Enthusiastic director Zack Snyder smashes two American icons together. A mess is made.
Zack Snyder had a dream. He loved reading comic-books, but he loved watching movies too! He wanted to merge his two favourite pastimes by putting comic-book pages on the cinema screen. He practised for years: playing in the sandpits of 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch before inexplicably convincing Warner Brothers to hand him the keys to their Justice League franchise. Zack wanted to make a once-in-a-century cinematic event: pitting Batman against Superman… in 3D! Good Friday, 2016: Zack presents his film to the world. He hasn’t made it easy for himself; keeping millions of people happy: hordes of fans of men both bat and super. Christopher Nolan’s three Dark Knight films, the last of which was released less than 4 years ago, are some of the greatest blockbusters of all time. Ben Affleck’s take on Bruce Wayne was never going to occupy the large gap left by Christian Bale. That said, Snyder’s 2013 Man of Steel was awful enough to lower everyone’s expectations for his DC films significantly. Batman v Superman Colon Dawn of Justice could hardly be worse…
…. and it isn’t! Batman v Superman Colon Dawn of Justice is a far superior piece of superhero filmmaking to the pretentious, too-aggressive Man of Steel. It shares its coldness, sonic incoherence and abundance of abrasive Snyderisms (partial focus, slow-motion, regular cuts to black), but is indisputably more enjoyable. An utter mess, but enjoyably pantomimic. Our villain is Lex Luthor, portrayed by a Jesse Eisenberg to whom restraint is a foreign language. Unlike Man of Steel‘s wooden General Zod or- for that matter- Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Eisenberg’s Lex is a real scheming evildoer: most audiences will likely find him repulsively irritating, but his deranged energy is welcome in such a murky feature. Jeremy Irons, Scoot McNairy and Holly Hunter are other welcome newcomers, but the most notable addition to the cast is -of course- Ben “Batfleck” Affleck. He’s got the frown, he’s got the jaw and he’s got… very little to do. The Batman of Dawn of Justice is oddly indistinctive. He comes and goes, he shouts and he punches, but he never truly feels like the legendary cultural icon he is. This isn’t Affleck’s fault; Chris Terrio and David S Goyer’s script is painfully mediocre and undeserving of both cast and premise. Superman, operated once again by Brick Wall Henry Cavill, speaks few sentences that don’t include the phrase “My Wurld” referring alternately to Lois Lane (Amy Adams), his mother (Diane Lane) and his actual world: KRYPTON! All the best dialogue belongs to Eisenberg and Irons, and the majority of this was used in the trailers (some of the best film trailers in recent memory, it must be noted). But a film called Batman v Superman shouldn’t be defined by its spoken word. What about the FIGHTING??
The central fight between the men of bat and super lasts mere minutes, and ends on a relatively bum note. It leads into the film’s real final smackdown, which pulls Gal Gadot’s superbly-realised Wonder Woman into the fun. This comes after approximately 2 hours of set-up, with Snyder determined to justify the conflict between our two warring heroes. But their war isn’t much worth talking about. Pacing-wise, Dawn of Justice is a catastrophe. The action-light middle act is, while a pleasant surprise for violence-shy folks, guaranteed to bore a proportion of the audience into a coma. The decision to lump all the bombast into one extensive final sequence (if 45 or so minutes can be called a “sequence”) shows a distinct lack of awareness of why most people didn’t like Man of Steel very much: Dawn of Justice‘s opening scene of Bruce Wayne suffering the collateral damage of that film’s Superman-v-Zod battle is diluted by a later moment when Superman is assaulted by a giant CGI monster wielding a memorial monument to the civilians killed during said 2013 battle.
Dawn of Justice‘s aim to address political and philosophical debate is admirable but ham-fisted. Snyder counterbalances the use of stark baroque art to explore Superman’s role in humanity’s existence with a clip of Neil deGrasse Tyson telling the audience what to argue about. Subtlety was never Zack Snyder’s strong suit, but some of the fake news footage in Dawn of Justice takes low-brow exposition to new levels.
Realism, wit and artistic innovation discounted, what does Batman v Superman Colon Dawn of Justice have to offer? It has a decent Batman, a satisfactory Superman, reasonable gender politics, a ton of fan-service easter eggs (including the fairly lazy introduction of iconic DC characters through the viewing of videos on a computer) and an ear-shattering score that may be one of Hans Zimmer’s worst (be it a collaboration with the man known as “Junkie XL”). Unashamedly messy but as solidly built as its heroes’ physiques, Snyder’s film fills a space in the economically-motivated American cultural landscape sufficiently and without causing offence. Unless one is offended by the mere title Batman v Superman Colon Dawn of Justice, in which case this film probably isn’t for you.