batman vs superman and the emergence of the dceu.
Let's start with the bad news first, shall we? If you thought the fight sequences in Man of Steel were long, the ones in Batman vs Superman will feel like an eternity. But that's not a death knell for the movie, as its merits outweigh whatever flaws it has.
There are a few things that Batman vs Superman has going for it straight out of the gate. There's only one movie in the DC extended universe that precedes it, which even so is not required viewing (though I'd still recommend Man of Steel, not just as a part of the DCEU but as its own movie); its score, by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, is as much a character as anyone else; and as in its title, Batman and Superman are the characters who take center stage. That is to say, the film isn't bogged down with trying to give equal screen time to five, eight, ten characters, which in some cases diminishes anyone not in a superhero suit (Lois Lane being the most unfortunate casualty, as she has less to do here than in Man of Steel) but in others (I'm talking about Wonder Woman, whose appearance during the US premiere screening in New York was met with screams and applause) makes their brief appearance all the more exciting.
The plot is also bonkers. This isn't because it's anything we haven't seen before, but because there's a lot going on. 18 months after Superman (Henry Cavill) first comes to public attention in a battle against another alien, General Zod (Michael Shannon, currently starring in Midnight Special, which I would honestly recommend as the better feature to pair with Man of Steel), the tide is beginning to turn from adulation to fear. While he saved Metropolis, he also caused massive destruction and works unchecked by any governing force. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is one of his doubters, as he saw the Wayne building in Metropolis collapse during the fight between Superman and Zod, and so is Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who has begun hunting for kryptonite. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The cast acquits themselves well, especially Henry Cavill, who somehow makes more with less screen time than he had in his solo vehicle. The quietest moments of the film are given to him, scored by a lovely piano theme in contrast with the more bombastic music used through the rest of the movie, and he matches them with an earnestness that makes the film's final act all the more tragic. Ben Affleck does admirably as well, hopefully enough so to silence the skeptics, helped along by dream sequences that delve into Bruce's psyche and are also reminiscent of Zack Snyder's incredible Watchmen. The movie as a whole has the same page-to-screen feel, and it loses its coherence only when the fights begin to veer into video game territory instead. It's Jesse Eisenberg's performance that will likely be the most divisive issue, as by the time the neuroses and tics he bestows upon Lex give way to the real, magnificent hatefulness and anger at the root of the character, too much time may have passed to really get comfortable with it. Still, it's a solid performance, backed up by a musical theme that sounds like a twisted version of Mozart's Requiem, easily the most classically influenced cue on the soundtrack for a character who does everything to present himself as the most modern and hip.
BVS succeeds, at least modestly, in avoiding the pitfalls that plague most recent franchises. While its color palette is drained in the classic indication of a "dark, serious movie," there is still a palpable sense of fun throughout. It's most evident in the details that set up the forthcoming Justice League movies. Wonder Woman (especially her kickass, Mad Max-like theme music) is a breath of fresh air in the movie, and the teases as to the Justice League are organic rather than labored Easter eggs. As a first real outing into the DCEU, it's an impressive effort, and as with the tonal change that occurred with the release of Batman Begins, sets the stage for DC to shift the superhero movie landscape.