In a world where Disney’s MCU is hoovering up all the money year after year, it was only a matter of time before Warner Bros attempted something similar with DC. Batman V Superman – the follow up to 2012’s Man of Steel – is the first attempt at such a project.
Man of Steel was a somewhat messy start to a rebooted Superman fable. At the time, Warner Bros were largely striving to inject new life into this worn down Kryptonian fable by following in the footsteps of Christopher Nolan’s hugely successful Dark Knight trilogy. Nolan’s series of films made it clear that superhero franchises such as Batman could go from being a worn out strand of ridiculous Joel Schumacher sequels to must-see thriving summer blockbusters. The aim here was to shoot a darker, cerebral, more grounded version of Superman with a rich origin story. Despite this, however, the attempt to rejuvenate the story of Clark Kent didn’t go down as well as Nolan’s take on Bruce Wayne. The movie opened relatively strong by raising a series of interesting concepts, only to then go and fly off the rails in its second half with the usual crash, bang, wallop hullabaloo Hollywood is all too fond of giving us these days.
Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice on the other hand, makes Man of Steel look like The Shawshank Redemption in comparison . It would be lovely to walk away from this film with something good to say about it, yet few positives come to mind. It’s a poorly executed mess from start to finish.
Like a faulty car engine failing to ignite after a night sat in the snow, Batman V Superman decides to start up at least several times before the narrative properly kicks in. It opens first with Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma (something audiences are already well accustomed to, what with previous Dark Knight incarnations already covering such ground), then with a revised version of the climax from Man of Steel – depicted from the perspective of Bruce Wayne – and then with Lois Lane reporting from the Middle East before getting rescued by Superman.
After what feels like the start up of several vaguely interesting movies smushed into one shitty mixture, some stuff starts happening, and that stuff happens for what feels like several ice ages. Lex goes about trying to figure out ways of destroying Batman and Superman (for reasons never explained); Lois attends some court hearings regarding her scuffle in the Middle East; Batman grows increasingly hateful toward Superman because he’s a vigilante deciding what’s right or wrong (erm….Bruce…); the public get angsty regarding the fact an immortal who loves saving them is so strong he could hypothetically wipe them all out if he so desired; Alfred insults Batman in a sulky manner as if he’s some sort of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Marvin impersonator; Wonder Woman potters about the place haphazardly for next to no reason whatsoever; overlong & action-heavy dream sequences give away useful plot hints to characters who shouldn’t even hold access to such information; and plentiful quantities of teasers for inevitable Justice League features bobbing their head above water are all but some of the many storylines playing out for most of this film’s 3+ hour runtime.
It’s not that any of the ideas jammed into this script aren’t any good, it’s just that the whole thing feels like several different movies hammered together. There’s storylines all over the place; overlapping and tangling themselves up amongst one another. The idea of Superman’s “heroic” actions having devastating consequences is a smashing concept. Likewise, seeing the public as well as another superhero turning on him for those said actions is again a perfectly interesting avenue to go down. Even the film’s choice to have an older, more bitter and even homicidal Batman is a direction worth taking the Dark Knight in.
The problem is, Snyder is trying to juggle too many concepts in one go. Instead of having separate films expanding and exploring these ideas, he’s forced them into one 3 hour clump; giving none of them any time to breathe or grow. Furthermore – much in the same fashion as Man of Steel – Snyder isn’t giving any of these ideas a chance to go anywhere. He’ll start off with an interesting question or concept, only to ditch it several scenes later, preferring instead to hurl a tirade of bombastic action sequences at his audience. His obsession for spectacle overtakes his desire to tell an interesting tale once again.
Batman V Superman essentially takes a variety of compelling ideas that the DC cinematic universe could’ve someday tackled, only to knock them all down with a string of uninspired action sequences before they’ve even had time to be developed. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot before the race has even begun.
