Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

 

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Sadistic and bone-crunchingly violent alliance of the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel. Or should it be called Waiting for Wonder Woman?

 

The notion of the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel sharing the same screen is as exhilarating as the thought of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the same bedroom. Burton and Taylor. Antony and Cleopatra. De Niro and Pacino. In addition, the respective franchises showcasing Batman and Superman have raised the bar way higher than either George Clooney or Brandon Routh could ever have dreamed of. And while the Marvel Universe was uniting the likes of Iron Man, The Hulk and Captain America, it was time for DC Comics to join the party. So Zack Snyder, director of the Superman reboot Man of Steel, is back in action with a $250 million budget to play with.

 

Barman v Superman II

Bone-crunching escapism: Ben Affleck in action

 

He certainly doesn’t stint on the special effects, a fact that doesn’t always go in the film’s favour. It’s all incredibly violent and for all the explaining, the two worlds of the superheroes don’t always correspond. With the terrorist threat from Africa and the appearance of real-life anchors like Charlie Rose and Brooke Baldwin playing themselves, the film suggests that we are in the real world today. Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), editor of The Daily Planet, even cites the assassinations of “Robert, Martin and John.” Yet where are we? The captions tell us we’re in Metropolis, but characters refer to the central city as Gotham. It’s all terribly confusing. With so much information and quantum physics to digest, much of the film will be lost on younger viewers. This is really a 15 certificate movie with a 12A certificate tag.

 

The opening, set in a recognisable present, sees Bruce Wayne as a boy witness the slow-motion killing of his father and mother. We’ve barely had time to recover from this, than we witness Metropolis being systematically obliterated by the forces of General Zod. The scenes of imploding skyscrapers still leave one with a certain nausea and we are not spared the human element. The shot of a little girl crying in the rubble sees to that. Even though Superman (Henry Cavill) saves her from a toppling monolith, the girl’s horror is unalleviated. “Where’s your mother?” he asks her. She points up to where a building used to stand, its remains a tangled mass of girders and masonry.

Eighteen months later and we are in ‘Nairomi’ in Africa where investigative reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is abducted by terrorists. After her crew have all been executed, she is held with a gun to her temple. Even as Superman miraculously appears, the gunman tells him: “Take one step and you will see the inside of her head.” It’s not a very pleasant image. And so it goes. This is dark, dark stuff and somehow even more disturbing than the terrorist events depicted in London Has Fallen. Maybe the CGI is just that much better.

 

And then Superman is disgraced for not helping the world enough. In the words of Senator June Finch (a very creditable Holly Hunter): “The world has been so caught up in what Superman can do, nobody has asked what Superman should do.” Enter Batman, whose inferiority complex is stoked by the machinations of the mad young genius Lex Luthor, played by a cackling – and often unintelligible – Jesse Eisenberg. The cinema has often overlooked the power wielded by the young. Let us not forget that Mary Shelley conceived Frankenstein at the age of 19, Louis Braille invented his system of writing for the blind at 15 and Mozart composed his first full-length opera at 12. Eisenberg himself has played Mark Zuckerberg – who launched Facebook at the age of 19 – and so has the mien to play the young and casually omnipotent. He is a good villain, if only because you want to strangle him. All this makes for compelling, adult comic-book cinema.

 

Batman v Superman III

Face-off: Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill

 

However, by the halfway mark things start to go pear-shaped – and the film never recovers from its over-kill. The fights get bigger, Lex Luthor’s designs more ludicrous and credibility is left in its wake. Even fantasy fiction needs an iota of human logic. Besides, if only Batman and Superman could sit down and have a chat over a cup of tea one feels everything would be alright. Ben Affleck’s buffed-up Crusader is very much the dark knight, while Superman comes across as rather bland and a little too goody-two shoes. And as the film ploughs on with ever more subplots, one loses any human interest and has to scramble for the smallest crumb of entertainment value. The title is pompous, too: a more suitable moniker might be Waiting for Wonder Woman. When Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) does, finally, get her turn in the limelight, it’s all rather late for a last hurrah.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Tao Okamoto, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Harry Lennix, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Ezra Miller, Charlie Rose, Brooke Baldwin, Chris Pine (in the photograph with Wonder Woman).

 

Dir Zack Snyder, Pro Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder, Ex Pro Christopher Nolan, Screenplay Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, Ph Larry Fong, Pro Des Patrick Tatopoulos, Ed David Brenner, Music Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, Costumes Michael Wilkinson.

 

DC Entertainment/RatPac Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual Films-Warner Brothers.  151 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 25 March 2016. Cert. 12A.