Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice
US (2016) Dir. Zack Snyder
Following in Marvel’s footsteps in uniting its superheroes on the big screen rivals DC bring together its two biggest and most iconic figures ever, Superman and Batman. Man Of Steel’s Zack Snyder takes the director’s seat but with the direction the two franchises have taken being so wildly divergent, a huge question mark looms over this project.
Set eighteen months after the destructive battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) from Man Of Steel, multi-billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) blames Superman’s carelessness for the civilian casualties. As a result, in his guise as Batman he begins to crack down on the Metropolis crime scene which draws the attention of Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent, who believes Batman is a danger to the city.
Meanwhile as Superman saves his girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from a terrorist in the Middle East, an attack which saw US military killed somehow sees the people of America turn their back on Superman, and question his dedication to protecting the earth. This allows megalomaniac Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to strike a deal with Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter) to recover the kryptonite from Zod’s spacecraft by means of keeping Superman in check.
Finch later reneges on the deal so Luthor goes rogue and in the process peaks the interest of Batman who still has a grievance with Superman who, as Clark Kent, is pursuing Bruce Wayne, who in turn is smitten by the fleeting appearances of antiques collector Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), who is after Luthor herself as he has something belonging to her.
Got all that? Don’t worry, you’re not alone if this sounds confusing because it is. Scriptwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer appear to have conceived three or four storyline ideas for this film then decided to incorporate all of them, resulting in a dizzying bombardment of scenarios and developments over a 130 minute runtime, many of which are either unexplained, left unresolved or have no bearing on the main plot at all.
Since this is a continuation of the events of Man Of Steel there is a need to be a little aware of that film when watching this while the Batman story is essentially given a(nother) reboot via a potted history under the opening credits to ensure he fits into Snyder’s universe. Similarly main antagonist Lex Luthor is not the bald headed criminal genius/sociopath we know and love but a floppy haired, sarcastic, ADHD type spoiled kid who just needs a good slap.
As for Wonder Woman (Diana Prince for the uninitiated), how she fits in to all of this is, well, somewhat on the periphery truth be told. Aside from a few appearances to tease Bruce Wayne and her part in the climactic battle against the monstrous Doomsday (another plot development that is simply excessive and silly), it would seem that the sole purpose of her presence is to create interest in her own film which is currently being shot, the seeds of her immortality laid in the file Luthor has on her.
If you want to know how Luthor acquired this information on Diane Prince, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent – or similarly how Kent and Wayne got THEIR information on these big secrets – please don’t ask as it is never revealed, just like most of the happenings here – they happened, accept it, now let’s move on.
This is indicative of the damage the unfocused script does to our enjoyment; we spend too much time trying to piece together all the information we’ve been fed, only to be left behind when the scene shifts elsewhere. The intent is to involve the audience in the manufactured dissent between the titular heroes ready for their eventual showdown. This works in theory but the execution is clouded by the surfeit of ideas and incidental distractions, so we neither know nor care as to whom to root for.
Disappointingly the actual collision between these two titans occurs after the half way mark and only last about ten minutes, making a mockery of the title and arguably the key attraction. Yet this is where the film is at its best, when it focuses on the visual spectacle of the comic book action which is clearly Snyder’s forte, although as a fully paid up member of the “style over substance” group of filmmakers, he does succumb to excess a little too often, a common flaw in many of his films.
This is a popcorn blockbuster though so naturally the true excitement lies when the fists fly, things explode and cool vehicles hit the road. The visual effects can’t be faulted and with the budget behind them nor should they. With bombast the only thing on the menu we are given some healthy servings but only after the meandering and bloated build up is out of the way.
Because the script is a mess the cast also seem unsure of how to perform, their facial expressions telling the tale perfectly – Henry Cavill looks permanently puzzled, Ben Affleck looks confused? Angry? Constipated? Miserable? And Gal Gadot looks… Kardashian? Admittedly she looks cool in her Wonder Woman garb, otherwise she is a black hole of charisma lacking sufficient presence for an Amazonian warrior.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Diane Lane as Martha Kent are reduced to convenient damsels in distress and Holly Hunter doesn’t have the gravitas her character needs. Jeremy Irons is arguably the most laid back Alfred ever portrayed and while he brings plenty of energy to the role, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is unlikeable for all the wrong reasons.
In conclusion I didn’t hate Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice like some people have but I can’t forgive the glaring flaws of the cluttered and clumsy script, which had clear potential but desperately needed streamlining. The classic comic book moments are suitably entertaining but they were few and far between.
Recommendation – lower your expectations, be patient and you might enjoy it.
Rating – ***
Man In Black