Despite many flaws, Batman v Superman still manages to get a pass mark thanks to some terrific performances and outstanding visual spectacle.
Never has there been such a disparity between what critics think of a film and said films commercial success. ‘Batman v Superman’ has been crucified by most critics, sitting at a horribly low score on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 5/10, which is not necessarily unjust. It simply means the majority of critics agreed it was average, okay, passable. Despite this our opinions are now almost irrelevant because the film has flown in the face of its bad reviews to absolutely demolish the box office, currently boasting near to $500 million worldwide. It doesn’t matter what anyone says now, the film is victorious. DC and The Justice League will carry on with their heads held high and their pockets full.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s a quality movie. Lots of people watch reality TV but I think most would admit it’s trash. So yes, we are going to review the film.
Directed by Zack Snyder and starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, and Lawrence Fishburne ‘Batman v Superman’ was always going to be open to problems. The story is massive, there are so many elements that needed to be brought together is some sort of cohesive manner. This would have been achievable had the film not also held the responsibility of setting up the following spiel of films in the Justice League series. The weight of this is what crushes ‘Batman v Superman’ and its director along with it. Snyder has always been a master of action and breath-taking visuals, you only have to look at heavily stylish and beautiful films like ‘300’ and ‘Sucker Punch’. But he has historically had trouble with perfecting his narrative. Unfortunately, the story was too much for him to handle here. As stated, it’s not all his fault but the fact remains.
Some positives first though. Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons were both fantastic stepping into the shoes vacated by Christian Bale and Michael Caine. The whole Batman side of the story was great in fact. Gritty and interesting, it developed Batman and Bruce Wayne’s character to a new point, where we’re even more intrigued than ever. Going forward, the character looks in good shape and Affleck proved he’s the man for the job with a suitably complex performance.
Although her appearances are only brief, Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman are also great. Introduced gradually until her big moment of bad-assery we really buy into her character. She’s likeable, strong, and fierce. Even though Gal Gadot lacks some physicality on paper, being a pretty petite woman, her performance erases any of these doubts.
As already mentioned, the action of the film is both well orchestrated and visually stunning. Multiple terrains and battle styles are explored and all are exhilarating, be it Batman or Superman at the centre of the conflict. Audiences will find themselves literally tensing up, wincing, or gasping in these moments. On that front, ‘Batman v Superman’ probably beats out anything Marvel has produced recently. The ‘fight’, the gladiator match itself between man and God is delicious. Batman’s innovation, tenacity, willpower, and superior technical combat skills are pitted against Superman’s cocky and seemingly unfailing strength and power. You may be thinking how could Batman possibly get on terms with Superman and there’s no spoilers here but be assured it’s one for the ages.
We also see a decent character arc for Superman too. Without giving away spoilers, he learns a lot of valuable lessons and will be a changed man when we see him next. For all the criticism Henry Cavill cops he’s always been a very serviceable performer as Superman and Clark Kent and nothing changes here.
Of the other main actors, Jesse Eisenberg and Amy Adams are neither here nor there. Both performances are fine but Lex Luthor is not as menacing or creepy as Eisenberg perhaps hoped while Lois Lane spends a lot of time simply being in danger waiting to be rescued. They have major roles to play and while they served their purpose well there could have been a little more given in each case.
Now for the negatives, of which there are a few and there’s no denying them. The first half of the film had a lot of potential as a political thriller but it’s so choppy as far as the editing is concerned it becomes almost incoherent and irritating. The film is playing dominoes, spending so much time building and building but occasionally messing up so it has to start rebuilding again and moving pieces around. It gets frustrating because it feels like the film will never get to where it wants to be. Later in the film the writers realise this and start rushing things, finding the easiest, least interesting and most illogical way to explain and expand plot points. It only exacerbates the problem.
There’s also an issue where, unless you are a devoted DC fan you will be utterly confused by some moments in the film. There are scenes which are entirely in place to support the upcoming justice league series and for the casual viewer, and even the knowledgeable viewer, these scenes will be jarring, forced, and bland. They’re simply there because they have to be, so this film is prevented from being good by other films that don’t even exist yet. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? If only the filmmakers realised that.
Dream sequences and visions frequent the film which serve no vital purpose, in fact they detract from the film because they slow everything down without really adding anything to the plot or giving the audience anything new to chew on and sometimes they stretch on for such a time that you begin to question what is and isn’t real, a misunderstanding that really isn’t useful.
The manner in which ‘big bad’ Doomsday comes to life is also slightly ridiculous, but he looks and acts the part, providing an exciting final battle that reaches almost apocalyptic proportions.
All in all ‘Batman v Superman’ is messy, very messy but is saved by some fine acting and incredibly orchestrated action and cinematography. It certainly surpasses ‘Man Of Steel’ but had the potential to be ‘The Dark Knight’. Unfortunately it fell well short of that.