Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) (Review)


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the follow up to Man of Steel (2013) and is the second entry into the DC Extended Universe that is attempting to catch superhero lightning in a bottle ala Marvel's Cinematic Universe. To say that Man of Steel (the revived Superman's first outing) had a lukewarm reception is, frankly, putting it nicely. DC panicked over the mixed reviews and decent-but-not-good-enough box office intake and decided to throw Batman into the mix for the sequel. Thus, we arrive at Batman v Superman and the dawn of a new franchise.

Following the destruction and carnage seen at the end of Man of Steel, Superman's status is questioned; to many, he continues to be a symbol of hope, and to others he is shaping up as a dangerous threat to humanity, To put it simply, Superman (Henry Cavill) is the most controversial figure to society. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) questions why such a danger is left ungoverned, and it into his own hands to right Superman's wrongs, becoming a metaphorical antidote to Superman's destruct and donning his black cape and mask. As a rivalry fuels between them, the war between two of the most famous/infamous superheroes in set in motion, but is it a greater scheme designed by an even more treacherous entity?

I'm a little late to the party with this one, mainly because the reviews put me off so much. I rarely let critical reception cloud my judgment of a film and prefer to decide for myself - but the whole thing seemed to be a mess from the moment it was announced and an unsavoury 28% Rotten Tomatoes approval failed to convince me otherwise. Positive reviews could have swayed me to see it sooner but that, alas, did not happen. Sadly, after watching the film, I wish I had stayed away completely.

I wholeheartedly agree with the one complaint I continually see for this film; the narrative is paper thin. I mean, what actually happens? It's an interesting premise absolutely wasted because the content has not been crafted and there simply is not enough for Batman and Superman to fight over, resulting in an uphill battle from the start that it never really recovers from. The onerous attempt to build a film of substance just two films into the arc and universe is the biggest downfall. A valiant attempt to do too much, too soon sees them absolutely crumble under the pressure to succeed that I worry no one will survive from.

Reportedly carrying a $250 million production budget price tag, boring is not a word you want attached to your project, but unfortunately, Batman v Superman is just that. Tedious, monotone and arduous, it fails to excite even as we reach the supposedly climatic fight sequence that feels dead on arrival. Drenched in doom and gloom, we are offered no light to the overwhelming shade that the film feels like a chore, rather than the exhilarating, engaging and enthralling picture it needed to be, as it very obviously tries to set up the interconnecting DCEU. It's desperation to do something different and interesting ultimately succumbs to the self-importance and top-heavy approach and structure the film accidentally employs. Even the effect feel overwhelming in the negative sense of the world which is not something you want for this high-cost, high-risk venture.

I don't want to kick the film while it is very much down (although, not too down in terms of box office, as it has just crossed $800 million worldwide, with little fanfare, note or celebration) but very few members of the cast can salvage the mess. Amy Adams comes closest, seemingly one of the only examples of a fleshed-out character, bringing something of life to the murky tale. Ben Affleck is promising but always feels like an added element, rather than a co-headliner, while Henry Cavil never really embodies what is it to be Superman. He's not totally redundant but nor is he utterly convincing.  Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor is pretty damn irksome and irritating, with the poetic language used by  the character portraying him as entirely of conceit and arrogant. This very well may have been exactly the approach he created, but I am not at all sold, as it strips away any sinister lurking of the supposed criminal mastermind into something quite laughable.

Batman and Superman fight but no one wins. No one. Not Batman, Superman, the audience, or the future prospects for Warner Bros' attempt at Disney's superior Marvel Cinematic Universe, whose tightly plotted and woven universe projects a large shadow over this attempt of an Extended Universe. It is redundant in fulfilling anything for this franchise than turning people away.  Essentially, the compression with Marvel's Avengers will always be there and whilst they took the intellectual root of crafting individual stories and setting up bigger stakes, DCEU decay under that notion by trying to count their chickens before they hatch.

Summary: In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, everybody loses.

Highlight: Amy Adams and Hans Zimmer's soundtrack (if only it was toned down so it wasn't so deafening).