If you’re like me and grew up watching the Superman movies of the 1970s/1980s, you probably left the theater after watching Man of Steele, the movie that precedes Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, scratching your head and wondering what was up with all of that destruction. Superman defeated General Zod, but in the process, thousands of people perished in that epic battle that took place in the heart of Metropolis. The sight of demolished skyscrapers and scorched earth left a bad taste in the mouths of many of us. Bruce Wayne was not immune to this malaise at seeing his own city’s guts ripped out in plain view. That’s where Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice picks up. Like the rest of us, Wayne (Ben Affleck) is starting to question Superman’s (Henry Cavill) intentions. He’s not sure that one day Superman won’t use his powers to wipe out the entire human race. His instinct propels him to confront Superman in a showdown that pits a god against a man. To do it he’ll need more than just the Batsuit and his usual arsenal of gadgetry.
Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) LexCorp is up to no good, having recently acquired the rights to a large quantity of Kryptonite deposited in the Indian Ocean. This is Kryptonite that is recovered from General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) ship. Luthor needs the approval of United States Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) to have it shipped to his headquarters. Senator Finch is hesitant about Luthor’s request and is more in favor of bringing Superman to justice in the form of a Capitol Hill hearing, as opposed to stocking up on Kryptonite as a means of checks and balances. Luthor’s R&D is not limited to just developing the only substance known to man to kill Superman into a viable weapon. He’s also been keeping tabs on other superhuman inhabitants of the planet: The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Luthor also devises a twisted scheme to force Batman and Superman to fight to the death. And oh yeah, he’s also busying himself in a Kryptonian regeneration vat with the remains of General Zod, in order to create the most vile monstrosity known to man as a backup plan. Damn, talk about covering all of your bases!
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a departure from the innocence of blind hero worship found in previous Superman movies. There is a maturation process that is slowly ongoing. It’s not good enough that Superman defeats the villain. How he defeats the villain is just as important. As human beings we have to be accountable for our actions. We now want our superheroes to similarly be held accountable. Our consent of their use of unrestrained power in a time of existential threat is conditional upon how it is used and the resultant fallout. This is new territory for Superman fans. The Superman of yore (i.e. played by Christopher Reeve) was an American flag-waving hero who would draw villains into remote places, away from Metropolis, in order to cut down on collateral damage. Not today. Civilians be damned. Although in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman is persuaded to at least think about this, as his actions are called into question by the public.
Director Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice reprises the Bruce Wayne narrative, playing out the horrific scenario in which young Wayne loses his parents at the muzzle of a mugger’s gun. While heart wrenching, this opening sequence is a bit redundant in the conscious of most of us who already know how Bruce Wayne became Batman. Instead, the movie may have benefited from spending a few minutes in showing the backstory of Wonder Woman, who shows up mysteriously under the guise of her alias Diana Prince at a Lex Luthor reception. That being said, there’s much in the plot to stir the imagination of what could eventually transpire in forthcoming Justice League movies. We get just a glimpse of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Wonder Woman is given the most screen time, and when she unleashes her sword and lasso, it’s done with electric mal intent. And as for the “elephant in the room,” the supposed miscast of Ben Affleck in the role of Batman, well let’s just say that it doesn’t get in the way of the movie. He’s convincing as the affluent, debonair, and at times acerbic playboy Bruce Wayne because, after all he is Ben Affleck. TBT I would have preferred someone else in the role of Batman. Thank heavens for voice modulators!