UK Release Date: 25th March 2016
Runtime: 151 minutes
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: Chris Terrio, David S Goyer
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Scoot McNairy, Laurence Fishburne
Synopsis: Two superheroes, representing dark and light, are drawn and manipulated by various external forces into a titanic gladiator fight to the death that pits man against God.
It’s no secret that DC is rather envious of what its comic book cousin, Marvel, has achieved on the big screen. The home of Batman, Superman and Flash has watched with green-eyed jealousy as Marvel has converted a roster of lesser known supers into a formidable box office juggernaut. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice marks the opening salvo in DC’s attempt to bring their own characters together in order to construct their own cinematic universe. Unfortunately, on the strength of this stodgy, overlong mess, DC’s multiplex efforts will be a universe built on very shaky foundations indeed.
Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) saw his offices come crumbling down in the midst of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) brutal battle with General Zod, as seen in Man of Steel. Concerned about what this God-like creature could do, he begins to plot measures to control Superman. His investigation repeatedly brings him into contact with mysterious woman Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). Meanwhile, businessman Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is pulling strings that will put him in possession of Kryptonite and the body of Zod and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) investigates a strange bullet.
The issue with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is simply one of being thoroughly over-stuffed. Keen to rush to the same stage as Marvel, the studio has forced five or six films worth of world-building into one bloated beast of a movie that suffers from myriad unnecessary subplots. It’s female characters, in particular, are given nothing to do. Amy Adams is ill-served by wandering around asking people about bullets and Gal Gadot gets absolutely no build-up for Diana Prince before arriving in a flurry of noisy cello riffs as Wonder Woman. Cameos for future Justice League members are also shoe-horned in with little sense for how they will contribute to the narrative.
He has the power to wipe out the entire human race. I have to destroy him.
This has the unfortunate side effect of Batman v Superman becoming one of the most wildly incoherent blockbusters in recent memory. Nothing in the movie makes sense and Zack Snyder doesn’t seem to care, simply whisking the audience from scene to scene without fanfare, laying studio-mandated building blocks with no care for whether the audience is able to follow the story or cares enough to try. By the time the final face-off does take place, neither character has clearly-defined motives and this leaves with the audience with the unexciting spectacle of two big men throwing each other about in the rain, soundtracked by a Hans Zimmer score that takes delusions of grandeur to a whole new level.
For all of the concern over his casting, Ben Affleck at least embodies a different Batman to what we’ve seen before. He is jaded by years of crime-fighting and there are teases of a tragic past that give the character some depth. This is, however, undercut by the growling incoherence of his conflict with Superman and the bizarre scenes of him hauling a massive tyre around whilst shirtless. He gets a much better deal than Henry Cavill, who is a complete non-entity and gets no chance to deepen Superman or turn him into anything like a rounded protagonist.
The worst performance, though, is that of Jesse Eisenberg who plays a strange Lex Luthor. He’s like Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, crossed with Willy Wonka and the entire cast of the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise. It’s unclear whether Snyder’s direction or Eisenberg’s performance is at fault, but the actor certainly looks as if he would rather be anywhere else. Suddenly his past comments about being a part of the comic book world sound like a reflection of his experiences on this film.
Oh, I don’t think you’ve ever known a woman like me.
The performances, though, are the least of Batman v Superman‘s problems. It’s a film designed entirely with establishing a universe in mind and, as a result, it feels entirely free of stakes. We know that these characters are going to assemble as a team for the Justice League movie next year, so there’s no chance of them ever following through on their promises of destruction. In order to avoid the inevitable destruction, writing duo Chris Terrio and David S Goyer construct a contrivance so moronic that it makes one of the most important moments in the film something akin to a terrible joke.
It’s unclear whether the DC extended universe will ever come close to what Marvel has put together. However, on the strength of Batman v Superman, a lot of work needs to be done before they will ever hold a candle to their superhero competitors.
To hear more about Batman v Superman, check out this special episode of The Popcorn Muncher Podcast.
Pop or Poop?
Zack Snyder delivers a bloated, glum blockbuster in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, bringing the DC universe into play with a whimper rather than a bang. The film is over-stuffed, bland and free of characters that resemble human beings in any way. Subplots fail to register, cameos land with an awkward clunk and the ultimate smackdown is more of a super-flop. Back to the drawing board before Justice League.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.