Firstly this is not the bust to the superhero boom some people want it to be. The superhero genre is in rude health, but how does this years first big superhero showdown fare? Lyndon Wells checks out Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice…
The film opens with a visually unique way of murdering Bruce Wayne’s parents, immediately setting the gloomy tone. Next a Wayne Enterprise building is destroyed in the catastrophic destruction of Metropolis as Superman battles Zod as seen at the end of Man Of Steel. This is seen from a thrilling ground level Bruce Wayne perspective that also sets the style over substance nature of the film.
In the years following Zod’s assault Superman is examined by many through suspicious eyes. This includes the maniacal Lex Luthor and the grizzly Dark Knight who both formulate plans to neutralise this alien.
The film is structurally similar to Man Of Steel, it takes time establishing the realistic setting ahead of the final action set piece. Even critics of the first film will be drawn to this entry by the title alone that creates an aura of a must-see. I enjoyed Zack Snyder’s first DC offering, it is a heavily ‘Nolanised’ Superman. Whilst Nolan concentrated on character and story, Man of Steel boasted a unique visual aesthetic from the creator of Watchmen and 300. This styling is not to everyone’s taste and the lack of attention to story detail will divide critics and audiences.
Batman v Superman is dark and gloomy with violent action that deserves the 12A rating. It is an obvious counterpoint to the flash, colourful and family-friendly marvel cinematic universe. Both DC films have been criticised for their lack of humour, there are moments of it but anymore would be incongruous with its Nolan-esque tone. Zack Snyder produces Nolan superhero films on steroids and I’m still unsure if this is a good thing.
The action is visually arresting but does become a blur of CGI confusion when the big bad arrives. The big bad was disappointingly revealed in the trailer and is the Dawn of Justice part of the title as it unites three heroes. However there is plenty of unwieldy plot strands and strings to contend with before the action arrives. Inevitably the man responsible for pulling many of these strings is the businessman/psychopath Lex Luthor. Jesse Eisenberg ramps up the performance to 11, channelling the Joker and Jim Carrey creating an extremely divisive performance. His motivations and decisions are as sensible as any super-villain but his mannerisms are outlandish.
This new Batman is the darkest of all the Knights, an older, world-weary and bitter vigilante. His motivations for stopping Superman are clear but at points appear guilty of the same level of destruction. The internet chorus of discontent over Ben Affleck’s casting was unfounded as he is the best thing in it, the character even has a training montage. The wry Jeremy Irons as Alfred does provide the most ironic and self-aware quote of the film when asked by Batman “what’s going on?” He replies “It’s hard to describe sir”.
Both of the eponymous characters are variations on the popular comic incarnations. Batman is an angry man branding criminals with much less concern over murdering them than previous portrayals. Superman is given short shrift, this is not a Man of Steel sequel. He wants to be the big blue boy scout but the world is wary of his powers and his naive nature can be manipulated to make him appear something he is not. The much trailed Superman in court is lost to the numerous other plots. Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent is also just barked at by Laurence Fishburne for his interest in the bat of Gotham rather than reporting on sports. Apart from an early bath scene the Clark and Lois relationship is much more implied than realised. Amy Adams is perfect casting but fails to link plot strands despite being an investigative journalist. However the biggest plot flaw is an over-reliance on various TV news broadcasters filling the role of ‘basil exposition’.
This film suffers from the Iron Man 2 conundrum of too much world building for future projects. There is a little sequence of ‘trailers’ for forthcoming DC films which was fun but unnecessary. There are numerous dream sequences that do not contribute to the plot but drop hints of being more predictive than dreams. Refreshingly though Gal Gadot is the second best thing in this film and the final realisation of Wonder Woman on the big screen is a triumph. She has a great theme that Hans Zimmer amps up with every appearance and I’m excited for her stand alone film.
Overall I did enjoy it, a common complaint of mine is an overlong running time but this didn’t bother me as all the actions kicks off in the final third. At the IMAX the promised showdown is spectacular and it throws everything at it including a sink (not sure if it’s a kitchen sink)! Unfortunately the gritty tone means plot holes are more noticeable.
This is not the disaster some critics deem it to be but it is also far from the great film I really wanted. I am going to see it again – I mean it’s Batman versus bloody Superman, it is cinematic history. The main disappointment is that it doesn’t just enjoy the premise of these two pop culture icons doing battle but has to weave in the set up for future films.