Thursday, 24 March 2016
FILM REVIEW: BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
If, as they say, we get the politicians we deserve – and boy, must we have been collectively awful of late – then we probably get the superheroes we deserve, too. And judging by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder's second foray into the world of the Man of Steel (following 2013's film of that name), audiences again are about to suffer a form of karmic retribution that will leave many asking themselves 'what the hell did we do to deserve this?'.
Well, given the box office success of superhero films over the past decade (mostly Marvel), including that of the much-maligned Man of Steel, the answer to that question would be plenty. And Zack Snyder is very much the school bully, pinning you down and slapping you with your own hand whilst teasing 'stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself'. Like it or not, we've consented to the superhero masochism and BvS is the latest punishment.
Picking up 18-months after the events of Man of Steel and the destruction of Metropolis – caused as a result of the smackdown between Superman (Henry Cavill, aesthetically appropriate yet dull as dishwater) and General Zod (Michael Shannon), which levelled a great deal of the CBD – the world's opinion is divided on the Caped Crusader: hero of the people or a law unto himself? A congressional committee chaired by plain speaking Kentuckian, Senator Finch (Holly Hunter), seems to be swaying towards the latter while Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, pumped-up but sleepwalking), who watched helplessly as his company's Metropolis headquarters and those inside perished during that Kryptonian rumble, is very much of the Nietzschean opinion that this god must die.
Hence, it only takes a little maneuvering by tech millionaire Alexander 'Lex' Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, whose performance is either really good or really bad?) to fan the flames of tension between Superman and Batman, although it requires a really lame reason to get the two to finally duke it out; writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer are as equally to blame as Snyder for this not-so-super mess.
The actual showdown between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight doesn't occur until the third act and takes up less than 20 minutes of the film's 153-minute running time. Before then, Snyder's not sure if he's directing a Superman film with a Batman subplot or vice versa, but to finish things off, or sweeten the deal, he unveils Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman (not showing much promise for next year's solo outing, although fingers crossed director Patty Jenkins has something up her sleeve).
Wonder Woman's there as part of the climactic battle, with a revived but mutated Zod, now known as Doomsday, and where an orgy of destruction, similar to the one which underscored Man of Steel's awfulness, is repeated here to even more bludgeoning effect. (Snyder heard your complaints, he just doesn't care!)
And unless you're a die hard fanboy with low standards, you won't care much either. Who wins, who loses; who lives, who dies. Whatevs. Granted these are comic book characters of superhuman strength but shouldn't we at least care about the titular outcome? Or what it is they're fighting for? Presumably that's humanity, their own if not ours, but Snyder and his heroes fail to inject any real human odds into this monumental showdown. Other than the studio's coffers, there are no winners here.