It’s one of the oldest questions that you will find on a playground – who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman? Nearly three years since its announcement and one of the most anticipated films of the decade has finally hit the silver screen; pitching two of the most iconic comic book and cultural characters against each other. For five minutes. Out of one hundred and fifty-one. Oh dear.
The film takes place some 18 months after the events of Man of Steel (2013) and deals with the fallout following the destruction that Superman caused during the climactic fight with General Zod. Humanity is divided on the Son of Krypton’s place within society; is he a Jesus-like figure, or an uncontrollable threat? Meanwhile, Batman is furious at Superman for the destruction of Wayne Tower during that infamous battle — considering him a danger to humanity, and thus sets out to kill him.
“This film is a mess.”
This film is a mess. A dour, humourless clutter that is aesthetically painful to watch at times and made all the more infuriating as a huge fan of both the titular characters due to the fact that, hidden under all the mud, there are small nuggets of gold that hint at a much better film. The narrative is so poorly structured and there is no coherent story here. This whole movie feels like a trailer for three much better films that we didn’t get: Man of Steel 2, a new Batman film and a Justice League picture.
Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne is fantastic; he takes the character into dark territory which is greatly welcomed. Jeremy Irons as a rougher, more rugged Alfred is great, although his appearances are disappointingly spare. The same goes for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman but her inclusion is welcome and she fits in without stealing the show. Finally, although relatively brief, the battle between Superman and Batman is amazing. With panels being ripped straight from The Dark Knight Returns there’s plenty of fan service as well as heart-pumping action, and director Zack Snyder deserves credit for staying so true to that iconic comic book.
Henry Cavill disappoints as Superman. I don’t blame him, it’s certainly his direction rather than his acting but there is a serious lack of emotion and heart from this incarnation of Kal-El. This Superman isn’t clearly driven by anything and it feels like this character still hasn’t fully progressed into the Superman we all know and love.
Jesse Eisenberg is not miscast, but this version of Lex Luthor is very much misjudged. Eisenberg commits all the way, but it crashes catastrophically. At one point I was sure that Snyder was stood behind Eisenberg with a cattle prod, poking him every so often to watch him jump around the screen. This Lex is flamboyant and twitchy, mumbling about gods, devils, and philosophy. But none of it feels relevant to the film’s overall disarrayed plot.
The titular fight is ridiculous, made all the more frustrating by the wasted potential. The screenwriters shove the two heavyweights into the arena, leaving them befuddled to just hit lumps out of each other because it’s in the trailer. The first hour of the film is rendered inconsequential by one action taken just before the battle and the whole fight would not even happen if the two talked for twenty seconds, if that. Not to mention it is ended in one of the worst and laziest ways possible but by that point, you just don’t care.
“The Concluding battle with doomsday is a splurge of sepia tone and incomprehensible action”
There are subtle hints to upcoming Justice League films, although only if your definition of subtle is big neon arrows pointing at the screen, and a man behind the curtain shouting ‘JUSTICE LEAGUE SET UP’ through a megaphone.
Finally, the concluding battle with Doomsday is a splurge of sepia tone and incomprehensible action. The fight lasts for nearly thirty minutes, but all seems rushed and out of place. The villain himself looks awful, like a Michael Bay Ninja Turtle that’s been in the sun too long. Snyder attempts to up the spectacle for the final action of Superman in the film by turning the destruction dial to max. But because this Superman is not particularly likeable, nor is he fully fleshed out and complete as a character, the scene doesn’t have the emotional punch it really should.
Overall, Batman vs Superman is a huge misstep for DC and Warner Brothers in their quest to reach the heights of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A serious rethink is needed to salvage any potential good for the franchise from this chaos. Civil War comes out next month; save your money and see that instead.