I went into this with reduced expectations, which helped. After a very so-so ‘Man Of Steel’, controversial director Zack Snyder continues his DCEU exploration by bringing in another name to garner global interest and market the film; Batman. With a critical mauling on one side and fan praise on the other, I sat on the fence with little to know comic book knowledge to take this film for what many general audiences will take it as – entertainment with two of the greatest heroes ever created.
I apologise if this goes on, but clocking in over 2 and a half hours is long enough to process a big film such as this, but when it is so crammed full of ideas and set-ups and characters, it’s more hard than normal to make sense of everything, but I have no burning desire to go back for another viewing to take it all in again.
On the whole, it’s a film with good ideas but is badly executed. The negatives outweigh the positives, and my negatives I feel aren’t excuses to knock the film because I wanted nothing more than to love Batman and Superman on screen together. Is it Snyder’s fault the film stumbles? No. Is it Afflecks? No. Cavills? No. Zimmers? No. I’m blaming no-one specifically and this isn’t a review of hate.
Ben Affleck needs a solo Batman film to show us what he can do. He can’t eclipse Christian Bale or even Michael Keaton on the basis of a film where he doesn’t get the chance to shine as Batman very much. His Bruce Wayne may be a refreshing mature and established billionaire businessman-cum-vigilante, but like previous incarnations of Wayne/Batman, we fail to really connect with Affleck. I don’t want another origin story, and enough here was given for us to feel comfortable with him, but I wanted more time to explore his character; his demons; his relationships with Alfred (a wasted Jeremy Irons) and others.
The first time we literally glimpse his Batman was one of the best moments; echoing all I know of Batman and what he should be, it was nothing but eerie and tense. You hear noises but can’t see him, there is no glaring soundtrack, there is no sweeping CGI – it’s like a horror film and my heart pounded like the police man searching for “it” or “the demon”. Affleck deserves more time to show us why this crime fighter instils fear into criminals, because here he didn’t get much chance. From a very lazy and abrupt car chase, to the showdown with Superman for all of 10 minutes and then the OTT finale, Batman came across as useless compared to Superman, but then shines in a brief moment, but then falls again, and in a CGI heavy finale he looks useless compared to the CG super-human heroes and villains. Batman looked redundant which was a shame.
Henry Cavill, still with the acting ability of a crumpet but a beefcake body that is oddly distracting and very much super-human in his skin-tight suit is probably a good enough Superman/Clark Kent for this generation of dark, broody superhero films but god…he’s getting the wrong material to shine. His brow looks permanently creased, and even when he’s saving people from burning buildings he looks pained and depressed – for a man who should radiate hope , this Superman radiates misery even more than before. I get the world is confused about if he’s good or bad, but for 2 films now Superman is becoming the Batman we don’t need alongside our Batman we already have.
Every hero it seems now needs to be more human than ever, to struggle and stumble and have demons. Let Batman be that man – let Superman be the shining, square jawed and resilient hero he should be! I was so sad to hear only the melancholy piano motif from ‘Man Of Steel’ return and not the triumphant burst of strings and drums to signal his heroic standing. Let him have time to brood away from the public, that’s fine, even Christopher Reeve’s Superman did that, but Cavill is always looking sad and pissed off or constipated that I just…well, it was frustrating to watch and fail to invest in which meant I didn’t care for him very much. Not his fault I know. He’s not been given the treatment he deserves.
And THIS is where Gal Gadot surprised me in her little screen time as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman. She was the superhero Batman and Superman didn’t get the chance to be. She shows up in a rather pleasing outfit that she looks stunning in, and dishes out justice with her sword, shield, bracelets and lasso. Hell, she even grins to herself in battle! She is an assault on not just the enemy but our senses; she’s jumping, sliding, sliding, defending, the lot. Wonder Woman won me over and she came across the best hero of the 3 and just did what a superhero should do. No pained backstory or anything (well, to be explored in her own film which is how it should be), but she looks gorgeous and alluring to create that mystery to her, and then BOOM – becomes the hero who is going to go from strength to strength.
I’ll try avoid a run over each character; Jesse Eisenberg was a very irritating Lex Luthor with no menace or threat to him at all following recent DC villains like General Zod, The Joker and Bane. He achieves everything by luck and just happens to know the right people to get what he needs without much explanation, and his “quirky instability” is just down right annoying. Stop trying to be a Heath Ledger Joker. It didn’t work.
