A cluttered mess of characterisations and cameos
by Alfie Smith
Note: the following review contains minor spoilers.
In June 2013 Warner Bros announced they would be releasing a follow up to that year’s Man of Steel. Right from the get go DC comic book fans were losing their minds ready to see the company’s two major heroes battle it out on the big screen. Alongside Marvel’s Civil War this was set to be one of the comic book movie events of the decade and after nearly three years of waiting it is safe to say that this may not have been what the fans were hoping for.
The second instalment of the new ‘DC Extended Universe,’ Batman v Superman sees the introduction of two new superheroes into the franchise (Batman and Wonder Woman) with three other heroes making cameo appearances, two major DC villains and one minor DC villain. With that many characters making debut appearances alongside Superman, Lois Lane and several other supporting actors reprising their roles from Man of Steel, Batman v Superman is crammed full of fan favourites, all with their own motivations and reasons for being in on the action throughout the duration of the movie. Whilst Zack Snyder has previously proved in the past (just about) that he does have the ability to handle a large roster of characters with 2009’s Watchmen, Batman v Superman leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to characterisation. Lois Lane for instance only exists in this film to be saved by Superman resulting in what began in Man of Steel as a strong female lead, becoming the kind of female representation we are so used to seeing, bad representation. Wonder Woman’s depiction at the beginning of the film depicts her as a femme fatale type not too dissimilar to Anne Hathoway’s Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises.
Both Batman and Superman make some choice decisions when it comes to dealing with the generic goons of the film with both having no problem killing when it comes down to it. Whilst this isn’t unknown to both characters the scenarios the writers place them present the characters with difficult situations that would’ve been interesting if they weren’t so easily solved with murder. In the Batmobile sequence Batman has no issues with mowing down dozens of men with machine guns and opting to use a car with people in it as a wrecking ball in order to destroy other cars. Whilst the sequence is well directed and well shot, the entire situation is massively out of character for Batman. Superman also follows suit by killing a character towards the beginning of the film he could have easily spared.
Finally when it comes to Jesse Eisenburg’s Lex Luthor, on first viewing I thought his kind of crazy fit in the dark universe that Snyder has created. On second viewing however I realised that he is just another bad Joker-esque rip off. Lex Luthor became president in the comic books whilst having the Justice League on his tail the entire time. His ability to charm and influence people combined with being the smartest man in the world are where his strengths lie. However in this film he is clearly insane with little to no other motivation other than a hate for Superman (which is shared by just about everybody in this film) all resulting in a weird casting choice for a weird characterisation choice.
In terms of action sequences they are very few for such a long film but what little there is, is good enough here, that is to say there is more here than the average Zack Snyder action film. If you like his directing style you will love the action sequences, plenty of good CGI and loads of destruction. The final fight with Doomsday is an enjoyable romp with Wonder Woman being the clear star of the show taking him on with sword and shield in hand and clearly loving it (an element of a character that isn’t bad). If that’s not your thing there is one action sequence featured in the trailer that involves Batman clearing a room of armed militia. Finally Batman fans are treated to a Batman who can clear a room in under a minute like he does in the comics and Arkham game series, but it sacrifices his vulnerability. One of the henchmen comes up behind him and shoots him in the head twice with little bother to Batman other than to annoy him. Whilst it is pretty cool it would be nice to see Batman at least be threatened in some way as obviously the guards are no physical match for him. But all in all is still probably the best action sequence of the film.
The major build-up of the movie culminates in the fight itself between the two Superheroes. Whilst leading up to the fight the film makes sure to make the stakes as high as possible but the fight is nothing more than a weird WWE match between to very sluggish heroes (known for their speed and agility).
Overall it is a sad disappointment and a shoddy retelling of the Dark Knight Returns story that ends up being far too cluttered with bad characters and strange scenario choices and even stranger characterisation choices. The soundtrack was good though.