Film review – Batman vs. Superman

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BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN

Epic superhero face-off from Zack Snyder, the director of 300, The Man Of Steel and Watchmen, starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenburg, Amy Adams and Gal Gadot.

Personally, I think the real battle with Batman vs. Superman isn’t so much the Dark Knight versus the Man Of Steel, but rather whether DC Comics can claw back some of the Hollywood limelight enjoyed so much of late by their big rival, Marvel.

With Batman enjoying a critical and commercial renaissance under Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, there were a lot of angry fans venting across the internet when Ben Affleck threw his cape into the ring. But you know what ? He’s not bad as the Caped Crusader. He obviously put the hours in at the gym and in BMVSM he takes the role seriously, playing it straight .. dead straight .. perhaps a little too straight, given there’s none of the usual levity when we see him as Bruce Wayne. Actually, I think that’s more down to the script and Snyder, who obviously wanted a dark movie.
A very dark movie indeed.

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Soops doesn’t come out of it smiling, either .. not once, in fact. Not even when he’s with lovely Lois Lane, played here with minimal effort by Amy Adams, again through no fault of her own. The role is so pitiful it wouldn’t look out of place in a fifties B-movie : girl gets in trouble; girl doesn’t know what to do; girl is about to die; girl gets rescued. And repeat.
In any period it would’ve been a powder puff role, but in this day and age it’s actually insulting, even to your average teenaged, testosterone-heavy comic book fan-boy.

Yes, comics are full of clichés like that.
Yes, it’s the 50 year-old story of super-human goody-goody righteousness versus “bending the rules till they almost snap so long as the job gets done” sneaky effectiveness.
Yes, it’s called a love interest.
But wait, isn’t Wonder Woman in this picture ?
How affirming that must be for women everywhere.
Then you see her outfit.

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It’s the same old, same old, folks.
That’s why I liked the Nolan/Bale version of Gotham City better.
It was our world with a twist, in the same way Daniel Craig and Judi Dench’s Bond universe was. Man or woman didn’t matter : it was about getting a job done so well you didn’t even think about that kind of thing.
BMVSM is so jarring in its casual sexism that it’s like a slap round the face. In the first ten minutes.
.. and then, sadly, it’s all downhill from there.

This film assumes a lot of its audience. And yet, it doesn’t.
It assumes you’ve read lots of comics, for one thing.
And yet it shows you again how Batman became what he is, his parents dying in slo-mo at the hands of a petty thief on the street for what feels like the umpteenth time.
It assumes you’ve seen Man Of Steel and know the back story of the battle with General Zod (or indeed that you even know who he is). I did see it but it was so forgettable that I’d forgotten who he was. Zod that for a game of soldiers.
And yet, we’re still given loads of background fluff on Superman’s parents, his upbringing on a farm, the fact that Kryptonite is the only thing that can harm him. Ho-hum.
It assumes you know who Lex Luthor is.
Or is it his son ? I’m not really sure if the Lex in this movie is the big, fat, bald Lex of old, but younger, or if Jesse Eisenburger is playing his son and heir. I really have no clue, despite the obvious one at the end of the movie.

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Speaking of the end of the movie .. will it ever come ?
This picture is nearly three hours long and while some movies skip along and leave you wondering how it’s almost your bed-time when you leave the cinema, BMVSM only left me wishing I’d stayed in bed in the first place.

The plot focuses on a vaguely Bond-esque chase for a big ol’ lump of the green stuff.
Luthor wants it for power (and the ability to stop Soops)
Batman wants it to stop Luthor (and the ability to stop Soops)
Wonder Woman seemingly wants it to piss Bats off – or to get into his Bat-pants, I’m not sure yet.
While Soops wants it so he can stop anyone else stopping him. I think.

Anyway.
Something goes wrong and a big new enemy appears to threaten the world.
You can guess the rest.
Seriously. You can.

I can’t be bothered with the plot anyway.
Nobody connected with the movie did, so why should I ?
Blah, blah, blah, terrorists, blah, blah, blah, spy stuff, blah, blah, blah, Wonder Woman, blah, blah, Kryptonite, blah, blah, Luthor’s not really a philanthropist, blah, blah, BOOOOM, blah, blah, BIG FIGHTY SCENE AT THE END. Job done.

There’s lots of CGI, most of it pretty smooth, some of it like it’s been done on a Spectrum in 1982.
There’s lots of shadows.
There’s lots of bare chests (men).
There’s lots of stilettos (women).
There’s lots of shadows.
There’s lots of tweed for some reason (Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne and his faithful valet Alfred, played brilliantly but all too briefly by Jeremy Irons).
There’s a new Batmobile. But it’s either too quick or too dark to see much of it.
There’s lots of shadows.
There’s a new Batplane which appears to have stealth capabilities and makes the same noise as Anakin’s pod racer in The Phantom Menace.
Then there’s a few more shadows.
There’s not a single drop of humour, apart from a couple – and I literally mean two – muttered comments by Alfred.

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To put it bluntly, Batman vs. Superman is a steaming pile of bat droppings.
The movie lurches from scene to scene with barely any character development and is shot in glorious Gloom-A-Scope. The perfunctory, minimal robo-script leaves you with zero emotional attachment to anyone barring Alfred and possibly The Daily Planet‘s editor, Perry White – played with real conviction by Laurence Fishburne. As they’re the only two characters with any kind of substance, I’m actually waiting for the spin-off TV series in which Alfred tires of his boss’ truculence and decides to take up a position as head of the house at Perry’s penthouse in Metropolis. Think Benson with a post-modern twist …

The positives ?
Well, a couple of scenes are nicely framed in that comic-book style reminiscent of the superlative Watchmen movie, which only begs the question : how can the same director be so faithful with one story, rendering an almost perfect picture, only to get it so wrong when it comes to the two biggest superheroes of all ?

BMVSM actually comes across as a piece of fan fiction, cobbled together from elements of the original comics, some latter-day classics like Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and various Marvel/Transformer/spy movies, all mashed up with the lights turned down.
The sad irony is that the fans would probably have done a better job …

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