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Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – “Thank Zod for Wonder Woman”

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is directed by Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300). Henry Cavill (The Man From UNCLE) returns as Superman, following his donning of the blue tights in 2013’s Man of Steel, and he is joined by Ben Affleck (Argo) as Batman.

How to solve a problem like Man of Steel? The solution proffered by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is to make the Superman sequel into a Batman film where EVERYONE treats Superman as the villain. Poor Supes can’t win. No matter how many people he saves, half the population are calling for his head, the US government want to control him, Lex Luthor wants to harvest him, and Bruce Wayne/Batman wants to beat his face off for taking out a building full of his employees while fighting Zod.

The main problem with Man of Steel was that it didn’t get Superman right. The film and character were po faced and no fun, and saw the big blue boy scout acting very un-Superman like: defeating a villain by breaking his neck and inadvertently killing a lot of innocent civilians in the process. Batman v Superman doubles down on the dourness and goes to such repeated great lengths to let you know that “IT’S OK – NO BYSTANDERS ARE GETTING HURT” this time around that it becomes annoying and absolutely ridiculous.

Talking of annoying and absolutely ridiculous… Hi, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Eisenberg plays Lex like Mark Zuckerberg on crack, and while his ticks and speech set-to-shuffle schtick is mildly amusing initially, and truly threatening in a scene with an excellent Holly Hunter as a senator, it wears very thin very fast. Thankfully the grim can’t-catch-a-break-Superman and his maddeningly portrayed arch enemy are broken up by our new Batman: Ben Affleck.

Affleck’s Dark Knight is hardcore. A true vigilante who is quite happy to beat, brand, and scare senseless Gotham’s criminals. Bale’s Bat was serious too, but Batfleck is just plain ANGRY, and it’s great. He also does a lot of actual detective work, which is very welcome and under-seen. Jeremy Irons’s Alfred is also a plus. Dry, and portrayed as an equal to Bruce, the pair are more like partners here than master and servant, and it’s an interesting dynamic that we will hopefully see more of.

What we are also already signed up to see more of though is Snyder. Here his lack of control, pace and structure is truly alarming, and if he cannot handle three superheroes then a two-parter starring SIX is definitely beyond him. After spending 90 minutes cajoling the heroes into believably wanting to fight each other, he has Lex force their hands anyway – which completely invalidates all that screen time used to naturally turn them ideologically against one another.

Then, when they do fight, you don’t want to see it. It’s depressing and sad. Who wins in the fight between Batman v Superman? Certainly not the audience. Who REALLY wins not just the fight, but the film? Wonder Woman. Thank Zod for Wonder Woman who swoops in as a breath of fresh, fun air, with a cool guitar riff theme, and sword and shield, blowing away the grim scowly testosterone and providing the film’s only real moments of excitement and joy.

Bats, Alfred and Gal Gadot’s Amazonian princess are not the only good things though. A positive from the mangled narrative full of redundant scenes and way too many dream and nightmare sequences, is that Batman v Superman also smuggles in some gloriously batshit visions of the future and even time travel! The condensed introductions to the rest of the Justice League: The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, are all fun and full of promise too.

The DC Extended Universe may be rushed, lower in quality, and still significantly behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but they have beaten them to the punch with an exciting super-powered female lead whose additional solo movie will also still be out a year before Ant-Man and The Wasp, and two years before Captain Marvel.

2.5-out-of-5

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on 25th March 2016.

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