Zack Snyder is known for stylish action and it shouldn’t come as any surprise, having amassed a collection of films, which includes: 300, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Watchmen and that owl movie. Each of Snyder’s films have a similar review: beautiful to behold, breathtaking action set pieces, bold artistic direction, great ambition carried forth by a talented cast, yet undermined by a lack of cohesion and emotional investment. The same can be said for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
This sort-of sequel, follows 18 months after the events of Man of Steel. As the world becomes weary of the invincible and unstoppable alien saviour, Batman devises a plan to put Superman in his place, which is subverted by the arrival of a new enemy in Lex Luthor, who tries to play them off against one another as a distraction from an even greater threat to Metropolis and mankind.
The title was ripped to shreds upon announcement with many suggesting it would be a court room drama, however, the vs gimmick and title’s clunkiness may have lowered expectations just enough for people to be pleasantly surprised by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s better than Man of Steel. In fact, you get the impression that Ben Affleck was brought in to underwrite Henry Cavill, who while picture perfect doesn’t have the natural charm and warmth to pull off part-time human Clark Kent and selfless saviour, Superman.
Affleck isn’t much warmer, but is more relatable as the tormented, Bruce Wayne. Snyder supplants Batman into the Man of Steel sequel by giving us his on-the-ground perspective of the city-leveling battle between Superman and General Zod. We’re aware of the collateral damage caused by Superman in his quest to save the city and this irks Wayne just enough to lead a solo campaign to put him in his place. Affleck makes a good Batman. We buy into his empire and history, but this is Snyder’s Batman… who has a bit of an Iron Man complex.
“It’s man vs god, night vision vs x-ray vision…”
Cavill and Affleck aren’t alone, allowing Jesse Eisenberg to referee the match as a maniacal and geeky Joker style villain in Lex Luthor. Gal Gadot sneaks into frame as Diana Prince, better known as Wonder Woman, in a role not unlike Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. She’s a striking woman and the veil of espionage gives her an allure, but the part does seem like an afterthought, as if they needed to sex things up and get a foot in the door for Justice League. Amy Adams is a mousy Lois Lane, who has some good moments but doesn’t really add much more than she did in Man of Steel. Apart from one or two one-liners, it’d be fairly serious stuff if it weren’t for Laurence Fishburne as Perry White and Jeremy Irons as Alfred, who add some spit-and-polish as the straight-faced funny guys.
The cinematography is mesmerising, giving Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice an air of elegance as we gracefully slide from one impressive scene to another. It’s a massive undertaking as Snyder sets the story up for the grand finale with some telling drama and surreal battle sequences. The CGI is well-weighted for the first two acts, immersing us in the world and making the third act that much easier to digest with some epic and surreal interludes.
Batman v Superman is reminiscent of Iron Man 2, The Dark Knight and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The clinical, dark and bleak tone echoes The Dark Knight as two colossal comic book icons go head-to-head with a wild card tipping the balance. The invincible superhero versus the people bit was also harped on in Iron Man 2, as a worthy adversary rises from the depths to challenge unhinged egos. While the geeky villain, sideline romance and electrifying finale have some parallels with The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
This is a big and beautiful film. Unfortunately, it’s set back by the clunkiness of its story and the absence of real emotion. Blending multiple superhero stories is a difficult balancing act and Batman v Superman struggles to keep the storytelling in check. We’re following Batman’s quest, Superman’s power struggle and Lex Luthor’s megalomania and drawing these threads together in a pleasing and plausible manner requires some “slapperdashery”. Like defusing a bomb, the wires get crossed and with the detonate time fast approaching and the frayed ends bare, the film isn’t as graceful and dexterous as we’d first imagined.
The characters are impassioned and determined, but that doesn’t equate to relatable beings and your audience giving a damn. Luckily, the visual artistry is so dazzling and action set pieces are so entertaining that you can survive the film without much emotional investment. The performances add a little colour to the well-worn characters, but no one really takes full ownership of their character and seeing Zod, makes you wish they had a Michael Shannon, Tom Hardy or Heath Ledger to stir things up.
Just like Man of Steel it has amazing audio-visual power, big impact action sequences and makes an improvement thanks to the spread of supporting characters. The Excalibur references add another layer of interest to the jigsaw story, which while a bit iffy has enough style to steamroll over the lack of substance and patter of unintentional laughs. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t hold much emotional weight, but has gravitas and serves up enough eye candy and raw pulp power to make it entertaining even at two and a half hours.
The bottom line: Enjoyable
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