It’s finally here. The day that fullly grown men who still covet action figures have been waiting for. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived, bringing with it our first look at DC Comics’ extended cinematic universe. It seems like all the superheroes are duking it out this year but BvS is the main event. So, while it does give diehard fans plenty of service, for those of us who are already plumb tuckered out by the annual parade of superheroes, this might be too little too late to get us to come back for the inevitable Justice League: Guess Who’s Not Really Dead.
Man of Steel was a critically divisive answer to Marvel and Disney’s overwhelming success with Iron Man and Avengers. A gritty attempt at a Superman for this age of violent video games and terrorist attacks that failed to mirror Christopher Nolan’s success with his Batman trilogy. Continuing the story of a Kal-el who didn't have Marlon Brando for a dad, BvS sees the overt messianic themes associated with Superman in Man of Steel followed to their next logical step, earning him the ire of the guy who founded Facebook and a grumpy old Batman.
A new universe means a new Batman. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne works well despite the fountains of nerdrage that poured forth from the internet when he was cast. He looks and acts the part both at cocktail parties and bickering with Jeremy Irons as Alfred in the Batcave. He’s a grouchier, more cynical Batman that we haven’t seen before. We also haven’t seen him this totally jacked before. Batfleck looks like he ate Christian Bale for a snack and used his bones as a supplement for his workout smoothies. Being subjected to the fourth flashback to the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Wayne (this time in slow motion!) the Batman side of the story mostly succeeds at rebooting the character, again. Seeing Bruce Wayne in the middle of Man of Steel’s demolition of Metropolis and what he lost there explains his mistrust of Kryptonians and his motivations for wanting to punch Superman’s handsome face. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see nearly enough of a smart-mouthed, booze-swilling Alfred (played by a bored Jeremy Irons) nor do we get any clues about what the hell happened to Wayne Manor (burned) or Robin (murdered or possible wardrobe malfunction). Guess we have to watch August’s prequel/sequel (?) Suicide Squad.
The characters are obviously at odds during most of the movie (the v doesn’t mean they’re going to court after all). The final showdown takes forever to happen and seems kind of contrived with Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor using the oldest trick in the book to convince Superman to bring him ‘the bat’s head’. While ostensibly you could say that Supes only plans on asking for help when he menacingly hovers over MechaBatman in the rain, I’d like to think if that were the case he’d have had a better plan. Likewise the, again, blatantly obvious moment when they decide to be bros is so stupid I laughed out loud.
Let’s get back to Lex Luthor for a second. I don’t know what drugs Jesse Eisenberg decided to do to get into character (yes I do, lots of cocaine) but nothing his character says or does in the movie is enjoyable. The whole 'brilliant but crazy’ act is dulled to bluntness by his incessant and unsuccessful attempts to be quirky. His grand scheme seems half baked and it’s like he didn’t really think most parts through.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman looks great. Mainly because her sole purpose for most of the movie is to look scary-sexy. Once she suits up and starts kicking ass there’s a moment or two of cool but unless you're already familiar with her background, you wont have any idea why she’s doing any of it.
The pace of this two and a half hour film is frantic, moving from one scene to the next about as fast as Superman can throw somebody through a wall. Speaking of which, hasn’t Superman learned that just throwing guys through buildings is sort of counter productive when you’re trying to save the world? Wonder Woman has the right idea with her sword at least. Good thing the movie never stops reminding you that whatever part of town you’re watching get levelled by moody guys in funny costumes is completely abandoned. The breakneck speed of the movie is accompanied by the worst movie soundtrack I’ve ever heard. It’s like a Dubstep-Electronic-whatever artist had a baby with the one noise they played in Inception. Considering it’s scored by the decent to meh-he’s-ok-I-guess Hans Zimmer and the guy who did the music for Mad Max: Fury Road, you’d think something else would happen to punctuate the drama besides *LOUD NOISE*. Speaking of which, this is the loudest movie I’ve ever seen. In the IMAX I could feel my insides shaking with anxiety, screaming “what the hell’s going on out there?!"
Batman v. Superman has had a lot of hype, especially for those who care enough to take sides in the eternal debate of DC v Marvel, but unfortunately I don’t think it stands up well to the juggernaut that is the Avengers universe. The movie doesn’t really make any sense and the few weak attempts at hinting at the rest of the Justice League are more WTF? than OMG! Some of the lines are eye-rollingly bad too, with choice statements like “I grew up on a farm, I know how to wrestle pigs” to chuckle at while no one on screen seems to realise how ridiculous they sound. Zack Snyder slo-mos all over everything and is not afraid to ask you to suspend your disbelief more than you thought you’d have to about an alien with laser eyes. Even with the big ending, the movie failed to make me think anything was at stake beside two and a half hours of my time.
With movies planned through 2020, Warner Bros. and DC are committed to this and with two movies in the can, the franchise is on an upward trend. If only ever so slightly.