Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Few titles sell themselves better than that one. For all of Marvel’s success on the big screen, not one of their heroes has the name value of the big two. Being given the chance to direct that film is basically an open goal and yet it is an open goal that Zack Snyder has missed dramatically.
Before we get to that, however, let’s start with what is good about the film, which funnily enough, is mainly to do with the much maligned Batfleck. Ben Affleck’s Batman is a genuinely interesting take on the character. An older, gruffer hero there are hints at a past that has taken its toll. There are still issues with the writing of the character, but Affleck himself is a good Batman. You can feel the years resting on his shoulders. In a similar vein, this film gives you hope that DC will finally be able to do something good with Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot’s role in this movie is limited, but she does enough to suggest she may well be a great figure with that character.
Now onto the bad, of which there are lots. As is a common theme in Zack Snyder’s films, Batman vs. Superman is very stylish, so stylish that they seem to have focused on that over plot. This is a mess of a story with Batman and Superman’s eventual showdown seeming to happen for no real reason at all. They then throw Doomsday at them just for the fun of it apparently, all while continuously delving into dream sequences which leave you with the feeling that maybe none of this is real.
On the other side of the fisticuffs Henry Cavill may look like the perfect Superman but on screen, he is a void of charisma. He makes you hate one of the most iconic characters of all time and that’s just sad. While Amy Adams and Diane Lane (Louis Lane and Martha Kent respectively) are purely there to be saved by those around them. It’s such a shame that a film that finally gives Wonder Woman her due also falls back on such shitty tropes for its other female roles.
None of that is as bad as Jesse Eisenberg however, who seems to be auditioning to play the Riddler with his Lex Luthor. Every single part of his character is amped up to 11 and rather than coming across as a psychopathic genius (which is obviously what they are going for) he is just bloody annoying. Jeremy Irons does his best to inject some light humour into proceedings as Alfred but he is in and out of this film like Clark Kent in a phone booth and his short time on screen is nowhere near enough to get over how determined this is to be serious. In the last few weeks, I’ve watched films about dystopian tower blocks and people hiding away in bunkers from the end of the world, and none of them have taken themselves as seriously as Batman vs. Superman. It’s a film about a bloke in a cape punching a guy dressed as a bat for fuck sake.
Maybe all of that could be forgiven if the film was enjoyable. Yet somehow, Zack Synder has managed to take Batman vs. Superman and turn it into a tedious chore of a movie. It is so long and clunky and self-obsessed that thirty minutes into it I was genuinely praying for the end. There is no imagination or wit and even during the biggest fight sequences you have to battle with yourself to stay awake. When Batman and Superman finally come face to face, there is no spark to their fight. It is just the two of them punching each other and fuck me if that isn’t dull.
There are those out there claiming that Batman vs. Superman is a film for comic book fans. That if you love the source material you will love what you get here. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Zack Snyder and Warner Brothers completely fail to understand what makes these characters great. They have a Batman who spends most of the film plotting a murder and a Superman who is so brooding that he has forgotten how to have fun. Dawn of Justice may claim to have taken inspiration from the brilliant Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, but the truth is it has just taken a great idea and ripped it apart with its bare hands.