Vault: 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' (2016) Dir. Zack Snyder
One of the most anticipated collaborations on film; Batman and Superman, together at last. Satisfying this and teasing the launch of the Justice League was never going to be easy...
Eighteen months after the defeat of General Zod and battle of Metropolis, Superman (Cavill) is loved by some, hated by many who see him as nothing but a threat. Across in Gotham City, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Affleck), who has spent two decades as masked vigilante Batman, sets his sights on bringing down the Man of Steel.
Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) of LexCorp also sets his sights on bringing down Superman with the help of newly discovered Kryptonite from the downed Kryptonian warships. At the same time, Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane (Adams) continues to try to clear Superman’s tarnished name.
But Luthor has a plan to manipulate Batman and Superman against each other for his own gain; conducting a re-birthing experiment on the corpse of Zod. Superman must convince Batman to help him stop Luthor before it is too late, as new allies and enemies emerge...
I went into this with reduced expectations, which helped. After a very so-so ‘Man Of Steel’, controversial director Zack Snyder continues his DCEU exploration by bringing in another name to garner global interest and market the film; Batman. With a critical mauling on one side and fan praise on the other, I sat on the fence with little to know comic book knowledge to take this film for what many general audiences will take it as – entertainment with two of the greatest heroes ever created.
I apologise if this goes on, but clocking in over 2 and a half hours is long enough to process a big film such as this, but when it is so crammed full of ideas and set-ups and characters, it’s more hard than normal to make sense of everything. On the whole, it’s a film with good ideas but is badly executed. The negatives outweigh the positives, and my negatives I feel aren’t excuses to knock the film because I wanted nothing more than to love Batman and Superman on screen together.
Is it Snyder’s fault the film stumbles? No. Is it Afflecks? No. Cavills? No. Zimmers? No. It's not easy to target person specifically for this less-than-average offering. It was far too much, and failed to deliver expectation.
Ben Affleck needs a solo Batman film to show us what he can do. He can’t eclipse Christian Bale or even Michael Keaton on the basis of a film where he doesn’t get the chance to shine as Batman very much. His Bruce Wayne may be a refreshing mature and established billionaire businessman-cum-vigilante, but like previous incarnations of Wayne/Batman, we fail to really connect with Affleck. I don’t want another origin story, and enough here was given for us to feel comfortable with him, but I wanted more time to explore his character; his demons; his relationships with Alfred (a wasted Jeremy Irons) and others.
Affleck's opening 10mins as Bruce Wayne is one of the best moments that encapsulates everything we need to know about his perception of Superman and his mission as Batman. It is a solid, chilling sequence.
The first time we literally glimpse his Batman was one of the best moments; echoing all I know of Batman and what he should be, it was nothing but eerie and tense. You hear noises but can’t see him, there is no glaring soundtrack, there is no sweeping CGI – it’s like a horror film and my heart pounded like the police man searching for “it” or “the demon”. Affleck deserves more time to show us why this crime fighter instils fear into criminals, because here he didn’t get much chance. From a very abrupt car chase, to a stand-out warehouse takedown, to the final the showdown with Superman and then the OTT finale, Batman came across as useless compared to Superman. He shines more often than not, but in a CGI heavy finale he looks useless compared to the CG super-human heroes and villains. Batman looked redundant, which was a shame.
Henry Cavill, still with the acting range of a crumpet but a beefcake body that is very much super-human in his skin-tight suit, is a good enough Superman/Clark Kent for this generation of dark, broody superhero films, but he’s getting the wrong material to shine.
His brow looks permanently creased, and even when he’s saving people from burning buildings he looks pained and depressed – for a man who should radiate hope , this Superman radiates misery even more than before. I get the world is confused about if he’s good or bad and he's struggling, but for 2 films now Superman is becoming a darker hero we don’t need alongside our darker Batman we already have.
Every hero it seems now needs to be more human than ever, to struggle and stumble and have demons. Let Batman be that man – let Superman be the shining, square jawed and resilient hero he should be! I was so sad to hear only the melancholy piano motif from ‘Man Of Steel’ return and not the triumphant burst of strings and drums to signal his heroic standing. Let him have time to brood away from the public, that’s fine, even Christopher Reeve’s Superman did that, but Cavill is always looking sad and pissed off or worried that I just…well, it was frustrating to watch and fail to invest in which meant I didn’t care for him very much. Not his fault I know. Superman has not been given the treatment he deserves, and he is a figure to embody what feels like pain and misery.
And this is where Gal Gadot surprised me in her little screen time as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman. She was the superhero Batman and Superman didn’t get the chance to be. She shows up in a rather pleasing outfit that she looks stunning in, and dishes out justice with her sword, shield, bracelets and lasso. Hell, she even grins to herself in battle! She is an assault on not just the enemy but our senses; she’s jumping, sliding, sliding, defending, the lot. Wonder Woman won me over and she came across the best hero of the 3 and just did what a superhero should do. No pained backstory or anything (well, to be explored in her own film which is how it should be), but she looks gorgeous and alluring to create that mystery to her, and then BOOM – becomes the hero who is going to go from strength to strength.
