In the midst of the colossal central fight between DC Comics’ foremost superheroes, a thought emerged. Despite, the superficial thrills of the battle that involves some of the best effects and action that Hollywood could afford, the fight was intrinsically personal and thematically potent. The Man of Steel was reluctantly fighting the Dark Knight in order to save his Mother. Whereas, Batman’s (Ben Affleck) reasoning for opposing the Kryptonian being was because of a fundamental belief that Superman (Henry Cavill) represents an incredibly real threat to humanity after he witnesses the destruction the super powered being is capable of in a harrowing and effective opening scene.
Bruce Wayne’s overriding viewpoint is punctuated by a scene in which he looks upon the graves of his parents and briefly describes his family’s history to Alfred. (Jeremy Irons) He pointedly expresses that his ancestors were hunters who did benevolent deeds. If Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is about anything then it is about the weight of ancestral and parental expectation that shapes and drives the moral compulsions of our titular characters.
Towards the end of that battle, Batman mocks the Man of Tomorrow by saying “I bet your parents taught you that you mean something, that you are here for a reason.” The Dark Knight’s pointed insult is at the Kent’s upbringing of Clark Kent and by extension his impetus for doing good. Soon after, Batman states to Superman what his parents taught him which was that if do you do not understand the world, then you have to force it too, which crucially speak to his determinism and resolve to eliminate the Man of Steel. As the hardened and older Bruce Wayne/Batman, Ben Affleck stands out. He brings a deep seeded weariness and cynicism as well as an overt and fascinating vulnerability that manifests itself in the final act when he is fighting with God like beings.
The most surprising performance of the picture comes from Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. He plays the character as though he has too many thoughts circulating in his head and he wants to articulate them all at once. This aspect of the performance may appear too quirky for its own good. However, it truly masks a fundamentally fragile and terrifying malice. Both of these facets of Luthor’s character are illustrated in the scene where he threatens Superman.
In this scene, it is strongly suggested that Luthor’s hatred of the Man of Steel comes from the fact that a God type person was not there to save him from his father’s constant abuse while he was growing up. Eisenberg’s drops the previously portrayed frantic awkwardness and is instead so clear and cutting in his words to Superman. The scene is emblematic of an another theme that is explored through the course of the film, which is whether or not Superman’s actions are truly helping humanity or threatening it. For every life, he saves, another one is tragically cut short. It is a paradoxical notion that the picture bravely acknowledges in its examination of DC Comics’s greatest superheroes.
Despite these commendable themes and performances, the inherent problem with Batman V Superman is that it represents Zack Synder’s least visually interesting film to date. While there are a few scenes that are cinematically compelling such as a one-take action sequence where Synder masterfully employs the grandeur of the IMAX format. There are hardly sequences in this picture that are cinematically exciting. Man of Steel impressed with its sheer contrast between the HR Giger inspired visual scheme of Krypton and the natural radiant and authentic visual look of the Kansas sequences.
Moreover, none of the film’s various dream sequences compare with the apocalyptic dream sequence in Watchmen, which was visually stunning with its dark brown and orange colour scheme. It is a scene that directly addresses the external threat of the story. It also powerfully spoken to the fear of one of the characters in the film. It is a shame that nowhere in its 133 minutes running time that Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice does not have a potent cinematic moment quite like that.