Finally, the moment we have all been waiting for is here. The battle between two titans of the comic book universe. Batman v Superman. Did it live up to the childhood dream & get the DC Expanded Universe off to a running start?
Since its reveal at San Diego Comic Con 2013, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been set as the Warner Bros tent pole that is set to kick off their rival to Marvel’s Avengers. With a massive marketing campaign, a controversial Superman movie preceding it and two characters with around 150 years of history collectively, this movie bore a massive weight on its back. The critics are collectively hating it… but we’re here to tell you IT’S NOT ALL BAD!
The film begins during the Battle of Metropolis that we witnessed at the end of Man of Steel and provides the beginnings of the differences between our two titular heroes. We’re then thrust into a Lex Luthor driven conspiracy to bring the Man of Steel to his knees all while simultaneously doing away with the Batman. And thus… FIGHT. That is of course, before the DC Trinity finally team up to save the world on the big screen as they do on the pages of the comics.
Let us say this firstly, Batman v Superman is by no means perfect. At times it is a bit messy and kind of doesn’t know what plot point to settle on as it is trying to show you a whole lot of stuff to put the first pieces of the Justice League jigsaw puzzle together. It jumps from here, to there, back to here, and then over there very quickly at times and perhaps it could have been edited better. The story is brilliantly written though, albeit quite thin and lacking in some parts just when you feel it is coming together. The first acts play out a bit too long with little action. While it set up both the Luthor conspiracy, the Anti-Superman sentiment and Bruce Wayne’s reasons for hating Superman very well, it just took a hell of a long time to do it. When it gets going, it really gets going – like a roller coaster that takes an age to get to the top before dropping you into oblivion. The Batman v Superman element does end suddenly and sort of cheaply leading into the teaming up for the greater good, but we cannot say that this was not expected.
The Batman-Superman fight scenes though will thoroughly please comic book fans and get the adrenaline pumping. It is exactly how you would expect a Batman Superman fight to play out. Brute force versus brute force with toys. Faces are put through walls, bodies are flying and property damage is through the roof, literally. But with every punch landed. and every crunching kick, your inner nerd will scream with delight. We cannot forget Wonder Woman though. DC’s first lady shows she means business in Batman v Superman and sets up her character perfectly for future instalments. Although her screen time is kind of limited, we can reassure you that we have a Diana Prince who will get a very good solo movie as long as it is in the right hands. We will add though that her entrance would have had much more of an effect had it not been introduced in the trailers.
The star of the show really is Ben Affleck, both as Bruce Wayne and Batman. Cavill plays a great Superman, the best we’ve seen in this writers opinion, but is outshone by his co-star. Dare we say it, Ben Affleck’s Batman may just be the one some of us have been waiting for all along. Ripped straight from the pages of Frank Miller’s famed novels and a dash of Arkham series, this Batman simply does not give a flying f*ck. He’s been twenty years in Gotham and things have gotten the better of him, this is something worth remembering as you watch. He doesn’t play nice anymore and it is on full display.
We also get a Batman who finally gets the perfect comic book balance of gadgets, Arkham Knight-esque combat skills and we get the potential also of finally up to the name of the World’s Greatest Detective. The detective side of Batman is something that has not been seen on-screen very much before. Jeremy Irons is a great Alfred to Affleck’s Batman too, however was not utilised as much as you would hope for. Either way, whatever DC/WB have planned for the character we’re in for a treat!
We have to mention Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and this is one of the areas where the film really does go astray. While Luthor’s plan was very Lex Luthor and exactly what you would expect of him, Eisenberg’s performance was very off base in comparison to the comics. A good performance if you’re an Eisenberg fan but if you’re a Lex Luthor fan we won’t blame you for wanting to overdose on Kryptonite. While there were some flashes of a cold calculated Lex Luthor, they were kerb-stomped by the psychotic eccentric that we were given for most of the film. There were aspects of the character that were closer to the Joker than they were Luthor. Of all the great performances in the film from Affleck, Cavill, Gadot, Amy Adams, Irons and more, we do hope Eisenberg didn’t sign a multi-film deal.
Visuals and audio are stunning throughout. As mentioned previously, the editing of the film was a bit off but it was beautiful aesthetically. Admittedly it was CGI and SFX heavy, but in a more jaw-dropping way in comparison to Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern heavy. While they could have eased off a touch, it wasn’t a deal breaker and was still full of massively cool moments. Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL’s score is really something to behold. It did not miss a note at all throughout the film and is one that you would gladly listen to again and again with ease.
For fans of the comics, there were many references and easter eggs that will more than satisfy your geeky little heart. Both visually and through the script there were many references to famous DC figures, story-lines and events. They also weren’t as blatantly on display as in the Marvel counterparts and may well go over the head of a casual viewer; they were more subtle but for hardcore fans there was plenty to get giddy in your cinema seat over! The rest of the Justice League members were also used in a very efficient way. Although brief their appearances were certainly memorable and leave a mark, Aquaman especially. The Flash getting probably the biggest and most meaningful moment in what is a bit of a mindf*ck but a beautiful one. As stated before, there are many aspects of the film that are taken straight from Frank Miller’s books which is an absolute delight.
Overall, the best way to describe Batman v Superman is as many have, a stylish beautiful mess. As we have said before, the film isn’t perfect, it has flaws and many aspects need improving, but it does not deserve the overwhelming bashing that it is getting from critics. It is not Fant4stic and it is not Batman & Robin and after reading such comparisons we really cannot agree.
In honesty and we feel that this is worth noting, Batman v Superman should be treated as one piece of a long puzzle. DC are approaching things very differently to Marvel by putting a team-up movie first rather than give everyone a chance to shine individually first. To compare to Marvel, what DC done was essentially go from Iron Man into The Avengers and while it may seem poor to many now, once we get the full picture of the DCEU then what it got right will shine through in the grand scheme of things. While we hate to draw the Marvel v DC trumpet, and we fully believe that you can happily enjoy both without preference, if you hold the MCU up on a pedestal as to how a comic book movie should be made then be warned that Zack Snyder & Co. took that play book, scrapped it and went for the Hail Mary at the fourth down.
Batman v Superman is not for everybody, we will admit. Casual viewers looking for massive action may find it too drawn out in the opening stages and those not familiar with the characters may lament the lack of back story. Batman has been in operation 20 years while Wonder Woman has been around for 100 and both have TONNES of baggage but we see nothing bar their present day angsty selves. The references are there for DC fans but many may find themselves scratching their heads. Some could say it was written with the fanboys and fangirls in mind rather than the wider audience. Those who don’t like movies devoid of all hope and happiness may want to give this a wide berth too. Such is a characteristic of the DC Universe and the Frank Miller source material in general and a far cry from the happy-go-lucky everything works out movies we are used to. From the get-go we are plunged into the darkness and there is no light. This will be a Marmite kind of atmosphere when the film is discussed.
As a final closing statement, we must once again repeat that Batman v Superman in the context of it all is a very decent watch with the naysayers going very over board in their criticisms. This was never going to be Oscar material. If you’re a Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman fan however there is so much to be happy and excited about. Like a fine wine, Batman v Superman will get better with age and in time to come when we can look back on it in context of the entire DCEU slate, will be looked upon more fondly.