Narrative has never been one of Zack Snyder´s strengths. ´Watchmen´(2009) was too pacey, ´Man Of Steel´(2013) too hasty. Here, in ´Batman V Superman´ Snyder manages a never before feat, incorporating a film both too slow at times, running it out with a film too obsessed with catching up with visually exciting fights. Were a lesser caliber of cast involved, ´BVS´ could well be a disaster.
Luckily, Snyder chose his stars well, the previously mocked Ben Affleck the film´s strongest asset, doing what no actor did before him, equally convincing as both Batman and Bruce Wayne, gritty, yet charming, repugnant but likeable. “That son of a bitch brought the war to us” he growls to his ever weary Alfred (a strong Jeremy Irons). Henry Cavill makes a solid Superman/Clark Kent, but cannot escape the immeasurable shadow left by Christopher Reeve. This is made up for by the sublime Gal Gadot, who´s Wonder-Woman theatrics nearly steal the show. Holly Hunter, Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne all excel in their supporting roles, though Jesse Eisenberg feels more at home in a Joel Schumacher film than the post Christopher Nolan Universe.
Make no mistake, this is Batman’s film, as the film opens with Bruce Wayne watching the destructive fight between Superman and Zod (Michael Shannon) which closed ‘Man of Steel’. Fearing for the safety of the planet, Wayne works himself to face off the alien, at a time when Superman tries to understand the velocity of his powers and responsibilities. All very regal, all very noble, but, at times, dull. However po-faced the Nolan films may have been, they still threw in a number of comedic scenes (The Joker playing with a remote, Selina Kyle’s playful flirtation etc). Snyder doesn’t and the film suffers for it, Eisenberg’s Lex Luther an irritant rather than funny. Blockbusters need levity, each and every one. Even Daniel Craig’s James Bond toned down his previously snafued performances with wisecracks in ‘Spectre’.
The film´s failings comes from its confused tone; at times psychedelic, at times lofty and gritty, at others austere and weird, Snyder tries to be Schumacher-Nolan and Burton at once, leaving the story both confused and thematically robbed of nuances. Where Snyder comes into his own are the action scenes; they are tremendous, changing from an erratic fight featuring six or seven gangsters, another amongst the wretch that pollute Gotham. The inevitable fight between the two titans does little to disappoint, though the lack of humour is a failing; it wouldn’t hurt for Superman to crack a smile at the irony of the situation awaiting him or more were made about Clark Kent socially awkward behavior.
Frank Miller is referenced and revered; this the second time Snyder looked to the comic writer for guidance, after ´300´ (2006), and his finger prints are felt in Affleck´s Batman. The new armored costume mirrors that of ´The Dark Knight Returns´, the film´s perennially grim and cloudy colour setting again a strong backdrop to the titular fight scene. One senses Snyder would be better at directing a faithful adaptation of a Batman graphic novel a la Miller or Alan Moore, but his portrayal of Superman is balanced, if sidelined to the Caped Crusader.
But what a manner he shows Batman. Forever dark, built and ready, Affleck’s Batman is rough, his low microphoned vocals perfect for his vigilante, avoiding the unnecessarily screechy wails Bale brought. This is the brooding Batman, the antithesis to Adam West’s camp man in tights: give Affleck a solo film and he may yet prove to be the definitve Batman. Gadot’s performance is far smaller than those of the leading men, but it leaves audience in anticipation for her stand-alone film.
A loquacious first half, a frantic second half, and the end result is a film that can be enjoyed without being loved. Too dour to be an equivalent to ‘The Avengers’, yet too beautifully choreographed to be ignored, the film is a massively flawed piece of filmmaking, both brilliant and disappointing. The film offers promise to many future adventures (one wishes Affleck and writer Chris Terrio could turn their ‘Argo’ Oscar winning brilliance into a cracking Batman film) and if streamlined better, the future ‘Justice League’ movie may strike gold. But lighten up, Snyder. These are caped heroes after all!
Eoghan Lyng has a great love for both James Bond and Batman. He one day wishes they could team up and form the greatest partnership known to mankind.