Just got back from watching Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and thought I’d throw down my thoughts – spoilers ahead so if you don’t want to know what’s going on in the film, don’t read past the picture below.
Picking up 18 months after Man of Steel, BvS finds Ben Affleck’s Batman really pissed off at Superman, blaming him for the death and destruction that rained down on Metropolis at the end of MoS and you can’t help but agree with him. He and Lex Luthor (separately) are looking for ways to take Superman down, Batman because he sees him as a threat to humanity, Luthor because he sees him as a threat full stop. Because Luthor’s crazy, though, he goes about framing Superman, trying to make the world view him as a bad guy which, in his mind, will justify putting him down. When Batman steals Luthor’s kryptonite, it forces him to experiment with the corpse of General Zod and grow his own Doomsday creature. Batman, meanwhile, uses the kryptonite to forge various weapons in the forthcoming battle against Superman. Luthor, having worked out who Superman is, kidnaps his mother and uses her as leverage to make him fight Batman, a fight that goes in the Bat’s favour until the two heroes make friends and team up to take down Doomsday. And then Wonder Woman appears and helps out until Superman sacrifices himself, dying as he kills Doomsday.
Affleck’s Batman, despite the internet melting down a couple of years ago when it was announced, is excellent . . . if you ignore his willingness to use guns and kill bad guys. He looks the part and carries it off easily, both as the Bat and Bruce Wayne. Cavill’s Superman is less engaging as he just seems to spend most of the time frowning or being perplexed. Gadot’s Wonder Woman, what little time we have with her, is interesting and formidable, but we don’t learn enough about her to really engage.
The film is overly long, stumbling from one action scene to another and while those fight scenes are done well, they all tend to blur into one after a while. Batman is plagued throughout with dreams that appear to foretell a future conflict – fans will identify parademons and Darkseid’s omega symbol but casual film goes will be left wondering what that’s all about – but it’s never addressed as to why Batman should be having those visions. He’s not exactly a psychic.
There are glimpses of other DC properties . . . sorry, characters that will appear in later films: Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg all get a moment or two of screen time with the Flash’s appearance in the Batcave the most intriguing. He appears to Bruce Wayne apparently having travelled from the future with a warning that Batman “was right about him all along” and that “Lois Lane is the key”. It’s possible the Flash is referring to Superman but there’s no guarantee.
One of the things that annoyed me most about Man of Steel was the wanton destruction of Metropolis – there’s at least three mentions in BvS of the areas the huge fights are taking place in either being empty or abandoned. It’s as though the writers or director wanted to reassure people this time round that all those buildings that come crashing down don’t mean a massive loss of life. Talking of which, Superman is held to account early on for the destruction of Metropolis . . . or at least there’s an attempt to do so before the senate hearing is destroyed by Lex Luthor. And after that, it’s never mentioned again.
It’s something of a sprawling mess of a story – even the titular fight between the two heroes could have been avoided if Superman had simply started by saying “Luthor’s playing us; he’s kidnapped my mother and will kill her in an hour. Let’s team up and defeat him.” Instead, he gets angry and he and Batman beat the shit out of each other for a while until Superman – about to be impaled on a kryptonite spear by Batman – implausibly refers to his mother by her first name which, by coincidence, is also the first name of Batman’s mother. Suddenly, they’re all friends and off they go to fight Luthor and then Doomsday.
It’s not terrible but it is very patchy. The good bits are good, the rest is just drawn out and doesn’t really add anything. It’s also unrelentingly dark and washed out, just like Man of Steel and the two or three attempts at one liners fall flat. It’s not fun or inspiring at all. I’ve deliberately not read any reviews until seeing it this morning and now writing this, but even a cursory glance at the net when looking for the image at the top of the page seems to show the rest of the world may not be as forgiving as me.
Cue the internet prophesying the demise of DC’s cinematic universe in three . . . two . . .