Batman v Superman Movie Review

Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill.
Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill.

THERE is more at stake behind the scenes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice than there ever is on screen, as DC Comics attempts to build a ‘shared universe’ of superhero films to compete with Marvel’s franchise.

Batman v Superman is designed to jump-start DC’s connected universe by bringing together the titular characters, as well as Wonder Woman and other cameos, in what is either an alternative approach designed to distinguish itself from Marvel or a shortcut to avoid the lengthy groundwork (I’m leaning towards the latter).

What it all means is that it’s difficult to judge the movie in its own right because even the director treats it as a prelude to a slate of already-announced movies through to 2020.

It’s also difficult to feel that anything is at stake throughout the movie. During the initial action scenes the audience is waiting for Batman and Superman to clash; when the two heroes do go toe-to-toe, audiences are waiting for the true villain to reveal themselves; and even as the film builds to its finale, it’s all just a prologue for the upcoming Justice League movies (as evidenced by the far-too-many epilogues).

That’s not to say it’s a bad movie.

Ostensibly a sequel to Man of Steel, it opens with the finale from that film told from the point of view of Bruce Wayne. Witnessing the destruction brought down upon Metropolis by two god-like beings, he becomes convinced that Superman is too dangerous and that must be stopped.

It’s an attempt to address the criticism that Man of Steel involved too much destruction without concern for the human consequence. It achieves that to a point, but the superhero showdown and the finale still rely heavily on director Zack Snyder’s brand of ‘destruction porn’.

Henry Cavill builds on the brooding Superman of Man of Steel, weighing up the difficulties of doing the right thing against the responsibility of answering to those he wants to save. Ben Affleck is far from the disaster that some fans feared when his casting was announced, though his Bruce Wayne is superior to his Batman. And Gal Gadot stands out brightly as the first big screen incarnation of Wonder Woman. Jesse Eisenberg also brings a manic energy to the role of Lex Luthor without quite going over the top.

At two-and-a-half hours long, it doesn’t drag, with the action flowing quite seamlessly.

But with a film that has so much riding on it, it’s not quite the home run DC Comics would have hoped for. It doesn’t have the comic touch or camaraderie of Marvel’s films (understandable given it is the first outing for all but Cavill in their roles), nor does it have the gravitas of the Dark Knight movies.

THE ESSENTIALS

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (M)

Three stars

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg

Reviewed by: Dave Friedlos

In cinemas March 24