The 2013 reboot of Supeman on film, "Man of Steel," was financially successful enough to earn a sequel. But that sequel was turned into much more: a hoped-for, full-fledged DC Comics movie universe, taking its place alongside the Marvel Movieverse. But many people had misgivings, seeing as how director Zack Snyder handled "Man of Steel."
To jump-start the Justice League, in the quest for Avengers-sized box office, the decision was made to pair DC's two biggest icons for the first time. And have them fight. (Cliche alert.) And then throw in Wonder Woman, never before on the big screen. And add cameos of other heroes. Thus, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was born. After seeing it twice in three days and digesting various opinions and reviews, as well as my own feelings on what Superman represents, here are some observations, in no particular order:
Warning: SPOILERS from here on out!
First, all the fears when Ben Affleck was first announced as Batman were unfounded. His older, angrier Batman/Bruce Wayne characterization was spot on. And there's good chemistry between Affleck and Jeremy Irons as Alfred (their interactions provide most of what passes for humor in the movie). Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was a true Amazonian warrior. When she finally arrived at the scene of the final battle, the film got a major jolt of energy.
Unfortunately, Superman still misses the mark, which is not the fault of Henry Cavill. But the writing makes no sense. One minute he seemingly is accepted, and there's even a huge statue in Metropolis to honor him. The next, thanks to events orchestrated by Lex Luthor, he's called before a Congressional hearing about whether he should be held accountable, and there are crowds outside holding signs saying things like "GOD HATES ALIENS." Most egregiously: Luthor manipulates an ex-employee of Wayne Enterprises, maimed during the Superman-Zod fight at the end of "Man of Steel," to ask a U.S. Senator (Holly Hunter), also being manipulated by Lex, to hold the aforementioned hearing. He arrives in a fancy new motorized wheelchair provided by Lex. Superman arrives, the Senator gives a speech, but before Superman can say a word in his defense, the wheelchair explodes. Superman...stands there. He's not trying to put out the fires or trying to save anyone who wasn't killed instantly. He stands there. Then he goes into hiding. Again, unlike previous portrayals, this Kal-El is mostly joyless, except at the very beginning, when we learn that Clark Kent and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) now live together.
Speaking of Luthor, let's talk about Jesse Eisenberg. He plays Luthor as brilliant but too unhinged. Had he channeled a little more of his Mark Zuckerberg from "The Social Network" it would have worked better.
The big Batman-Superman fight (again, set in motion by Luthor), is entertaining, as Batman has stolen a chunk of kryptonite from Luthor and turns it into weapons he uses to even the odds. And Luthor plays his last card: Doomsday. In the comics this is the monster that seemingly came out of nowhere and killed Superman (well, they actually killed each other) in a climactic slugfest in Metropolis after a rampage across many miles. Here, Luthor created Doomsday with Kryptonian technology left over from General Zod's attack, Zod's remains, and...some of Luthor's own blood. (?) It's a different Doomsday but just as seemingly unstoppable, but with a similar result: Superman uses Batman's sole remaining kryptonite weapon -- a spear (very high-tech!) -- to kill Doomsday. But being so close to the spear weakens Superman, and a spike from Doomsday's exoskeleton impales him, killing him. (Don't worry. Just as in the comics, he won't stay dead for long.)
As for the Justice League set-up...
There's an dream sequence (or a flash-forward to a possible future) where Batman is battling -- and firing guns at! -- troops wearing the Superman S on their uniforms. They, along with winged creatures (assumed to be Darkseid's parademons from Apokolips, though it's not stated in the movie), overwhelm Batman; Bruce wakes up in the Batcave, and suddenly a portal (boom tube?) appears and the Flash (Ezra Miller) is shouting a desperate warning to Bruce before disappearing. This, along with the files of metahumans (Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and, of course, Wonder Woman) he obtained by hacking into Lex's servers, has Bruce thinking at the end about he and Wonder Woman finding the others and recruiting them to help protect the world from future threats. This is probably what I'm most excited for from the upcoming DC films. But a good chunk of this movie also worked for me. I think the critics just wanted to pile on or one-up each other to see who could come up with devastating quotes for their reviews.
But when Zack Snyder resurrects Superman, he'd better fix the characterization as well. My grade: B.