We have waited a long time to see Batman and Superman on the screen together, and now it is here. Batman vs. Superman is one of the most anticipated movies of 2016 and with a great story, action and philosophy, the results speak for themselves; the scale is epic. However, behind the veneer of visual effects, lies a film that is not exactly tasteful to everyone, including me. I’m not on the bandwagon of critics who hate this, not a chance, but this film does have noticeable flaws.
There are no flaws in the story, that’s for sure. Staying very true to the comics, we find ourselves immediately after the events of Man of Steel where Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) has operated as Batman for 20 years and to this day blames Superman (Henry Cavill) for the casualties that occurred in Man of Steel. Soon, both heroes come to blows and find themselves in a fight against each other and against the charismatic Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) who has got hold of Kryptonite to fulfil his greatest ambition; the destruction of Superman. At the same time, forces of politics, other heroes and even the relationship between family and friends threatens to cause a dent in our characters at war. What I like about this story most of all, is that it focuses on several aspects of the characters without too much deviation. You also get to experience Batman’s visions of the past and potential future to get an insight of his working mind and how damaged he has been without his parents. However, it does leave out large chunks of his experiences within his 20-year reign, but this is made up for by the brilliant, un-cheesy dialogue of David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio.
It is great to have a story that engages in more real world affairs than just crappy dialogue or action in every single scene. Zack Snyder certainly has good taste in who writes a screenplay and not himself, as proved with Sucker Punch, which was awful. His style is very visual and even when there is a lot of action, he never loses focus of the story and what the characters should be doing. This is a big improvement over Man of Steel, but, the characters don’t really interact with each other properly, especially the three-way partnership of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Henry Cavill certainly looks the part, but his personality is fairly empty and is completely overshadowed by the superb performance of Ben Affleck. His version of Batman maybe darker than Christian Bale or Michael Keaton’s versions, but the way he delivers his anger and pain is unparalleled. What’s more, the performances of Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Amy Adams as Lois Lane provide the heart and warmth into the film, and have the most humour out of the characters aside from Jessie Eisenberg, who gives a hybrid of Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey’s versions of Lex Luthor to deliver the most philosophical villain on screen at the moment.
The biggest problem with this film by a country mile, is the way it feels. There is very little humour and while there is character interaction, there isn’t enough. It feels comparatively cold compared to the 1978 Superman film and outclassed by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Although I have to say, there is less mindless destruction in this film than in Man of Steel, simply because of a 2 hour and 30-minute running time. The CGI that is present is mostly good, particularly the effects of Superman’s powers and brilliant car chase with the Batmobile. But, the destruction sequences and the effects for Doomsday, are hopeless. They look too fake; the energy blasts, the explosions, the missiles and Doomsday himself are all awful to look at. It maybe toned down in violence compared to Man of Steel, but it is still a barrage of action and fire.
There is a similar problem with the sound effects. Metal snapping, distant and close-up explosions, gunfire, sonic booms, it is a wayward mess of noise. Don’t get me wrong, is you concentrate really hard, you can begin to appreciate craftsmanship behind each individual effect, I certainly can give praise. But, if you just dump it all in one big lump, then you receive too much information, you can’t fully concentrate on the sound because it is blaring at you from all directions. I think it was trying to emulate a battlefield, and when it is used with a barrage of CGI, the effect isn’t worth it; it isn’t interesting or ground-breaking, it’s just blind, simple action.
Of course, I do think that the sheer scale of it all gives the sound and visual style a great deal of strength; it looks cool. But it isn’t as good as the films score. Legendary composer Hans Zimmer has teamed up with Junkie XL (best name in the world for a music composer) to create a score that is simple astonishing. I have never heard anything this epic since Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. It doesn’t even licence any songs for use, because to be honest, that would completely spoil it. You can also tell that they have brought back the lovely themes in Man of Steel as a link to the DC extended universe and avoided any similarities with the music in the Dark Knight Trilogy. And with Junkie XL, there is a distinctive modern feel to the score, not techno or dubstep, but a bit remixing to make the score appeal not only to older people, but to younger people as well.
At the moment, this is the best score I have listened to this year and it will be hard to top. It may also prove to be difficult to top the set design. Yes, with the scenes of destroyed cities and Superman flying through the air, you can tell there is an enormous amount of green screening in this film, but the real sets are actually, very well designed. Deluxe mansions, desert settlements, abandoned buildings and the Wayne family mausoleum are superbly detailed and very different from any other superhero films, and so is the Bat cave. There is much greater density of technology in this version than in the Dark Knight or the Tim Burton films, but thanks to the water and rocky interior, you are still reminded that this is close to the comics. There is even an opening and closing roof arrangement in this one, how cool is that!
The other good area this film does really well in is the cinematography. Unlike Wally Pfister’s cinematography in the Dark Knight trilogy, DP Larry Fong creates a grey and almost hazy atmosphere to the world of Metropolis and Gotham; you almost get the sense that not everything is as good as it seems, like an evil is coming or the collapse of friendship. This is a similar technique in Man of Steel, but has gone to much greater effect in this, thanks to some really clever slow-motion shots. The slow-motion in this film not only displays epic scenes, but the sudden chaos and collapse of morality or goodness in a particular scene; an example would be the scene involving Bruce Wayne and his parents exiting the theatre. The cinematography may not be as incredible or inventive as in The Dark Knight, but it isn’t dull or stupid either.
Perhaps the biggest new change in this film is the way the characters look. Superman still carries the suit and cape from Man of Steel, but Batman is something different. He is no longer Black, he has no pointy ears or even a bat like cape; he looks closer to being a human, and shows when he presents his personality. As I said before, Doomsday is utter rubbish, but Lex Luthor is presented as more of an unruly teenager or idealistic maniac; manic hair, modern clothing and rather quirky attitude to the subject of Man vs. God.
Batman vs. Superman is far from being perfect; there are noticeable problems and is overshadowed by previous iterations of both heroes and if Zack Snyder could withhold the massive amount of CGI and wayward noises, then his Justice League films in the future could be brilliant. This still has an epic sense of scale though, it finally presents us the answer to the question that has been debated by children and comic book fans for a long time; “who is better, Batman or Superman?”, watch it and find out.
I give this film a 5/10.