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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a dark, serious superhero drama that pits the titular DC comics characters -- Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) -- against each other, though ultimately the message is one of teamwork. As the two grow distrustful of each other, supervillain Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) sets the stage for an even deadlier battle between the forces of good and a nearly unstoppable evil. The violence can be up close and personal: Characters' loved ones are captured at gun point, an entire room explodes, and people are shot execution style. There's some romance and passionate kisses between Clark and Lois (who live together) -- one that takes place in a tub while she's taking a bath (her bare shoulders/legs are seen, as is a woman's bare back in another scene, as well as men's bare chests). Language is limited to a couple of uses of "s--t" and "damn," and adults drink wine and cocktails. Note: This review is of the PG-13 theatrical release; the R-rated extended cut may contain additional content.
What's the story?
BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE starts with a look back at the destructive, climactic Man of Steel battle between Superman and Agent Zod -- from the perspective of Gotham City, where Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) watches as his building collapses, making him angry at Superman. Eighteen months later, the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill), saves Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from a dangerous hostage situation, which once again causes unintended collateral damage. Meanwhile, Batman starts to brand criminals, making Clark Kent want to expose the Dark Knight as a dangerous vigilante. Entering into the fray is young biotech billionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who's obsessed with getting his hands on enough Kryptonite to render Superman defenseless. Luthor also sets the stage for the two superheroes to battle each other ... until they discover there's a bigger villain they should band together against.
Is it any good?
With charismatic performances and epic battle scenes, this unrelentingly serious start to a new DC Universe franchise is intriguing but also humorless and overdone. Affleck is an ideal Bruce Wayne; he's effortless playing the broody playboy billionaire who isn't sure Superman is so super. He and Jeremy Irons (as Alfred) have a good rapport, but there's so much going on that there's little time to focus on individual character arcs. Eisenberg plays the young Lex Luthor as megalomaniacal with a side of severe daddy issues; he's willing to do whatever it takes to bring Superman down. Since there's so much riding on seeing this film unspoiled, it's difficult to explain exactly where the story becomes overwrought, but suffice it to say that comic book fans familiar with Frank Miller's Dark Knight, League of Justice origins, and the Superman Doomsday comics will understand much more than the casual superhero film fan.
On the bright side, the heroes' big fight scene is full of the kind of action you'd expect, with Batman going the extra mile to train Crossfit-style before he faces the Last Son of Krypton. And if you've seen the posters and trailers, it's no surprise to say that Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) makes a grand appearance, wielding her golden lasso and coming to the guys' rescue to help them face a huge, seemingly invincible threat to all of humanity. Some skeptics weren't sure about the model-turned-actor's ability to capture everything that makes Wonder Woman fabulous, but the former Israeli combat instructor has what it takes. Despite Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice's flaws, it will excite audiences for the promise of future Justice League films that will hopefully be as full of and fun as their rival Marvel blockbusters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Batman and Superman role models. Do you think they're brave and selfless? Why have they been such popular superheroes for nearly 80 years?
How does the impact of the violence in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice compare to other superhero stories you've seen? Is it just as problematic when the violence affects specific characters as when it destroys buildings and/or unseen/unknown characters?
What's the role of the movie's female characters? How do Lois Lane, Martha Kent, and Diana Prince initiate change and help the male characters? How would the movie be different without them?
- In theaters: March 25, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: July 19, 2016
- Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot
- Director: Zack Snyder
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 151 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.