To call Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice a disappointment would be an understatement. Zach Snyder’s follow-up to Man of Steel unfortunately turns out to be a stylish and well-acted but poorly written mess. I approached BvS as a fan of Man of Steel and a big fan of DC comics; however, this film not only proves to be a disappointment on a comic adaptation level but makes me angry as a film enthusiast. It is not so much that Batman v Superman is without its enjoyable moments, but they become lost within the drudgery that is this gloomy, dull two and half hour disarray of a film.
One of the strongest assets of the film is Ben Affleck as Batman. His performance as The Dark Knight works perfectly and he easily stands out as the star here. His nuanced performance makes it easy to empathise with Bruce Wayne and understand his motivation to don the cowl of the Bat. He captures the dual nature of Bruce Wayne excellently, and the promise of seeing him in a solo Batman film is exciting. Henry Cavill, as Superman, proves his worth turning in an enjoyable performance. Cavill was particularly impressive in his previous iteration as Superman in Man of Steel. What’s unfortunate is that his performance is curiously small for a film with his character’s name in the title. The Superman plot is well executed but frustratingly not expanded on. Finally, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman works well within the film. I was initially unsure about casting her but she proves me, and other sceptics, wrong. It is a joy to see her on screen providing a strong female character and giving the icon of Wonder Woman an interesting introduction to the universe. To see these three characters on screen together, fighting and uniting to show the “Holy Trinity” on screen made me an extremely happy comic book nerd.
Sadly, my comic book fandom cannot blind me to the fact that the film has many problems. The writers of this film so obviously wanted to create a universe that could spring board into a Justice League movie, but this unfortunately leads to nothing being particularly well developed in this film. Interesting questions are posed to us: “what makes good men turn cruel?”; “do we need a Superman?”; “does the power that one man possess need to be kept in check?” Instead of expanding on these points ,however, they are simply planted into the script to make the film seem more profound, without actually being profound. If this film had just been a Batman movie or perhaps a Man of Steel 2, possibly there would have been a story to tell, but instead we have this debacle with too many things happening. If ever a film had the appearance of being made by a committee this was it. It can never quite decide whether it is a love letter to the fans or a new universe which is simply inspired by previous material.
Thus, the main issue with Batman v Superman is its overly ambitious centre. The film attempts to attract both comic book fans and the general film watcher. It fails to do either. After the film, a friend not versed in the DC universe, noted that many points made no sense, due to her ignorance of DC comic lore. However, even for comic book fans these plot points fail to make much sense. BvS is clearly inspired by two major DC comic books, one being Frank Millers The Dark Knight Returns. I don’t wish to divulge the title of the second, as it would spoil the plot however it’s written principally by Dan Jurgens and his team. I feel that this second book was forced into the film’s plot, which for a second film in a universe was far too early to use. Furthermore, the introduction to sub plots of other super powered beings in this film universe is painful to watch and ideas of ultimate villain make no sense.
Further, not only is it badly written and unsure of what it wanted to be, it’s poorly edited. After 20 minutes, the film cuts to scenes which are never set up or linked properly enough to cause suspense. There are subplots that strain credulity within the film and are not addressed again. These end up feeling like filler moments. One of the more obvious issues is the miscasting of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luther. I like Eisenberg but the character he portrays in this film was just annoying being neither sinister as the main villain or a comic relief. His character motivations are never explained and keep changing. He begins with a simple hatred for Superman, then descends into philosophical questions of faith and god. He also has father issues. Finally, he seems to have a premonition of some greater evil power, which is coming to kill us all. His slapstick interpretation of Lex Luther is agonizingly frustrating.
All these issues are not helped by the director – Zac Synder. Snyder continues to feel like a poor choice to helm this narrative. His basic problem is that he tries to substitute style and effects for depth and substance. After this film someone close to Snyder should discuss with him a move to a different career path, perhaps in visual effects rather than being a director. Please Warner Brothers fire Snyder and give some thought on who you want to lead this universe. Ben Affleck I’m looking at you.
Batman v Superman has elements and ideas that could have been brilliant, which could have been developed into an amazing story. When the film was good, it shone: the fighting between Batman Superman being a highlight. When it was bad ,however, it was so painful to watch. The film is perhaps best summed up as wasted potential. The film could have been a great blockbuster, an amazing allegory for themes within comic book movies, a way in which to enter the DC cinematic universe in style, instead it leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth and thoughts of what could have been.