With the various superhero franchises being the financial powerhouses that they are, its safe to say that a film featuring both The Caped Crusader and The Man Of Steel would be a commercial success regardless of its appeal. In fact given the sheer scale of fandom surrounding the central characters, one might even say that this film would be a success before it was even released. This is very much the case, as the film has already raked in 500 million dollars and has only been out for a little over a week. Which begs the question: is it worth the cost of an admission ticket?
Set some 18 months after the destructive climax of Man Of Steel, Clark Kent, aka Kal-El, aka Superman, has become effectively deified in the eyes of humanity, although apparently he is still cursed with US citizenship and therefore isn’t to be excluded from such thrilling events such as select committees and senate hearings. Meanwhile in nearby Gotham City, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is still fighting crime as Batman whilst still being haunted by the death of his parents, right down to bat-based hallucinations at their graveside (just one of many moments that kick the films 12a rating right in the Daily Planets).
If that summary seemed somewhat brief, its because the plot of this 2.5 hour monstrosity is an absolute mess. If it had to be compressed into a single phrase it would be along the lines of ‘there’s been some kind of misunderstanding’, but that only really applies to the two titular characters. Once Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman and anyone else from DC’s Alliteration Alliance are crowbarred into the plot and any real sense of character or genuine conflict is swiftly lost. Batman’s storyline hints at a tragic history involving the murder of Robin by the Joker, keeping his desecrated suit in a glass cage as a monument to his cause, which hints at a previous conflict that we as an audience never get to see. In fact the story frequently jumps out of itself, with instances including Batman’s vision of Superman’s future totalitarian regime (apparently he values Lois Lane over the rest of humanity, rendering any messianic themes established completely moot) and a brief father-son moment between Clark and Jonathan Kent, neither of which are established as visions until after the fact, which does nothing but add confusion to an already slow-boiling parental drama in disguise as the superhero blockbuster of the year.
One of the main reasons for the lack of focus in this film is the lack of a clear, identifiable villain. Certainly, Lex Luthor is the puppet master behind most of what is happening behind the scenes, but it his key motiviation is vague at best, and the only justification for his machinations seems to be his undisclosed psychosis, which is fairly poor as motivations go. Admittedly, Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is both convincing and entertaining, and could easily be one of the saving graces of the film, but it is somewhat reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s, which brings us neatly to the arguably biggest flaw in the film: that this film is almost entirely blind to the genre in which it sits. We’ve seen heroes overcoming their grievances and uniting against a common foe in The Avengers. We’ve seen Batman played better and more convincingly in The Dark Knight Trilogy (Ben Affleck should’ve been behind the camera, not in front of it). And we’ve seen from the cinematic atrocity that was Spiderman 3 that introcuing the main antagonist in the final 30 minutes of the film stabs the action of the climax in the chest with a kryptonite spear.
Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice is one of the most disappointing films I’ve had the misfortune to sit through, and it pains me to have to add it to my list of film’s that I’ve wanted to heckle (Budge up, Fifty Shades Of Grey). There was potential for true greatness here. With arguably the 2 most iconic superheroes ever made in the same line-up, this film could’ve blown DC’s competition out of the water, but the studio has fumbled the advantage and outraged fans the world over. ‘Mishandled’ is the word I would use to describe the entire film, from writing to casting (Jeremy Irons is wasted on this film, and it shows). Even the soundtrack, an element which can be the saving grace of a film, is boring and chaotic, and the only interesting moments are those borrowed from Hans Zimmer’s score in Man Of Steel. If you’re itching to find out the reasons to this vitriol, then by all means go and watch it, but afterwards go home, have a drink and then never give it a second thought, because that’s effectively what the studio did.