Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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Release date: 25th March 2016/Watch the trailer here

I can’t remember the last time a film left me feeling so conflicted. I saw Batman v Superman on opening day in IMAX 3D and, two days later, I’m still uncertain as to whether or not I actually liked it. I think that I need to see it again in 2D before I can make my mind up, but for now, I’ll attempt to decipher the hectic jumble of thoughts that are floating around my head about this big, beautiful mess of a film and write my honest review.

First of all: I do not like Superman (who does?). I did not enjoy Man of Steel (who did?). I am not a fan of Zack Snyder as a director. The Dark Knight trilogy consists of three of my favourite films, and for a long time I felt very against the idea of another director and another actor tackling my beloved Batman. Despite all of this, I went into Batman v Superman completely unbiased and refusing to allow critics’ negative reviews to sway my judgement in any way.

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The final act of Batman v Superman is spectacular. I walked out of the cinema singing its praises, declaring what a pleasant surprise it was, deciding never to trust a critic’s review again because how could anyone not have enjoyed that? It wasn’t until much later on, when my excitement and exhilaration had died down, that I paused to consider the rest of the film: the two thirds of the film that I had found confusing and, above all else, disappointing.

By the standards of most blockbuster films, I think that Batman v Superman is really very good. But by the high standards set by other superhero films, such as The Dark Knight and The Avengers? It’s weak. The problem is, I expected a film that has been so hyped for so long, that sees the two most famous superheroes in the world facing off, to be well and truly epic. I expected to be gasping and on the edge of my seat for its entirety. I expected to feel something. Aside from the entrance of Wonder Woman (far and away the best moment of the film), there were no ‘WOW’ moments for me in Batman v Superman.

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Ben Affleck, however – despite an overwhelming consensus of ‘NO!’ upon the announcement of his casting – was a pleasant surprise. His Batman is an older, darker soul than we are accustomed to, whose moral compass is skewed after two decades of fighting crime. If anything, Batman v Superman lacked Batman, and gave us too much Superman. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, too, is sorely underused – but at least she gives us a big screen entrance that no one will ever forget, unlike poor Amy Adams as Lois Lane, whose only purpose throughout the film is to get rescued by Superman at every thirty minute interval.

Another casting decision that received criticism from the public was that of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor: many argued that he just isn’t Lex, and truthfully, he’s not. He plays the part like he’s auditioning for the role of the Joker after drinking a few too many Red Bulls.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has many flaws. It’s too long, too dark, too serious. However, all of these issues could be forgiven, if it weren’t for the one, fatal flaw – that the film focuses too much on the Dawn of Justice and not enough on Batman v Superman. The entire film is setting up for the upcoming Justice League films, with cameos and references aplenty. It is clear that DC is making a real effort to create a cinematic universe like that of Marvel, but it has done so at the cost of a clear and concise plot. The narrative of the film is all over the place, jumping from one scene of mindless destruction to the next. This may be a film for the fans, but it is also a film that is targeting a mass demographic, and many audience members will know little more than the names of Batman and Superman. Yet, confusingly, it relies heavily on the comic book knowledge of its audience, and includes far too much dialogue that probably won’t even be explained until the upcoming films in the DC cinematic universe. I appreciate comic book references and Easter eggs as much as the next nerd, but Batman v Superman seems to forget that a large chunk of its audience will primarily be watching to see the titular heroes throw punches at one another.

Is Batman v Superman a bad film? Not at all. Is it enjoyable? Of course it is. But is it the film that the fans deserved? No. If DC had any sense, they would have removed Zack Snyder as the director of the upcoming Justice League films and given us someone who knows how to film a fight scene without destroying a city in the process. Hopefully, the Justice League films and the upcoming solo DC superhero movies will bring clarity to the areas that Batman v Superman confused and correct the parts that it got wrong, but is that really the way it should be?

★★

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