Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016) – Review

Believe it or not, I said it from the very start: Ben Affleck will make a great Batman. For all of the things Batman v Superman is and isn’t, that’s the one constant. The solid footing in this otherwise uneven, over-zealous gladiatorial event. But the fact of the matter is he needs a standalone movie (possibly to be directed by Affleck himself) to show what he can really do with the role. As it is, he’s stuck in a film that’s simply too chaotic to develop the character with any real effect. Or, indeed, any of its characters.

There’s a prevailing feeling that Zack Snyder has jumped the gun a little by bringing The Dark Knight and Man Of Steel together so early. When The Avengers assembled for the first time, we’d already been introduced to each of them; their origins, why they’re here now, what makes each of them tick. We understood their motives, and the whole thing was built on the strong spine of a cinematic universe which had patiently built to that point. While it’s a bit pointless and combative to simply compare Marvel to DC, there is a clear thread between the two current cinematic universes, and at the moment, Marvel is winning because it’s taken the time to get to where it is. Batman v Superman epitomises a desperation to jump to the finish line.

Yet, I think I have to say that I sort of enjoyed it. Or at least parts of it. While the whole thing is structural mess, there’s a lot of good stuff hiding throughout the hefty running time which has been missed by many of the vitriolic press reviews. For one, Snyder mercifully stayed away from the script so he could concentrate on making the thing visually dazzling. Even if Doomsday looks a bit naff, the guy knows how to frame a beautiful shot.

More surprisingly, Jesse Eisenberg isn’t a terrible Lex Luthor. The irritating one we saw in the trailers is still there, but it annoyed me less than I was expecting. Affleck is a fantastic Batman, too, with impressive on-screen chemistry opposite Henry Cavill, and the titular showdown between the two – a scene upon which the film basically hinges – is certainly epic in proportion and well-crafted, as are many of Batman’s solo sequences (Bats gets far more action than Supes, who spends most of the film joylessly reflecting on his place in the world).

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

There may be a fundamental problem with Batman killing people, which appears to be the case in certain sequences, yet within the context of this film it sort of makes sense. I can’t proclaim to be knowledgeable about the source materials in any way (I’ve never even read a Batman comic), but, with Bruce’s constant references to “20 years” of pulling up the weeds of criminals only for another to grow in its place, Batman is presented here as an aged, tired, angry superhero who’s simply fed up with the world and for being vilified for his well-meaning actions under the mask. When he sees Superman destroying a city and killing innocent people in his wake, he finally cracks and somewhat loses that ethical code. If he’s going to be called a vigilante, he’s going to damn well act like one. He’s going to do what needs to be done, however that may need to be accomplished. At least that’s how I read it.

Alas, if only the rest of it was so interesting. BvS is a long film with lots of talking and lots of plot – some of which is fine, but a lot of which is remarkably uninteresting. Rather than engaging us like Nolan’s dialogue-heavy Dark Knight films, Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer’s script tries to act intelligent and dialogue-driven but loses us with convoluted plot-lines and un-polished motives, culminating in a terribly contrived third act blackmail plot which gets the two titular heroes to fight, finally. It never really figures out how to balance all of its characters, so ends up feeling like neither a Batman movie nor a Superman movie, but a no-one movie into which two superheroes just happen to have been dropped.


Verdict: 

Too busy and convoluted for its own good but undeniably intriguing, Batman v Superman is a strange, over-zealous muddle of a movie that’s enjoyable in spite of its problems. Snyder just needs to learn how to strip things back a little, because he had the ingredients here for something really cool.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Director: Zack Snyder; Screenwriter: David S. Goyer, Chris Terrio; Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Scoot McNairy, Lauren Cohan; Running time: 152 minutes; Certification: 12A 

8 Comments

  • Citse March 28, 2016 at 8:51 pm:

    Great review, this! Felt I hadn’t seen enough of Affleck to score his performance as Bats, now I understand why. It’s as you said – we basically know nothing of this new Bats as there was no standalone movie. I had my brother the comicbook nut beside me, who understood some subtle goings-on meant for the well-initiated. What’re your views on Wonder Woman? I think her presence was totally unnecessary, she could have served as a mystery, “sleeper” character instead of getting into the action.
    Sorry for the long post. Just saw the movie 🙂
    Excited to have discovered your blog – you shall be hearing more from me 🙂

    Reply
    • Eddy Gardiner March 28, 2016 at 9:35 pm:

      I agree, Wonder Woman probably shouldn’t have been such a prominent character – but the same goes for Batman (even though he’s the best thing about it). This should’ve been a Man Of Steel sequel and there should’ve been standalone Bat/WW films before it brought them all together.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Reply
  • Sixeighty March 29, 2016 at 9:31 am:

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the premise and title are both inulfuriating to me.

    I get that this was possibly made because it’s an age old question, but when it comes down to it, neither batman nor superman kill, so in that sense there can be no clear winner.
    If superman was willing to murder, the fight would have been over in seconds due to the sheer power superman wields, or even if batman managed to stealth Supes, bearing in mind he can apparently hear everyone’s heartbeat on the entire planet and heard green lantern crying in outer space, it’s unlikely.

    I guess that in my opinion, superman as a charecter is too unwieldy a charecter to make a movie of. Unless they give him crippling anxiety or some existential crisis in which he either retires or becomes some kind of crazy hobo and attacks the world, he’s like using a shotgun to clear an ants nest.

    I’m not saying this as a batman fan either, as I think the best rendition of Batman I’ve seen has been the one from the Askham series of games.

    That’s just my opinion any who.
    Carry on with the reviews, and I’ll post again after I’ve seen the film haha

    Reply
    • Eddy Gardiner March 29, 2016 at 10:37 am:

      Well, within the context of this film there is a reason Superman doesn’t just murder Batman immediately and how Batman can actually fight back, but I felt the same beforehand.

      But I don’t even think it was made to answer that question – it was made because Warner Bros. are in too much of a rush to get to where Marvel & Disney are.

      Reply
      • Sixeighty March 29, 2016 at 12:59 pm:

        Ahh I see, trying to get to a justice league movie like marvel have the avengers?

        Reply
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