“God vs. man. Day vs. night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of mankind.” The verdict? Meh.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I’m just putting this out there: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a great movie. It’s merely passable – and for a film starring the two biggest superheroes of all time, that’s an unbelievable blunder.
Set 18 months after 2013’s Man of Steel, the film sees Superman (Henry Cavill) faced with deafening public outcry over the unchecked power he wields and the extensive destruction that Metropolis suffered in his battle with General Zod (Michael Shannon). One man who aims to bring Superman down a peg or two is Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), with the aid of his loyal butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons). Wayne wages his one-man war on the Man of Steel – whilst unbeknownst to them both, the nefarious Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is formulating a destructive plot of his own.
Affleck, in just his first appearance as the Caped Crusader, establishes himself as THE definitive live-action Batman; whilst Michael Keaton was menacing underneath the cowl and Christian Bale was more suited to Bruce Wayne’s tux, Affleck is the best of both worlds. He’s charming, tortured, gritty, and seething with rage. Without Affleck’s towering performance, the film would simply collapse in on itself. Gal Gadot’s maiden appearance as Wonder Woman is handled wonderfully also, with the Israeli actress briefly stealing the limelight during the final act. Let’s hope her solo movie is treated with the same eagerness and reverence when it hits cinemas next year.
Eisenberg’s questionable casting as the reinvented Lex Luthor is also a success, and Amy Adams ensures that her role as plucky Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane doesn’t loiter in the wings. Along with returning cast members like Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne, Adams actually plays a pretty pivotal role, even if she’s thrust into damsel in distress situations one too many times.
Surprisingly, the weakest link is Superman himself. Cavill’s performance isn’t that bad, it’s just that he doesn’t get an awful lot to do other than scowl and look solemn. We never learn much about Clark Kent aside from that he loves Lois and hates Batman – an arc hardly befitting of DC’s headline hero.
Overstuffed and convoluted, the biggest issue with Dawn of Justice is the script. Even with a protracted 153-minute runtime, intersecting characters and meaningless subplots jostle one another for your attention with muddled results. Screenwriters David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio revel in teasing us with enticing visions of the future, even when they don’t matter in the present; an extended dream sequence that thrusts Batman into a sepia-drenched post-apocalypse looks amazing, but I couldn’t tell you what it all meant. The final hour just rumbles on and on without any sense of rhythm or urgency; an unending saga of ugly death and destruction.
If nothing else, Dawn of Justice is certainly ambitious. It lays the groundwork for DC Comics’ broader universe, and sets us up for what promises to be an exciting tableau of heroics spearheaded by the mighty Affleck and the captivating Gadot, however, it sullies the exhilarating moments with others that completely shit the bed.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is available in Australian cinemas from March 24th
Image (c) Roadshow Films 2016