After the flawed but promising start of Man of Steel, Zack Snyder followed it up with Batman vs Superman in an attempt to jump-start a MCU style shared universe. It.. didn’t work out like that.
Starring Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck as Superman and Batman 🦇 respectively with supporting roles by Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot as Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman and is a film bristling with ambition.
The plot is that in the wake of the Kryptonian attack, the world doesn’t really know what to do with Superman. Many fear what he can do and just as many see him as the symbol of hope he can be and he is equally bereft as his rescue of Lois (now his girlfriend) has become this juggernaut of unforeseen consequences. This is both helped and complicated by Lex Luthor who sees Superman as another in a line of abusive authority/father figures and an aging Batman who recognises the threat that Kryptonians pose and can only see Superman as something to get rid of, unable to see the man in the Superman.
Herein lies the films big problem. Its not the different version of Lex Luthor played her as a scares little boy version of Mark Zuckerberg, or ‘Batfleck’ being not what the fan boys wanted. These are interpretations that for the most part work. No, the biggest problem is that this film doesn’t get Superman. They play the isolation of this strange visitor and how people have their doubts about him well enough. But at heart Superman is a well meaning guy who doe the right thing because it’s the right thing and that is oddly missing from this film. It suffers an oft encountered problem with the character which in an inability to find the core idea of humanity’s big brother who wants everyone to be okay and doesn’t need to elevate himself. Whenever you see him silently floating overhead you are missing the point of him and that shot happens a lot.
But this is not Denouncing the DCEU, so I need to point out the positives. The film’s reliance on talking head clips is actually a useful narrative device to show how the world is reacting to Superman and quite a lot of it rings true. Amy Adams gives a degree of weight to the often unlikeable character of Lois Lane without trying to make her more likeable. She’s hardnosed and determined and these are shown as reasons to respect her rather than reasons to like her. It’s the most believable iteration of Lois I can think of, this is a successful reporter for a reason. The visuals are also quite striking, this version of Superman doesn’t hold true but it is beautifully rendered. There’s also a lot of moments that work, Clark Kent investigating the Batman is an interesting look into the Superman movies we could have gotten, his crusading journalist mode being a real person rather than a disguise and Cavill pulls it off, without pulling off the playing different characters thing. Also the scene were Lois has a gun to her head and is scared for her life, becoming calm and relaxed as soon as Superman shows up. This added to the very well executed action set-pieces (including Batfleck’s star turn in the warehouse scene) make this an exciting and engaging film to watch, despite the bum-numbing 3 hours run time (seriously had to split this over 3 nights so that SuperSam could watch it with me) and at time bizarre plot points.
As part of the attempt to do a Marvel, this film includes introductions to Aquaman, Cyborg, Flash and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman herself appears periodically throughout the first two hours before arriving in the 3rd act to just walk away with the rest of the film as a woman who doesn’t seek to fight, but enjoys the hell out of it when it arrives. Gal Gadot’s smile as she is knocked on her ass is a joy to behold and her blasé remark of “I’ve killed things from another world before.” just shows how overqualified she was as a guest star in this film. Something that can also be said of Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth who is the best live action version of this character I’ve seen to date.
So yes, this film fails to accurately capture the spirit of the title character(s) and fails in it’s goal of launching a successful and coherent shared film universe and this ultimate edition is long. All of these are true and fair criticisms of this film, but it’s well put together, has stakes and ultimate is fun, even when it’s taking itself far to seriously.
It’s a solid 3/5 with some of the wrong lessons learned from Man of Steel, but I was glad to have watched it and am more committed to doing this rewatch than before.
Next Time: Wonder Woman