Thursday, 24 March 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice

"People hate what they don't understand," explains Martha Kent to her supernaturally strong but somewhat dim adopted son Clark, who's confused about the general animosity he's attracted after casually wasting thousands of human lives at the end of Man Of Steel. If only someone had taken Zack Snyder to one side before he embarked on directing that film's sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, and offered him the same advice; maybe then he wouldn't have excreted such a mass of hopelessly incoherent wreckage, and we wouldn't be praying that he never sets foot near such beloved icons of pop culture again. Just a thought.

The gist of Batman v Superman, such as I could ascertain, is as follows: Batman distrusts Superman's unchecked alien powers and therefore reaches the obvious conclusion that he must kill him immediately. Superman also dislikes Batman, for reasons that escape me right now. I'm not sure it matters. They fight, they make up, then they fight someone else. This process takes two and a half hours to play out, although due to a bizarre contortion of time that final fight lasts around eight weeks.

With this basic premise in mind Zack Snyder has set about making the experience as baffling, boring and bereft of joy as is humanly possible, and at that he has succeeded enormously. Scenes which appear to have been shorn of their beginnings and ends smash up against each other with little regard for narrative cause and effect, as if William Burroughs had arranged them during his cut-up period. Characters vomit reams of dialogue through stoic grimaces and ponderous frowns without saying anything helpful or interesting, and when they're not doing that they're punching or shooting each other for days on end. Any attempts at levity - I think I counted three - are immediately smothered by the crushingly dour mood, and Snyder's insistence on grading everything in that cobalt blue tint that enjoyed a brief moment of originality in around 2008 ensures that it's nigh on impossible to distinguish one location from another.

David Goyer's script takes a potentially interesting metatextual stance in having characters berate the unbridled carnage that made the climax of his previous Superman film so dunderheadedly offensive, but the concept goes no further than that. One fantastical metaphorical possibility is that Bruce Wayne is introduced as an embodiment of Man Of Steel's critics, sent to spank Kal-El's steely buttocks before - in Goyer and Snyder's sweetest dreams - making peace with the last son of Krypton and realising he's not such a bad cove after all. If that was the intention, though, the plan is somewhat derailed when it becomes clear that the new film is easily its predecessor's equal in terms of piling nonsense upon nonsense, like an eye-wateringly expensive game of nonsense Jenga.
What I'm basically saying is that this is me.

Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck, tasked with playing two of the most fascinating figures in pop culture's entire history, are fighting a losing battle here. They've both proved themselves capable of charm, wit and depth in the past, and although such qualities would seem relevant to their roles in this film they're simply not allowed to manifest. It's painfully obvious that these aren't intended as the Batmen and Supermen of Michael Keaton, Christopher Reeve or Christian Bale, but under Zack Snyder's direction they almost make you yearn for George Clooney.

Further major and minor irritants abound throughout, not least of which is Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor, possibly the most teeth-itchingly annoying performance of modern times. Not only is Luthor painful to watch, but he gets the lion's share of plot inconsistencies to boot. He's given no backstory or motivation so we have no idea why he's doing whatever it is he's doing; he's thrilled to see Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne chatting at his party despite the fact that, by rights, he should have no idea who the mild-mannered Daily Planet reporter is; his assistant finds Wayne snooping around in a private room but just leaves him to it, and he miraculously knows to use Lois Lane as bait to trap Superman in an early scene that is so under-explained it's like it fell out of a different movie.

In fact Batman v Superman raises an entire catalogue of questions it can't quite be arsed to answer: why, for example, doesn't Bruce Wayne design a bat-cowl that covers a decidedly identifying mole on his cheek? Why does Amy Adams need to play an entire scene in the bath, naked? Why is there a gigantic statue of Superman in Metropolis when everyone hates him? What in the name of all that is holy is going on in that astonishingly misjudged dream sequence? Why do we need to see Bruce Wayne's parents murdered (complete with pearls clattering on the pavement in slo-mo) for what must be about the ninth time? And what the fuck was anyone thinking when they picked that reason for Bats and Supes to kiss and make up?
Don't even get me started on this fucking thing

I could sit here all day bringing up other pointless and ill-conceived characters, gaping plot holes and forehead-slappingly stupid plot devices (here's one: a Kryptonite spear, intended to weaken Superman, actually renders everyone who touches it unfathomably moronic), but it's as exhausting to detail them as it is to watch them unfold before you. Only Hans Zimmer's new theme for a certain Amazonian warrior princess raises a smile, although the rest of his score is employed in such a way that it feels like he's personally battering you around the head with a pair of woks while a 200-piece choir shouts at you.

How Warner Bros and DC have arrived at this point is no doubt confusing to them, but it seems reasonably clear that much of the blame rests at Zack Snyder's feet. Batman v Superman isn't so much directed as ejaculated, and the resulting mess is going to require an extremely hot wash to shift. Snyder seems to have no concept of light and shade, of memorable moments or of genuinely epic storytelling, which he confuses with excessive CGI and loud noises. Perhaps his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach is best exemplified in the long-awaited but tediously leaden fight between the leads, during which Batman wrenches from the wall an actual kitchen sink, which he uses in an attempt to render Superman senseless. He needn't have bothered; Snyder has already done the job for him.


  1. This is one of those times when I'm genuinely baffled as to why a film has got so much negative reaction. I feel as though I watched a different film entirely. I am no comic book fan, no fanboy of either DC or Marvel, but I loved it and would watch it again right now. It engaged me from start to the finish and contrary to your review, and other critic's, I found it completely intelligible and coherent throughout. All this talk of it being a narrative mess bears no relation to what I watched. I knew what everyone was doing, and why, pretty much at all times. All the main leads were on fine form and was a visual feast.
    Only niggles I had were Lex seemed more like the Riddler than Lex, and would like Snyder to slow down his edits during action scenes, but I can honestly say this is the best blockbuster film I've seen for a couple of years.

  2. Reasonably sure you were watching a different film.

  3. i've been trying to figure out what i thought about it, but agree with most of this. particularly the reason that they make up, that was insane.

  4. You will see it again and like it!

  5. didn't you get a Bondian vibe from the Wayne party scenes? whoever they choose as Bond next should be a big bastard like Affleck (and Connery and even Moore). enough of the 5'9 blends in a crowd Bond