Release: 1st August 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.
For some reason unbeknownst to the rest of humanity, Zack Snyder feels that the best way to pit DC’s two most lauded heroes against each other is simply…not to. Well, more specifically, to keep you waiting for nearly two hours, and then get the battle royal over and done with in less than 10 minutes. Batman v Superman, is not a clash of the titans, nor is it a sequel to Man of Steel. In fact, it isn’t even a ‘phase 1’ landmark for Warner Bros’ franchise. Batman v Superman is simply an extremely long 1st act it what will eventually be the cinematic forming of the Justice League.
If filmmaking where like baking a cake, then the way Zack Snyder directs movies would be equivalent to an overeager 8-year old raining sprinkles, syrups and marshmallows on a flat and unappealing vanilla sponge. Time and again, he proves that when it comes to story, Snyder’s opinion is that what the eyes see is more important than what the ears hear or mind believes. There is an oily superficiality to his films that prevent them from piercing an audience, even in its most ambitious moments. His world is a subtext of computer graphics and over stylised metaphors. Nothing feels tangible or real. The key to his failure seems to be that nothing his characters do ring true. There is never a sense of genuine doom, or emotional weight to what these people do and say; with the result being that we feel distant and cold to them. Snyder might know how to construct a wonderful image (BvS is filled with aesthetic buoyancy), but he frontloads his narrative with convoluted storytelling and forgets to engage the audience in any meaningful way; resulting in an extremely dreary final showdown.
The Ultimate Edition of the film, or Director’s Cut, offers a little more coherence in terms of the film’s central mystery, but still does little to elevate character arcs or improve on that measly bats v supes punch up. Lois Lane’s story in particular benefits from the extra 30 minutes. The African hostage scene makes more sense, as does the consequent government conspiracy. Bruce Wayne’s dream life is extend a smidge, leaving him to feel more like an oracle than haunted vigilante; and of course, it is he who makes most use of the violence boost. Christopher Nolan may have gone to great lengths to show the complex relationship between vigilantism and life ending brutality, but Snyder not so much. His Batman views lives with little regard, dishing out gun shots, knife jabs and skull crushing blows at random replace that bat symbol with a skull motif and you’re left with The Punisher.
It’s Clark Kent who still suffers a mighty beating (both figuratively and literally) at the hands of Snyder’s poor story management. Just one tweet, Facebook post, or public statement and 90% of the troubles Kal-El faces here would have dissipated. For someone who works in the media, Clark Kent seems to have very little understanding of public relations. A simple “#Innocent” might have done the trick. This glaring issue makes Superman feel like an out-of-touch drip for most of the film. It is unfathomable to see why anyone would see Superman as a genuine threat; the man is clearly crippled by existential self doubt. Never mind Krytponite, all Lex would need to defeat the chap, is laugh at his costume. The whole Christ theme is pushed to an nth degree in BvS, but it is hard to see such a wisp of a man (beaten down by all and sundry) as having anywhere near enough resilience to stand a true comparison to the son of God.
Another of BvS’s biggest issues is that the hostility that exists between Batman and Superman is not burly enough. One is angry, and somehow manages to miss ALL the clues pointing in opposite directions, while the other “strongly” disagrees with ethical choices. Hardly the seeds of a great rivalry. Then comes Lex Luthor, who, according to Jesse Eisenberg, warrants portrayal as an autistic Michael Jackson. Eisenberg’s performance is so painfully try hard and off base, you’ll likely cringe your way through every single one of his scenes.
The film does have its merits. Although she adds little substance to the mix, Wonder Woman’s presence does add a little flavour. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne spends more time in detective mode than we’ve seen in a while, and the merging of Metropolis and Gotham is seamless. And despite the ugly way in which Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg are referenced, there is no denying that their brief appearances do serve as a wonder aperitif for what is to come. The destruction of Metropolis from Wayne’s perspective and the 3rd act rescue mission are easily two stand out points for the film, but they are both ‘Batman moments’, and neither of them do service to Superman or his long awaited dual with the Dark Knight. Which leaves you wondering, will Kal-El ever really get the cinematic justice (league) that he truly deserves?
Film Grade: C-
What looks on the outset to be a wonderful array of insider docs, turns out to be an extremely aggressive marketing strategy to ensure that audiences support a growing franchise.
There are some nice sound bites and a few creative insights into the thought process involved in making the film, but generally the focus is on Wonder Woman and the coming Justice League movie.
Features that focus more on the film at hand are a mixed bag. Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile is a lightweight promo, that also highlights efforts put into bringing Batman’s premium mode of transport to life. Apparently, it all began on the back of a coffee shop napkin! How cliché.
Superman: Complexity and Truth, Batman: Austerity and Rage, and Wonder Woman: Power & Grace are essentially one big feature cut into three. The most interesting of the three is…no suprises, the Batman one.
Batcave: Legacy of the Lair is possibly the most interesting and genuinely memorable feature on offer. It takes a decent look at the inner workings of the Batcave, while also offering up some insider notes of interest surrounding its production.
The Might and the Power of a Punch is only 2 minutes shorter than the actual fight. This feature offers little information as to why they failed to, at the very least, match the intensity of Man of Steels carnage.
Then some eco-warrior stuff, some crap about Eisenberg’s awful performance, and a few Trailers.
Special Features Grade: C
When the same thing happens to your title character twice in the span of 10 minutes, you have to assume good ideas were thin on the ground. This may well be a 3 hours trailer for another movie, so you’d be forgiven for being just a tad pissed about that. Especially as we’ve been waiting to see these two touch gloves on screen since 1986.