Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was something of an enigma during its time in theaters. While critics widely agreed that it was a subpar movie, poor reviews did nothing to slow the droves of fans flocking into theaters. The film opened to the fourth highest weekend box office of any movie ever, so clearly DC didn’t completely swing and miss. If you’re the studio behind the movie, then the reviews don’t matter, if people are still buying tickets. But that still doesn’t change the fact that Batman v Superman was riddled with problems.
It would be easy to list off those problems in their entirety. Still though, there’s still credit to give where it’s been earned. Batman v Superman wasn’t without its high points, and it would serve us well to highlight them. It’s true, reviews for the film are overwhelmingly negative. Many of the pitfalls have been blown out of proportion in the process; on a scale of Catwoman to Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of Justice lies somewhere in the middle at a 5 or 6. So what did it do right?
Here’s what we saw.
1. Ben Affleck as Batman
The Batman we see in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns comics is one that’s cynical, cranky, advanced in age, and physically imposing. Ben Affleck embodied these qualities better than any other actor who’s stepped into the cowl, growling his way through an otherwise tedious affair. Appearing even unhinged at times, Affleck perfectly conveyed the Dark Knight imagined by Miller back in the 1980s, and it’s impressive to finally see that vision realized in full. If there’s one thing we’re looking forward to in future DC movies, it’s more Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne.
2. Wonder Woman entering the fray
Zack Snyder’s portrayal of the DC Cinematic Universe was, for better or worse, meant to be brutal and joyless. One of those rare moments of sunshine peeking through the clouds though came with the appearance of Wonder Woman in the climactic final battle with Doomsday. It represents Gal Gadot’s first scene donning the iconic armor and weapons, set to a joyously electric guitar-laden theme song to mark her entry into the fray. Overall, it was a true highlight of a battle that felt a lot like a special effects extravaganza. Is it time for the Wonder Woman movie yet?
3. Introducing the rest of the Justice League
Before you run away screaming, hear us out on this one. Yes, Batman v Superman‘s most glaring issue was its attempt to be too many things. It’s difficult to cram a conflict between two heroes, a nefarious scheme by a villain, the setup for a future villain, and the introduction of the entire Justice League into a single movie. But for the Justice League part of that equation, that had to happen no matter what. DC is almost a decade behind Marvel right now, and it can’t afford to slowly unveil each hero in standalone films. The way Dawn of Justice used Lex Luthor’s personal files to give each hero a chance to come out and take a small bow was really the only way this could have been done, and we applaud it for that.
4. Civilian casualties were kept to a minimum
Both the Marvel and DC film universes have recently shown a concern for the collateral damage brought on by a superpowered brawl. In fact, it’s the major driving conflict between Captain America: Civil War, as well as the motivation behind Batman’s Man of Steel-centric vendetta. For Batman v Superman, we see the movie make a concerted effort to note how every locale for our heroes’ various throw-downs is civilian-free. Metropolis can only be leveled by a fight involving Superman so many times before he starts becoming a liability, and director Zack Snyder is all too aware of that for his latest effort.
5. Real-world consequences for fictional superheroes
One of the more on-the-nose aspects of Batman v Superman surrounded the way it felt like it could be set in our own world. If a nigh indestructible alien came down from space promising he’s here to help, our government would still be naturally distrustful. Take the events of Man of Steel into account, and the Senate hearing Superman is called to participate in seems like an actual possibility for a real-life Clark Kent. Humanity has a history of not trusting what it doesn’t understand, a message Snyder conveyed loud and clear.
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