Title: Batman V Superman:Dawn Of Justice
Director: Zack Snyder
Major Players: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg
Out Of Five: 2.5
It’s been a long time coming and it’s had a decidedly lumpy ride on the way, marketing men or no marketing men. Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman was greeted by howls of anguish and large portions of vitriol and, since then, the knives have never totally been put away. Fast forward to last weekend’s public screenings in the States. The reactions were positive and it looked like everything had worked out fine in the end. Until Tuesday night’s European premiere in London. The critics in attendance kicked the weekend into touch.
Which explained the introduction at the following day’s press screening. Director Zack Snyder mentioned he’d been working on the film for at least three years, but it was Henry Cavill’s comments that were more telling. There was more than a smidge of desperation in his voice when he told that audience that a lot of people had worked very hard on the film. Or, put another way, please be nice to us. It didn’t bode well.
So, after all the waiting and all the hype, what’s it really like? Expensive, for sure, with a $250 million-ish budget. Big, brash and loud. As for the story, well try this. It’s a world where some people see Superman (Henry Cavill) as its saviour, a beacon of hope: others believe his previous actions show he’s a huge threat and businessman Bruce Wayne (Affleck) is in the second camp. So out comes the bat suit and all his other paraphernalia so he can take on the Man Of Steel but, while the two are slugging it out, another greater menace emerges, one that needs the power of both heroes to defeat it.
That, I have to say, is the simplified version. It made sense for about the first hour or so, after which it slammed into a brick wall and went off in all directions. I usually don’t have problems following a storyline but this one was so all over the shop that I had two choices: persevere with it, hoping that it might get back on track, or switch off my already-addled brain and just watch all those OTT scenes, explosions and fights. No prizes for guessing which one I went for, especially as I found myself feeling sorry for the actors who were struggling valiantly with the dual challenges of the story and some decidedly dodgy dialogue.
That’s not the only problem. At two and a half hours it’s ridiculously long, spending far too much time at the start on how Bruce Wayne grew up to be a vigilante. Like we didn’t know all that anyway! Died in the wool DC Comics fans will no doubt pick up on the many “in” references – I’m assured by one that there’s plenty – but isn’t this meant to be a mass market film? Something else that doesn’t make sense. And there’s the small matter of that 12A certificate, which is as borderline as Superman’s tights. There’s at least a couple of scenes that seriously aren’t for the youngsters in the audience. It all rather smacks of the film not being made for public consumption.
Except that it isn’t all bad and it’s certainly not the turd that some are making it out to be. Affleck, for example, manages to put all that initial flack to rest once and for all with his Bruce Wayne/Batman. The darkness from the Christopher Nolan trilogy is still there, but he’s a deeply angry, bitter man and incredibly hard to get on with. His loyal butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons), is still at his side but now wears an expression along the lines of “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” He wasn’t alone. Lex Luthor, as played by Jesse Eisenberg, has also gone in another direction: twitchy, neurotic, unstable and irritating, he does manage to provide the occasional much-needed light touch.
I tried very hard to keep an open mind about this one, despite all the build-up, but I fear this could turn out to be the big disappointment of the year. And it has a huge amount riding on it as far as Warner Brothers are concerned. Their forthcoming raft of DC movies has legions of question marks hanging over them. And the studio execs are holding their corporate breath until the box office figures are out ……
Batman V Superman:Dawn Of Justice is in cinemas now and was reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 24 March.