Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot
I really wanted to enjoy Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Honestly, I really did. The idea of two legendary titans of the comic book world squaring off against each other on the big screen should’ve been an event like no other. Sadly, it was not to be. For this, I hold Disney and Marvel partially responsible.
With Marvel successfully forging their own cinematic universe, Warner Bros. and DC have been somewhat lagging behind with their output. Whilst DC properties have thrived on the small screen with the likes of Arrow, The Flash and more recently Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, their cinematic output over the last few years have been questionable at best. For every Dark Knight, there was a Green Lantern.So in this age of shared universes, which has become the new norm for studio franchises, it was only logical that Warner and DC forge ahead with their own. I mean, just look at their roster. Why wouldn’t you want to see all these great characters together on the big screen? But in the need to catch up to their rivals, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice suffers grievously under the burdens forced upon it by its corporate overseers.
Were it not for Marvel, perhaps Batman v Superman would’ve made for a more coherent blockbuster, not one that felt hurried, with characters and teases shoehorned in to appeal to fanboy audiences; one that wasn’t merely an extended trailer for a series of films, nor one that didn’t reek with the stench of corporate and marketing executives casting a shadow over every frame.Batman v Superman is promising enough at the start. After a quick prologue detailing the death of Bruce Wayne’s family (like we haven’t seen that before), the action cuts to the climactic events of Man of Steel, told from the perspective of Wayne and the civilians on the ground, with Metropolis crumbling around them. It’s a staggeringly effective sequence and, for a moment, it seemed to hold the promise of something with far more depth than we would come to expect.
Eighteen months later and the world has accepted Superman into its embrace, with a few exceptions of course, who fear his power and what he can do, including one particular billionaire with a penchant for the night life. Buried deep within the early stages of the film, there are hints of that potential; a film that asks questions about power and how to regulate such power and ideas of vigilantism. But alas, those damn corporate minions, forever casting their gloomy shadow over the film’s shoulder. Quickly gone is any form of substance in favour of surface glean, an overbearing score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, and a narrative so convoluted and confused that the whole thing becomes lost within its own overblown mess. Without giving away any spoilers, the film is burdened with trying to accomplish too many things; from setting up its shared universe, to foreshadowing the Justice League, to Wonder Woman’s own movie. In trying to combine all these elements the central conflict between our two heroes becomes overshadowed. By the time the now-standard superhero destruction-fuelled finale rolls around, it’s incredibly hard to care about any of it.
It also doesn’t help matters that the film is so dour, drab and grimy looking. A little levity here and there or a sly joke or two wouldn’t have gone amiss. I understand that DC and Warner. Bros want to forge their own identity, which is perfectly admirable, but does that mean they have to be so serious all the time?As far as the performances go, it’s a rather mixed bag. Henry Cavill is still just as boring as he was in Man of Steel. It doesn’t help that Superman hasn’t much to do besides stand, fly around and look mopey. Affleck, meanwhile, is perfectly suited to the role of a world weary Bruce Wayne, whilst Jeremy Irons (given what little screen time he has) shines as Alfred; something that bodes incredibly well for his inevitable solo outing as the dark knight of Gotham. While Gal Gadot stands out as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, her role is all too brief. Still, there’s no denying the sense of exhilaration one feels when seeing the legendary Amazonian warrior appear on screen for the first time. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor on the other hand, once so menacingly conniving in The Social Network, is more petulant annoying toddler then threatening, psychotic megalomaniac.
If you were a fan of Man of Steel, you’ll probably love this. For everybody else, Batman and Superman deserve better.