Three years ago, Batman v Superman was announced in front of Hall H at the San Diego Comic-Con and the world was ready to see the two most iconic comic-book characters go head-to-head, in a film inspired by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns comic.
A year later, it was revealed that the full title of the film was going to be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and this is where things changed. The added subtitle was a sign that this was going to be DC’s move into world building, responding to the MCU with their own DCEU (DC Extended Universe) and my major worry was they were rushing in to it all.
Fearing the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) left unchecked and with the world not sure whether to accept him as a hero or not, Gotham’s own Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on the Man of Steel in a battle for the ages.
With the two at war with one another, a new threat arises as a result of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) meddling with Kryptonian technology, placing mankind in greater danger than it has ever known before.
Batman v Superman is a mess of film but that doesn’t make it absolutely terrible. It’s important to understand that there were definitely enjoyable moments in the film, it’s just that the film isn’t very well made, the problems stemming from the overblown story and Zack Snyder’s direction.
The film was originally written by DC stalwart David S. Goyer with Academy Award winning writer Chris Terrio joining to help after Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. Goyer and Terrio together have written a film that, for the first hour and a half, goes down a more interesting route for a comic-book film, holding back on the action, reintroducing us to characters from Man of Steel and introducing us to the Batman side of the story. There are some interesting ideas raised however, the story is just too clunky and almost feels as if you’re doing a jigsaw puzzle but the pieces don’t fit, so you end up just jamming them into place.
Then comes the last hour of the film, which ultimately feels rushed due to the way the first half was written. That’s where Snyder as a director comes into play. He has an eye for the visuals sure, but just like Man of Steel, the pacing of the film is what lets him down. The pacing in Batman v Superman is so unbalanced that the two-and-a-half hour runtime is well and truly felt. The last hour absolutely flies by and this is where Snyder lays all his cards on the table, Batman and Superman finally face-off and then team up with Wonder Woman to take on Doomsday, the creation of Lex Luthor.
Unfortunately, this is where the film disappointed me most. The fight that the whole film is based around is good while it lasts but that is the problem, it doesn’t last for long at all. We have been waiting for three years to see them fight and then that’s all we get? Then it ends with one of the most painstakingly annoying pieces of writing in the entire film.
I would have given good money to see the fight last a lot longer and the moment they team up shortened somewhat. Batman and Superman are suddenly best friends and team up with Wonder Woman, who I will discuss later, in one of the most horrifically CGI finales in any superhero film. It was fun to watch the carnage unfold but it was just all over the place, as if there wasn’t even a director calling the shots.
The film doesn’t come without positives mind, Ben Affleck’s performance as both Bruce Wayne and Batman being the main one. Affleck’s Dark Knight is probably the most loyal live action version we’ve seen and he really carries the film on his own at times. The fact they decided to write him as a man who has been donning the cape for twenty years works ever so well in his favour, giving this version of Batman a real sense of anger and determination to bring Superman down. He gets the best moment of the film as well when he takes down a warehouse of bad guys, as seen in the trailer. I think anyone who originally slated the casting of Affleck will be eating their words by the end of the film.
Batman getting such a prominent chuck of the film made me feel a little sorry for Henry Cavill in the role of Superman. I liked Cavill in Man of Steel and he does well with what he gets here, it’s just that it feels almost as if no one knows how to write Superman for the big screen, coming across as a bit of a side character instead. Maybe Snyder just doesn’t understand the idea of Superman.
Then there are the supporting players of the film, some familiar faces from Man of Steel and some new ones altogether. The best of the bunch is Lex Luthor played by Jesse Eisenberg, who channels Heath Ledger’s Joker combined with his Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network. Eisenberg was another who faced a backlash when cast and I think he brings an interesting new take on the character to this film. Gal Gadot shows up as both Diana Prince and Wonder Woman, the latter supposedly stealing the show for many people yet I don’t think she did enough to warrant that. I am interested to see just what they do in her solo film next year. Amy Adams returns and feels utterly wasted as Lois Lane while Jeremy Irons makes for a good Alfred.
I did have a problem with how they teased the other members of the Justice League in this film. Whether it be through dream sequences or Lex Luthor’s confidential files, that magically has the character logos already established, it all just felt forced. This is where I feel they’re rushing into the Justice League and not taking a lesson from Marvel, taking the time to introduce them all in solo films first. I just don’t know if they’re going to pull it off, particularly if Zack Snyder is directing.
The work of Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is worth noting as well. I was glad to hear the Superman theme return from Man of Steel and the Wonder Woman theme fit absolutely brilliantly with her little cameo. I am disappointed that I couldn’t really distinguish a Batman theme so I guess I will just have to listen through without the film to see how that sounds.
For a big event film that was surrounded by so much hype and anticipation, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is incredibly underwhelming. My advice to Warner Bros. and DC is that if they want to establish a cinematic universe that can compete with Marvel on all levels, they must get another director in for the Justice League films because Zack Snyder was way out of his depth in this one.