Review: “Batman v Superman” – Are You Not Entertained?

Written by Jesse Gelinas March 27, 2016

Batman v SupermanThe superhero movie. Once, the butt of every joke in Hollywood, when underwhelming, underperforming schlock like The Phantom and The Shadow were the best to be offered. Classics like Superman and Batman seemed to be one-off flukes (especially when even their sequels dropped significantly in quality). Now, Hollywood and moviegoers are devouring the superhero genre at an alarming rate. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated every summer for the last decade, and people seem ready to believe in these gods once again. Enter Zack Snyder, with Batman v Superman. This is the comicbook showdown fans have been waiting to see live-action for thirty years, since Frank Miller wrote their definitive battle in The Dark Knight Returns. This post-modern, stylized epic may not appease all fans of either hero, but it sure sets a new standard for what can be done with a superhero film.

*Possible spoilers below*

Eighteen months after the events of Man of Steel, Superman (Henry Cavill) is loved and revered by most, but still feared by a cautious few. After an incident in Africa that leaves casualties, the US government is ready to question Superman’s place interfering with Earth’s affairs. Across the bay from Metropolis, Gotham is in the middle of a crime wave. An ruthless, aging Batman (Ben Affleck) is considering the threat a rogue Superman would pose to humanity, and preparing for the worst. Meanwhile, billionaire businessman Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is conspiring to bring Superman down. Throw in a few oddly placed dream sequences, and an unexpected visit from the future, and we’re set.

“Day versus night. Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham.”

Batman v Superman is a flawed film. I’ll get that out of the way immediately. It is in no way perfect. It has issues. Zack Snyder has proven himself a rather unique director, with a great flair for stylish imagery, but the film’s problems lies in its script and its pacing. While it’s still packed with great lines from the heroes, the writing is kind of all over the place, leading to a bit of a disjointed mess. I’d say the film’s middle is its biggest drawback. It starts and closes very strong, but the middle just sort of plods along before making huge jumps when the writers realized they’d spend so much time on A, they weren’t going to have time to get to B. Added to that, we’re treated to a number of dream sequences (I think I counted four). The midpoint of the film sees Batman send an email Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) containing convenient video footage of each Justice league member yet to be introduced, in what is probably the laziest sequel setup I’ve seen in a superhero flick.

A monument to a god in Batman v Superman

Those issues aside, there is a lot of good here. Firstly, the film stands alone in actually dealing with the massive destruction wrought by superhero battles. A large plot point revolves around Batman’s witnessing of the climactic battle from Man Of Steel and the lives lost in the process, in a scene (not coincidentally) reminiscent of various 9/11 videos. And there is a good deal of consistency thereafter, with the heroes actively trying to avoid such destruction again, by leading a villain to an abandoned area of the city before engaging, for instance. After a botched rescue mission, a few terrorists are left dead and Superman is literally brought before Congress. I have to respect the film for treating the material in a mature, adult manner, unlike the recent trend of Marvel films. In this regard, Batman v Superman is much closer in tone to Snyder’s earlier film, Watchmen, than to any other recent comic adaptation, and it’s better for it.

“I’ve killed things from other worlds before.”

Snyder has a real talent for giving his stories and characters just the right visual flair, and he’s clearly as big a comic fan as his audiences. Batman v Superman is full of motifs, throwbacks, and split-second homages to various comic panels and covers. Batman’s armoured suit is straight out of Dark Knight Returns. The Speed Force makes an appearance, as well as a nightmare involving Parademons. The characters are grandiose, standing atop pedestals in the rain, like the Greek gods they are (one of them pretty literally). There is a distinct respect to be found for the source material, the fans, and the characters themselves, which after so many reboots, remakes, and retcons, is quite refreshing.

A new hero rises in Batman v Superman

Where the film shines is its casting. I wasn’t completely sold on Cavill’s Superman after Man Of Steel, but he has won me over now with his performance In Batman v Superman. He embodies everything Superman can and should be; the saviour of mankind, and the homeless, peerless alien. Ben Affleck’s Batman is actually incredible. Some fans may take issue with his murderous tendencies, but given the inspiration it makes sense. His Batman is dark, ruthless, and truly damaged in a way that comes trough much better than any previous portrayal. It may be my new favourite movie Batman, and I’m truly excited for his next solo film. I do think BvS dropped the ball a bit with Eisenberg’s Luthor. I spent most of his scenes just thinking “I’m not sure what you’re going for here.” He has moments of brilliance, but over all his cartoonish demeanor just wasn’t a good fit for the film.

“You were never a god. You were never even a man.”

What surprised me most was the handling of Wonder Woman. I’ve never been a huge fan of the character, and was especially weary with the casting of Gal Gadot to portray a super strong Amazonian warrior. But she ended up being my favourite part of the film. She’s never treated like a sidekick or an afterthought, blasting onto the scene like a boss and taking charge immediately. She holds her own against the two heavyweight champion heroes the film is named for, and comes off as powerful and impressive. She even has the absolute best theme in the film, courtesy of Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. Watching her go toe-to-toe with Doomsday (whose giveaway in the trailers was unfortunate, but I found quite acceptable in the film) was pretty badass, and had me cheering for her character for the first time in my comic fan career.

Doomsday appears in Batman v Superman

In the end, Batman v Superman is a flawed but entertaining and thrilling piece of comic book cinema. It drags at times, but the great performances, exciting action, and climactic battle between two pop culture titans make it well worth seeing for fans of the characters, the genre, or just movies in general. Hardcore fans will surely appreciate the teases of what’s to come (including allusions to a Flashpoint film, or even an Injustice adaptation) DC has a lot of catching up to do to steal back some of the market from Marvel, but if they keep up this level of intensity, while remaining respectful to the material, people may find themselves having to reevaluate which side they’re on.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Theatrical poster for Batman v Superman

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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