad film. 

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Doomsday Patrol

Doomsday is the big bad who brings doom in the film. Unfortunately, the trailers and promos gave away a lot of the big reveals, including Doomsday. The trailers took a lot of the fun out of watching the film. I am going to take this into consideration when the trailers drop for Suicide Squad, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse.

I am glad that Superman’s fate at the end of the film was not spoiled in the trailers. It came as a surprise, but since I read comics I was not totally shocked. I cannot wait to see how Justice League picks up the story. I enjoyed seeing Diana and Bruce at Clark’s funeral, but it was not that believable considering Bruce’s plan to take out Superman throughout most of the film. Also, Diana does not share an actual conversation with Clark in the film so it is odd that she would be at his funeral. Their attendance only makes since because it sets up Justice League.

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I also do not understand why Clark would leave a ring for Lois? That level of commitment between the two of them is not established in the film. It just seems like a lot of the plot is forced and I have more questions even after the film is over.

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Just to backtrack, I do not hate the film. I was just too distracted by plot-holes and unanswered questions to say without a doubt that I love the film. On a positive note, Zack Snyder has a signature style of directing and it shines in the film. I think that he really knows how to bring the DC heroes to life. 

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From the moment the film was announced, I struggled to understand what was the point of it. It is not a sequel to Man of Steel nor is it a solo Batman film. It is kind of something to tide us over until the Justice League filmWhy did we need Batman and Superman to be at odds? The film could have been about several future JLA members (Batman and Wonder Woman) coming together to support or defend Superman after the chaos of Man of Steel. A stronger Lex could have easily been the foe as he obsesses over the invasion of Kryptonians. Doomsday could have debuted in Justice League

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More interaction between Bruce and Clark and the both of them meeting Diana to strategize a way to stop Lex from gaining too much power within the government could have made much more sense, plot wise. The Flash could zoom in from the future to warn them about Doomsday or Darkseid. I enjoyed seeing the dream sequence of a Darkseid infested society with Superman clearly gone bad.

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Also, Doomsday is more frightening in the animated series. The CGI in BvS makes him out to be another fake thing in the movie. His presence is not believable, so his terror is not effective. Doomsday is a big and important foe in the DC universe. He should have been shot up into space or weakened and locked up in a heavily armed and secured government facility with the ability to come back in future films. 

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Again, I am excited for Justice League and I hope that it answers a lot of questions. If Darkseid is the main foe, he should be larger than life. I also want to see Granny Goodness make an appearance with her eerily manly voice that always creeps me out. Since a Superman return is hinted at, his fight with Darkseid needs to be epic, again like in JLU. Superman gives an incredible speech during their battle. 

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Granny Goodness in Smallville.

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My final verdict is that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a great way to tide us die-hard fans over until Justice League. The long wait and excessive promotion of the film created huge expectations, especially with what we know is possible with superhero films like The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men. I believe that the film could have utilized more source material like JLU, an exceptional depiction of some of the best storylines in DC Comics.

I realize that Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. have plans to reimagine these characters and their stories. Maybe we need a Kevin Feige type figure to step in, or maybe Snyder has everything under control. I just hope that they are not too concerned with catching up with Marvel Studios and instead focus on planning out a thorough DC cinematic universe. 

Critic Rebecca Cusey from The Federalist describes the film perfectly –

“Too competent to be universally panned, too disjointed to be universally praised, too anticipated to be a new revelation, too beloved in subject to be easily dismissed, the film will be one people either passionately love or passionately hate.”

Despite film critics panning the film, it continues to flourish at the box-office.

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Though it was under unfortunate circumstances, I loved seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the film. Glad to see him and Zack Snyder collaborating again. He is amazing in The Watchmen.

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What did you think of the film?

‘Til next time.

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