When I heard about this film, with the crossover of DC mythologies, I honestly was kind of confused. I never followed the original DC or Marvel comics, so when superhero characters start to overlap into each other’s plot lines, I’m always like, “What the hell? Can they do that?”
But the setup for Batman v Superman actually works, because it launches off a big, sore plot point from Man of Steel that really bugged me: Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), a rich financial bigwig, sees a skyscraper filled with his employees collapse as a direct result of the chaos and catastrophe in the climax of that movie. When I saw Man of Steel, I thought it was glaringly ridiculous that the only people in a bustling city seemed to be the staff of The Daily Planet cowering behind parked cars. But no, Batman v Superman acknowledges the inadvertent carnage and collateral damage that Superman (Henry Cavill) laid upon the city in his endless fight with bad guy General Zod. And Wayne/Batman is pissed.
Ben Affleck was a controversial casting choice for this film, and there was a lot of backlash when he was announced. But you know what? He’s actually the best part of the film. I really liked his take on Bruce Wayne. He’s a grump with salt-and-pepper temples, and even his butler Albert (Jeremy Irons) quips that Wayne is too old to die young… not that he hasn’t tried. Wayne is broken down but angrier than ever, and takes out his rage, vigilante-style, on thugs and lowlifes.
Meanwhile, Superman/Clark Kent is still pretty and dull, and has a pretty and dull relationship with Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Lois is still a modern woman with a job, but is never, ever in danger of getting killed–Superman always showing up is her “Get Out of Jail Free Card” that never expires.
But the film wouldn’t be called Batman v Superman without the promise of a fight. Batman’s pent-up rage combined with some sneaky tricks by annoying tech kid Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, playing an even more annoying version of Mark Zuckerberg) sets the scene. The problem is, for the face-off Batman swaddles himself in what looks like a Transformer suit. Where Superman is sleek muscle, Batman clunks around like he is wearing garbage cans on all his limbs. It’s unfair from the start, and more than a little off-kilter (Zack Snyder’s action-staging in this film doesn’t help–it’s too close, too dark, and too hard to follow). And with all this, no one is having fun, not even the audience. The bombastic, operatic soundtrack implies that all of this is everything, but the problem is that you feel nothing.
I will say this: The only point that the packed audience burst into applause was when–deep into the film–Wonder Woman finally appears. At that point, a good two hours in, we’ve seen glimpses of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), elegant and intriguingly mysterious. But when she shows up unannounced in full WW glory (including wielding a very Xena-ish sword) ready to kick some ass, suddenly things get a LOT more interesting–and the audience totally feels it. The grim Batman and Superman are kind of humorless bores, but we’ll all be waiting for the long overdue Wonder Woman film based on this promising tease.
If you can stomach a longer version of Batman v Superman, the director’s cut offers another half hour. Some head-scratching scenes are more fleshed out, but otherwise the extra minutes added are just that many minutes taken away from, you know, taking your dog for a walk or something. There are plenty of rah-rah extras expounding with utmost sincerity on the characters and their motivations, plus there are featurettes about the Batmobile, the Batcave, and, well, bats. The most telling thing that the marketers did with this release, however, was emphasize the most exciting part of the film on the Blu-ray box: Yes, that is Wonder Woman front and center, in between the two characters of the title. The best part of this film was not Batman or Superman, but the teasing sneak peek of a fresher, more exciting super hero. Yes, I’m waiting for Wonder Woman.