6 Apr 2016

Batman v Superman, Dawn of Justice

There are few Superheroes as iconic as Superman and Batman. To their fans, and the wider community, the combination of these characters not only sharing the big screen but in conflict is (or was) both exciting and terrifying.  Exciting as a premise, and terrifying that it will all go horribly wrong.

But did it?

A few gentle spoilers follow.

The film starts during the epic (and exhaustingly gratuitous) battle between Zod and Superman from Man of Steel.  However, the perspective is that of Bruce Wayne as he desperately attempts to evacuate his employees from a burning Metropolis.   I imagine that a few New Yorkers might find this sequence unsettling as they draw parallels to events fifteen years ago.  Wayne’s opinion of Superman is set as he kneels in the wreckage of Metropolis while two entities battle blithely on in the heavens. I liked this and it gave a degree of redemption to the first film.

This sets the scene for a build-up of conflict between the two. Superman, who through trying to help people is learning that for every positive action there are negative consequences, believes that the ‘Bat’ is a vigilante who acts as if he is above the law and the consequences of his actions.  Batman is cynically assessing this new arrival’s potential to turn the world into ash.

The Superman plotline was interesting. Holly Hunter played a senator who was part of a committee to investigate the collateral damage caused by Superman’s heroics.  Now that he is here does he help, or does he, in fact, make things worse through his intervention? People were killed and maimed in the battle in Metropolis, and the people demand answers. Henry Cavill is a very good Superman, and a worthy successor to Christopher Reeve. He has the compassion, the strength and by god is he a beautiful man. Seriously, he is beautiful.  There was a nice focus on Clark Kent the man and the journalist, and a wonderful reference to the origin of Superman as well which I liked. Clark Kent also gets his own dream sequence (with a nice cameo from Kevin Costner), and it contained all the pathos and emotion that they tried to reach with Bruce Wayne’s dreams but failed.  Cavill also had a nice chemistry with Adams, although the women in this film do steal the scenes a lot. I am more than ok with that.  I did feel that Cavill was a little constrained, though.

Holly Hunter, like the rest of the female cast, did very well in my opinion.  Lois Lane (Amy Adams) was actually an investigative reporter for once, and while she was rescued more than once by her boyfriend, it did not detract from her character or depict her as some sort of damsel in distress. Could we have seen even more depth to the female characters, sure but then we would be heading towards bloat of Hobbit-like proportions?

Gal Gadot as Wonder woman was exceptional, and they set up her movie really well.  She is certainly not second fiddle to either male lead, and I am genuinely excited to see her own film. For all those who were disappointed that the Black Widow did not get her own movie, then this is one to watch out for, and it is well overdue.

The Batman plotline follows Bruce Wayne’s investigation into a mysterious new crime lord and his growing paranoia over Superman. This was more of a slow grind, interposed with several dream sequences playing on Wayne’s fears and neurosis. I didn’t mind these sequences as much and enjoyed their place in the narrative. Zack Snyder, the director, enjoys utilising dream sequences as plot devices, and they worked well for me.
I was one of those that were wary of Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne. I always thought it was a weird argument that he must be a good Batman as he has two academy awards. However, as neither of these were for acting, I never saw the justification for this argument. Although I went into this film trying to be as open-minded as possible, I thought he would be the weak link in this movie. I was wrong. 

While Affleck was an average Batman, he certainly wasn’t the worst I have seen (not as good as Lego Batman, but not as bad as Clooney).  His portrayal was of an older, wearier Batman, cynical that after 20 years fighting crime, his world is as grim as it always has been.

I think one element that was missing was a depiction of Batman’s genius, Batman is many things but his brain is his greatest weapon.  He also was missing a degree of humanity. For me, Batman is a dark, even brutal hero. However, he has a strong personal code, and despite being a physically superior, billionaire, genius, he is also very human.  His strength comes from his pain, and his humanity.  From Bruce Wayne’s sense of loss comes Batman’s unrelenting fight against evil, so that no one else has to suffer has he does.  There was only one sincere moment when this came through in the movie, and I thought it was a very clever piece of storytelling. Another criticism of Affleck was that I just didn’t buy into his paranoia about Superman. It seemed forced to me.
One thing really missing from both Cavil’s and Affleck’s performances was a drop of humour. Jeremy Irons, as Alfred, did insert a couple of quips but not enough. He was a very good Alfred as well, easily on par with Michael Caine’s.

There is an overt deific theme running through them, which continues from Man of Steel.  Not only through the way Superman’s scenes were shot but the constant references to Superman as God. 

This leads me to Jessie Eisenberg as the Riddler(Joke attributed to J. Hopgood the man is a genius), His depiction of the Riddler was excellent and helped me understand the distinction between the concept of the Riddler and the Joker.  His frenetic and irrational psychosis was right on-par for what I understood the Riddler to be. Which is a shame as Eisenberg was actually playing Lex Luther. Eisenberg’s performance starts out rational enough as the young genius who has inherited a large multinational corporation.  He quickly descends into a weird lunatic characterisation which pretty much ruined any scene he was in.  He was atrocious.

The plot was good, but a little drawn out and poorly executed as an actual story. Luther’s evil plan once revealed could have been recognition of his genius, but ended up seeming like a plot hole.  The action sequences were epic, tighter than Man of Steel, and better paced.  Batman is portrayed as a tactical and intelligent fighter and his fight scene in the warehouse is one of the best in the movie.

The very end of the film is drawn out, unnecessary and tiresome.  I can see how it could detract from the rest of the movie as any enjoyment is sucked out of you.  Batman v Superman is an overly ambitious epic which needed a more charm and an injection of well-placed humour, but not the abomination that the critics portray.
For fans of the DC comic universe, this movie will probably cause a lot of dialogue, in a good way.  For everyone else I suspect that is you go in with an open mind a bit of patience you might enjoy it, but if you go in expecting The Avengers you will probably hate it. Batman v Superman is not what I would call ‘fun’, it is a film that will divide audiences into liking it, or hating it.

6 Monkeys.