And so, the greatest gladiator match the world has ever seen, to quote Lex Luthor, has finally come. Two icons facing each other – Batman vs Superman, in a film that is guaranteed to be one of the year’s biggest. The question on everyone’s lips is, then, whether it would be any good.
I don’t want to give too much away, as I’m firmly of the opinion these kind of films are best enjoyed spoiler-free, but the gist is this. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is intent on investigating the increasingly violent brand of Bat-vigilantism in Gotham City and, at the same time, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is eager to learn more about Superman, a being he has reason to dislike and of whose power he is very suspicious. Through the sinister machinations of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), the tension between the two is heightened until they must come to blows.
One of the issues talked about in the run-up to the film was the issue of casting. Would Eisenberg truly be able to capture the evil of Luthor? (I mean, he’s not even bald.) How about Gal Gadot, an unknown actress bringing Wonder Woman to the screen? And, of course, the mother of them all – Affleck, trusted with another superhero? Well, I’m delighted to say that the casting is down to a tee, with my particular favourite being Jeremy Irons’ sardonic Alfred. When these characters crop up on screen, they are fantastic. (I hate to say it, and I won’t be the last reviewer to do so, but Affleck earns his Bat-wings.)
How about the titular fight? A lot of this film is being sold on the spectacle of seeing two comic book icons slug it out, so that must be one of the best bits? Fortunately, it is – the two heroes fighting is one of the high points of the film, and the pace it picks up here is sustained until the end. The action does not let up, and I found it exhilarating to watch. (As a side note, any comic book fans out there will notice some very familiar bits towards the end.)
The problem, then, is that it takes a while for the film to actually reach the fight sequence, or an action sequence of any real degree. There is a lot of backstory to fill in, which is fair enough, and some of it is done wonderfully. What is set up as another retelling of the Batman origin story is realised quite spectacularly, for example. However, we have a lot of scenes of folks just standing around chatting – I don’t mind that, but that isn’t what you watch a film like this for. Really, we needed another movie before this to build up a lot more of the DC universe – certainly a lot more than Man of Steel. We end on an interesting note, though – it’ll be strange to see where the next film takes us.
Even so, that wouldn’t really be an issue were the plot always comprehensible, but this is not the case. There is a lot of faff with odd bullets which is pretty much a plot device to lead a character to Luthor, and there was one scene involving him where I genuinely had no idea what was going on. I wouldn’t grumble, but this was something very crucial to the plot. This isn’t even the worst aspect of it – in order to keep the audience going, we have the odd dream sequence here and there. I’m not a fan of using them to toss in exposition and random action, but that’s what we have.
One fear was that the movie was trying to pack too much in – after all, it has a universe to set up as well as backstory to deliver, and I like the solution the film chose to show off some of the future Justice League members. Three heroes is more than enough at the moment, two films in. I do wish, though, that the film chose to use more of Gadot – in her brief appearances, she was a beguiling screen presence, and her interactions with Affleck were more interesting than Cavill’s. Really, I think Superman is quite a boring character, and Henry Cavill has done little to change my opinion there (and, if anything, he’s probably reinforced it a touch). He’s just dull – I’m glad we had Batman in there just to liven things up a bit.
Batman v Superman is stylistically very much a Zack Snyder film, and I think it suits very well here. He is a man who can do action, and he does it here superbly. It’s just a shame that the action crops up very late in the day, but it is clearly the best part of the film. If superhero movies do one thing well, it’s action and set pieces, so why did we have to have so much padding before we reached them?
As it stands, the film is an enjoyable blockbuster but very much a picture of two halves, and I wish it had focused a lot more on the half it did considerably better. Tune in for the fight and the action, and expect to enjoy it, but be warned that there is a lot to sit through first. That said, I certainly enjoyed it, but there was a lot of unrealised potential here and I fear that DC’s attempts to rush and catch up with Marvel mean the viewers have been stripped of a film that could’ve been so much better.
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman)
Running Time: 153 Mins