Not as bad as you’ve heard, not as good as you’d hoped, ‘Batman v Superman’ comes to the screen suffering from excess: It’s too long, too loud, too dark….it’s just too much. But it isn’t all bad.
For a start, director Zack Snyder knows how to make pretty pictures. The palette is a collection of rich (if rather dark) tones and artful eye candy. Everything looks spectacular. Watching the young Bruce Wayne fall into a hole in the ground where he’s surrounded by a swarm of bats that literally lift him up in the air, is an early clue that Snyder has a new visual approach to elements of the origin stories that have otherwise become shopworn over the years.
Ben Affleck, a controversial casting choice that earned the ire of comic nerds around the globe, turns out to be just fine. He’s brooding, we get it—and Affleck’s square jaw, dutifully clenched and covered with 3 day stubble, seems like a good fit. It’s a role that requires more attitude than acting chops and Affleck brings the dark to this knight with ease.
And in the other corner, Henry Cavill similarly occupies his cape and tights with comfort and ease. Superman and Clark Kent may be boring, but gosh darn it, they sure are nice. What he lacks in complicated emotions, he more than makes up for with nobility.
And one more acting shout-out; Jesse Eisenberg as the villainous Lex Luther is probably the only fun this movie ever allows itself to have. Eisenberg is all hyper-caffeinated and twitches as if an army of ants has been stationed just beneath his skin. His squirmy malice is magnetic.
A preview screening for critics began with a videotaped message from Zack Snyder himself imploring all in attendance to not reveal any surprises or spoil any details, so here I’ll tread broadly, not deeply.
For the longest time, the film cuts back and forth between our two title characters, never really allowing much momentum to build and doing a lot more talking than fun super hero stuff. Indeed, the alter egos (Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent) get as much or more screen time than the title characters. And when they do reach the mano-a-mano promised by the title, it seems forced, anti-climactic.
A sub-plot with actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is promising, but undercooked—presumably we’ll see much more of her when the whole gang gets together in the future installment. The big battle with the heroes taking on a bad, really bad, monster in the final act has at least a couple of logical places to end…before continuing. And although the film is rated PG-13, it really does feel much too grim for youngsters.
So, here we are-seeing visual wonders and the best digital effects money can buy. Surely every actor and craftsperson involved is among the best in the business. And yet, there’s no joy here. No whooping and hollering from the fans in the seats.
And don’t bother staying for the end credits—they didn’t even trouble themselves to put in a teaser for the next film in the franchise.
‘Batman v Superman’ runs 2 and a half hours and is rated PG-13 for violence and intense scenes.