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.

I can’t help but feel Zack Snyder has jumped the gun a little bit 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 and why they’re here now. 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 race 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). Say what you want about the guy, but he 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, but for me, within the context of the film, it kind 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, I feel like 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