Heroes collide in the
greatest glummest gladiator match in history. Here’s our spoiler-free verdict on Batman V Superman…
A lot was riding on Batman V Superman – an entire franchise to be exact, as DC hurriedly tries to catch up with Marvel’s steady build-up of a cinematic universe by throwing everything into one film. When you think of it in those terms, then, the odds were that it wasn’t going to be particularly satisfying. Sadly, that is indeed the case.
The biggest fault of BvS is that it just doesn’t have any real story to tell. Instead, it feels like you are watching a to-do list being ticked off. Show Batman’s origins: Check. Get him to fight Superman: Check. Big punch-up at the finale: Check. This would explain why motives and character development are virtually non-existent – the apex of this comes in the film’s most derided scene, as the fight of the title ends very (almost comically) abruptly.
There are some intelligent themes and ideas struggling to get out, though. For instance, the discussion of superhero accountability (EDIT: it turned out Captain America: Civil War did this a lot better) and the attempt to depict what it really would be like if a Superman did exist. These are so under-explored, however, that they should either have been worked in more concretely or just taken out all together.
There also seems to be a core misunderstanding of its central characters. Personal confession: I know Batman much more than I do Superman, so my main gripe in this area is the murderous, terrifying and clearly near-insane version of the Dark Knight that we see here. The intention is that this is a Batman who has been driven to these extremes by previous tragedies, but as we have not seen these we are left just thinking this guy is a maniac and that Supes is right to want to stop him. Likewise, the Man of Steel never feels like a great hero – it comes across like he doesn’t really want to save people but, you know, he’s got all these powers so he might as well give it a go.
There absolutely are some positives to the film, however. Whatever you say about his deficiencies in the storytelling department, director Zack Snyder knows how to frame a shot as BvS produces many a memorable visual. The Superman statue with the ‘False God’ graffiti. The messianic Superman reaching out to those in need. The whole fight scene where Bats and Supes go at it in the pouring rain.
Many of the actors also acquit themselves well. Batman might be a hulking brute in costume, but as Bruce Wayne Ben Affleck plays him as a sort of tragic James Bond, which is perfect for the character. Gal Gadot also illuminates the screen whenever she’s around, which bodes well for her solo movie. Oh, and more from Jeremy Irons’ Alfred next time around would be great.
So, though this certainly could have gone better, all hope isn’t lost for the nascent DCEU. If Warner Bros sort out a few of these problems before next time, we might be about to see the dawn of these characters being done justice.