Today I saw Batman vs Superman in the cinemas.
As usual, while I will always avoid any major spoilers, if you are sensitive about such things, bookmark this post and come back after you have seen it for yourself.
Batman vs Superman is intended to link the previous Superman movie Man of Steel to the upcoming DC Cinematic Universe movies, culminating in Justice League movies.
With the box office success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, it was always going to look like DC were trying to earn a share in that success. Anything DC did was going to be compared to the success of Marvel’s franchise.
The establishing movie, Man of Steel did well enough at the box office, though it was not without criticism from a number of quarters including the comic book fandom.
At first blush, Batman vs Superman also suffers from many of the same issues as Man of Steel. There were good moments, but the overall effect for me was a decent movie, but far from being a great one.
Kicking off with Ben Affleck. When the Batfleck was first announced, I was skeptical. Flashes of the movie Daredevil surfaced, and despite the time and success Affleck has enjoyed since then, I questioned the casting. But he held down the role well. The version of the Batman, one well progressed in his own timeline with years of experience and loss under his belt, also gives me hope for his planned stand-alone movie.
Henry Cavill is physically impressive, but fails to resonate as a character. His turns as Clark Kent failing to differentiate the secret identity from the costumed one other than in outfits.
Gal Gadot does exeptionally well. She could easily have earned equal billing to the male characters. Her stand-alone movie is also full of potential. Howeverm her presence is poorly explained and in places seems tacked on to the core story. But her performance is remarkable.
Jesse Eisenberg was the single biggest disappointment to me. He was completely and obviously insane. Donald Trump aside, it is unbelievable that someone so utterly unhinged could be the head of a successful multi-billion dollar company. Completely failing to come across as a scheming mastermind, performing more like a coke-fiend that just finished off his stash in a single hit. Luthor was not a worthy adversary of the man of steel.
I didn’t care for Amy Adams performance in Man of Steel. It felt dispassionate, detached. Her role in Batman vs Superman was greatly improved.
Excellent supporting minor roles from Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch, and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White rounded out the core cast.
The entire tying in of the other future Justice League members in Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) was heavy handed. It felt superfluous to the movie storyline and I would question whether there could not have been a better way to introduce them. None of their appearances helped the immediate story, was remotely compelling, or achieved anything more than eating up minutes of screen time.
I think of these additional Justice League characters, it is Ezra Miller who has the most difficult task ahead of him. He is recreating a character with a current incarnation that is both successful and popular.
The titular battle itself, Batman vs Superman, was fairly good quality, though it took too long to get to for what it ultimately delivered.
The ultimate villain that the heroes band against was called Doomsday though it looked more like it had escaped the Mines of Moria or Peter Jackson’s Weta workshop. Possessing pointless energy powers that had no basis in comics. Lacking the only physical traits that gave the comic book character an identity, his large facial bone protrusions. The combat scenes were similar to Man of Steel in that they are very fast and crazy powerful. While I know that this is simply meant to portray what combat at those power levels would be like, I found them inaccessible and pointlessly destructive. The story was ended with a completely impotent plot development regarding Superman’s fate. With both a Man of Steel sequel and expectations around appearing in the planned Justice League movies, it was a hollow finale.
Side point, a single shot during this final battle saw Batfleck positioned in a beautiful homage to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight series. As a long time fan of that comic book series, this was a highlight for me.
Ultimately, Batman vs Superman felt like two different movies mashed together. One telling the core story arc and bringing the DC trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together. The second building the platform to introduce the Justice League. I would have been happy with just the former, and I feel that the whole suffered as a result of trying too much to follow Marvel’s footsteps.
The individual performances and nuances of the Batman and Wonder Woman characters still give me hope that the DC Cinematic Universe still has potential. But from these early chapters, I fear it is doomed to live in the shadow of Marvel’s achievements.
One last thing. I stuck around on the rumour of a post-credit scene. No such scene appeared. Don’t waste your time on it.