The release of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, like most superhero movies, has been rife with anticipation, as the comic-book fanboy dream scenario will finally play out on the big screen. Following the critical acclaim of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the Caped Crusader is re-established to be pit against the Son of Krypton in director Zack Snyder’s follow-up to his Superman origin film. Events pick up exactly where ‘Man of Steel’ left off but through the perspective of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), watching in horror as Metropolis is destroyed in the battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and his nemesis General Zod. Fuming at the carnage caused, he plots to bring down Superman to prevent even more destruction. Meanwhile, young business tycoon Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is working to another agenda, to bring his own brand of justice to the city.
If the synopsis above comes across as a little confusing or convoluted, that’s because it is and despite the indulgent running time, far too much is crammed into the story. On top of trying to paper over the cracks of its ham-fisted predecessor, the film aims to lay the foundations for a DC cinematic universe, as well as attempting to address themes of politics, terrorism and religion. To have ambition is perfectly fine and well, but with a such a muddled narrative and a very dodgy script, the whole thing becomes an unintelligible mess. Even the score from the usually exceptional Hans Zimmer felt overbearing, as if its intention was to distract from the bigger weaknesses such as the romantic subplot with the insufferable Lois Lane or the shoddy visual effects.
The only redeeming feature of the entire film is Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman. As most of his co-stars flounder around him, he is every bit as powerful and brooding as Bruce Wayne should be, and even though we didn’t need yet another flashback to the shooting of his parents, the majority of the Batman scenes are pretty good. As suggested from the build up and the publicised marketing campaign, we are given an older, wiser and angrier version of the cultural icon and Affleck, to his credit, delivers on all counts to answer the naysayers.
In contrast to this is Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman. In his foolproof disguise as reporter Clark Kent, he is a cringey and pathetic and when he puts on the red and blue spandex, he is equally uncharismatic. I know Amy Adams is a brilliant actress when given the right material but as Lois Lane, she is nothing more than a dim-witted damsel who needs to be repeatedly rescued. We’ve had two films worth of this laboured routine, which is more than enough. Worst of all is Jesse Eisenberg’s wacky representation of the villainous Lex Luthor. His tic-heavy turn is just a collection of the same annoying attributes of his previous roles ramped up for ultimate irritation. I will give deserved praise to Jeremy Irons as Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred and also Gal Gadot, who makes a brief but enjoyable appearance as Wonder Woman, so it’s not all bad in the acting department.
All the negative aspects of ‘Man of Steel’ have unfortunately been rehashed and repeated but with Batman thrown into the equation, and Ben Affleck’s top-notch performance just isn’t enough to save the day. The tonal inconsistencies and jam-packed plot are too damning to the project, and while we know how much Snyder takes pleasure from blowing things up, this time he has created an abominable explosion of a movie. There is a line of dialogue where Bruce Wayne compares criminals to weeds, stating that ‘when you pull one up, another grows in its place’. It could be argued that the same can be said about comic-book film franchises, and this could prove to be one that needs nipped in the bud before it’s too late.