Just don’t ruin his face. That was about all I could think as Batman pummeled Superman in the ultimate gladiator show: man versus god. Because as much as this fight has been touted as the ultimate showdown between two superheroes (besides Captain America: Civil War due out later this year), there was very little that held my interest besides Clark Kent’s chiseled features.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was always going to come under microscope from fans. How do you create a Batman that follows the magnificent Dark Knight trilogy with the ultimate Batman [IMHO], Christian Bale? In Dawn of Justice politicians begin to question the trustworthiness of an alien being who is nearly indestructible. Superman (Henry Cavile) is a hero to many, but wherever he goes, destruction follows, and if so inclined, he could turn back the earth’s clock to Day One of Genesis. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) agrees, and decides Superman must be stopped. At the same time, Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), is (of course) planning a Doomsday event of epic proportions that would pit Superman and Batman against each other. And, Batman has an actual chance, having discovered Superman’s green Achilles heel.
I’ve always been partial to Batman, the superhero with no superpowers, and caught up in intense inner turmoil. The casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne was met with surprise and dismay (and not just from me). It was just unimaginable. Poor Ben, he never really had a chance did he? In the film, Batman’s physique is a little ridiculous: his shoulders look so uncomfortably overdeveloped that he has no neck, making his strut look more like a waddle. Batman is one of the most tortured and dark heroes in the comic universe, but besides some cursory references to the murder of his parents, there is no character development or depth to Affleck’s performance. He tries hard to project a tormented look. Instead, he ends up looking like he has lockjaw.
Henry Cavill is back as the man of steel, and just as boring and one-dimensional as in the 2013 film. Then again, I must confess I’ve never warmed to the superhero who doesn’t have to work at least a little bit to be super. And Clark Kent is just so insipidly virtuous. No one, not even a prince from Krypton, can be that ‘good’, that moral. Cavill’s pretty, sculptured features are the most interesting thing about Superman. However, I wondered whether he might considered suing his doctor for using too much Botox on his face (well that’s what it looks like!). Besides a slight frown here and there, Clark’s face is frozen in an almost expressionless glare.
In Dawn of Justice, Amy Adams’ Lois Lane gets little screen time, and unfortunately is often a bit whimpering and teary instead of a strong, tenacious journalist. The film’s most gripping character has to be Lex Luthor, who is portrayed as a gleefully maniacal criminal mastermind by Jesse Eisenberg. From Luthor’s highly-charged nervous shaking and speech, to his social awkwardness, this arch-villain was funny and intriguing.
The script, dear oh dear, the script… In their first physical skirmish, in which Superman brushes him off like an ant, Batman asks “Tell me. Do you bleed?” Superman zips away, and the Bat is left promising empty air “You will.” And later: “You’re not brave. Men are brave.” Yes, let’s show each other how manly we are by throwing some punches. It’s about as riveting as watching a plant grow. In slow motion.
Dawn of Justice sees the introduction of a new character, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who’s by far the most thrilling superhero in the film, despite being only slightly more than a cameo. At least DC has now made one of its smartest decisions, giving Wonder Woman her own film, set for release in 2017. DC has the opportunity to finally introduce a strong female hero who can be respected (we’ll just ignore Jennifer Garner’s butchering of Elektra in 2005). Wonder Woman is a character who’s been mostly ignored since the 1970s, and as long as director Zack Snyder (responsible for Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice) is kept far away, this could be DC’s challenge to Marvel’s Jessica Jones.
My expectations for Batman v Superman were so low that – despite the overall tone of this review – it wasn’t nearly as tortuous as I’d expected. Hence, my rating is slightly better than I would have given the film had my hopes been higher.
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot
Rating: 3 out of 5