Batman V Superman

30 March 2016 | 7:09 pm | David O’Connell

"As an exercise in storytelling in its own right, the film is muddled."

Loud, bombastic and bold, Batman V Superman cobbles together some of the most well known DC story arcs of the last 30 years (Miller's The Dark Knight Returns being just one of the major influences) into a single script - all in an attempt to play catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a big ask, and in the hands of a subtle director, it may have been just about achievable.

Zack Snyder is not a subtle director.

It is just over a year since Zod's invasion of Earth, and the world still struggles with what to do about Superman (Henry Cavill). Convinced that a being of such power ultimately represents a threat to humanity two industrialists mount separate plans to deal with him. As Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) arms his secretive vigilante identity to deal with the Man Of Steel, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) attempts to force the two heroes towards a fatal confrontation, while building his own monstrous solution.

Despite a lack of understanding of basic character and a reliance on visual style over drama, Snyder is at least a competent director. Here he plasters over the cracks by going big. It is opera, a tale told in bold strokes, about characters that are larger than life. The drag of the first hour-and-a-half of the film, is replaced by a knock-out street brawl for almost the entirety of the third act.

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It is difficult to know what criteria to even judge Batman V Superman. As an exercise in franchise building, it is a success. The stage is set for a host of superhero films to follow, as the Justice League assembles, umm… I mean gathers.

As an exercise in storytelling in its own right, the film is muddled.

Ultimately, it comes back to Snyder still not knowing how to treat Superman. The mistakes of Man Of Steel are repeated here in the portrayal of the character, and Superman gets very little time to actually be the Big Blue Boyscout. Instead he is lumbered with messianic tones, rarely showing the responsibility that both the Kents and the House of El taught him. Batman fairs better with a darker edge, while Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) steals the film with a brief show-stopping appearance.

A film for comic fans that is reliant on a lot of prior knowledge of the subject mater, Batman V Superman is a flashy exercise in world-building that sets the tone for the DCU to follow. 

Originally published in X-Press Magazine