Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Film Review
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Holly Hunter
Director: Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder is not the kind of director who is going to deliver subtly.
And given that, the revelation that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an exercise in wilfull bombast turned up to 11, will come as no surprise to anyone.
In this iconic showdown, served up with hints of foreshadowing and set up, Snyder has served up a film that's indifferent to the cries that haunted Man Of Steel and carried on the idea of spectacle over story, of destruction triumphing once again over coherency.
And yet, as the film begins, delivering, once again, a re-view of how the Bat came to be, the indifference is tempered by the 9/11 allegories, contemporary bombings and allusions that span off from the massive fight with General Zod at the end of Man Of Steel. The ground level view of the fracas is impressive and sets out the film's stall and MO with ease -it is a film of consequence as it starts both Batman and Superman on a collision course with each other.
But this is also a story of guilt, of seething indignation and of cunning, all lassoed together with an all too brief appearance from Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, all lithe kicks and guitar licks when she finally shows.
Affleck surprises as Bruce Wayne, a greyed, chiseled and buffed up Bats, who's wearied by the continuing injustice around him and whose bubbling anger is borne of a desire to protect. Equally, Cavill conveys the gravitas needed as the bell tolls for him in light of his previous actions and the raging public suspicion and debate that this Messiah may just be a naughty boy whose intentions are less than good.
Snyder makes an excellent fist of setting up these character conflicts and uses a nervy wiry Jesse Eisenberg as the puppet master / Joker-esque Lex Luthor to tug at the strings for his own nefarious means. (Even if Eisenberg's twitchy Zuckerberg-lite character is polarising, switching between manic and overly chatty bordering on the intellectual camp of a 60s Bat-villain a la Riddler).
But despite these, Snyder then manages to throw away some of the good intentions by delivering a third act that is just wall to wall OTT extremely loud action sequences that continue to hurtle your way with little coherence, some questionable Uruk Hai CGI and some rote formulaic destruction all thrown in for good measure. Equally, most of the pieces of the film don't fully hang together for non-comic book lovers; sequences that hint at other future events will be lost on those who don't know their comic book lore or casual viewers here for the eye-bruising and unrelentingspectacle.
The film can't also escape some of the weaker trappings of its writing too - conflicts are set up and resolved in the most emotionally unsatisfying of manners (the enmity between Batman and Superman being a major casualty of this) as the wider confines of the DC Universe converge on the bigger screen. The set up is well done and the hints of a greater foundation for the film are laid earlier on but the build up to the main event does well to paper over the disappointment of the ultimate showdown.
All of that taken into consideration, in among all the posturing and the incessant gloom of Metropolis and Gotham, some light emerges.
Jeremy Irons' sardonic Alfred is a highlight - a dismissive and wry sarcasm drips from his every delivery. Laurence Fishburne's Daily Planet editor Perry is a delight, delivering humour where necessary and gravitas when needed - and Amy Adams' Lois Lane is ballsy for the most part, even if she teeters dangerously into damsel-in-distress toward the end. The human elements work well and simply stand to point out the absurdity of the gods-among-us storylines and behaviours.
While there's no doubting that Snyder delivers on spectacle (and certainly with some specially shot IMAX pieces effectively utilising all of the screen) and on bombast (a great soundtrack is blasted into overdrive), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice simply becomes another one of those dour superhero films that relies on a formulaic end to service all but its fans. And it's a crippling shame there's no more of Diana Price - her appearance both in and out of costume gives the film a sparkle it needs to take it away from the pomposity it borders on.
It's a sprawling story that somehow manages to feel both over-stuffed and under-explored, and a film which has great ambitions but ends up feeling too long and with sections that struggle with incoherence to the casual viewer. There's no doubting fans will enjoy the spectacle and there are plenty of moments if you're a comic book fan, but all in all, while Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is perfectly serviceable, it probably will stand better on re-appraisal after the other films in the imminent franchise have launched.