Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie review (2016) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie review (2016) | Roger Ebert (1)

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"Batmanv Superman: Dawn of Justice" is state of the art epic superherofilmmaking. That's a compliment if you prefer these movies to be ponderous,disorganized and glum, but a warning if you prefer tonal variation from film tofilm and scene to scene, and have a soft spot for storytelling that actuallytells, you know, a story, as opposed to doing an occasionally inspiredbut mostly just competent job of setting up the next chapter in a Marvel-styledfranchise.

Thestory begins with yet another flashback to young Bruce Wayne witnessing hisparents' murder by a gun-wielding mugger, followed by a bracketing trauma, hisencounter with a flock of bats in a cave near stately Wayne Manor. As co-writtenby Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer (“Blade,” “Dark City”) and directed by ZackSnyder ("Man of Steel," "Sucker Punch," et al), thissequence initially plays like one more visit to a dried up well. But it makes sense whenyou get to the next scene, a replay of the Metropolis-leveling "Man ofSteel" showdown between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (MichaelShannon) from the point-of-view of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), who seeshundreds of members of his adopted professional "family" killed whenWayne Industries' Metropolis office is damaged in the super-fight. (Thesequence also portrays Wayne as a somewhat detached one-percenter who’s ashamedat having taken his work "family" for granted—a thoughtful touch.)


Thisis the film's most affecting and original sequence, in large part because ittakes a persistent complaint against "Man of Steel"—that the supposedBoy Scout from Krypton was callously oblivious to collateral damage—and retrofitsit, so that it looks like something “Man of Steel” always meant to do, thebetter to provide strong, simple motivation for Bruce. Re-traumatized by a 9/11-styledisaster that kills dozens of his employees, including a young girl’s mother, he channels his angerand helplessness into a preemptive war against Superman, to be carried with biomechanical armor and Bat-tech fortified by Kryptonite. He sees Kal-El as a clueless and careless false god whose powers must be neutralized,lest humans get so comfortable with worshiping "aliens" that they setthe stage for a takeover by more Zods.

I keep referring to the cowled hero as Bruce because, more so than anyBatman picture, “Batman v Superman” treats the Caped Crusader as a scary-awesomemanifestation of ordinary neuroses, practically a lycanthropic rodent-beast who emergesat night, summoned by his own monogrammed spotlight-moon. In comparison,Superman seems a more balanced character: aside from the presence or absence ofglasses or a cape and the stress of maintaining his cover story (he gets sopreoccupied by an unauthorized investigation of Batman’s vigilantism that hestarts screwing up his regular duties at the Planet), Clark Kent and Superman are essentially the same guy.

The title promises an even distribution of screen time. But despite thepresences of touchstone DC characters—including a smarmy, psychotic,tech-douche version of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, fidgeting and yammeringlike Jeremy Davies); ageless Amazon warrior Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot); acereporter and Superman gal pal Lois Lane (Amy Adams); Alfred the Butler (JeremyIrons); Daily Planet editor PerryWhite (Laurence Fishburne) and Ma Kent (Diane Lane)—this is ultimately anoverstuffed, overpopulated, awkwardly plotted Batman picture that relegates theMan of Steel to a glorified supporting role. (If industry reports are to be believed,this was a last minute decision by Warner Bros., which preferred the financial safe-betBatman to the recently revitalized Supes.)


Unfortunately, the script’s early promise recedes as the movie unreels. “Batman vs. Superman” is a disorganized, lead-footed moviethat carries itself with unearned confidence; you see every card it’s about toplay ten minutes before the movie plays it, yet Snyder doesn’t just slap eachone down on the table with gusto, he keeps pointing to it and telling you what rankand suit it is. We surely would have surmised that the identical first names of Bruce’s deadbiological mother and Kal-El’s adoptive mother—Martha—would come into playeventually, but the film is so worried that somebody might not get itthat it has Thomas Wayne croak “Martha” with his dying breath, then findsways to keep repeating “Martha” over the next two hours, buildingtoward a reprise-flashback of Bruce’s parents’ murder that will bring latecomers up to speed.

