Batman and Superman in the same movie – entering the cinema, audiences will be hoping for the best superhero film they’ve ever seen. They will be disappointed. This isn’t just the story of Bruce Wayne trying to get revenge on Superman for the destruction of Metropolis during 2013’s Man of Steel (also directed by Zack Snyder). No, there is much more going on, with subplots involving the supervillian Lex Luthor, journalist Lois Lane and Wonder Woman. Herein lies the downfall of this promising movie: there is just too much going on, perhaps inevitable with a movie trying so hard to kick-start a franchise.
Not everything is poor though. By far the film’s best feature is two-time Oscar winner Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and he plays the part brilliantly, excelling at both aspects of this iconic role. He’s paired fantastically with another great performance, Jeremy Irons as eccentric butler Alfred Pennyworth, this time with a more active role than Michael Caine was perhaps capable of. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman holds her own between Batman and Superman, but doesn’t have enough screen time to have any depth to her character – nonetheless, it’s a promising start for a character whose solo outing will release next year. Returning from Man of Steel are Henry Cavill and Amy Adams as the duo of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and neither actor offers anything particularly fresh from their performances in that film.
Jesse Eisenberg’s casting as Lex Luthor was a controversial one when announced and it is clear to see why. His performance as the harsh but likeable Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network showed his acting prowess, however in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice he is reduced to exaggerating that performance ten-fold until it becomes annoying. It’s not threatening, like a villain should be, or even mischievous: Eisenberg creates a twitching, mumbling and irritating Lex Luthor that is by far the worst part of the film. Zack Snyder’s direction was criticized for Man of Steel but his usually over-the-top, emotionless action seems restrained here which is good to see.
Nonetheless, the main fault with this film lies with the script. The first ten minutes are glorious, with a lot of it harking back to Christopher Nolan’s masterful Batman Begins, however when the different plots are introduced the movie becomes a mess. There are at least four smaller stories within the greater clash of the titans as promised in the title; two of these could have been removed immediately in editing. Furthermore, at 151 minutes it’s far too long, and at around 90 minutes the audience really starts to feel it – there are too many plots taking place when all you want to see is the promised faceoff.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a terrible film, and when the two titans finally fight it’s definitely entertaining. There’s just too much here to fit into one film, and the end result is an unfocussed, messy experience made worse by a terrible villain. But its box office success means there will definitely be more Justice League ahead – so let’s see where this franchise takes us.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures