Batman v Superman, film review: ‘Maybe Man of Steel wasn’t so bad after all’

Batman v Superman

Batman v Superman - Credit: Archant

They said of Superman: The Movie, you’ll believe a man can fly. Of Batman v Superman they’ll say you’ll believe that Man Of Steel wasn’t so bad after all.

The problem with Batman vs Superman as a concept is that it is a rigged fight, you already know the outcome.

But that’s never really hurt the world of professional wrestling and BvS is much like a night of wrestle-mania: there’s an hour and a half of bluster and hype before the main event, which turns out to be a pranced approximation of combat.

Batman Vs Superman is one of the most awaited cultural events in recent history, as relentlessly presaged as the new incarnation Top Gear but over a much longer period.

The underwhelming grosses for Man of Steel weren’t even cold when the Brothers Warner announced it was going into production and they have been banging the drum for it relentlessly ever since – usually by announcing daring, controversial, fan baiting casting decisions.

There’s a lot at stake here: with a single bound they are trying to catch up with Marvel, launching an equivalent to The Avengers based on D.C comics Justice League.

It all rather smacked of desperation but now that it is actually here, could you resist being a little bit excited, just a little bit hopeful? Wouldn’t it have been great if it could’ve lived up to its billing?

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The film doesn’t waste a second wrenching the wind from out of those sails, opening with young Bruce Wayne falling into a cave of bats and escorting his parents along a dark alley to an encounter with a murderous mugger.

I don’t think any origins story has been done so often, but doing it again is symptomatic of a film that doesn’t have space to move.

Whichever way it turns it is faced with a choice between paths the audience has walked down any number of times already.

Given its limited options it chooses to try a mean, brooding, adult sensibility, but without a serious thought in its head; it is like Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin blundering around in Dark Knight fancy dress.

Dark is OK if you have something compellingly dark to drive it, but in Synder’s film dark just means the absence of light.

The film talks like it is smart, and floats classical allusions and insinuates that it has something profound to say about religious belief and our fixation on messiahs; but then it undermines itself with a stream of stupid ideas and illogical choices (the worst one being the way the title fight is concluded) that are so absurd you can’t really believe that among all the legions of people that oversaw its making, nobody thought to challenge them.

So all its mean and moody stylings achieve is to take something that was once childish fun and turn it into mirthless, grown up drudgery.

The beginning of the film is also symptomatic of a film that takes pains to outline that which we already know, while failing to properly engage us with what we don’t. There are so many points in the plot that don’t make a great deal of sense.

Early on, after rescuing Lois Lane from a terrorist group, he is then framed for the murder of some of that group who are machined gunned down by assailants unknown.

Why would anyone suspect a superhuman alien of using a machine gun to kill people and why would a nation where many people don’t believe 9/11 attacks were real believe this story?

So how is Ben Affleck’s Batman? There’s not enough evidence to go on here.

We get a lot of his Bruce Wayne but barely see his alter ego in action until the end, and then he is in a special suit that looks like it was ripped from the pages of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

I think this illustrates the flawed concept of the whole project.

This should be the climax of a long sequence of films, not the starting point, and introducing a new incarnation of such a character and then throwing him into this situation just short changes him.

On the evidence here, Batfleck seems solid but not distinctive in the role.

He certainly works better than Jesse Eisenberg as villain Lex Luther. The idea of making him a nerdy young entrepreneur just doesn’t pay off at all, and he is intensely annoying.

One of the most frustrating thing in cinema is when a hero walks into a really obvious trap and the film goes wrong in just about exactly the ways all the naysayers said it would.

We could see this coming, why couldn’t they? Amid all the hysteria about Batfleck and the flat chested Wonder Woman, probably the most obviously bad piece of casting was Jeremy Irons as Alfred the butler.

The Michaels Gough and Caine made something valuable of the role; Irons treats it all with studied disdain and disinterest, experimenting with ways to exacerbate the angle he can look down his nose at it all.

And you knew he would. The surprise is how bad a lot of it looks.

Synder usually makes something with a distinct visual sense but most of this is just a CGI splodge.

There is something rather meta about its plot which has Batman and Superman brought low by a smirking, whiz kid arch manipulator who is nowhere near as intellectual as he thinks he is, working behind the scenes to undermine society and its heroes: Zach Synder is Lex Luther.

Rating: 1/5 stars.