I’ll try avoid a run over each character; Jesse Eisenberg was a very irritating Lex Luthor (Jr?) with no menace or threat to him at all following recent DC villains like General Zod, The Joker or Bane. He achieves everything by luck and just happens to know the right people to get what he needs without much explanation, and his quirky instability is just down right annoying. Stop trying to be an edgy, ticking time-bomb like Heath Ledger's Joker. It doesn't work and he is a very weak, empty face to what should be a commanding villainous name.
Our supporting cast do what we expect- just be there to push the story and give Bruce and Clark their stepping stones. Amy Adams is more a damsel in distress than ever, Laurence Fishburne is great fun and I’d like more of him, Diane Lane has a small return as Martha Kent and Irons has the streak of Bruce Wayne-weary attitude as Alfred, but only comes over as a handyman and technical genius; the Q for Batman’s 007. I’d have liked to see their relationship more than just what takes place in the Batcave or over video links.
With the main crux of our headline characters above driving the whole film, the pacing was very off. The first hour is more about Bruce / Batman, which just goes back and forward between a depressed Clark / Superman and gets a little boring with little urgency to it. It's only to the start of the third act is when we do have the “greatest event in superhero cinema” of Batman v Superman. It’s over in just under 10 minutes. Yet, it’s the highlight of their minimal interactions together and what everyone wanted to see; lots of throwing, punching, grunting and beating down of the other (with physics defying CGI for extract effect).
A simple fight that ends on a meme-bearing fizzle with 2 years’ worth of rage and anger being dissolved in a second. It was a very quick resolution to the previous 100mins from being enemies to the next second strong allies with no middle ground. Ok. Rushing on to get to the next CGI action scene I guess! Even their first encounter was a little under-whelming, all of which we'd seen in trailers/TV spots. And even then Superman looked more like a villain than a hero.
The finale just bored me as it turned into a CGI noise fest – loud, frantic, and destructive. A slick video game cut-scene like ‘The Avengers’ or ‘Man Of Steel’, but at least I could see that as they were taking place in the daytime. Stories from Batman and Superman comics that I’ve read about have been blended and used in this film to its own failing – giving us too much too soon. Why cram everything in so early in the formation of the Justice League and use major stories and characters if they are over in the space of 20 minutes? From what I understand, lots of moments where hinted or used here that should be have been kept or continued going forward.
"Dark and gritty" is a phrase getting used too much for everything now, and here it was not just the theme of the film but also the lighting and colour. Most of the action takes place at night, or dusk, or in dark buildings and I for one was annoyed as I wanted to appreciate Batman and Superman for how they looked and the detail of their iconic costumes and world they lived in, but it was so dark and gloomy they all blended into the shadows. Dark greys, blacks, blues and reds. I don’t want camp, and those people who lash out when people say films can be TOO dark prove their lack of understanding if they think a superhero film can’t have good lighting so you as a general film fan can appreciate and see everything on screen! It was far too dark, in general.
And as stated before, Superman is becoming as broody and menacing as Batman. It was Wonder Woman who injected the superhero escapism in this – actually enjoying what she was doing, and THAT sort of fun is what I want to see. Not brooding and misery and bad jokes.
Snyder is a passionate director but to me he’s shoe-horned so much material in to compensate what should have been 5-6 years’ worth of film development into a 2.5hr film. 3 future Justice League member cameos that last 10 seconds or less each that are just there for that reason; quickly planting them in your head. Why didn’t DC and Warner Brothers get the established films first? It’s frustrating stuff. The soundtrack I found very so-so also, I couldn’t pinpoint a clear theme for Batman or Superman and that was sorely missed for a superhero to be without a theme. Only Wonder Woman – again – excelled and had a recognisable and powerful theme to accompany her.
At parts it was predictable, and should have ended 10mins before it did. The ending was different than what I expected, but lacked any real lingering impact on the basis of what is to come. It’s a frustrating film with so much promise and so much front loaded marketing in trailers that you may expect more, but are given less. Time isn’t wasted, but it’s not used well and pacing is very sloppy. Many times did I feel Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ influence here which made me miss his direction more, because Affleck deserved a better introduction than this. It was GOOD, but not what he deserved. Cavill just needs better material. Gadot needs to keep doing what she’s doing if there's any hope for the Justice League to really take off.
I wanted to like it more, but I couldn’t. 'Batman v Superman' has it all there, but just never comes together, even with the talent trying their best. And as a fan of Batman since 1989 and Superman since 1978, this debut offering just makes me sad.
'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' is a co-production between Warner Bros. Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment & Cruel and Unusual Films