Zack Snyder’s long-gestating superhero punch-off Batman vv Superman is finally set to be released in cinemas, and while the film has its good points, it’s safe to say the finished result is less a “Dawn of Justice” and more a “Yawn of Just…ick.”
Here are just a few of the movie’s key flaws.
1. The plot
This whole film feels like it’s twisting itself in knots to get the title characters into their unlikely battle, and by the end their fight is quite arbitrary.
One of the two is being coerced and isn’t actually keen to fight, and it becomes clear that if they actually spoke to each other no tenuous battle would take place at all.
It also often seems like patience is Zack Snyder’s own kryptonite, with the script continually rushing towards the more exciting bits of the story in what sometimes seems like a microcosm of DC’s fast-tracked shared universe plan.
2. The dialogue
Overwritten, worthy and leaden, some lines actually had me banging my head against the back of my chair as I willed the film to end. Expect lots of portentous musings from Superman about whether he belongs and clichéd drivel about the meaning of heroes throughout.
3. The tone
As this po-faced, miserable film trudges on towards the end of its 2 hour 33 minute runtime, you long for a little of the humour of the Marvel films – the closest we get is Ma Kent talking about capes.
Even Alfred barely cracks wise, and we’ll probably have to wait until the Lego Batman film comes out to have any sort of fun with these characters.
4. Magic dream sequences and other general stupidity
The film is punctuated throughout by various dream sequences, including a Mad Max-style nightmare and Bat-themed ascension for Batman and a chat with deceased dad Kevin Costner for Superman.
These stylised divergences are somewhat irritating anyway for taking us away from the main plot and adding to the film’s already considerable runtime, but they also inform Batman and Superman of phrases and events they can’t possibly know of themselves, with no explanation.
For example, in Batman’s desert dream, Superman seems to blame Batman for the death of a woman, describing her as “his world”, which is how Supes describes Lois Lane later in the film – but how would Bruce Wayne know that?
Still, perhaps we’re asking for too much logic from a film where spears are seen as better than bullets and advanced alien technology is easily fooled by some fake fingerprints on a tech programmer.
5. Lois Lane
She’s captured by villains, thrown from buildings and nearly drowns herself in a pool, and generally throughout the movie Lois is constantly needing to be rescued. Sure, she does a little bit of investigating, but it contributes little to the story and overall she just seems like bait for Superman in a female role from a bygone age.
6. Lex Luthor
Basically Jesse Eisenberg saying “Mmm!” a lot and mumbling evil monologues, this bizarre performance blends Eisenberg’s performances in Now You See Me and The Social Network into an uneasy, tic-y whole that never quite lands. Also, his evil plan is vague to the extreme – he wants people to like Superman less so he tries to coerce him into killing Batman, but then tries to kill Superman as well? Loki, he ain’t.
7. Actual Batman
Ben Affleck isn’t a bad Batman, but this version of the character comes across as mean-spirited and a bit dim, easily manipulated by his enemies and constantly wrong-footed. He’s not the master technician and deductive genius we were hoping for, and possibly even a bit too violent – at one point he just stabs someone with a knife.
8. Actual Superman
Henry Cavill is the moodiest Superman ever, and spends most of the film moping about his place in the world. He never even winks! It’d be nice to see him cheer up for a sequel.
9. The bit where Batman fights Superman
Frankly, it’s weird to structure a whole film around one battle scene, but if it’s good enough it could work. And to be fair this is a pretty epic grudge match, with the two heroes duking it out across deserted buildings and laying each other out convincingly.
Unfortunately, as noted previously, the fight is being held under false pretences, and it doesn’t hold much emotional or thematic weight because of that. It’s not a clash of ideals – it’s one man who’s been tricked into fighting another man who’s being blackmailed.
Also, this version of Batman has developed the least efficient way to kill Superman ever. I’m betting that any one of us could have come up with a better idea.
10. The FINAL final battle
It’s not a spoiler to reveal that Bats and Supes’ tiff isn’t the last scrap in this film since their final foe was shown in a trailer, but to be honest the monster they battle is a disappointment not possible to spoil anyway. Lumpy, grey and brought into the narrative in a confusing manner, you won’t be sorry to see Doomsday meet his own Doom.
11. The other superheroes
Without giving too much away, during Dawn of Justice you see a bit of what’s coming up in DC’s comic universe, including clips of various heroes and a psychedelic cameo from one of them.
Unfortunately this leaves the film feeling even more overstuffed than it did already, and the fact that the appearances are pretty corny (especially Aquaman’s) doesn’t raise high hopes for what seems like a pretty rushed shared universe. DC are trying to do in one film what it took Marvel four years to build up to, and it shows.
12. The title ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’
It’s been around for long enough for us to get used to it, but let us never forget how stupid, unwieldy and downright patronising this title is. Imagine if Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was overexplained as Luke Skywalker v Darth Vader: A Secret Looms, and how much worse that would have been.
13. And finally, this never happens
When will filmmakers start respecting the source material in comic book movies? DISAPPOINTING.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is available in UK cinemas from Friday 25th March