Our supporting cast do what we expect- just be there to push the story and give Bruce and Clark their stepping stones. Amy Adams is more a damsel in distress than ever, Laurence Fishburne is great fun and I’d like more of him, Diane Lane has a small return as Martha Kent and newcomer Jeremy Irons has a good streak of Bruce Wayne-weary attitude as Alfred, but only comes over as a handyman and technical genius; the Q for Batman’s 007. I’d have liked to see their relationship more than just what takes place in the Batcave or over video links.
With the main crux of our headline characters above driving the whole film, the pacing was very off. The first hour was Bruce and Clark which was a little boring at times and had little urgency to it, and then when we do have the “greatest event in superhero cinema” of Batman v Superman, it’s over in 10 minutes. It’s the highlight of their interaction together; brutal, bold and a blast. Very well-choreographed (if convenient with everything working to Batman’s advantage), but ends on a fizzle with 2 years’ worth of rage and anger towards Superman being dissolved in a second by Batman. It was a very quick resolution to the previous hour and half from being near enemies to the next second strong allies with no middle ground. Ok. Rushing on to get to the next CGI action scene I guess! Even their first encounter was a little under-whelming, all of which we'd seen in trailers/TV spots. And even then Superman looked more like a pissy teen fending off a love rival for a girl.
The finale just bored me as it turned into a CGI noise fest – loud, frantic, and destructive. Like a slick video game cut-scene like ‘The Avengers’ or ‘Man Of Steel’, but at least I could see that as they were taking place in the daytime. Stories from Batman and Superman comics that I’ve read about have been blended and used in this film to its own failing – giving us too much too soon. Why cram everything in so early in the formation of the Justice League and use major stories and characters if they are over in the space of 20 minutes? From what I understand, lots of moments where hinted or used here that should be have been kept or continued going forward.
Dark and gritty, a phrase getting used too much for everything now, was not just the theme of the film but also the lighting and colour. Most of the action takes place at night, or dusk, or in dark buildings and I for one was annoyed as I wanted to appreciate Batman and Superman for how they looked and the detail of their iconic costumes and world they lived in, but it was so dark and gloomy they all blended into the shadows. Dark greys, blacks, blues and reds. I don’t want camp, and those people who lash out when people say films can be TOO dark prove their lack of understanding if they think a superhero film can’t have good lighting so you as a general film fan can appreciate and see everything on screen! It was far too dark, in general. And as stated before, Superman is becoming as broody and menacing as Batman. It was Wonder Woman who injected the superhero fun in this – actually enjoying what she was doing, and THAT sort of fun is what I want to see. Not prat falls and bad jokes.
Snyder is a passionate director but to me he’s shoe-horned so much material in to compensate what should have been 5-6 years’ worth of film development into a 2.5hr film. 3 future Justice League member cameos that last 10 seconds or less each that are just there for that reason; quickly planting them in your head. Why didn’t DC and Warner Brothers get the established films first? It’s frustrating stuff. The soundtrack I found very so-so also, I couldn’t pinpoint a clear theme for Batman or Superman and that was sorely missed for a superhero to be without a theme. Only Wonder Woman – again – excelled and had a recognisable and powerful theme to accompany her.
*rubs temples*
It’s a frustrating film with so much promise and so much front loaded marketing in trailers that you may expect more, but are given less. Time isn’t wasted, but it’s not used well and pacing is very sloppy. Many times did I feel Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ influence here which made me miss his direction more, because Affleck deserved a better introduction than this. It was GOOD, but not what he deserved. Cavill just needs better material and understand the character more. Gadot needs to keep doing what she’s doing. As for the rest of the Justice League introduced? I couldn't care less, because they were simply shoe-horned in and it shows.
At parts it was predictable, and should have ended 10mins before it did. The ending was different than what I expected, but lacked any real lingering impact on the basis of what is to come. I wanted to like it more, but I couldn’t. As a general film fan, it had a few good moments, but also had lots of bad that I didn’t care for. And as a fan of movie Batman since 1989 and movie Superman since 1978, this makes me sad.