There are other repetitious touches along these lines, including multiple,vocal assurances that the characters are fighting in depopulated areas—a clumsy defensive strike against “Man of Steel” hand-wringing. It all seems pointlesswhen you realize how little effort has been devoted to embellishing the charactersin Snyder’s “Nashville”-sized cast, none of whom come alive as they did in Tim Burton’sor Christopher Nolan’s or even Joel Schumacher’s Batman pictures. Eisenberg’slu*thor might have been a fascinating third panel in the movie’s gallery of lonely and haunted man-children (in a harrowing moment, he rails against “daddy’s fistand abominations”), but he mostly comes off as a 21st centurybrogrammer, all tics and threats and unwanted physical advances. Adams’ LoisLane is once again reduced to a poker-faced damsel in distress. Jeremy Irons’Alfred isn’t a patch on Michael Gough’s or Michael Caine’s. Gadot, a lithebeauty with a musical accent and a steely demeanor, is granted less depth than a typical Bond girl. The movie shows little interest in explaining orjustifying its knotted-up subplots, and its detours into franchise-building areoften self-defeating. The most misguided is a dog-leg near the end: just whenthe story starts building up a head of steam, it pauses for a recitation of theDC heroes we can expect to see in the first full-on Justice League movie.

“Batman v Superman” tries to compensate for these flaws and others throughsheer scale and volume. It’s two-and-a-half hours long, louder than an airstripat O’Hare, gins up “excitement” with shaky-cam footage and hyperactivecutting, and has both figuratively and literally dark images. Even its daylightscenes seem to occur at dusk, thanks to the way Snyder and his cinematographer LarryFong bleed the color out and shroud the characters in smoke. Luthor’s mutant Kryptonian monstrosity Doomsday—spoiler warning notrequired; its presence was revealed in PR photos and promotional footage weeksago—is a generic hell-beast, all ropy muscles, spikyencrustations, and Rancor-like teeth. Reports of a forthcoming “R”-ratedDVD version aren’t surprising: the movie’s juicy stabbings, brandings-by-Batarang,close-quarters gunshots, scenes of sad*stic kidnapping and torment, and generallydespairing tone are Urban Thriller 101. The film is more effective when it’schanneling expressionist horror movies by filming action from disorienting anglesand letting blood seep from strange nooks and crannies. When it borrows iconic designsand situations from its primary inspiration, Frank Miller's politically satirical, meticulously plotted graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, it’s like a kid stumbling around in dad’sboots.


There are a few brilliantly realized moments, the acting is mostly strong despitethe weak script (Affleck and Cavill are both superb—Affleck unexpectedly so),and there's enough mythic raw material sunk deep in every scene that you canpiece together a classic in your mind if you're feeling charitable; but if youaren't, “Batman v Superman” will seem like a missed opportunity. At times it mightmake you long for Christopher Nolan's delicate touch. Those last four wordshave never appeared side-by-side before. Life’s funny that way.

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Film Credits

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie review (2016) | Roger Ebert (9)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Rated PG-13for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.

151 minutes


Ben Affleckas Bruce Wayne / Batman

Henry Cavillas Clark Kent / Superman

Amy Adamsas Lois Lane

Jesse Eisenbergas Lex Luthor

Diane Laneas Martha Kent

Laurence Fishburneas Perry White

Jeremy Ironsas Alfred Pennyworth

Holly Hunteras Senator Finch

Gal Gadotas Diana Prince / Wonder Woman

Callan Mulveyas Anatoli Knyazev

Tao Okamotoas Mercy Graves

Ray Fisheras Victor Stone / Cyborg

Jason Momoaas Arthur Curry / Aquaman

Scoot McNairyas Wallace Keefe

Jeffrey Dean Morganas Thomas Wayne

Michael Shannonas General Zod

Lauren Cohanas Martha Wayne


  • Zack Snyder


  • Chris Terrio
  • David S. Goyer

Writer (Batman created by)

  • Bob Kane
  • Bill Finger

Writer (Superman created by)

  • Jerry Siegel
  • Joe Shuster


  • Larry Fong


  • David Brenner


  • Junkie XL
  • Hans Zimmer

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie review (2016) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Is Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice worth watching? ›

This movie is simply amazing. Because it has seriously responded to the actual comic book source material at a highest level. People need to be well aware to the source material to understand the movie. I love how zack snyder has portrait franks millers the dark knight return's batman with the support of ben affleck.

