By Ellen Finch
‘Now, I’m no film critic,’ I messaged Rory, Palatinate’s Film and TV Editor, at one o’clock on Sunday morning, ‘but I just saw Batman v Superman, and it was shit.’
The beginning is promising. A stern-faced Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) looks on as a city is destroyed, blow by blow, by a combination of alien ships and the apparent cannonball that is Superman. It is a necessary and well-done glance back to Man of Steel that feels natural and seamlessly provides Wayne with a back story and a motive for his hatred of Superman. Less necessary, I felt, was the dream-like sequence playing out the death of Wayne’s parents. Assuming that most of us are familiar with Batman’s backstory, the scene adds little to the forward momentum of the plot. The name Martha is obviously significant for the film, but couldn’t the sentence ‘my mother’s name was Martha’, accompanied by sad eyes and clenched teeth, have sufficed? As for the rest of the scene, the bat sequence, and the shot of Wayne rising out of the underground cavern in a whirlwind of bat wings, felt cheap, tacky and overdone. It’s a dream sequence, yes, but I’ve seen such sequences done far better in other films.
The dream sequences are, in fact, a large flaw of the film, as is the excitable use of special effects. I must admit, I didn’t hold much hope. It seems to be a common theme in recent films to go all-out on the special effects and save little for the imagination – with the exception of The Revenant, of course, which I actually quite liked. Batman v Superman fails on this point, as did Man of Steel before it. Both films see a promising plot promptly destroyed by destruction. Director Zack Snyder clearly loves a bit of drama, but the last half an hour or so of Batman v Superman is practically incomprehensible. Buildings, structures, even pieces of ground fly around the scene while the camera fails to keep up, resulting in a flurry of light, movement and sound that confuses the senses rather than indulging them in some high-quality action. I wasn’t entirely sure who dealt each blow throughout the sequence. And don’t get me started on the slow-motion effect, which Snyder seems to favour particularly for any scene that involves Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. For a character that should involve impressive depth and a pending film franchise to follow, she seems to spend a lot of her time standing in uncomfortable combat poses while the camera pans out to the wider action performed by the other characters.
The female characters deeply disappointed me. Amy Adams’s Lois Lane was promising as a fiery reporter, digging deep and asking the awkward questions. Yes, I thought. Here, finally, is a female action character that won’t descend into a damsel-in-distress act by the end. How wrong I was. There is a sudden switch in character somewhere in the film that removes any sense of power and impressiveness that Lane was instilled with, and replaces it with a stereotype. How many times does one woman need to be saved? Irritating, too, was the bathtub scene, necessary only to get a naked woman into the film, a requirement for any action film of late, or ever. If a man jumped into my bathtub with his dirty shoes on, no matter if he bought me flowers, he’d get a punch in the face.
Were there any positives? Yes, of course. Most bad films do have redeeming qualities, and this is no exception. Affleck makes a superb first appearance as a darker, more vengeful Batman: his character makes me excited for the new Batman film that fans are anticipating. The factory scene in which he rescues Superman’s mother from a group of baddies is potentially the greatest Batman sequence of any film, and definitely the most promising of this one. Contrary to Mark Kermode’s harsh review in The Guardian, I actually greatly enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor: creepy, intriguing and slightly unhinged, he makes a great addition to an otherwise disappointing array of flat characters.
Overall, I wasn’t keen. I’d agree with Kermode on a two-star rating. Batman v Superman is a money-orientated blockbuster film that probably appeals visually to children because of its action-packed scenes, but to any fan of either franchise, fails to do justice to what could have been an incredible joining of forces between the two superheroes. It tries to do too much: setting up a new Batman film, a 2017 Wonder Woman film, and a new Lex Luthor character. It seems keen on bankrolling the DC Comics universe for a Justice League film that aims to rival the success of the Avengers franchise. If Snyder’s lack of success in combining Batman and Superman is anything to go by, it seems unlikely that a Justice League film will achieve this aim.
Image and Video from Youtube.