Film Review: 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'
Opened: 25 March 2016
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot
Director: Zack Snyder
Producers: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder
Black and Blue. Day vs Night. God vs Man. A Batman vs Superman film is one that legions of comic book fans have been waiting for for centuries. Okay that's an exaggeration. But it's been a long time coming and lo it's finally arrived – in the form of a colossal hype machine that hopes to kickstart the DC Comic book universe and give it the kind of credibility that Marvel achieved when their fortunes sky-rocketed and they were saved from financial ruin, all those years ago.
At the time of writing the whole world and their dogs would have read the scathing reviews for this film. And they're bad. Awful in fact. But the optimist in me thought: Heck they've had three years to build this up. It can't possibly suck. It CAN'T. What would hard nosed critics know? Suffice to add, now that I’ve watched the film, I can confirm. The film is epic. An epic disappointment that is. And the only thing I wanted to ask director Zack Snyder after watching that slog fest was:
A follow up to the first successful, albeit underwhelming Man Of Steel film Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice serves as something of a prequel, and takes place almost parallel to the events of the first film. Billionaire Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Affleck), is monumentally pissed after Superman (Cavill), wreaks havoc in both Metropolis and neighbouring Gotham, as a result of his battle with General Zod and wants him accountable for the destruction he’s caused. So borderline obsessed is he with bringing the Kryptonian to justice, that he fails to recognise the growing threat that’s posed by eccentric magnate, Lex Luthor (Eisenberg), who wants to bring both Superman and Metropolis to its knees for his own reasons, inevitably leading to catastrophic repercussions of its own.
Snyder has a lot to be accountable for for the dud that this film very nearly is. He had an all star cast from the first film, albeit this time with even bigger names in the form of Affleck, Jeremy Irons (as Alfred), Eisenberg and newbie on the block, Gal Gadot as the mythical Amazonian princess Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman, a character that's akin to Lynda Carter as day is to night. He had a whopper of a budget and the best effects team at his disposal, and yet the end result is a colossal failure.
I’ve always said that Warner’s plans of stuffing this film and trying to squeeze in what Marvel have taken over a decade to accomplish was a terrible terrible idea, and as it turns out, I (and millions of other people) were right. There’s so much going on here, and the plot is stuffed with so many ideas (some of which are actually good mind), but none of it actually materialises into anything of substance, purely because all we get is pretty frames and a plot that's just eager to set up a universe, narrative and flow be damned. As a result, a series of superhero cameos, though minutely effective, and a few intriguing character arcs go largely unnoticed.
The main problem here is you never really give a flying f… about any of the characters purely because they’re all so broody, so intense and so perpetually hacked off. And for a film thats called Batman v Superman, their actual showdown lasts all of 15 minutes and the conflict at hand is resolved in about a second, in one of the film's most laughable co-incidences – a plot point so convenient, it will inevitably lose a large chunk of its audience if it hasn’t already. (Side note: this was literally the point at which something inside me died and I gave up on the film).
As if that wasn't enough, there are virtually zero surprises in BvS, apart from its climatic twist, which itself is a little underwhelming – I mean, you know there's something definitely amiss when one of the best scenes in the film involves a two second shot of a bare chested Cavill looking dishy AF, frying eggs in the kitchen (!) – shirtless and pointless, it's about the only thing you're unaware of if you haven't seen the multitude of trailers already.
Which brings me nicely on to my next point. Cavill is incredibly easy on the eye, and most definitely looks the part, but has virtually zero charisma and is woefully wooden in the few scenes that require him to exhibit emotional clout. That and his underdeveloped love story with Adams’ Lois Lane stilt the film to a large extent, which is a shame, given that while this was the problem with the first film too, they seemed more involved there than they are here. Cavill’s Superman, for instance, is something of a puppy, way more interested in getting validation from Lois and too busy rescuing her damsel in distress to focus on the bigger picture and the threat that looms large over Gotham and Metropolis. And while Adams is an incredibly capable actress, she gets unnecessary screen time and her Lois is neither fiery nor compelling, cementing the fact that she was always a poor casting choice for the vivacious reporter.
Speaking of poor casting choices, brings me on to Eisenberg’s Lex, who, unsurprisingly, serves as a weak link too, and is so unnecessarily hammy in his part, that he makes Gene Hackman’s camp rendition of the same an Oscar winning act in comparison.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. Ironically, Batffleck is not the disappointment fans were expecting him to be – in fact, he’s pretty solid and holds the film together in its many weak moments, giving his Bruce Wayne, buckets of poker faced charm, however poorly written the character itself may be. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is the film’s other bright spark, kickstarting it when it's virtually on the edge of the abyss, but even her addition seems like an afterthought and Gadot, despite her spunk and very obvious screen presence, remains under-utilised in her part. Subsequently, this is the problem with the film's other players too – while Irons, Hunter and Fishburne do whatever is required of them efficiently, they needed to be fleshed out a little more instead of just being added to a roster of big names and making an already bloated film even harder to digest.
The film does have some beautifully choreographed fight sequences and enticing montages, but what’s the point of all that schmaltz when it comes at the expense of a coherent plot that’s too hellbent on serving as a spring board or setting up a franchise that very obviously, is already under threat, after this film?
To sum up, B(v)S is a soul crushing disappointment – it took years to bring these characters together on film and what did we get? A pretty looking, but hollow, soulless dud that feels way too rushed and does a massive disservice to its source material. I’m going with an incredibly heavy hearted, begrudging two stars, for a film that quite frankly, should have never seen the light of day in its current state.