Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Revisiting the most controversial DC Movie

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Following the success of Man of Steel, Zack Snyder was off to the races with his vision of Superman. Warner Brothers looked at him and saw gold. And with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy having wrapped up, the Batman character was officially free and clear (remember, this was before the age of multiple cinematic Batmen). So they set their eyes on adapting one of the most popular stories in all of comics. A clash so big that other films would tease it just to get a cheap pop. So we’re getting into all the Doomsday building, Lex Luthor slobbering, and Dark Knight murdering in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Bringing two titans together on the big screen is anything but an easy process. Warner Brothers decided to bring back their Superman team of Zack Snyder and David S Goyer and sought to make a new film. And while many people expected Man of Steel 2, Snyder announced at San Diego Comic-Con that we would instead be seeing Batman and Superman duke it out on the big screen. There’s a bit of irony in that because Goyer himself had said in 2006 that the battle would be: “…an admission that this franchise is on its last gasp.” Guess he changed his mind.

Snyder briefly toyed with the idea of having Cavill’s Superman go up against the new Batman, Joseph Gordon Levitt, from the end of Dark Knight Rises. However, knowing fans wanted to see Bruce Wayne and not someone else under the cowl, quickly dismissed the notion. And with Goyer being busy with other projects, Chris Terrio was brought aboard to rewrite the script. His fascination with mythology can really be felt in his characterizations of both Superman and Wonder Woman.

Henry Cavill returned to the role of Superman after being criticized a bit for being a tad dark and brooding in Man of Steel. His suit was slightly redesigned but for the most part, he’s the same man from the first film. He’s struggling with his powers and feels a lot of guilt over the destruction of Metropolis and humanity’s seemingly infinite problems. For Batman, Snyder wanted someone older than Cavill, who looked “battle-hardened.” Ryan Gosling, Joe Manganiello, and Matthew Goode were all considered for the part, with Jason Momoa even auditioning. Josh Brolin even had several meetings with Snyder and was very close to being cast.

Shocking just about everyone on earth, Ben Affleck was announced as Batman. After Affleck’s disdain for the leather costume of Daredevil and how humiliating it was, his desire to do it was surprising. But this followed in the steps of Keaton and Kilmer by being inspired choices in the long run. Fans revolted against the idea at first, unable to imagine him as the caped crusader. Warner even went as far as to tell Affleck to stay off the internet after his casting was announced. He didn’t take their advice however, looked online and immediately realized what a mistake that was. But all it took was seeing the man in his costume to win fans over. The suit is more fabric based and resembles a look similar to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. They also avoid the all-black look, opting instead for black and grey like in the comics. We also get a full armored suit for when he has to fight the Kryptonian. Instead of doing a gravelly Batvoice, Batfleck actually has a little voice modulator. While there are certainly things to criticize, Affleck’s Batman isn’t one of them.

Despite sitting out the last film, we’ve finally got our Lex Luthor and he’s played by Jessie Eisenberg! While past versions of the character played by Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey are considerably more “boomer business types”, Eisenberg’s version is closer to that of Mark Zuckerberg. Obviously, there’s the Social Network connection, but also Luthor’s stature and little eccentricities. He’s practically neurotic. Luthor believes that Superman will wipe out humanity and must do what he can to stop it. His demonization of Superman is one of the better aspects of his characterization.

If you’re going to have Batman, you know you have to have his butler Alfred, and Snyder opted to make this version less frail than the Alfred Gough version and a little more nimble than the Michael Caine version. Casting Jeremy Irons in the role, he wonderfully embodies the character and is a great scene partner for Affleck’s Bruce. Their connection and little jabs at each other are some highlights.

Batman and Superman aren’t the only ones getting in on the action as Warner wanted to use the film as a launching pad for their Cinematic Universe. Marvel was already ahead of them with this, so they wanted to get it going as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, they wanted to set up other heroes. The most featured of these characters is Wonder Woman. Like Affleck before her, there was a bit of controversy with Gal Gadot‘s casting, given her very petite figure. And yes, I swear that’s how you say her name. But after putting on 17 pounds of muscle, she worked hard to properly encapsulate the character of Diana Prince.

While considerably smaller roles, Ezra Miller was cast as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. Each of these characters got a brief scene, with the intention to set them up for both the Justice League as well as their own individual films. The entire cast of Man of Steel returned including Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White, and even Diane Lane as Martha Kent. Or at least the ones that made it till the end. Though the Ultimate Cut does bring back Kevin Costner‘s Pa Kent for a scene. We also had a Harry Lennix return, which was setting up for a future reveal.

