This was the film thats’ announcement was greeted with an equal amounts of trepidation as it was excitement by fans, and its arrival to cinemas delivers everything the trailers have promised; albeit in a clunky, unbalanced way that is as exhausting as it is messy.
With a film so mounted on the prospect setting up a DC universe, it’s a shame that director Zack Synder- instead of learning from the most pertinent of criticisms for his 2013 Superman reboot Man of Steel- once again falls into the exact same pitfalls that made it such a lacklustre entry into the DC cannon. Batman vs Superman in the end amounts to a clumsy assault of weakly pretentious dream sequences, destruction and an overbearing emphasis on mood which comes at the expense of coherence.
Pitted as a sort of philosophical exploration on what makes a hero, the vs in the title corresponds to the conflicting ideologies of two justice fighters and their place in a world post-Man of Steel. Whilst one occupies the shadows, exacting his brand of do-good with brutality and erm, a gun; the other is a beacon of morality, a morality that is brought into question by the public in what makes for the basis of the films’ first act. Kicking things off during Man of Steel’s huge climax, we witness the fight between Superman and General Zod take place from the point of view of Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, as he watches Wayne Towers fall victim to the carnage of the combat above in the skies. It’s this act that holds the films best qualities, that is if one is willing to withstand Jesse Eisenberg’s psycho-Zuckerberg take on Lex Luthor as well as ignore several faults in a story that throughout the whole film, only deliver on the payoff that it is building towards in frustratingly small doses.
Ben Affleck for all the films faults, plays the Batman/Bruce Wayne character as well as someone with such cringeworthy lines can fulfil, and by the same accord Jeremy Irons excels as the underused Alfred. There is a sense during the whole film that it should never have ended up as the mess it is, making it a questionable experience instead of a thrilling one. There are simply too many basic errors that mar the films better qualities, making it hard to forgive. It’s easy to blame Christopher Nolan for the wave of ‘dark’ superhero franchises that have been spawned off the back of his Dark knight trilogy, but the fault lies in just simple mediocrity, albeit here with a monstrously high budget used in gluttonous excess. The antithesis of those very films, Nolan is signed on here as an executive producer and there are strains of the films that you can feel his influence in. The problem lies in Snyder’s obsessive treatment of this mood making the film feel overly brooding and gritty in a way that drains the spirits and even the excitement out of the picture.
By the time the two heroes finally meet, the gusto is there, even if it is short-lived. the third act of the film has the feeling of something that builds on the unnecessary to reach the necessary, expounding more characters, arcs and CGI at the cost of just having a little fun. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman completes the trinity, putting in a good performance within limited constraints. It’s hard to ask for more of characters when the film simply has to many of them, like a grand balancing act that comes across as a sort of compensatory consolation for the studios failure to not give her a deserved solo film before the justice league became a decided project.
DC, once again play catch up here to Marvel and it shows just how painfully behind the studio is with understanding demand for relatively straightforward storytelling and memorability, the wow factor that even Marvel’s Ant-Man had more of than this (not that Ant-Man was bad at all-far from it). the sparsity between Marvel’s deliberated, individualised approach to a team movie could not be any more different to this shoehorning of ideas and characters, it was simply too much of a task to accomplish even in the two and a half hours it was given. It’s ambition outweighs the fundamentals and it leaves glaring problems for the future of this franchise. For all the deep thinking and moodiness going on here, there is the undeniable lack of substance, quality and enjoyment that really ought to have come with a film pitting too heavyweights of this calibre together- a disappointment.