Batman v Superman suffers from poor characterisation of its iconic heroes, and feels like a rushed attempt to set up the DC cinematic universe
Batman v Superman has been met with overwhelming disdain by critics, but just how bad is it? As a fan of Man of Steel and a comic book enthusiast, I am very much part of the intended audience for Batman v Superman. So it comes with a heavy heart to proclaim that the film is indeed a crippling failure. The movie will no doubt be a financial success, but it falls considerably short of living up to the promise of the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world.
The promotional material for the film has not helped its cause. Any slightly astute viewer of the endless glut of trailers released by Warner Bros. would be able to piece together the entire plot of the film. As a result, more giddiness and excitement was elicited from viewing teasers on a laptop months before release, than in the cinema watching the feature itself.
The main criticism of Man of Steel involved the climactic battle between Superman and General Zod, where the buildings and residents of Metropolis were left decimated by a smorgasbord of CGI. It is only right then that the director, Zack Snyder, has purposely attempted to correct said errors, by showing Superman dealing with the consequences of his negligence. Unfortunately, Henry Cavill has little material to work with. Instead of focusing on the inner conflict residing within Kal-El, we see the arrival of Ben Affleck’s Batman. He is a world-weary Bruce Wayne, one that has seen too many villains during his long tenure and won’t allow an alien with the power to wipe out the human race roam free. The announcement of Affleck’s casting was met with unanimous negativity, so the fact that he is the one positive feature of the film is ironic to say the least. His motivations and methods as Batman are different enough from the incarnations of the past, distinguishing himself in this new universe.
The action scenes are no doubt a visual treat, but lack the intrigue and engagement. Jesse Eisenberg is horribly miscast as Lex Luthor, coming across as nothing more than an annoyance, and bearing little resemblance to the character’s true intimidating and menacing roots. The ever-reliable Hans Zimmer also misfires horrendously with his musical contribution. His Man of Steel score is still present and resonates well with the character, but Wonder Woman’s harpy shrill and Luthor’s classical accompaniments are both uninspired. Batman himself is sorely missing a compelling leitmotif. Zimmer was responsible for the seminal theme of The Dark Knight, so asking him to repeat the same magic again was a big ask.
Ultimately, the rushed nature of the project in order to compete with the dizzy heights of The Avengers is a wild mistake. The spectre of Marvel resides heavily over the whole film. Viewers were able to learn about the heroes first, with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor in their own solo adventures. When they finally united, the moment felt earned. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Women suffered most from this issue as she was given sparse development. A solo Wonder Woman film released beforehand would have been of great benefit.
Where the film really deteriorates is the inherently poor storytelling. There are four films within one—a Man of Steel sequel, a Batman introduction film, Batman v Superman (the fight itself lasting only a short period of the running time) and finally, a Justice League setup. Scene after scene goes by with no substantial connective thread to tie together these various plotlines. Simply put, there are too many elements being juggled, and with the addition of dream sequences and flashbacks, the narrative is unnecessarily complicated. With the introduction of so many new characters and the plugging of future films, the end product is overlong and soulless.
A brave and challenging failure would have been acknowledged with more respect than the safe, checklist-ticking approach employed. The film’s biggest offence however, is that it is solely reliant on the iconography of the characters to sell the story and at no point does Batman v Superman ever add to its own glorious mythology.