Confusing, convoluted and spectacular are three words I would use to describe Batman vs Superman, the showdown between two comic powerhouses.
Fearing the actions of a God-like superhero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante Batman takes on Metropolis’ most revered modern day saviour, Superman. But with the pair at war, a new threat quickly arises, namely the clearly insane tech giant Lex Luthor, who is intent on wholesale destruction. Another superhero emerges by way of Wonder Woman, who bears a striking similarity to Xena, the Princess Warrior.
Nearly two years have passed since Metropolis suffered a battle unlike anything Earth had seen before. Many lives were saved, but one man can’t forget those lost in the annihilation and now Bruce Wayne lives with a simmering rage that has begun to boil over into a feeling of powerlessness. It is the kind of anger that turns good men into vengeful warriors. Indeed, it’s the stuff of nightmares that drives Batman to leave his mark on the criminals of Gotham, even as he turns an eye toward the greater prize.
Director Zack Snyder says Wayne doesn’t know who Superman is – all he is aware of is what the public knows. He blames Superman for the lives lost in Metropolis, lives for which Bruce Wayne/Batman felt responsible. Now don’t get me wrong, for two years Superman has soared to the rescue of countless victims around the globe and the world has praised his abilities. But with unavoidable bloodshed in the wake of good deeds, the collateral damage from his efforts is now causing many to question those who will only see what he can do, without debating whether or not he should do it. It’s a question Superman has even begun to ask himself.
As screenwriter Chris Terrio tells it, “both Bruce (Wayne) and Lex (Luthor) are billionaires, both are orphans and both are obsessed with Superman’s absolute power”. “They have, at a point, the same agenda: stop Superman at any cost. But Bruce’s motives are basically good, while Lex is pathological.” All three men – Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor – are products of what was bequeathed to them by absent fathers or memories of fathers who are gone, another theme explored in the movie.
Ben Affleck stars as Bruce Wayne/Batman, who has been following news of Superman closely since what came to be known as the Black Zero Event, which culminated in Superman’s catastrophic combat with General Zod. We saw that in the last Superman movie Man of Steel and the first piece of advice I would give you is to see that again before viewing this one. I say that because the background will be invaluable. It has been three years since I saw Man of Steel and I can’t remember all that much of it, which is the reason I found the first hour or so of Batman v Superman difficult to fathom.
Henry Cavill reprises his role as Superman, while Amy Adams appears as Lois Lane, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Clark Kent’s parents, and Laurence Fishburne as newspaper editor Perry White. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor with decided overtones of Heath Ledger’s menace (a la the Joker in The Dark Knight) and at one point near the end I thought I saw him channeling his inner Hannibal Lecter. Jeremy Irons doesn’t have a lot to do, but is cast as Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s long suffering sidekick, the butler Alfred, while Gal Gadot assumes the role of Wonder Woman. Holly Hunter plays a US Senator who goes toe-to-toe with both Superman and Lex Luthor.
The spectacular action sequences leave you in no doubt where the filmmakers have spent much of their considerable dollars bringing this to the screen. When I finally accepted that Batman and Superman were at loggerheads without really understanding quite why, the movie followed a more expected route. But there were several points where it could have ended and it didn’t, so you had what I would term a series of false endings. I didn’t feel the picture needed two and a half hours to spin its magic and Wonder Woman didn’t add anything of substance to the narrative.
This is one for comic book purists. I need to see it again just to pick up all the nuances. Rated M with plenty of excessive violence, Batman v Superman scores a 6½ to 7 out of 10.
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter
Release Date: 24 March, 2016
Rating: M – Intense sequences of violence and mature themes
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television