As divisive as Man of Steel was, when it was released in 2013, it stared unflinchingly into the heat vision of Superman and committed to its beliefs. Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is just as bold.
Zack Snyder's first outing behind the wheel of the of the Detective Comics Cinematic Universe (henceforth known as the DCCU), knew what it wanted to be and stayed the course. Whether the path Batman Vs Superman would take had been planned or not is a secret held by the writer's room at Warner Bros. That being said, the strands from Man of Steel are cleverly woven into themes of Batman Vs. Superman and make it stronger than our heroes outfits. Where they could have been crowbarred in just to appease those taking note of a shared universe, the conceit of an all-powerful being that fell from the sky is a composite of Dawn of Justice, instead of treading old ground.
Beneath the bombast and jaw-dropping set pieces are ideas of the corruption of power and how hope can be quickly eroded by fear. Any regular at the comic book store will already be familiar with these notions. However, it seems that this is one of the many knowing nudges that Zack Snyder gives to the comic books fans - chapters of the film even fade to black, as if they were that issue's last page in an over arching story.
During the film's opening, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Batman Vs. Superman was going to be Bat's story. Not only do the opening scenes involve his origin, but we move on to Bruce Wayne's experience of Zod's World Engine decimating Metropolis. Don't be fooled. Both our heroes are fully fleshed out. Thankfully, rather than a twee compare-and-contrast, we explore how both heroes have arrived at this very point in their lives. Whether it be the all-consuming vengeance and the need to focus it on something or how real altruism can be worn away by those he's sworn to protect, and thus make you question beliefs. Both seem integral to this interpretation of the DCCU and also the characters themselves.
For those of us who paid the price of admission for a knock-down-drag-out rather than character analysis, we get more than our money's worth. Bats Vs Supes is punctuated with satisfying set pieces that please the story just as much as the crowd. Much like the Smallville Smackdown in Man of Steel, you genuinely feel like you're at ground zero of gods slugging it out. In this sense it's a true superhero movie.
Speaking of which, Henry Caville does a great job of adding a new dimension to Superman, which makes him seem all the more human. This time around we don't have the moving vignettes of his early life, so convincing us that a god can waver only makes him more mortal, and ultimately relatable.
But let's be honest; we were always more interested in how Ben Affleck would fare since the advent if #Batfleck! Well, the answer is, simply, brilliant. Taking his nods from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, Affleck plays a driven, capable and flawed Bruce Wayne/Batman. Once so blinded by his rage he veers further and further from the path.
For a film just over 2hrs and 30mins some sacrifices must be made. There's an awful lot to cover when you have to give more than one character a full and emotionally satisfying story arc. This does mean that the rails get greased from time to time in order to move to the next moment. Although this means some resolutions can be side-stepped, the movie never asks you to take too much of a leap. It's something to be said for just keeping this particular behemoth flying. Where Avengers: Age of Ultron threatened to collapse under the weight of holding the collective baggage of what was to come, Dawn of Justice seems quite comfortable to have us wait. Not beholden to it's shared universe, it simply pauses to take a breath and allows the audience to ruminate.
4* - A promising start to DCCU