Batman v. Superman was one of the most hyped films of 2016 for good reason. Seeing the two most famous superheroes in pop culture battle each other is not something to be missed. But the movie itself doesn’t quite understand that, and by biting off more than it can chew, it fails to satisfy its most important demographic.
After the events of Man of Steel, Superman (Henry Cavill) is seen by some as a godlike hero and by others as an omnipotent menace for the tantamount destruction he caused the city of Metropolis in the former film’s climax. When he controversially rescues Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from a hostage situation in the Middle East, he is called to answer for his actions. Meanwhile in Gotham City, a hardened and cynical Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) distrusts Superman whom he holds accountable for the deaths of many innocent civilians. When Kryptonite is found by people working for Lex Luthor (Jesse Eiseneberg), Wayne as Batman intends to steal it and use it against the Man of Steel.
The performances in this film is good for the most part. Cavill once again does a good job as Superman; returning cast-members Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, and Amy Adams are okay (though Lois still suffers from an absence of interesting personality). As for the new additions, Ben Affleck is fine as Batman. He plays the character very differently to what most of us are used to, but he physically suits the role and is fairly believable. Jeremy Irons is perfect as Alfred, an ideal middle ground between Michael Gough and Michael Caine. And despite everything, Gal Gadot is really good as Wonder Woman. She’s not developed much which is fine (she has her own movie coming up for that), but I thought she did a great job. Many of the action sequences were also really well done and creative.
But when it comes to the plot, this film is very messy. It opens with another retread of Batman’s origin story which isn’t necessary, and from there on we bounce back between Batman, Superman, and Lex Luthor. And the one exception to the good casting is Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor. Lex Luthor has often been portrayed as an interesting adversary to Superman, a business magnate with aspirations for world domination, but Eisenberg plays him as a genius psychotic more akin to say the Riddler which really doesn’t work. And he never feels natural in any of his scenes. Every time we shift to him the plot becomes less focussed and a little convoluted with everything that’s going on. This film’s priority needs to be on the title face off between its two titans.
But the biggest crime of the film is regarding the ultimate fight. Suffice it to say, it’s not what was promised. It’s much shorter than we were led to believe, but also the provocation and motivation driving each hero is completely undermined by another character and plot development. Wonder Woman gets involved and it quickly becomes less Batman v. Superman and much more Dawn of Justice. Which is annoying because it feels like a disservice to the characters as well as the potential the idea that Batman v. Superman has. While the story direction was very haphazard throughout, there was still a sense it was building to something, and you can’t help but feel gypped when it fails to deliver.
There’s also a Batman dream sequence that makes no sense, and the film proves a timely Easter release as the Christ symbolism that was already overdone in Man of Steel is played up even more here, especially by films’ end. The script is full of gimmicky lines about Batman and Superman being together or fighting which are really cringeworthy.
Though not necessarily an awful movie, for a film called Batman v. Superman, it’s far too underwhelming. I feel like it’s trying to be an Avengers or Dark Knight calibre film without having earned it. In the end, it’s intentions to build the universe and set up future films gets in the way of its own plot and it feels like just a pointless bridge for other movies and characters to spin off from. And I’d have more faith in those future projects if DC devoted half the time to crafting better coherent stories that it does trying to catch up with Marvel.