There is something profoundly business-like about Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
That’s not to say it’s a bad film – far from it – but despite the fact that it contains some eye-watering action scenes and enough explosions to put Michael Bay into orbit, one can’t escape the impression that what’s on screen feels more like a portfolio than a story audiences should care about.
There’s a reason for this. Warner Bros, no doubt inspired by the hideous amounts of money Disney is raking in with its Marvel superhero films and Star Wars franchise, has decided to take a similar tack with its DC properties.
Cast an eye over upcoming Warner Bros films on Wikipedia and IMDB, and you’ll see a veritable laundry list of DC superhero films (Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, Shazam and two – count ’em, two – Justice League films) that are all scheduled for release in the next three years.
So in a way, it’s understandable that Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice comes on like more of a scene-setter than a self-contained story. Its main aim seems to be to establish the camaraderie between its titular characters – and Wonder Woman – before Zack Snyder gears up for the first Justice League.
In the meantime, audiences can enjoy Henry Cavill’s second turn as Superman – and he’s a natural in the role – and Ben Affleck’s first turn as Batman – which was a massive bone of contention among DC fans when Affleck’s position on the project was announced.
Affleck acquits himself well, to be honest, both as Bruce Wayne and the caped crusader. Partnered with with a parchment-dry Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Affleck hits a sweet spot between Michael Keaton’s irreverence to the part and Christian Bale’s brooding.
Affleck’s Wayne is Gothic damage mixed with just the right amount of snark. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s involved in the movie’s best action set piece, a stunning car chase, which is far more believable and immediate than the film’s neighbourhood-destroying climax.
Cavill’s Superman is note-perfect in its execution, but it isn’t enough to hide the story’s inconsistencies.
As viewers of the film’s numerous trailers will know, Superman has a problem with Batman, because the latter is a vigilante who acts as though he’s above the law. But the film’s narrative reveals that the only individuals caught in Batman’s crossfire are bona fide criminals, while Superman’s heroics have cost thousands of lives in collateral damage.
That last fact is Batman’s motivation to take down Superman. In which case he should probably get the hell of a Zack Snyder film. Where most people see skyscrapers and entire neighbourhoods as simple structures, Snyder sees them as LEGO sets, designed to be destroyed in the loudest and most dirt-flinging style possible.
In the midst of the carnage, Amy Adams’s Lois Lane shines out like a beacon in the mist. By far the most believable character in the entire film, it’s a pity all she has to do is be rescued.
The film’s other female lead, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), adds some necessary spice. Out of costume, she’s presented like a snappy femme fatale, always one step ahead of her bullish male counterparts. On the battlefield, she’s a warrior revelling in the conflict. It’s rare to see a supporting female character in a movie of this type convincingly vie for centre stage.
The film’s biggest misstep is the casting of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Granted, there’s something to be said for presenting Lex as a sneaker-wearing tech wunderkind in the mould of a Silicon Valley CEO, updating him from the visual representation of corporate America circa 1990.
But Eisenberg’s take on the character is a series of ticks, jerks and high-pitched non-sequiturs. He’s lightweight and awkward – hardly the man who could present the Man Of Steel many problems going forward.
The film’s other – and bigger – misstep can’t be discussed here, because it walks right into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that, given what everyone knows about Warner’s plans, the film’s denouement feels not only cheap, but wholly unnecessary.
But above all, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice does what it sets out to do. It presents a highly entertaining – if soulless – 153 minutes of superhero hijinks, which involves tons of property damage, near-the-knuckle action set pieces and enough information to carry audience members through to the next film.
What more could you want? Let us know in the comments section under this article – because we’d like a lot more.
Verdict: Not bad, but hardly super 60%