I couldn’t decide which version I wanted to focus on with this review. So might as well cover both. But let’s start with the stuff that shows up in both versions.
One of the biggest criticisms of this movie is that it is many movies in one. So let’s go through them one by one. There is a Man of Steel 2 sequel in this movie, focused on exploring the philosophical and ethical consequences that comes from Superman’s existence. It certainly brings up those questions…but never REALLY explores those questions or possible answers. This isn’t the first time those kind of questions have been brought up regarding Superman. But it is the first time it is being explored in movie form. I just think it would have worked better if they actually did a better job of trying to show both sides to the debate in the movie. Yea, the movie inherently has a bias but that’s expected.
Then there is the Batman movie. And this is by far my favorite part of the film. Ben Affleck is, in my opinion, the best movie version of the character so far (this post made public before the release of Matt Reeves’s “The Batman”). The action for him is great, his presentation and storyline unique in terms of his cinematic history. I know some people that have a problem with him killing people. But it works for this version of the character. Also, Batman has gone through many different interpretations. This isn’t even the first time a Batman movie had the hero kill people. Just do what fits with the character and his story. But yea, hands down the best part of the film.
Now for the actual Batman v Superman storyline. Again, I feel like this would work far better in terms of motivation if the movie did a better job showing both sides of the Superman argument. Outside of Batman the movie shows that a lot of people support and embrace the alien hero. Actually showing why people would be against a character like Superman would make this a more interesting storyline. But the actual fight was still fun to watch.
Finally, there is the Justice League build-up storyline. I’ll just say it - Bruce and Diana have great chemistry. Yes, she didn’t need to be in this movie. But she is and I don’t mind admitting I would like to see a team-up film between these two. Most of the other build-up is kind of anti-climatic and doesn’t need to be there. But at least it is over with pretty quickly.
Like with a number of Zack Snyder’s films, there are multiple cuts of this movie. The theatrical version is roughly 2 and a half hours and the Ultimate Cut is roughly 3 hours long. To my surprise, the Ultimate Cut actually improves the film in a few key areas. You know in the beginning when the mercenaries shoot those soldiers and the theatrical makes it seem like the world actually thinks Superman shot people? Well, this cut shows those mercenaries actually using flamethrowers to burn the soldiers after being shot so that it looks like Superman used his heat ray vision. And we see Clark actually investigate the city of Gotham and the people to get an idea of how Batman is perceived and the influence he has. The former makes it easier to understand why people will start going against Superman and the latter makes it clearer why Superman doesn’t approve of Batman’s methods. The Ultimate Cut significantly improves the movie. BUT, having said that, there are flaws that couldn’t be changed. There is no reason for Doomsday to be in this movie and the in-universe logic and method of creating him is bizarre. And then there is Lex Luthor played by Jesse Eisenberg. Regardless if you believe he is actually Lex Luthor Jr or not, his performance is incredibly awkward and distracting when compared to how the other actors perform and the overall tone of the film. You know what would have made him work though? Don’t have him as Lex…have him as Joker. It makes more sense as to why someone is trying to force these two heroes to fight each other and it would actually add intrigue and insight into the relationship between these versions of the Bat and Clown.
Overall, I am someone who will admit this is a flawed movie but still finds a lot to admire and like. I will even defend it in a few aspects. I can elaborate more in comments if needed.