One of the most anticipated movies of the year, the film starts with the murder and funeral of Thomas and Martha Wayne as they leave a theatre with their young son, Bruce, with an adult Bruce (Ben Affleck) giving the voiceover narration of how he deals with that incident. The film – thankfully – doesn’t waste time in providing a detailed origin to Bruce Wayne/Batman. The focus then shifts to the climactic Battle of Metropolis in 2013’s Man of Steel (MoS) where Bruce is witness to the havoc Superman’s fight with Zod wreaks on the city. Thereafter, following an incident involving rebels and Superman (Henry Cavill) in an African country that leaves a trail of death and destruction – again – Superman is accused by the government of going beyond boundaries and being reckless. Bruce is convinced from these incidents that Superman is dangerous and must be controlled or defeated, so that humanity is safe. On the other hand, Superman thinks he’s doing the right thing by protecting the general public.
This version of Batman is older – around 41 I guess from the movie’s clues – and has a lot better gadgetry than the one from The Dark Knight Trilogy. He’s also much more brutal with the way he fights criminals and brands them with his bat stamp. The film is essentially a sequel to MoS but the focus is as much on Batman as it is on Superman, maybe a bit more.
The introduction of Lex Luthor makes things interesting. He is scheming and pure evil. I wouldn’t go into the details lest I give away spoilers but he drives a lot of the movie’s action. As for the acting, Jesse Eisenberg is a good actor but I found his socially inept, fast-talking, arrogant young billionaire a bit bland.
He comes across as nervous or comical in scenes which needed him to appear menacing. His stutter when faced with others in a debate or a public forum looked great in the intrepid ‘The Social Network’ but feels hollow here. A social event hosted by him gives a chance for a confrontational first meeting between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent that has sparks flying, fuelling the hype and building anticipation for the title fight.
And therein lies the movie’s problem!
It was always going to be hard for Zack Snyder/Warner Bros (WB) to introduce so many characters in one movie and to also prepare the grounds for the two-part Justice League movie arriving in 2017. And so it proved to be. There are too many passages in the movie that keep catering to the obligatory world-building exercise the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) demanded. If you haven’t heard of the term, don’t worry. That is something most movie audiences might not have heard. It’s the DC/WB’s answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But unlike the MCU, which had a lot many movies to prepare the ground for 2012’s team-up The Avengers , the DCEU tries to do all that in one film, slowing down its pace and making a few things clunky or incoherent for the general audience, who come to the movie to have a jolly good time and watch Batman and Superman go hand-to-hand. That does happen eventually, but it takes almost a 100 minutes (approximately) of the movie’s 151 minute runtime before we see them fight. An appetizer is provided right before the interval break when the two come across each other, suited booted, but decide to postpone the clash, although not without some epic dialogues. Yes, the dialogues are memorable!
One character which steals the show whenever she’s onscreen is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Although her role is limited as compared to the other two, the loudest cheers and whistles in the theatre were reserved for her appearance in full costume. And even in the other scenes, she is suave and teasing. Her back story is also alluded to in the film (again some world-building) but is left to be explored in the Patty Jenkins-directed film coming out in 2018.
The title fight, when it arrives, is an orgasmic moment for fans who have been waiting for decades to watch that happen, in live-action. The fight is well-choreographed and shot – with a bulked-up and armoured Batman and an angry Superman – if a little short. The way the two trade blows is striking to see but it left me a little unsatisfied. Maybe they needed to make that sequence a bit longer because although it’s decisive (yes we do have a winner here!), it isn’t as long as I wished it’d be. Or maybe that’s the fanboy in me writing.
One of the major problems with the film is its tonal quality. It is shown in a grey tinge when showing daytime sequences and is rather dark in the night shots. A need to make a film gritty doesn’t mean it has to be shot dark too. 1974’s Chinatown showed how you can make a Noir film in bright light and still be successful. There’s no reason to unnecessarily show a superhero flick in low-light imagery. All it does is drive general audiences away.
The climactic battle, like most superhero flicks, has lots of explosion and lots of CGI but thankfully, it is better than what we had in MoS. I have a feeling that the ending will be polarising but there’s no doubting its effectiveness. The background score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is amazing, keeping you drawn into the action. Jeremy Irons as Alfred is convincing and strong. The Holy Trinity too look the part and the ending creates a good ground for the rest of the DCEU. If only the whole movie didn’t keep on doing that, we would’ve had a far more satisfying flick on our hands.
Trivia : The movie has tonnes of easter eggs and references and they have been explained on the internet in great detail. You can go over them there. I loved three specifically.
1) Robin’s suit with a spray-painted message from Joker, implying Robin is already dead in this universe.
2) A huge Omega sign on the land in a desert fight sequence that is a nod to Darkseid, who would be the right villain for a Justice League film.
3) Clark Kent wears the same glasses as me, or roundabout. Ha ha.
The first two were shown in the trailers too so I guess I can sleep peacefully that I didn’t spoil the film for anyone.
Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice is Rated U/A and is 151 minutes long. It is now playing in cinemas.
Rating : 3.5/5.