Meh. Vanilla. It’s okay.
The three statements above are the three different ways I’ve answered the question, ‘What did you think of Batman V Superman?’ in the past 14 hours. Although there are aspects of the film that are good and entertaining that is just what they are, aspects. The film overall is a bloated disaster – 151 minutes of too many ideas fighting for screentime which end up being incoherent and underdeveloped. Instead of a typical review, in which my thoughts on the film would be as nonsensical as the film itself, I’m going to use a list to let my great ideas have an organisation and a flow (lesson to the film-makers there…)
Aside from Cineworld at the o2 Arena screwing up the calibration of the sky superscreen (having forced the audience to watch all the ads, trailers and 25 minutes of the film with only one eye open as the projection was out of focus, they then decided to stop the film and spend 15 minutes reformatting before restarting the film. Cineworld have done not anything to compensate for this screw up and literal headache) when watching this film you can see where the money went. In fact, I suspect that is what director Zack Snyder wants us to do. The fights are big and brash, the costumes and special effects are spectacular. The cityscapes are breath-taking (if of debatable geography). In terms of big screen spectacle, it’s all here. Some sequences appear straight out of a comic book in terms of iconography and style, such as when Superman arrives at a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration and he is being aligned as a Messiah-eque figure.
Whilst I was initially in the ‘Say No To Ben Affleck as Batman’ camp, I did begin to change my mind when the first trailers and posters arrived. As a lover of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns I could see how Affleck’s portrayal would be most similar to Miller’s Batman. A Batman who is aged, haggard and embittered by battle.(The image below shows the film’s main link to the 1986 seminal comic book.) For the most part in this movie it works. Affleck is charismatic enough as Bruce Wayne and imposing enough as Batman. It’s almost a shame that he didn’t get his own standalone movie prior to this one to fully establish his character, though perhaps the decision to open this movie with yet another retelling of the Wayne shooting/origin story indicates to us that a standalone Batman movie may have possessed little originality.
I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman/Diana Price. The trailers gave that one away long ago, yet the film treats it as though it is a secretrading by hinting then having a big reveal that is slightly unnecessary. Though she may not look exactly like the Wonder Woman from the comics I used to read (she’s rather slim-line in comparison to the Golden age version) she does possess a lot of power and successfully shares the screen with her male counterparts (as opossed to having them steal the limelight). The moment when the three are first united did induce a real Fangirl moment for me, seeing the Trinity together. In fact I would happily argue that she steals the show from the broody boys…
There are many moments in this film that are for the fans, moments that casual fans may get but not appreciate or may not even ‘get’ at all. I’m not going to state them fully here, just in case you’re reading this and want to avoid spoilers, so I’ll write them out but fill in the gaps. I liked seeing ………… in the ……….. I also loved the use of …… to show …………. Finally, the appearance of ……….. in the ……….. was an excellent yet subtle touch. These three aspects alone got me more involved in the next film than the film I was currently watching. By the way, there ARE NO AFTER CREDITS SEQUENCES. Don’t sit through all the credits it’s pointless (Hey Sam if you’re reading, yes I am referring to you here!)
I don’t think you can go wrong with a Hans Zimmer soundtrack.His collaboration here with Junkie XL is immensely successful. The score for this film is beautiful and emotive, something I would actively choose to listen to outside of watching the film which I don’t often think/do. My personal favourite is the rather aptly-named ‘Is she with you?’
Superman/ Lois Lane
I know it’s cool to hate on Superman, but I am quite fond of him. To some he may represent archaic ideas of patriotism, but so does Captain America and that guy walks around wearing stars and stripes. Yet Dupes has never had the cinematic renaissance that Batman has had twice (1989 and 2005). The 1970s/80s films are enjoyable yet of their time, Lois and Clark was entertaining yet cheesy, and Smallville was ocassionally good if rather tween-y.In more recent years, Superman Returns was long and dreary whilst Man Of Steel was interesting yet lost its audience in the overlong battle-heavy final sequences. Batman V Superman is not his movie either. Poor Henry Cavill spends most of the movie showing off his range of emo frowns. It’s that or rescuing Lois Lane THREE times. It’s all Amy Adams gets to do in the movie, which is a real shame as she is an incredible actress playing a character with incredible potential.
Of all the time-wasting nonsensical moments in the film, it is the dream sequences which really stand out for all the wrong reasons. There’s no entry point into them, you’re suddenly immersed in them with no idea of what is going on in them. Then the character wakes up and the audience is even more confused abiut what is going on. If the plot was more coherent it would be less problematic, but as the plot is so stodgy and indecifrable the moments just confuse as opposed to enhance what is going on in the main event.
Speaking of the plot, very little of it actually makes sense. Motivations are blurred from the outset with very few that are actually convincing or believable. It feels like this is a Batman movie forced in with a Superman movie, the story jumps between one then the other without any link. Moments drift, storylines are picked up then dropped and things happen without explanation. I’m going to stay intentionally vague on this one to avoid further spoilers. Let’s just leave this with saying that everything is miscalculated and heavy-handed. Ultimately it’s a very hollow 151 minutes of things happening for little reason or care.
‘Hello darkness my old friend’
A schism has formed over this movie between critics and fans. As someone who considers themselves to be both, I think the main argument over the ‘darkness’ of this film is flawed. I’ve read a lot of reviews talking about how this film is ‘too dark’ and fans retaliating with ‘the comic books are dark, it’s how it should be’. My answer to this? No. Yes some of the comic books are dark. Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, Jim Starlin’s Death in the Family and Jeph Loeb’s Hush (to name but three Batman story arcs) are dark, haunting and Gothic. Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy is dark, haunting and Gothic. Batman V Superman is not dark, haunting and Gothic. It’s murky and shallow. Its darkness is artificial and synthetic. It’s a wannabe-emo in contrast to the aforementioned masterpieces. It pouts, moans and frowns. It tries to make important statements and points but these are empty and ill-informed. It’s like wearing a band t-shirt when you don’t really know the band (one of my biggest pet peeves). Having your actors grimace and setting most of the action at night, fighting for ‘what is right’ does not a maketh a ‘dark’ movie. A coherent plot, one with depth, does.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor appeared like a strange choice since it was first announced. This was embraced by Zack Snyder who promised great things, new take on a classic archvillain. In the comic books Lex Luthor is a charismatic business magnate who is physically powerful and formidable. He is shown to be a true threat to Superman. Charismatic, powerful and formidable are not phrases one would associate with Eisenberg. So perhaps this would be a refreshing new take on the character? Nope. It’s Jesse Eisenberg playing Heath Ledger playing the Joker as Lex Luthor. He is weedy, has daddy issues and rambles. Everything he says is either shouted or mumbled. His hand mannerisms are twitchy and strange, dominating each frame. This man is no threat but a nuisance who gets in the way. To use his performance as an analogy for the entire film – it’s devoid of depth and is ultimately lacking.