(Note: There shouldn’t be any spoilers here if you’ve seen the trailers.)
Batman versus Superman. Two of the world’s most popular superheroes, finally appearing together in a live action movie. It should have been awesome.
But it isn’t.
I was concerned about this movie. First off, it was a sequel to Man of Steel, which I didn’t enjoy. Then the trailers weren’t that inspiring, even though they gave a whole lot away. Oh, and Wonder Woman was being thrown in there so DC could start playing catch-up to Marvel and building their own cinematic universe. My expectations weren’t high, but I was always going to go and see it. It was, after all, still Batman versus Superman. In the past week, the fan ratings got my hopes up – and then the critics sent them right back down again. With so many mixed responses, I was even more eager to see Batman v Superman because I was so curious to find out what my own feelings would be.
Short answer: my feelings are that this movie is terrible. It’s a mess. I’d rather watch Batman & Robin than this, because at least you can laugh at how bad that movie is.
As we open, we see Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) getting caught in the destruction of Metropolis from Man of Steel: witnessing people on the street being killed and maimed first-hand, he automatically bears ill will towards Superman (Henry Cavill). Eighteen months later, the world is still highly suspicious of Superman and his unfortunate ability to destroy lives as well as saving them – and Clark Kent, meanwhile, isn’t impressed by the brutality of Gotham City’s protector, Batman. With tension between the two already high, they are unknowingly guided by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) into a battle to end all battles.
When I was watching this film, I was wondering just how the heck I was going to even do that plot summary because trying to get a cohesive story out of this movie felt like fighting my way through a sticky, tangled web. It goes all over the place: oftentimes, there’d be a cut from one scene to another and I’d have to try and remind myself what the actions in the current scene had to do with the overarcing story. Sometimes, the movie even goes into a random dream sequence which has nothing to do with anything. The motivations of some of the characters are equally bewildering: I could get why Batman and Superman didn’t like each other, but little effort was made to have Lex Luthor’s plans make sense, other than that he likes being evil.
Don’t go into this movie expecting an action-fest: most of the time, the grand conflict between Batman and Superman consists of them making negative remarks about each other and Batman planning how he’s going to take the Man of Steel down. When we finally do get an action scene, involving Batman chasing some criminals, it provides a little relief but still has a lot of fast editing and flashing lights which make it uncomfortable to watch.
Oh, and if you thought Man of Steel was bleak and joyless, you ain’t seen nothing yet! With a cinematic presentation of appropriately faded colours throughout, we see a guy getting his legs crushed in the 9/11-esque destruction of Metropolis, people getting shot by terrorists, Superman’s moments of heroism being sombre at best and actually causing further loss of life at worst…and that’s just in the early stages. It’s fine to try a different approach to a character, and an approach like this works for something like the Daredevil TV series – but here, it just feels wrong. And the acting is nothing to write home about either. Henry Cavill as Superman and Amy Adams as Lois Lane are both super-bland. Lex Luthor as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg constantly acts like he’s on drugs, and even a little camp on occasion – I suppose he’s trying to come across as psychotic, but instead it’s hard to take him seriously.
When the third act rolls around, and Batman and Superman do get round to fighting each other – before subsequently taking on a super-powered Lord of the Rings cave troll – the resulting action sequence does manage to be a little bit enjoyable: some straightforward fighting is refreshing compared to the muddled story so far. But the action still goes on for far too long without a proper break, and is spoiled by the extreme bombardment of light and noise.
Amongst all the mess, there were a few little things I liked about this movie. Ben Affleck is respectable as both Batman and Bruce Wayne: I liked the design of his Batmobile, I liked his artificially-modified Batman voice (which manages to be harsh and intimidating without making him sound like a drunken chain-smoker like the last live-action Batman), and I especially liked how his relationship with Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is portrayed. Some of the exploration of how people should view the god-like Superman has potential. And Gal Gadot isn’t bad as Wonder Woman: she does at least get a gradual introduction, popping up here and there through the film before her big unveiling at the climax, but there’s very little explanation of her background for people who don’t know anything about the character. (There’s another scene that introduces a few future Justice League members in an incredibly forced manner.)
Overall, not a lot works in Batman v Superman. It’s depressing, it’s incoherent, and it just isn’t fun. The first live-action combination of these characters should have been so much better than this. Rating: 1/5.