Review: Batman vs Superman: nice to look at, not so nice to follow

Posted on 25 March 2016
By Alex Green
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Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice was billed as the biggest comic book movie ever made. Putting such a title on a film is always going to split opinion and this film is a prime example of this.

Whilst others are praising the devotion to the source material, others are pointing to the poor script and very odd choice of pace.

These divided concerns reflect this film very well because Dawn of Justice is full to the brim of spectacular moments that are quickly overshadowed by terrible ones.

It leaves you confused at how they put this film together but mostly disappointed that after waiting for a DC film like this for many years, they did not hit the nail on the head like they should have done.

It’s clear that Zack Snyder and everyone at Warner Brothers had a goal for this film in how they wanted it to look and eventually what they wanted the story to end with and leave open to the future.

Whilst that particular goal is reached at the end, the problem lies in how they chose to get there.

The basic story is established early on through our main characters of Batman, Superman and Lex Luthor. We know that Bruce Wayne/Batman wants vengeance against Superman, we know that Superman is trying to prove his innocence and then Lex is revealed to be a puppeteer between the two.

Mix that in with government hearings, a lot of Lois Lane poking around and a lot of telling off from Alfred and Perry against Bruce and Clark respectively, you have a story building up to its big climax.

However, the way they executed this build up is where the problem lies. Instead of choosing the traditional way of introducing your characters and their motives in prolonged scenes, the story flips between characters every minute or so, leaving behind unexplained scenes and not really letting the audience get to know and relate or believe in these characters.

A key part of any film is to spend time with your main characters not to support their cause but to understand it. Batman v Superman makes this very difficult for the viewer because as you’re trying to work out one scene, you’re transported to another completely different, out of context one and are then forced to try and understand this one too.

In the middle of this sloppy pacing, a lot of the scenes also seemed forced, which if you do not fully understand or have knowledge of DC or these characters then you might find hard to understand. Batman’s Knightmare sequences were long and unnecessary as was an overly cheesy one for Superman who meets his late father.

This is not to say there are not good points though throughout.

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman certainly silences his critics with a smooth Bruce Wayne performance and an even more impressive performance as the Dark Knight.

Whether it was down to the stunt department or the writers for this success it is difficult to tell but this is a Batman straight out of the comics and one for those diehard fans. Nolan’s Batman showed us a bit more finesse than perhaps everyone was used to regarding the character but Batfleck is fast, intimidating, deadly in his fights and most of all, not afraid to be as terrifying to the audience as he appears to his enemies.

The introduction of Wonder Woman was also a particular highlight even if her earlier introduction as Diana was confusing and a little out of place. When she eventually turns up to battle at the end, she does shine and shows the audience exactly why she was needed in this film.

There is a stunning shot when the Trinity of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman line up for the first time that actually got a whoop in the cinema screening and it was brilliantly iconic to see, which makes it all the worse that the film wasn’t as iconic.

A positive note should be mentioned for Jeremy Irons’ Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler. This is a new type of Alfred than we’ve seen before, with him being a lot more involved in missions and the tech side to the Batman, again something often seen in Batman comic stories.

A final mention should be made to the aesthetics and action sequences throughout. Like Man of Steel, the action scenes are something to behold in terms of their monumental delivery.

Almost every scene with Batman delivered on this front, making people very excited at the prospect of a standalone Batman film with Ben Affleck.

Before the films climax, we’re given one of the best fights seen in any comic book movie between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. This fight almost looked like a shot for shot copy of the scene from Frank Miller’s famous The Dark Knight returns comic book story.

From Batman’s tech suit to Superman’s reluctance to simply end the fight, Zack Snyder sets this one up perfectly as these two titans launch themselves at each other. Superman with brute force and Batman with his traps and eventually, with the help of Kryptonite, some brute force of his own.

Overall though, as brilliant as the film is to look at, it’s hard to overlook the problems it has with its often sloppy script and odd pacing.

It is easy to tell the whole team behind this film know their comic book and Batman/Superman history but their how they reached their goal of introducing the Justice League of America was often flat, wrongly or unnecessarily placed and mostly difficult to actually get on board with.

Even with tiny, though seemingly forced introductions for some key JLA members in the form of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, the path to the justice was at times spectacular and straight from the page but for the majority, it was confusing and challenging to support. Undoubtedly, this film will split fans just like its predecessor Man of Steel did and that’s where the disappointment lies.

Batman vs Superman should be uniting fans in their excitement and joy at finally getting a DC multi-character film after years of waiting and not giving way to another debate about what went wrong and what didn’t.

The Justice League of America film is up next in late 2017, again directed by Zack Snyder and seeing the return of Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot.