Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters this Friday, an event film that my 10-year-old self wanted but could never have imagined would actually happen. So what did I think of the movie? What did I like? What did I have problems with? After the jump you can read my spoiler-free reaction to the film. So if you’ve seen the trailers, feel free to proceed without any worry of plot points, twists, or reveals being spoiled.
I Loved Much of Man of Steel
I want to set some expectations. Yes, I like the Marvel Studios films, but I also loved the first two Christopher Nolan DC films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I’m a big Superman fan from way back, and I even loved much of Zack Snyder‘s Man of Steel. I enjoyed David Goyer‘s take on Superman as an alien, seeing a bit of Krypton’s very foreign world, the emotional conflict of wanting to help but being afraid to let the world in on the secret, and the clever use of Krypton atmosphere as a reimplementation of Kryptonite. Sure, that ending fight sequence could have been more exciting, but I was never bothered by the usual complaints about this film.
To me, Man of Steel was a beginning. Superman wasn’t Superman overnight. I like the idea of a Superman who is learning what’s right and what’s wrong, and who has yet to create a universal code to define his actions and responsibilities. He’s a young man, doing his best, in the face of a world which might totally reject him. So complaints about Superman killing Zod or how many people in Metropolis surely died in this climactic battle, didn’t bother me as much as they did some long-time fans of the character.
And I know that Jonathan Kent telling Clark not to help people goes against every version of that character, who is typically the moral influence for our hero. But rewatching that scene the night before seeing BvS, I can’t help but feel the subtext under the dialogue . It seems obvious to me that Pa Kent doesn’t buy his own advice either, but he’s doing his best to try to keep his kid safe.
Why Isn’t Warner Bros Screening This Movie to As Many People As Possible?
Warner Bros. has notably been very selective in inviting press to early screenings of this film. At the early junket screening, critics were forced to sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), which was very unusual. None of the attending press were allowed guests, which again, was unusual. And it’s not because the theater was packed — the IMAX theater we saw the film in appeared to be more than half empty as the lights went down. Why is Warner Bros. being so selective in screening this movie early for journalists?
Before the movie began, a video from Snyder appeared on screen. He asked that the journalists seeing this movie early not spoil any of the surprises in the film in their reviews. This caught me by surprise as I had assumed, like many others, that the marketing for this film had spoiled many of this film’s plot points and reveals. And to be honest, I was right — for the most part. If you’ve seen all the trailers, there isn’t much in the way of surprises in this film…
….until the third act. And don’t worry, that’s all I’m going to say.
But it is now obvious to me that Warner Bros was being so selective in screening this film early because the filmmakers want to protect some of the third-act plot points. So this is my way of warning to you to stay away from spoiler-filled reviews and idiots on social media. There are some biggish spoilers that haven’t been widely reported (or hinted at in the trailers) and you will want to avoid sites and people you don’t trust to remain tactful of such.
But does this mean the movie is good? Let’s get to the good before we get to the bad.
The First Hour of Batman v Superman Is Pretty Awesome
The first hour of Batman v Superman is pretty awesome. Zack Snyder knows how to start a movie with a bang, often doing so with a kick-ass montage. Batman v Superman is no different from Snyder’s previous films in offering us a visual feast up front.
Cleverly, he chose to open Batman v Superman by telling the story from Batman’s perspective. And yes, we see the climactic battle from the end of Man of Steel from this point of view. This sequence will satisfy people who were bothered by the destruction and carnage in that film’s ending — the opening of Batman v Superman truly makes Man of Steel a better film. Through Wayne’s eyes, we see the more human side of the destruction that many fans and critics only imagined during the first go-around.
I wonder if keeping this movie set from Batman/Bruce Wayne’s point of view may have been a better way to tell this story.
The Score Rocks
One of the things I loved in Batman v Superman is the score by Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer. The music gets you pumped up in all the right moments, and unlike Marvel’s Avengers, gives all the heroes their own unique themes. At some points the score is rocking, while at other times it’s operatic, or big and loud and base-y. Sometimes it’s more sci-fi sounding, reminiscent of Bear McCreary‘s Battlestar Galactica score. I particularly love Wonder Woman’s theme.
The IMAX Footage Is Striking
This is probably the first IMAX movie since Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol that I think you must see on an original IMAX screen. Remember how amazed everyone was when we saw Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in IMAX and were sucked in with the expanded aspect ratio and 65mm vividness? A handful of films have tried to do that over the last eight years, but even Nolan’s own follow-ups The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar didn’t pack the same punch, although I do think Interstellar was still a must-see in 70mm projection.
Batman v Superman is a film that you must see in IMAX, and if possible on an original ratio IMAX screen (not one of the small ones in your local multiplex). I saw the film at the Universal Citywalk AMC theater, which is one of the early IMAX theaters. Like most of the original IMAXes, the screen has been converted from 70mm to digital, a fact that has prevented me from seeing a movie at this theater for some time. But I was amazed at how vivid the IMAX-shot footage looked on this huge screen, even if it was digitally projected.
There are four full action sequences in Batman v Superman that were shot natively using IMAX 65mm film cameras, and they all look great. I’m not sure about the final runtime of the IMAX footage, but I’ve heard it is almost 30 minutes of the film’s two-and-a-half-hour running time — equating to one-fifth of the film.