Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (12a)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg and Amy Adams
Running time: 153min
“Puts my trust in God and man” David Bowie- Modern Love
Having failed to cash the cheques to go with the snapping necks, Man of Steel was seen as a disappointment both commercially (we now live in a world whereby $668 million is seen as a disappointment) and critically. It split audiences and was released to a resounding chorus of “meh” With Superman not seen as strong enough to carry a franchise on his massive shoulders alone.
Warner Brothers turned to their biggest name to bolster the box office on the next appearance of Superman. In a not quite a sequel, although the entire plot is built around the fall out from the battle of Metropolis, the film purposefully puts The Dark Knight front and centre in both title and casting with Ben Affleck taking top billing.
Rather than take the Marvel model of slowly building up their heroes before teaming them up, DC have thrown all their eggs in one basket from the jump.
Has the gamble paid off? Absolutely!
Trying to replicate the gritty realism of Nolan’s trilogy hampered Synder’s Superman, but here you feel he has been allowed to put his own stamp on proceedings. His visual-heavy style is perfectly suited to bringing arguably the two biggest comic book stars to life. The film looks and feels like the world from the Arkham video game series and the comic books have been smashed together. It looks, and indeed sounds, absolutely beautiful. Hans Zimmer is a welcome carry over from the Nolan movies and here his score takes over the screen and adds a thumping heartbeat to each scene.
Affleck’s Batman arrives fully formed. Jaded, cynical and seemingly headed down an even darker path, much to the dismay of his sole confidant Alfred, played not with Caine’s sage grandfather but rather more of an ass-kicking older brother by Jeremy Irons. His Batman is, quite frankly, a vicious b@#tard.
His fighting style is less about subduing than outright destroying, he’s an unstoppable machine powered by rage and fear. When Affleck’s Batman hits you, you stay down. His introduction is more akin to a horror film than a superhero movie. Crouching in the darkness before vanishing like a shapeless cloud of smoke. Not concerned with passing the mantle or bogged down with the burden of donning the cape and cowl, his performance is more Keaton than Bale. This is a guy who enjoys smashing criminals.
Cavill is much improved as a Superman torn by the fall out his actions as well as being somewhat petulant towards Gotham’s defender who does not illicit the same treatment.
Next to Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg’s casting as big bad Lex Luthor caused the most controversy. His take on Luthor is frustratingly inconsistent, a coiled spring of venom and intelligence one minute and an awkward stuttering Zuckerberg clone the next before he finally descends into hammy, cliched, shouty mode. His best moments of villainy actually occur with him off screen.
The frustrating thing about the film is that yes, the trailers have given away almost everything; including pretty much every scene featuring Wonder Woman, who gets to speak maybe five lines in the whole movie, but she shows enough in those scenes to have audiences clamoring for her solo outing.
The movie does a great job dropping in hints at a wider universe and avoids the Deadpool problem of “It’s almost like the studio couldn’t afford another hero”, that said, knowing that Batman and Superman will eventually kiss and make up (figuratively… maybe) in no way dampens the last act when you finally see the holy trinity team up.
This is where the film truly shines. One of the criticisms of Nolan’s movies were the fights were shot like the cameraman was being tazed. Here there are no such problems. Every penny is up on the screen, it feels massive in scale. The moment with all three, using their various strengths, had me grinning with delight as I watched my childhood dreams and – let’s face it my adult ones too – come to life on the big screen for the first time.
One of the biggest criticisms of Snyder is he can do visuals but not emotions. Here he does a far better job in injecting emotional heft, including one gut punch of a scene in the mountains that comes out of nowhere.
It’s not quite perfect, Eisenberg’s Lex is far from the criminal mastermind of the comics and every plot turn can be seen a mile down the road, especially for anyone with even a passing interest in the comics, also Batman displays a few traits that will prove as divisive as Man of Steel’s climax – but we don’t want to disclose too much.
That said, its two and half hours fly by and it starts strong and never lets up.
Affleck will convert even his more adamant detractors, Cavill has grown into the role and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman will leave you wanting more of the character. It’s a vibrant, adrenaline thumping powerhouse of a movie. It builds towards the next movies but never to the detriment of the current one, something more than one Marvel film and indeed Man of Steel have been guilty of.
My cautious apprehension disappeared almost immediately and now I am left in fevered anticipation for the Justice League to take the screen. Mission accomplished, Mr Sydner, you made me believe the world needs Superman again.
4 out of 5 Nerds