“THE GREATEST GLADIATOR FIGHT THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN” – 6/10.
There has only ever been one question that mattered in the world of comics; who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman? Everyone has got an opinion, there are those who believe that Superman could crush Batman like a bug and then there are those who favour Batman, choosing brains over brawn. Of course we have seen this battle played out many times in various comics and in animated form, but never on the big screen. Despite sharing twenty live action adventures between them, Batman and Superman have never appeared on screen together, until now. But Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) is more than just a battle of the titans; it is the foundation on which DC and WB are hoping to build an entire universe.
The story picks up two years after the events of Man of Steel; the world has embraced Superman, but there are those who cannot forgive or forget the carnage that was wreaked upon Metropolis during his battle with Zod. One such person is billionaire Bruce Wayne, who has spent two decades fighting to protect the innocent as Batman and sees the Kryptonian as a threat to humanity. The sentiment is shared by egotistical genius Lex Luthor, who has developed his own weapons to use against Superman for far less noble reasons. Lex serves as the master manipulator, playing Batman and Superman against each other until their inevitable confrontation. However they are forced to put their differences aside when a new terror arises to threaten the world.
It seems as if BvS has been fighting a losing battle since the day it was first announced. Its predecessor, Man of Steel, was divisive at best and it left many fans feeling less than optimistic about the DC/WB Universe. Every announcement was met with derision, from the casting of Ben Affleck and Gal Godot as Batman and Wonder Woman, to the rumoured decision to include multiple members of the Justice League in the film. It seemed as though people wanted the film to fail just to prove a point. If you didn’t like Man of Steel then it’s likely that you won’t enjoy BvS either as it really is more of the same. But the film isn’t the total car crash that some people were expecting it to be; sadly it isn’t the thrilling epic that it could have been either.
Zack Snyder tries to cram an awful lot in to one film and the third act almost buckles under the weight of his ambition. This is a highly stylised film and that may not be to everyone’s tastes, at certain points it felt like I was watching Batman V Superman V Zack Snyder as the director clearly hasn’t taken on board any of the criticisms that were levelled against Man of Steel. His obsession with large scale CG destruction can be distracting at times and both he and writer, David S. Goyer seem to think being ‘dark and gritty’ instantly equates to substance, sadly it does not. While this may work for Batman it does no favours for Superman, he often ends up feeling like an afterthought despite Henry Cavill’s best attempts to bring some much needed depth to the character.
Despite all of the criticisms levelled against his casting, Ben Affleck’s Batman is without a doubt the highlight of the film. He is convincing as both Batman and Bruce Wayne and he makes the part his own within seconds of appearing on screen. Even better, his Batman uses voice changing software rather than putting on a ridiculous voice. Jeremy Irons is also a revelation as Alfred and it’s hard not to feel optimistic about the Batman film that Batfleck is rumoured to be working on with Geoff Johns. But that’s not to say that this depiction of the Dark Knight isn’t without its faults, Batman is responsible for the deaths of several people in this film and has very little regard for human life in general.
Jesse Eisenberg also manages to silence his critics as Lex. Comic fans will undoubtedly be frustrated by the divergence in the character from the comics, but Eisenberg soon manages to win you over with his impassioned performance. Sadly, Gal Godot is considerably less impressive as Wonder Woman; she lacks the gravitas for the role and seems painfully uncomfortable in almost every scene she appears in. Including Wonder Woman in this film may not have been the best idea to begin with as it does feel hugely overcrowded. Scenes such as the Injustice: Gods Among Us inspired dream sequence only serve to convolute things further, creating a viewer experience that can at times feel exhausting and a narrative that seems to spiral out of control.
As with his previous comic book adaptations, Snyder recreates several iconic moments from the pages of Batman and Superman’s greatest stories, but will that be enough to win over the comic book fans? Sadly the answer is probably not. Ultimately BvS does do exactly what it says on the tin; we get to see the two biggest names in the history of comics square off against each other, but the film lacks any kind of soul. Like Man of Steel, BvS is very much a case of style over substance and your enjoyment of the film depends entirely on how much you are willing to tolerate that. It’s not a bad film, in fact parts of it are downright enjoyable, but some of us have been waiting our whole lives to see this film and it just wasn’t worth the wait.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- One of the many casualties of the bloated narrative was Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, whose presence felt totally forced at several points in the story.
- If Batman has been operating for twenty years then why does it feel as if people have only just heard about him? They don’t even call him ‘Batman’ most of the time.
- Keeping this spoiler free but the film features several cameos and one in particular showcased a horrible version of an iconic suit that I hope is not the final version.
- Martha and Thomas Wayne are played by Lauren Cohan and Jeffery Dean Morgan, who have a far less loving relationship as Maggie and Negan on The Walking Dead. Hopefully we might get to see JDM as Flashpoint Batman somewhere down the line.