Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was first unleashed upon the world in March of 2016. It represented one of the most significant comic book movie showdowns in history. Batman and Superman, quite arguably the two single biggest names in superhero history, were meeting together for the first time ever in a live-action movie. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne against Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel. Now, as the movie celebrates its five-year anniversary, I am here to highlight some of the best things about the ever-divisive DC Comics adaptation.
A couple of quick notes before diving into the list. For transparency’s sake, I am one of those people who didn’t care for BvS the first time around. I have since come around to parts of it, though I still find the movie, on the whole, to be a bit of a disappointment. That having been said, I generally like to be positive about these things. So, rather than write a piece casting Zack Snyder’s take on the characters in a negative light, I’d prefer to point out some of the good things contained within the ambitious undertaking.
Also of note, I am basing this on the original, theatrical cut. Not the longer Ultimate Edition, which was released later. This is in honor of the fifth anniversary and I feel it is most fair, that being the case, to look at the version of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that the world first laid eyes on back in 2016. Enjoy.
The Man of Steel The Cold Open
Love or hate Man of Steel, there is a lot to discuss when it comes to the highly-destructive third act, in which, Superman and Zod duke it out in Metropolis. It is brutal. The cold open of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice revisits this battle from an entirely new perspective; that of Bruce Wayne. We get to see what this brand of heroics looked like on the ground. It was terrifying. It was devastating. People died. Lives were ruined. Yes, Superman defeated Zod, but at what cost? It completely recontextualized Superman in a way that we hadn’t truly seen on screen before. It also provided a lot of motivation for Ben Affleck’s Batman. We can debate the finer points (and have) about how the rest of the movie handled the ball that was put on the tee but it was certainly a bold and unique angle to take.
Jeremy Irons as Alfred
Some truly great actors have played Alfred Pennyworth over the years. This is Bruce Wayne’s most trusted confidant. In some cases, his only confidant. And having to follow Michael Cane, who played the part in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, is no easy task. But Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons stepped up to fill those shoes in Zack Snyder’s version of the DCEU. While Irons doesn’t get a ton of screen time, he does a damn fine job with what he’s given. What’s more, he has a completely different take on Alfred that isn’t just another dutiful butler in a suit. This is not only a sage Alfred, but one you might be willing to put some money on in a fight. It was true to the character, yet Irons did something new. Something fresh. Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about Ben Affleck not doing his version of The Batman is missing out on the chance to flesh out this version of Alfred even more.
Ben Affleck’s Batman Warehouse Sequence
Speaking of lost versions of The Batman, there is a scene in BvS that leads me to believe that Ben Affleck could have been a truly incredible Caped Crusader, offered the proper time to shine. Toward the end of the movie, after Superman and Batman have kissed and made up, the issue of saving Martha Kent becomes pressing. Batman then offers to save her and heads to a well-guarded warehouse to do just that. What ensues is, in this viewer’s humble opinion, the greatest Batman action sequence ever put to film. Batman is menacing. He is calculating. He is a force to be reckoned with. One of the biggest complaints lobbied against Zack Snyder’s take on the character is his willingness to kill at the drop of a hat. Yes, people undoubtedly die in this warehouse sequence, but it’s not a first choice. Batman is having to make choices in microseconds to get the job done against a small army. People only die when they leave him no other choice. That aside, this is a phenomenally entertaining, well crafted and downright crowd-pleasing bit. Imagine what Affleck could have done in a whole movie pitted against Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke?
The Introduction of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman
Lynda Carter gave us a live-action version of Wonder Woman on the small screen that will live on for ages. But the iconic DC superhero had never been brought to life on the big screen. Gal Gadot’s introduction as Diana Prince in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice changed all of that. She emerges at a key moment in the third act to help fight Doomsday. The moment that awesome bit of guitar and epic score kicks in, it’s hard not to feel like something truly significant is happening. Gadot does the character justice and would go on to make Wonder Woman a smashing success in 2017, under the direction of Patty Jenkins. But Zack Snyder was the first one who brought this version of the character to screen and that is not something to be dismissed. Not by a long shot.
Setting the Stage for Zack Snyder’s Justice League
The plan had always been for Zack Snyder to shoot Justice League right after BvS. What Warner Bros. didn’t count on was the divisiveness that the movie would inspire. Things got complicated from there. But Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did set the stage for what ultimately became Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Superman’s death. The hints at Darkseid. The need to form a team of superheroes. It was all there. Nobody could have possibly predicted the rollercoaster and multi-year journey it would become. Joss Whedon taking over and delivering a Frankenstein’s monster of a movie in 2017. The relentless #ReleaseTheSnyderut campaign that followed. BvS worked as an unintentional springboard for one of the biggest stories in the movie world over the past handful of years.
Now, the world has seen Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The consensus is that the movie is far better than what was originally released in theaters. It is the movie that Snyder wanted to make. It is the movie that was set up by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While we ultimately had to go the long way around to get there, setting the seeds that would later grow was, in hindsight, easily one of the best things about this movie and the legacy that it leaves behind.