Trailer: Batman vs Superman
Fearing Superman is too powerful left unchecked Batman takes him on, meanwhile a new threat called Doomsday is created by Lex Luthor.
February 12, 2016
BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
M, 151 minutes
Who would win in a fight, the Caped Crusader or the Man of Steel? The issue has been debated in primary-school playgrounds for generations—though given that Batman is merely a well-resourced vigilante, whereas Superman is a virtually indestructible messiah figure from outer space, it’s clear which side the smart money favours.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t take the franchise much further.
Being a Warner Brothers superhero film, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is almost as long-winded as its title, and there’s plenty of business to be got through before the big showdown can occur. Superman (Henry Cavill), alias Metropolis reporter Clark Kent, has to deal with a public backlash following the city-smashing climax of the 2013 Man of Steel, which saw him going one-on-one with the extra-terrestrial General Zod (Michael Shannon, returning here as a prominently-featured corpse).
Batman (Ben Affleck), alias Gotham City billionaire Bruce Wayne, is a horrified witness to this battle, which director Zack Snyder ingeniously restages from a ground-level perspective near the start of the film. This gives young Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), heir to the LutherCorp fortune, the chance to manipulate the pair into taking each other on, in the process working out his daddy issues and exposing the lie that “power can be innocent”.
Structurally Batman v Superman is closely modelled after Christopher Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight, which positioned Christian Bale’s Batman, Heath Ledger’s Joker and Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face at the corners of a similar triangular plot. Both films were co-written by David S. Goyer, whose brand of eccentrically purple dialogue is instantly recognisable—but Snyder fails to achieve anything like the intensity of Nolan’s film, which for better or worse remains the gold standard of “dark” superhero cinema.
Gal Gadot steals the show in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Not only does the storytelling feel cluttered—a recurring issue in comic-book sequels—but the premise turns both protagonists into passive victims who only occasionally get to do anything heroic. The rest of their time is spent navel-gazing and whinging to their respective confidantes, Superman to his endlessly patient girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Batman to his “butler” Alfred, here an all-purpose sidekick played by a gaunt, unshaven Jeremy Irons.
Still, Snyder retains two great advantages over most creators of comic-book cinema: he thinks in images, and he’s unafraid to be corny and absurd. As ever, he’s at his most comfortable recreating iconic scenes which the audience can identify at a glance, pumping them full of portentous significance while inflecting them in unexpected ways.
He can show the death of Batman’s parents in telegraphic form, since we already know the story—and the same shock of recognition is triggered by, say, a close-up of Clark’s glasses, which come off as he and Lois slide into an embrace.
Whinging superheroes: Batman and Superman.
The actors are fine, with one glaring exception. Cavill’s mopey Superman is more than acceptable on the iconic level, though he’s never called on to demonstrate anything like the gentle goofiness which Christopher Reeve brought to the role in the 1970s and ’80s (and which made Superman a more complex figure rather than less).
As for Affleck, the agitation over his casting seems unwarranted given that practically any muscular deep-voiced hunk would do to fill out the Batsuit. Playing Batman essentially means playing Bruce Wayne, and Wayne as conceived here is squarely in Affleck’s comfort zone: smarmy, remote, preoccupied with his legacy.
Eisenberg is the gamble that doesn’t pay off, although you can see what the filmmakers had in mind: he doesn’t directly imitate Ledger’s Joker, but his manic gestures and agitated, squeaky delivery are in the same general vein. The trouble is that Eisenberg, unlike Ledger, isn’t a transformative actor, and struggles to register as anything more menacing than a petulant kid.
With a fraction of the screen time, Gal Gadot’s knowing, Israeli-accented Wonder Woman has much more success at stealing the show: well before the two big guys have settled their differences, she’s already converted the film into a trailer for her own star vehicle coming soon.