Credit: Clay Enos

Entertainment Weekly crashes through the wall around Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for a look at an onscreen battle decades in the making. In this week’s cover story, we explore what provokes hero to turn against hero, how this movie launches at least 10 more in the DC Comics universe, and what to expect from Wonder Woman’s first big-screen appearance in her 75-year history. To buy both collectible covers, head here – and subscribe now for the exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Batman is angrier than ever. And Superman is starting to lose his mild manners, too. At the start of director Zack Snyder’s new film (out March 25), Metropolis is still rebuilding after the skyscraper-leveling brawl that ended 2013’s Man of Steel, and Batman has been at work as an underground vigilante in nearby Gotham for many years. Maybe too long.

Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is starting to wonder if he ever really saved anyone, or if he just made things worse. “He’s projecting his own sense of failure, his own sense of disillusionment, his own cynicism onto Superman,” Affleck tells EW.

Superman is also wrestling with his own inner turmoil. He may be the stronger one, but following on the depiction of him already established three years ago when Henry Cavill first donned the cape, he’s a neophyte as a hero, trying to figure out how to best use his strengths—and how to avoid making costly mistakes. Fans who were outraged by the loss of life in that earlier movie have a new ally: Batman. He’s furious about it, too.

“[Superman’s] weakness is that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone,” says Cavill. “He doesn’t want to scare anyone, and in that you can take advantage of him. This is someone who is a complete amateur, and he’s facing up against someone who is very well versed in the arts of war.”

The rage and anxiety of these two characters is manipulated by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a billionaire sociopath with a God complex of his own who takes joy in bringing the powerful to their knees. Luthor not only [slight spoiler alert] orchestrates a mass murder aimed at turning the two heavy hitters against each other but also uses some Kryptonian relics left behind from the Man of Steel aftermath to cook up a cosmic mutant Frankenstein— Doomsday, partially built from the remains of Michael Shannon’s General Zod.

Beneath the action set pieces is an intricate tale of hidden agendas, psychological turmoil, and even some complex theological questions — plus a lot of smashing.

Although the new film does focus squarely on the battle between the title heroes, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has a major supporting role, with her alter ego, Diana Prince, running afoul of Bruce Wayne as they engage in rival missions to steal some of Luthor’s most disconcerting secrets. Even before she brandishes a sword and her golden lasso, Wonder Woman’s secret identity is pretty badass.

If that all seems heavy for a superhero blockbuster, it is, and Dawn of Justice is hefting more than just a $250 million production budget on its muscled shoulders. A whole (film) universe is at stake – Warner Bros. entire DC Comics slate lined up for the next five years, including Snyder’s Justice League, which starts shooting in April.

EW has seen the movie, and while we won’t spoil any important plot points, we can tell fans: Nobody in this film is pulling any punches.

Follow EW’s @Breznican for more on the DC movie universe.

And check back to today for a gallery of new images from the movie – and an in-depth look at how Batman v Superman lays the groundwork for future films. Tomorrow: Secret details of the extended, R-rated cut that will be released only on home video.

Credit: Clay Enos
Credit: Clay Enos
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • Movie
  • 151 minutes