Release Date: 25 March 2016
Running Time: 151 min
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot
After decades of development hell and countless fanboy arguments, pop culture icons Batman and Superman are finally squaring off on the silver screen in Zack Snyder’s sequel to the 2013 Superman reboot Man of Steel. With a reportedly massive budget and hopes for a new franchise of shared universe superhero films, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has a lot riding on it.
It begins strongly. Batman’s origins are stylishly retold as a series of slow-motion tableau, before cutting to a street level view of the carnage filled climax of Man of Steel. While Superman battles General Zod in the sky, Bruce Wayne is desperately trying to save the poor folks below from the crumbling buildings and sweeping laser blasts careening at them from every angle. It addresses the criticisms levelled at Man of Steel’s finale and gives some insight into Batman’s justifications behind taking down ol’ Supes. If the rest of the film showed the same storytelling economy and clarity of purpose then we’d be onto a winner. Unfortunately it doesn’t.
Indeed, as the cumbersome title might suggest, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a little bit overstuffed. It zigzags between a multitude of plots, resolving some and abandoning others, while doing its best to establish a wider cinematic universe at the same time. Apart from Affleck’s brooding, weary Batman, the characters aren’t given any room to breathe and talented actors like Holly Hunter, Scoot McNairy and Jeremy Irons are totally underserved. To be frank there’s just way too much going on here; between the shameless sequel bait and multitude of subplots Superman finds himself sidelined in his own sequel.
Yet when Batman v Superman gets things right it’s thrilling to watch. A sequence of Batman taking out a room full of thugs is probably the closest a film has gotten yet to capturing the brutal fluidity he shows in the comics. Snyder has always been a visual stylist first and a storyteller second but he understands the aesthetics of comic books; his extreme colour grading and slow-motion posturing are a good fit for the overblown, operatic sturm und drang that Dawn of Justice is aiming for. Like pretty much every other superhero film it’s too long and its rambling plot could do with a bit of streamlining, but there’s a sense of grandeur to the spectacle that’s hard to dismiss.