View From The Day – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

2016

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fishburne

Words: J. Harris

Batman v Superman was always going to have a tricky birth, having comic book stories of various incarnations in decades gone by (our title characters have met many times before), and becoming one of the most anticipated superhero movies to take a slice out of the domination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this film had hype only exceeded by its expectation.

The duties of director for this feature fall to Zack Snyder, whos previous credits include overseeing Henry Cavill in Superman’s previous outing in Man of Steel, where the Dawn of Justice story here follows.

We start with the unfolding climax of Man of Steel where Zod battles with Superman for the fate of the earth, but from the perspective on the ground through Bruce Wayne, where the city receives widespread destruction and collateral damage with thousands of lives lost. It’s after this that the world becomes a place divided in their view of Superman – to some, he is revered as a god, to others an alien menace who has brought nothing but uncertainty to our world. Bruce Wayne falls into the latter, and following the events with Zod is enraged to reprise his Batman alter-ego, fearing the consequences of a god-like alien being left unchecked.

There are several intertwining stories here:
The People vs Superman – where after witnessing the widespread destruction brought to Earth the questions, Who is he? and What does he stand for? are being called for answers.
Clark Kent (the journalist) vs Batman – desperate to uncover the mystery of the masked vigilante and expose him for the criminal he feels he is.
Lex Luthor vs Superman – an original villain and superhero story.
Then of course we have the clash between our title characters.

The problem here is that this develops a central flaw with the film – an incoherent story.
Throughout the film we go back and forth in time through flashbacks, witness dream sequences / visions of an alternate reality, see the introduction of new characters (sometimes in a slightly confusing manner, but paving the way for forthcoming Justice League adventures), and see comic book story references that can only really be made sense of by someone who is more than the average fan – all of which feels slightly exhausting.

This was a method followed by Zack Snyder as director of a previous comic book superhero film, Watchmen, not playing to type and feeling the need to go into an action sequence every 10 minutes, and instead spending time on the Who? What? and Why? with the story and its characters.

Unfortunately with Batman v Superman there’s just so much ground to cover that the overall film does not sit neatly together (there really is potentially 3 separate films here).
There’s a lot of promise with the story of Superman and his struggle with how he is both loved and feared by the world he seeks to protect, manipulated by Lex Luthor behind the scenes, with Batman embodying the extreme in people’s fears in what Superman is and what he can do, but it’s drowned out amongst secondary plot elements seemingly there to give supporting characters a purpose (Lois Lane’s investigation set in motion from an experimental bullet, being one).

When we do get to the films climax with the battle royale between our two main protagonists, we see Lex Luthor unleash Doomsday and spark an almost hyper-sized out of this world battle that you’re just waiting to be over rather than hanging on every moment.
However it’s during this where we see Gal Gadot make the much anticipated Wonder Woman character all her own – after we watch Bruce Wayne previously encounter and try to uncover the mystery surrounding her, it’s her participation in the final battle that leaves us eagerly awaiting a solo outing.

There are some good moments in the film – notably a surprisingly brutal sequence where Batman takes on a warehouse full of hardened criminals in the rescue of Martha Kent, leaving you almost wishing there was more solo action in Batman handing out his own brand of justice.
There’s a great supporting cast, with Amy Adams returning to her role as Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White (chief of the Daily Planet and boss of Clark Kent), and Jeremy Irons as Bruce Waynes faithful, Alfred – the character here being more like Q in James Bond, rather than a billionaires butler.
Jesse Eisenberg brings a new take on Lex Luthor, a more wired and energetic persona which at times does genuinely feel sinister, and there’s something about Ben Affleck that suits the role of a multibillionaire businessman, at the same time displaying an embittered and angry side needed for the Batman alter-ego, and Henry Cavill once again plays a convincing Superman – he has the look, stature and presence the role of the iconic character requires.
Seasoned soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer is alongside Junkie XL (producer of the Deadpool and Mad Max: Fury Road soundtracks), bringing the essential score to a movie of this scale.

It’s worth reiterating that this story takes place in the world following the events in Man of Steel, and not The Dark Knight Rises – a link between these stories is misplaced, as The Dark Knight Trilogy and the version of Batman we see here exist in completely different worlds.
Christopher Nolan’s trilogy tells a grand story, linked together, then bringing everything to an end. A comparison could be made against the expansive story in the final part of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises – with Talia Al Ghul, Catwoman, Bane and the League of Shadows, John ‘Robin’ Blake, Bruce Wayne’s broken back, an entire city police force trapped in the sewers, the story feels exhaustive and has so many elements to it, but is told as a finale drawing a trilogy to a close.
Batman v Superman isn’t so much a Batman film, or a Superman movie, but the beginning of what will become the Justice League.

There is a good film in here, unfortunately the story is just too extensive, feeling as though the clash between the title characters and a more streamlined account of events that lead up to it would have been enough, without the multiple side stories and markers planted for future movies.

This isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t great.
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Perhaps unsurprisingly, Batman v Superman was a big talking point at Reel Steel HQ, and as such we have another analysis from one of our writers, which can be viewed by clicking >here<
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