‘Dawn of Justice’ Review

Directed by Zack Snyder

Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, and Gal Gadot

★★★☆☆

After decades of waiting, the cinematic clash of superhero Titans, Batman and Superman, comes to fruition in “Dawn of Justice.” Perhaps like countless high-profile boxing bouts, the matchup may or may not be anticlimactic. In 2008 with the release of “Iron Man,” Marvel Studios started the shared universe fad with the commencement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, MCU. “Dawn of Justice” is in the position of having to establish the DC Cinematic Universe, DCCU, as a viable franchise.

The task set to “Dawn of Justice” was worldbuilding the DCCU, unlike the MCU, the DCCU did not afford itself the luxury of establishing the individual characters climaxing with the formation of the Justice League. The collateral damage caused by Superman during the climax of “Man of Steel” had to be addressed in the follow-up to “Man of Steel.” In the first phase of the MCU what tied those movies together was the bringing in of the various characters into the Avengers. Creating a continuity in the DCCU following “Man of Steel” would require addressing the fallout from the climax of that movie. “Dawn of Justice” as a follow-up to “Man of Steel” – “Man of Steel 2” – the movie worked well. However, regarding worldbuilding the greater DCCU, “Dawn of Justice” falls short of its full potential.

“Dawn of Justice” does little to establish the characters of Batman and Wonder Woman within the DCCU. Coming out of “Dawn of Justice” all you know about Batman in the DCCU is that he exists in the universe, but we do not know who Batman is in the context of DCCU. When it comes to Wonder Woman all we know is that she is Wonder Woman, and that’s it. With a 151-minute runtime, Zack Snyder had ample time to develop and establish these characters in the universe. Snyder did not need to go into the full backstory for either character – they are getting their movies for that – but Snyder needed to establish who these characters are in the DCCU. Developing a character does not necessarily mean backstory. Establishing a character is telling the audience who they are, why they are there, and why they do what they do. With Batman you know why he does what he does, he is fearful of Superman’s god-like powers. With Wonder Woman, you know nothing about her aside from that she is Wonder Woman. I would like to say that Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot were excellent in the roles, but Snyder did not give you enough information about the characters to be able to judge their performances.

The aspects of the movie that were more directly following up “Man of Steel” were where “Dawn of Justice” was at its strongest. There are great scenes between Superman, his mom, Louis Lane, and his father, but all of that is pushed aside for making “Dawn of Justice” a prologue to “Justice League.” “Dawn of Justice” should have been “Man of Steel 2” with Batman in it, because then you can retain all the great stuff with Superman following the climax of “Man of Steel” and you can still introduce Batman in the universe. Hopefully, in this scenario would have been more fully fleshed out than it was in “Dawn of Justice.”

The movie bearing the moniker of “Batman v. Superman” is nothing more than a marketing gimmick, the movie is “Dawn of Justice.” If you do not want to be disappointed, keep that in mind, because I refused to refer to the movie as “Batman v Superman” and would only call it “Dawn of Justice” because I foresaw the Justice League prologue aspects of the movie. Despite the weak worldbuilding, I enjoyed the movie overall. It was a showcase of the talents of Snyder that made “Watchmen” and “Man of Steel” great movies. It was a good, solid follow-up to “Man of Steel.” The weak worldbuilding is a huge detriment to “Dawn of Justice” because the goal of the movie was to build the DCCU and because it did not do that adequately enough “Dawn of Justice” does fall short of what it needed to do.

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