Holly Hunter was cast as Senator Finch, who is skeptical of the help Superman can provide. But she’s also made enemies with Lex Luthor, so she may not be long for this world. It’s one of the many ways the film is very political. Snyder opted to show the origin of Batman through the film’s opening credits. Lauren Cohen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan were cast as Bruce’s parents Thomas and Martha Kent. Remember that name. It may become…useful later.

The story of Batman v Superman is what you would expect, with Bruce Wayne’s Batman concerned about Superman being a threat to humanity after he and Zod played their own version of Rampage in downtown Metropolis. So he seeks to take the Kryptonian out. There are many overtones of terrorism and militarization that give the film a rather grounded atmosphere, despite the spectacular characters. But the conflict comes to a halt when the two realize their mother’s have the same name. It’s a silly moment, and one that Snyderites have defended time and time again. But there’s a reason it’s become a massive meme. They also manage to add in the Death of Superman storyline, with Doomsday being introduced and Superman even dying. That’s a lot of story for a 2-and-a-half-hour movie so there may be more to that later…

At one point, Batman villains The Joker and The Riddler both had places in the script but were thankfully cut. Additionally Adam Driver and Carla Gugino were considered for the roles of Nightwing and Catwoman, respectively. But those were also excised from the final script. Driver as Nightwing sure would have been something. 

Filming started in October 2013 but filming with the Principal Cast didn’t happen until May 2014 in Detroit Michigan. Detroit served as the run-down and crime ridden Gotham City. As someone from Michigan, the comparison is very apt. After filming throughout the Midwest, the South Pacific and even New Mexico, filming finally wrapped on December 5th, 2014.

Snyder’s 300 Cinematographer Larry Fong joined as DP and gives the film a slick look. Michael Wilkinson returned as the costume designer and gave us great new updates to all of the Superhero fits. Though Wonder Woman’s lack of color was widely criticized, to the point of them going back on it in future films. And any film that has Batman also needs to feature the Batmobile and this film is no different, with Patrick Tatopoulos designing a near-tank.

Hans Zimmer returned to score the film but he was joined by Junkie XL. Zimmer wanted him to provide the Batman score to provide a nice contrast to Zimmer’s Superman score but the final composition ended up being credited to them both. Zimmer struggled so much with the score that he would eventually declare himself retired from superhero film—a statement he has since rescinded. 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice released in the United States on March 25, 2016 and brought in $166 Million on its opening weekend. It ended its worldwide run at $873 Million. Given that $116 Million was spent on marketing for the film, these results were disappointing. Warner Bros expected the pairing of two very popular comic characters to have even bigger results. So apparently making nearly $900 Million just isn’t good enough these days.

Critics disliked the film, giving it a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with even the audience score sitting at a measly 63%. Given how popular the film is amongst the DC faithful, this is a bit surprising. But the consensus was that the film: “…smothers a potentially powerful story — and some of America’s most iconic superheroes — in a grim whirlwind of effects-driven action.” There was a rather large backlash about the violence of Batman in the film. While he has been known to take guys out in the past, Batman’s “no-kill” rule has become a rather large part of the character, especially if you’re a comic reader. So to see Batman full-blown murdering guys like its nothing, can be a big jarring to some.

One interesting aspect of the film that I feel like I need to bring up is that, unlike other versus films, Batman is simply ‘v”ing Superman. Yes the official title, and the one I’ve been sure to say this whole video, is Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice. And Snyder’s reasoning is that “he didn’t want this to be seen as a Versus film.” I’m not sure why I find this so silly but this is my video and I had to bring it up.

The Ultimate Edition released on home video alongside its theatrical counterpart and added nearly 31 minutes of additional footage. Not only that, but the MPAA rated the film R. This version was able to remedy some critics’ complaints but ultimately, it’s still the same film, just a little longer and more violent. But it still wasn’t enough to appease Warner Brothers higher-ups and there were considerable changes on the horizon…

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice is a favorite amongst fans of the DC Cinematic Universe. Despite its runtime, the Ultimate Cut is the preferred version and provides plenty of interesting moments for comic lovers. While there’s a lot of story crammed into one film, it’s always great to see larger than life characters come together on screen. And while we’ve seen our heroes come together, what about a team of antiheroes? A team of villains being coerced into doing what’s right? You could say that things are about to get a bit…damaged. But that’s a story for next time.

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-revisited/

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