Zack Snyder returns to the DC cinematic universe with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the hype for its release has been exponential since its announcement in 2013. A follow up to Snyder’s Man of Steel, BVS marks to start of a yearly Justice League franchise and sets the pace for DC’s movie legacy. While elements of the movie are groundbreaking, BVS ultimately falls flat and fails to live up to the hype, but whether its successors will do the same remains to be seen.
Henry Cavill reprises his role as the righteous wonder-boy Superman and Ben Affleck takes up the mantle of the Dark Knight in a much grittier superhero movie than we’ve seen before. Also featuring Gal Godot as Wonder Woman, BVS follows up the devastating events of Man of Steel which saw the destruction of Metropolis by Kryptonian invader General Zod. Now, Superman must face the consequences of his actions and consider whether the world really needs him. Bruce Wayne, Gotham City’s eccentric playboy billionaire and secretly Batman, is among the victims of Superman’s consequential destruction, and vows to stop him at all costs. A number of DC’s well known comic book characters weigh in, including Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who seeks to gain knowledge of the mysterious Kryptonite and assume control of Superman. Pitting him against Gotham’s brutal masked avenger, we see the two forces clash in a dramatic fight that answers once and for all: who will win.
There are some moments in BVS that live up to its great expectations. Among the highlights are Jeremy Irons’s portrayal of Alfred, Batman’s trusted accomplice and family butler. There is definitely a sense the two have been at it for a long time and their on-screen chemistry is engaging. Something Snyder’s captures very well is the inner turmoil of the Dark Knight; flashbacks of his parents’ murder haunt Bruce Wayne as he avenges the injustices of the world. Batman’s character in this film is given the perfect amount of back story, setting him up well for the films to come, and Affleck delivers a good performance, if not everyone’s cup of tea. Cavill delivers a convincing Superman, but still there is no development of his secret identity Clark Kent, who is essentially reduced to a cameo. Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman is perhaps the finest character in this film, and although her screen time isn’t considerably long she is set up nicely for the rest of the cinematic franchise. The most interesting performance, however, is in Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. A different character entirely to the portrayals of Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey, he is both interesting and detestable.
Unfortunately, BVS is a convoluted mashup of characters and story lines. Scenes are short and hard to follow, and the overall pace of the movie is questionable. Half the time BVS feels like a Batman standalone; other times a Man of Steel sequel; not quite a Lex Luthor origin story, not quite a Wonder Woman stand alone. There is no consistency, and while Snyder creates a distinct look he has failed deliver a coherent story. Characters often feel crammed in, and other times BVS’s main heroes seem like polar opposites to their cherished comic book depictions.
BVS: DoJ begs the question whether it was worth pitting Batman against Superman in the first place. Moments of awesomeness are few and far between; there are some, but they are scattered and easily forgotten. With a lacklustre story and confusing premise, Snyder fills DC’s cinematic void with more questions and hardly any answers. The Justice League heroes are teased in this movie but, ultimately we’ll have to wait a long time to see them in action. If nothing else, Gal Godot as Wonder Woman in her upcoming standalone is shining ray of hope after a disappointing start to DC’s cinematic universe.
– Oliver Cobb