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Movie Night – ‘Dawn of Justice’ blockbuster in every sense (March 30, 2016 issue)

By Bradley Griffith

The summer blockbuster season is upon us even though spring has only just begun. “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is the first in a string of planned DC Comics superhero movies over the next decade, and it is a blockbuster in every sense of the word.

While there are some flashbacks to when Bruce Wayne was a child (Brandon Spink), the movie literally starts during the closing moments of action in “Man of Steel.”  (It’s helpful if you have seen “Man of Steel” before “Dawn of Justice.”)  Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) sees the destruction being wrought in downtown Metropolis by General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his world engine. As Bruce charges into the heart of the ongoing destruction to save anyone he can, he sees Superman (Henry Cavill) participating in the catastrophe as he tries to defeat Zod.

Eighteen months later Superman is a controversial figure. He defeated Zod and saved the planet from annihilation, but the planet wouldn’t have needed saving if Superman hadn’t made the earth his home.  Scrutiny intensifies when Superman attempts a rescue mission in the desert and many local tribesmen end up dead.  Away from the spotlight, Superman is only trying to do what’s right. He’s trying to be a force for good in a world quickly turning bad.

By this time Bruce Wayne has been Batman in nearby Gotham City for over 20 years. He finds himself squarely on the side of the Superman critics.  He knows that Superman could destroy the entire planet if he wanted to and there’s nothing we could do about it. While Superman may be mostly good, Bruce reasons, if there is even a 1 percent chance that he may do something bad we must be ready to defeat Superman.

But Bruce Wayne is not the only one who is plotting to destroy Superman. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has a bold plan to plot Batman and Superman against each other so that neither will survive.  One thing he didn’t anticipate was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).

“Dawn of Justice” is a massive undertaking both in the scope of the production of the movie and the scope of the story that is being told and foreshadowed. It also qualifies as a massive success. It’s loud, action-packed, and filled with dark, menacing encounters. While the Marvel superhero movies are light-hearted and funny, following in the tradition of other DC movies, “Dawn of Justice” is serious and brooding.

Everyone has already seen Henry Cavill as Superman and we also know he fits the role perfectly. But Ben Affleck’s Batman is not only new, but the source of much criticism.  While I could have been counted among the cynics prior to seeing the movie, I am here to tell you that he is great as Batman.  His Batman is older, more cynical, and even somewhat confused about how to mete out justice in the age of other superheroes.  Affleck’s Batman is angry, upset that despite everything he has done for over 20 years the world is not a better place.  Affleck nailed this version of Batman.

But the character who makes her first appearance on the big screen makes the biggest splash in “Dawn of Justice.” Wonder Woman does not appear in many scenes and has even less dialogue, but when she comes to fight she puts the superboys to shame.  She makes an entrance befitting the beloved character that she is and Gal Gadot was the perfect choice to wield the lasso of truth.

The film also has a great storyline. Giving away too many details would spoil the story, but there’s a purpose behind the destruction and mayhem, a purpose behind the animosity between Batman and Superman.  Maybe the best part of the plot is that it’s difficult to know who is the bad guy and who is the good guy.  In fact, that issue could still be up for debate long after the credits roll.

Grade: A

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