“Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world.
God versus man. Day versus night! Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!”
My brutally honest opinion? If this is what constitutes as the “greatest gladiator match in the history of the world,” I’m fairly sure there are bunch of ancient Romans rolling around in their graves as we speak. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to like this film, I really did. I wanted the critics to be wrong, and I wanted to laugh in the face of everyone on Rotten Tomatoes. Sadly, even my own reasonably low expectations weren’t low enough, and I left the cinema thanking myself for remembering to use my student discount when I was buying my ticket.
It had so much potential to be good; I mean it’s Batman versus Superman, two of the most famous superheroes in the world. Unfortunately, with Justice League set to be released in late 2017, it seemed as if Snyder was more focused on including as many nods towards that than the central plot, with a lot of subplots being inconsistently carried through the film. I mean, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) finds out about Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and other members of the Justice League through hacking a hard-drive belonging to Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), and subsequently informs Wonder Woman via e-mail. E-mail. Now, I don’t know about you, but it just seemed really lazy. Especially when only moments later Wonder Woman shows up to help our main duo battle Doomsday (Lex’s final resort to kill Superman), and is met by both Bruce and Clark (Henry Cavill) questioning who she is… Gee, I don’t know Bruce, why don’t you double-check your sent folder?
I know what you’re thinking, well I’m guessing that you’re thinking, that subplots aren’t vital to the overriding success of a film, I mean they’re subplots for a reason, right? Usually I’d agree with you, but in this case the underwhelming writing seeped out of the subplots and right into the main arc of the narrative – if the subplots seemed lazy, then the central plot thread was just downright sloppy.
Admittedly; once the inaugural “let’s show Bruce Wayne’s parents being murdered for the 48738th time” sequence was over with (I’m sorry, but I am so bored of seeing his parents die, at this point I’d welcome a film about their killer with open arms if it’d ensure no more death sequences), the film began in a way the segued perfectly from the finale of Man of Steel (2013). I really liked the way Snyder was able to splice the final moments of Superman’s battle against Zod with Bruce’s frantic navigation of the city to evacuate his company building – it helped set up an initial tensions between the pair without seeming too contrived.
However, further character development is mostly left down to dream sequences (so, so many dream sequences) that, rather than achieving a depth of character, they serve only to complicate the plot in a way that ultimately seems counterproductive. Whilst the dichotomy of “Superman = good and Batman = not-so-good” is challenged as the pair are set up as adversaries, it’s all thrown out the window by one simple plot point. That point being: the actual reason they decide to focus their energy towards stopping Lex rathet than destroying each other. Putting it simply; they stop fighting because their mothers are both named Martha. And I mean c’mon man, really? It not only seems entirely out of place, but it completely flattens what was actually a pretty great fight scene (say what you want about Snyder, he’s great at creating intense action – and those Kyrptonite smoke bombs? Pretty damn cool) – not to mention being potentially the crumbiest plot twist ever.
All in all, the acting isn’t terrible throughout; with the exception of Jesse Eisenberg. I think this was the factor that totally destroyed the film for me. I can deal with weak subplots and I can deal with ridiculous plot twists – but the acting? That’s kind of a big deal. Eisenberg as Lex just really didn’t strike me as anything other than wrong, and honestly I think I rolled my eyes so much at how completely over-the-top his performance was that I’m surprised I didn’t lose a contact lens. Although, if Lex was supposed to come across as a weird amalgamation of The Joker and The Riddler with a lot more money and a lot more angst and philosophical knowledge, Esienberg was spot on. (I swear, if I hear the phrase “Do you know what the biggest lie in America is?” one more time).
On the other hand, I was surprised at how much I liked Affleck as Batman. I felt like he nailed portraying both Bruce Wayne and Batman, which is more than I can say about his predecessors, as for me Keaton was a brilliant Bruce and a bad Batman whilst Bale was the reverse. Cavill was on form as Clark Kent and Superman, but I didn’t really expect otherwise. The real disappointment for me was Lois Lane (Amy Adams); with any form of herself being reduced into a romantic interest and damsel in distress, completely dependent on Clark/Superman. Gal Gadot was the opposite in my opinion, and I was pleasantly surprised with her performance as Wonder Woman – I only hope she gets a similar treatment and a lot more screen time in Justice League.
I’m aware that this review is verging on 900 words, and I could probably continue for another 900 with ease, so I’ll draw it to a close here. Overall, I didn’t like the film. But, in saying that, I didn’t hate it either? But I mean, hey, there were some positive aspects. At least Batman can use e-mail and Superman loves his mum, right?