This dour and violent DC Comics adaptation is mostly a cynical marketing pitch for a whole string of movie franchises that instead should be stepping up to meet Marvel Studio’s brio. Technically brilliant, it’s loo long and very, very dull. Very dull.
In the aftermath of the Kryptonian 9-11-like invasion of Earth, evil genius Lex Luthor ferments a war between DC’s two greatest superheroes. For two and a half hours. Which is about an hour too long. Did I mention it’s quite dull?
Maybe it’s just me, but Superman was always so overloaded with powers, so invincible he can survive a nuclear explosion (spoiler), that writers always had to come up with increasingly daft threats to put him in danger, usually alien, and/or Kyptonite. So it ever was, so it is now. Guess what director Zack Snyder and writing team resort to?
Henry Cavill’s ( Man of Steel, Cold Light of Day) increasingly bland Clark Kent/Superman agonises over his place in the world, where half of humanity think he’s the Messiah and the other half the Devil; he is, for the most part, very, very dull. Christopher Reeve, you left us too soon.
Ben Affleck’s (Gone Girl, The Accountant) middle-aged and curmudgeonly Batman blames him for the casualties incurred in fighting General Zod. And boy, does this Batman have anger management issues, stacking the rage of an entire crime-fighting career on top of orphan Bruce Wayne’s childhood abandonment issues, to produce a vigilante of monstrous cruelty. If Batman’s ends always justify the means, Superman is wondering if any of it is actually worth it. As am I.
Jessie Eisenberg (Now You See Me) delivers an extremely irritating but brilliantly psychotic performance as Lex Luthor.
In support, the under-talented Israeli stick-insect Gal Gadot looks good as designer clothes-horse Diana Prince, but disappoints as Wonder Woman – having stolen the BvS:DoJ trailers, did DC set expectations too high? Jeremy Irons (Beautiful Creatures) is effortlessly droll as butler Alfred.
So once again, Amy Adams (American Hustle, Arrival) is the class act as earnest reporter Lois Lane, the one who really deserves her own movie. Diane Lane works hard as that other damsel in distress, Martha Kent. The movie fails both of them in the age-old cliche of feeble women needing to be saved by a white knight. Or occasionally, a dark knight. And, of course, drive the finale to the limit of Superman’s powers, where he is unable to save the people he cares for.
Certain set-pieces sit uneasily side by side. Superman saving people from disasters is meant to be a stark contrast with Batman dreaming of a totalitarian future ruled by the alien overlord. They’re from completely different movies.
Later set-piece of Batman despatching Luthor’s henchmen. Any trace of “bif”, “bam”, “kapow” replaced by blood-spatter and bone-crunching. This Batman creates the body-count of a Rambo movie and is so self-righteous, so grumpy and so lacking the integrity of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, I care even less for this incarnation than I did for Christian Bale’s version.
Eventually the battle-armoured Batman squares off against the Man of Steel in an implausible and brutal fight that drags on too long, with too many Kryptonite toys to level the field.
And of course, our heroes have to team up, aided by the unnecessary Wonder Woman to fight off Luthor’s alien monstrosity for the finale; a fight with a souped-up cave troll from Lord of the Rings that is effectively a muscley, roaring Hulk with added Superman powers, able to lay waste to Gotham until somone can stab it with Kyptonite (spoiler).
None of which justifies the sheer ear-pslitting, eye-ball melting assault of CGI mayhem; it’s like a theme-park ride, technically faultless, but not that engaging. It’s actually very, very dull. A bit like the other two hours.
By the time the dull epilogue comes around, with Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince exchanging portentous clap-trap, you realise director Zack Snyder (he of shouty men in red jockstraps 300 and Watchmen) thinks he’s making Battleship Potemkin or Citizen Kane. There’s a thin line between this and the overblown toy franchise Transformers – or ‘the tin men films’ as my mother calls them. She’s a fine critic my mother. I’d ask her what she thinks of this but then she’d have to sit through it, and I can’t ask that. RC
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Zack Snyder, David S. Goyer, Chris Terrio
Running time: 151 minutes
Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jessie Eisenberg,Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Diane Lane