What movies did Roger Ebert gave 4 stars? ›

Roger Ebert's Four-Star Films
  • 500 Days of Summer (2009) PG-13 | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance. ...
  • 10 (1979) R | 122 min | Comedy, Romance. ...
  • 12 Angry Men (1957) Approved | 96 min | Crime, Drama. ...
  • 127 Hours (2010) ...
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) ...
  • 24 Hour Party People (2002) ...
  • 25th Hour (2002) ...
  • 28 Up (1984 TV Movie)

Why was Superman mad at Batman in Dawn of Justice? ›

Batman feared Superman's unchecked power, and Superman (Henry Cavill) hated Batman's brutal methods, but the real reason why Batman and Superman fight is manipulation by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Batman emerges victorious, and from a narrative perspective, Batman v Superman could go no other route.

Are there two versions of Batman vs Superman? ›

The Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a longer version of the 2016 film, directed by Zack Snyder, which contains approximately 30 minutes of additional footage not included in the theatrical release.

Why did Batman vs Superman get bad reviews? ›

A Nonsensical Plot

Most films live or die by the strength of their plot, and striking the right balance of simplicity and complexity is a coveted art that few superhero movies get exactly right, but Batman V Superman's story is an over-complicated and incoherent tangle of coincidence, convenience and assumption.

Why Dawn of Justice is good? ›

This movie really does fix many of the issues many had with the theatrical cut. The pacing is perfect and this movie is much more balanced between superman and batman compared to the theatrical cut. Many of those additional 30 minutes are Clark Kent scenes that was cut.

Has any movie gotten 5 stars? ›

Ranking films is hard, but Screen Rant attempts it with its 5-star films — movies that received the rare perfect score, including Up & Inception.

Did Roger Ebert like Star Wars? ›

Speaking on a segment of ABC News' Nightline, the critic gave a scathing indictment of Return of the Jedi and the Star Wars series at large, stating, “I feel they are so bad because [Star Wars movies] are completely dehumanizing.” Simon based his argument mostly on the heavy use of special effects needed to bring the ...

How many stars did Roger Ebert use? ›

Every film which Roger Ebert gave a four out of four star review in his career. Does NOT include films that were initially rated lower than 4 stars but were later included on the Great Movies List.

Why is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hated? ›

Weird Concessions to "Realism" There's a whole layer of tinkering that basically amounts to "wanting to make a movie set in a fictional place feel like it's not set in a fictional place." In Batman v Superman, Gotham and Metropolis feel like generic city-scapes instead of specific places.

Why is Lex Luthor weird in Batman v Superman? ›

He is portrayed insane because they wanted to get a different Luthor from the Smallville version, nor from 2006 movie, aka the modern approach. He is the smartest man on earth, so the insanity of his character is not out of question.

Why did Lex Luthor hate Superman? ›

23 (1940), Luthor has been singularly obsessed with Superman, and his quest to destroy the world's first superhero has been relentless. In the 1960s it was revealed that his hatred was rooted in a childhood accident caused by the young Superman (then Superboy), which made Luthor go prematurely bald.

Who is the only actor to play both Batman and Superman in two? ›

Ben Affleck is the only actor who have played both Batman and Superman in live action films.

Why did Lex Luthor bomb the Capitol? ›

To make matters worse, Superman was partially blamed for the incident and many began to believe if Superman had something to do with the bombing itself. Unbeknownst to all, it was all part of Luthor's plans to frame and discredit Superman to damage his reputation.

Who appeared to Bruce in Batman vs Superman? ›

In Batman v Superman, this “dream” takes place just as Bruce Wayne gets a visit from Ezra Miller's Flash, who is using his hyper-speed abilities to deliver a warning from this future: “Bruce, listen to me now! It's Lois! Lois Lane,” he says. “She's the key.”

Should I watch Batman vs Superman before Justice League? ›

Get acquainted with Superman in Man of Steel, and then see him bond with Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Suicide Squad is up next before you get to witness the epic team-up Justice League. (Substitute in the four-hour Zack Snyder's Justice League if you want more, though that is non-canon.)

Is Dawn of Justice Superman good in injustice? ›

Dawn of Justice Superman is a formidable bruiser and the first character in the game to have a passive that can disable gear. Players who only completed his Challenge when it first aired during the 2.8 update could not directly promote him with Power Credits (but this has been fixed as of the 2.10 update).

Should I watch Justice League after Batman vs Superman? ›

The bulk of Justice League takes place about two years after the events of Batman v Superman and one year after Suicide Squad, but we also get a big flashback sequence to thousands of years ago when the villainous Steppenwolf attempted to take over Earth and was foiled by an alliance between Amazons, Atlanteans, humans ...

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