It seems apparent what’s going on here. Warner Bros are attempting to cash in on the whole interconnected cinematic universe malarky that Disney have been ruling the box office with for the past several years. Only problem is, they’ve attempted it all far too quickly. Instead of taking its time and fleshing out the world-building aspect to such an expanded universe, they’ve tried to hatch all their eggs in one sitting. They want an endless variety of super heroes & villains who can entice audiences through cinema doors in their millions; they want a self-sustaining franchise which brings out movies that’ll sell tickets regardless of who the lead protagonist may be; and they want a rich realm of recognisable characters & places known by many within popular culture. Only problem is, they seem unwilling to put in any of the groundwork required to make that a reality. Instead of setting up such a multifaceted universe in advance, DC wanted to have their cake and eat it right away. As a result, everything gets squeezed and the damage shows.
It’s why the whole Batman squaring off against Superman is pushed almost out of the narrative entirely. The film rarely commits to the promise of its title at all. We get a couple of scenes in which Clark and Bruce get catty with one another, followed by a rather brief battle between the two which is cleared up relatively quickly.
This isn’t Batman V Superman, it’s Batman Fights Superman Briefly. Never once does the film try to build upon the idea of two godlike heroes waging war upon another. Instead there’s several scenes of hypocritical arguments, concluded by a punch up which lasts for a brief while. By the time the anticipated battle swings into full motion, Bruce finds out Clark’s mum is also called Martha and decides he likes Superman after all (Yes, the whole dispute is cleared up simply because both protagonists’ mums share the same name. What’s more is Bruce decides he’s just going to risk his life to save a person whom he’s never met, all because of one coincidental forename).
The film isn’t really about Batman’s conflict with Superman. Instead, what we have here is Justice League 0.1. Snyder’s got his eye on a future film which the studio has contracted him to make. He’s throwing heroes and villains in the mix, hoping he can get them all ripe and ready in time for the grandiose superhero all-star mashup he’ll someday film.
Which is why we get a climax where Wonder Woman spontaneously turns up for a film she’s not even supposed to be in. The Amazonian Princess pops up from time to time in this film without ever really serving any kind of purpose. She’s just there because, well because she’s going to play a larger part in The Justice League and Wonder Woman. Warner Bros and Snyder want her all set up and established so they can hopefully generate some buzz in the wake of her upcoming Wonder Woman solo flick. Except her presence here is utterly pointless. She comes and goes, only for her to conveniently return during the final moments of the movie so she can punch a monster several times whilst jumping around a CGI-riddled set.
It’s also why we get a disastrously thought out villain in the form of Lex Luthor. This interpretation of Lex isn’t the mad, camp genius of Gene Hackman; nor the troubled, wealthy teen of Michael Rosenbaum; but instead the annoying prat of a joke in the shape of Jesse Eisenberg. As we’re given a glimpse into Luthor’s world, it soon becomes apparent that this version of the character is nothing more than an annoying, self-loving, unlikable caricature of a villain who’s nasty for the sake of being nasty. His motives make absolutely no sense and his logic is pretty much non-existent for the entire runtime of the film.
By the time Doomsday enters the picture, it’s pretty clear that the writers of Batman V Superman are mindlessly penning in one-dimensional baddies in an attempt to beef up an already oversized script. It’s empty, illogical and downright frustrating.
Everything is so poorly plotted and shoehorned in. Nothing here has the slightest hint of a coherent vision or direction. All that’s happening in Batman V Superman is foreshadowing and setting up movies that haven’t yet been made.
What’s worse is it’s all so lazily executed too. Writers force Batman and Superman to fight, only to undo the whole situation with the mention of a single name. Wonder Woman jumps in to lend a hand without having any meaningful place within the film’s narrative. Lex Luthor tries to stop our heroes for no other reason other than he’s “a bad guy”. Doomsday is born from the DNA of Lex because the final act needed a big angry monster to smash things up.
No effort or thought is put into anything. Instead we get three long hours of noise and stuff and meaningless moments.
Batman V Superman is an overlong, steaming pile of horse manure, but that doesn’t mean DC are out of the game just yet. It’s still early days for this expanded universe and although some damage has been made, there’s still time for producers over at Warner Bros to learn from their errors and figure out a way of taking this interwoven universe in an interesting direction. Affleck has yet to tackle his first solo Batman outing (and for what it’s worth, he does pretty well here. He plays a decent Batman in a bad film), plus there’s plenty of talent out there who would jump at the opportunity to work on one of these features.
There’s still chance to make all of this work. Let’s just hope this film is a flawed fault in the DC machine which can be amended with time.