Writer: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane
Running time: 150mins
What’s the story: Two years after the events of Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne has declared war on Superman. After deaths in a rescue mission in Africa are blamed on him, the rest of the world is also split between seeing Superman as a saviour or threat. Elsewhere Lex Luthor has gained access to General Zod’s spaceship and his body. For what reasons? And who is that mysterious woman hampering Bruce’s investigation into Luthor?
What’s the verdict: We now live in a world where Batman & Robin is the second worst Batman film. Fox Studios’ Fantastic 4 no longer lays claim to the title Worst Superhero Film of Recent Years. And Christopher Nolan presumably weeps when he sees the hatchet job inflicted on his Dark Knight.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an unholy mess. The above plot synopsis is gleaned partly from what occurs onscreen, partly from what you imagine writers David S. Goyer & Chris Terrio and “visionary” director Zack Snyder intended.
Misshapen story oozes between the logic cracks. Truncated, choppy scenes desperately try to juggle poorly established plot threads and set up events for those Justice League movies Warner Brothers is impatient to release.
Banishing any pace, suspense, character or wit to the Phantom Zone, all that remains is a punishingly extended series of set-pieces bereft of excitement.
And for a film seemingly big on characters’ tortured inner-selves (Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill barely display any other expressions than “brood, grimace, scowl” and dream sequences tumble over each other) not a single character is sufficiently developed to care who wins or even who dies.
Depressingly, Zack Snyder again insists on making a superhero film that owes more to 9/11 imagery and terrorism paranoia than it does to the source material. Batman v Superman’s visual inspiration appears to be Zero Dark Thirty and it’s far less fun than that film.
Jettisoning any notion that these characters might represent wish-fulfilment and idealisms, instead we are presented with Affleck and Cavill joylessly trudging through bleak, destructive events, espousing jaundiced world views, while the deafening soundtrack futilely tries to mask the sound of plot gears grinding as the story struggles to be told.
Expect plenty of head-scratching before the final credits, including a bizarre desert sequence so shonky it implodes all logic and does not even pay-off at the climax, seemingly laying the groundwork for some as yet unproduced movie.
Superman has optimism replaced with dialogue such as “No-one stays good in this world”. Affleck’s Batman ruinously rejects the character’s anti-killing pro-gun control beliefs by mowing down goons with a relish that makes him more Big Daddy from Kick-Ass than Caped Crusader.
Elsewhere, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an ill-advised, career wobbling mash-up between his Social Network’s Mark Zuckerberg and Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Jeremy Irons’ Alfred, Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White and Amy Adams’ Lois Lane are present merely to add star wattage to the dimly lit film.
Ham-fisted themes of gods vs men, literal illegal aliens and civil liberties feel tacked on to lend the gossamer story substance.
Riding alongside the bleak tone and ugly visuals is Snyder’s Michael Bay-sized love of military hardware and crunching violence. The climactic, titular smackdown is dispiriting in its brutality and for the perfunctory way it’s wrapped up, allowing the two “heroes” to battle Doomsday, the big monster ruined in the trailer.
Amidst the rubble of dashed hopes and the broken bones of expectation, is there anything good to be gleaned from the 150 long minutes of screen time?
An opening recap of Man of Steel’s climax, told from Bruce Wayne’s ground level view, is well executed. The decision to have Batman’s growly voice produced via an in-suit microphone is a rare sliver of humour.
And Gal Gadot is wondrous as Wonder Woman, despite brief screen time. Lively, feisty, the only one looking like she’s having a good time and given a character theme that socks the rest of Hans Zimmer’s score over the horizon, Gadot’s scenes electro-shock the film into semi-consciousness.
Even when she’s having to watch teaser trailers for The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, coming soon to a film near you (dependent on how well this does).
After years of waiting and hoping, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stumbles onto screen as a colossal failure. Captain America: Civil War, time to show ‘em how it’s done.