Batman v Superman has received much critical analysis and I thought I would offer my opinions having viewed the film. Plot spoilers will follow so do not read on if you wish to retain your own enjoyment of the movie.
Firstly, let’s start with ‘Man of Steel’, Zack Synder’s first foray into the film world with Superman upon which sets the scene for this second movie. Whilst it proved divisive I didn’t mind it too much but questioned why there was a need for yet another retelling of Superman’s origins beside legal reasoning. That feeling resurfaced in the early stages of Batman v Superman as yet again we see another retelling of the demise of Bruce Wayne’s parents and the imagery of a young Master Wayne engulfed by bats. This is an early indicator of how grim the tone of the tale is going to be with no lighter moments whatsoever in the entire two and a half hour experience. However, the purpose of this movie is clear, to set up a ‘Justice League’ release to rival Marvel’s Avengers series. The subtitle ‘Dawn of Justice’ obviously alludes to the Justice League and curiously much of the publicity included the fact that Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, also featured in the movie. Perhaps this was a deliberate method used by the studios of avoiding spoilers by broadcasting spoilers themselves. It’s title also broadcasts the plot as it can be easily concluded that there would be at least one epic battle between Batman and Superman. However, that creates many of the flaws that hamper the film.
Superman is one of the most difficult characters in fiction because he is so powerful, the impervious ‘man of steel’ means that any effective drama necessitates that he loses his power and therefore Kryptonite is needed to make his battle with the merely human Batman competitive. Similarly, Ben Affleck’s Batman requires an armoured suit so as to withstand the blows delivered by the son of Krypton and his descent into paranoia regarding the supposed danger presented by Superman muddies the water even further. Viewers are subjected to confusing hallucinations or dream sequences that emphasize his paranoia with no real indicator as to why it has been triggered other than one of the more intriguing areas that the film does explore, the human toll taken by citywide destruction caused by battling superheroes. Similarly, Superman’s reasoning for disliking Batman, triggering the inevitable conflict, is wafer thin in construction and is easily dismissed by the simple coincidence of both heroes mother’s sharing a first name.
The alien Kryptonite element centres around Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, a frankly hideous portrayal, spouting nonsensical verbal diarrhoea in an attempt to convey the character’s lunacy. Similarly suffering from the story is Lois Lane, often pointed to as a beacon to other media of how to portray female characters as strong-willed and empowering. Instead, Lois is reduced to the role of ‘damsel in distress’ not once but thrice, Superman’s ‘spidey-sense’ tingling whenever his beloved is in danger no matter where on the planet she is. In contrast Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman is strong, an aging caped crusader no longer at his peak and given more room to strike up an entertaining relationship with Jeremy Irons as Alfred and it seems only a matter of time before a stand alone Batfleck-flick is released. Hopefully, it will be a lot tighter in construction than this film’s effort.
It is a shame that the film disappoints because underneath the effects-heavy bravado is a fascinating story which questions how the elevation of Superman to that of a God has the potential to divide humanity. This is based on the fear that if this all powerful alien chose to he could wipe out the residents of planet Earth. Similarly, as he is defined as an American icon where does his jurisdiction end and what of the costs of his actions, particularly to the human lives affected and even those ended? Sadly, that line of questioning is swiftly disposed of as more destructive battles drag out the run-time even further with an invented Kryptonian monster used to unite the warring caped heroes with the randomly introduced Wonder Woman so as to set up the Justice League movies to follow.
There is one line in the film where Perry White states categorically that “Nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman”, which if true would not bode well for the box office takings. With the extraordinary number of superhero movies being released over the forthcoming years, from Marvel and DC, it is a concern that suddenly the bubble might burst and viewer apathy might take hold as they tire of the endless genre with little that is new and fresh to draw the attention. Unfortunately, films which miss the mark like this one might bring forward this apathy sooner than should be the case.