|UK Release Date||March 25th 2016|
|Starring||Holly Hunter, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot|
|Reviewed||31st March 2016|
It is perhaps with the lowest of low expectations that I went into the multiplex to begin, with heavy heart, my viewing of the universally damned Batman v Superman. In my head I had believed that my review would go something along the lines of ‘my mother always says if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all’ end of review. Anyway turns out there actually ARE some nice things to say. There are also some truly horrid things to say but it ain’t all bad in Zack Snyder’s convoluted, self indulgent and cynical but occasionally thrilling and slick looking movie.
Our story begins with a dream sequence. Yes really. Turns out Zack Snyder really likes dream sequences and there’s a few of them in Batman v Superman and they are all rubbish, pointless and nonsensical. Anyway our Zack likes them so this is how he chooses to kick off our super story and it does set the tone for the whole movie – that is the giddy tone of confusion in case you weren’t clear. From the offset we veer rapidly from one scene to another that really don’t always seem to have any kind of clear correlation to each other, the film or, hell, even the real world. However if you can dear viewer just accept the chaos and try to enjoy what is essentially a silly superhero movie full of white men and the odd token female then it is actually fun in places.
Sorry I digress let’s back to the all-important ‘story’. Oh but hang on, there isn’t really one. Let me enlighten you: the dictionary definition of ‘story’ is ‘a description, either rue or imagined, of a connected series of events’. You hear that Chris Terrio and David S Goyer? A CONNECTED SERIES OF EVENTS. When Chris, David and Zack sat down to work on this movie I think they must have had such a laugh. Imagine them sat at the table:
Chris and Dave: Hey Zack what shall we put in this movie? A story?
Chris and Dave: How about subtlety?
Chris and Dave: I know - humour?
Zack: What is that?
Chris and Dave: Ok I’ve got it dude, how about a hugely convoluted would be story that...wait for it...makes no sense to anyone and has loads of bizarre references to other films!
Zack: YES YES now we are talking buddy! And let’s smash LOADS OF SHIT UP AND HAVE A TON OF MINDLESS VIOLENCE ‘COS TWEENS NEED THAT IN THEIR LIVES.
Then they would body slam each other.
OK focus woman STORY. So…Superman is charging about doing stuff like protecting the world and in a flight fight with a baddie (fuck knows who or why, that’s how this film rolls) he destroys a building of Bruce Wayne’s and some old man called Jack who worked for Wayne. Uh oh. A close up on Bruce Wayne’s handsome blank face tells us he is pissed. Or pleased he wasn’t in there. Hard to tell with Affleck’s Wayne. Anyhoo the upshot is that there is a growing concern about Superman’s total autonomy and worries that there might be ‘more of them’ coming. Like those pesky immigrants eh, we wouldn’t want that ruining our lives now would we. In a completely unrelated segue some Kryptonite is found at the bottom of the Indian Ocean and our Lex Luther wants to appropriate it as a defence against more winged crusaders. Holly Hunter pops up as Kentucky MP Senator Finch and thwarts Lex’s plans. Or does she. Things go on in a weird unconnected way, Ben Affleck starts lifting tyres like a Pirelli calendar, Superman gets deeper into shit with the public and all the while dastardly Lex Luther is getting away with an evil plot and playing them all. Oh yeah and Wonder Woman is going to lots of social events and admiring antique swords, oh she does also almost go on a Turkish Airlines flight. I won’t spoil it for you because there isn’t really anymore more plot to outline. Just explosions, fighting, lazy writing, foreboding music, ending after ending after ending……actual ending.
There is plenty of entertainment to be had in Batman V Superman and perhaps that’s why reviews have been so vitriolic, it’s like the genius kid has gone loco and thrown away all of their opportunities. When it works it really does work and it’s a roller coaster ride with some prodigious CGI that looks phenomenal on the big screen; but when it doesn’t it is just so bloody frustrating and sadly the bad hugely outweighs the good. It all comes down to the story, why on earth Snyder decided on such a convoluted bloated story I don’t know. Do modern audiences really need such a retelling of why Batman is who he is? My son is five and he knows the history of Batman and he certainly hasn’t seen Chris Nolan’s films. Likewise Superman. So much backstory could have been dispensed with and there could have been a leaner more fun story.
That is perhaps my biggest singular issue with the film that whilst it remains mostly entertaining (for both the wrong and right reasons) for all of its bloated two hours and 33 minutes runtime, it doesn’t feel fun. What it does feel is extremely, depressingly cynical, in more ways than one. The manner in which the impending Wonder Woman movie is pushed down our throats is bad enough (her entrance is like a standalone advert for that movie) but there’s a weird scene where Wonder Woman looks through Lex’s files on a laptop and it seems he has a whole bunch of trailers for upcoming Warner Bros movies on there. One of the dream sequences has Batman visited by what I can only presume is another ‘coming soon’ superhero sadly I am not geeky enough to know how it was. (OK I looked it up, it's Flash). Personally I feel this is a depressing way to think about movie making.
You see the thing with Christopher Nolan’s Batman films (apart from the fact that they were directed by Christopher Nolan) is that, yes they had darkness and grit but they were not depressing. They were hugely entertaining, intelligent and exciting; they upped the superhero game to a certain extent. Snyder’s film is just not smart or thoughtful although, with its constant discussions of Greek Gods and or classical art, it is really trying to be. One feels that Snyder is attempting to elevate the movie into something artistic and insightful but it just feels too much like trying and the script just doesn’t pull it off. At one point I did think that perhaps the film would end like that fateful scene in Dallas (look it up youngsters) where Pam Ewing comes around in the shower and realises the whole of the last season was a dream - they really did that, crazy crazy times. Anyway Batman V Superman is real, very very real.
Henry Cavill reprises his superman well enough, critics find him bland but I rather like him in this role, I think he does a good job and found his scenes always more enjoyable than most. So to BatBen. Fanfare. Well it’s hard to say what kind of a Batman he’ll be because he doesn’t really have an awful lot going on in this film despite being half the title. Former Batmen Christian Bale and Michael Keaton were exciting because they felt unpredictable and erratic behind the mask; their actions always had a slightly frenetic air. Affleck’s Wayne feels, well, very American and very safe but having said that I probably would be tempted to go see another film with him in it to see what he does with it. When he was allowed a little humour (once) the ghost of what could have been shone through. Amy Adams reprises her Lois Lane role and, well it’s bloody Amy Adams isn’t it, although she is reduced to less than both Lane and Adams deserve, likewise the amazing Dianne Ladd as MARTHA (you’ll get it when you see it). Holly Hunter is terrific but that’s mainly because she is bloody Holly Hunter and no substandard script is taking her down. Michael Shannon gets off lightly as a mute dead floating corpse (I bet they all wanted that part). Lawrence Fishburne is on good grumpy boss form and Jeremy Irons makes for a classy Alfred. Lastly Jesse Eisenberg, well Jesse…. remember what I said at the start about my mother’s advice? I love Eisenberg too much and this film has shafted him so I shall say nothing suffice to say this part doesn’t really suit him.
So to Wonder Woman. This is where the level of cynicism that this film possesses surpassed depressing me and started to really hack me off. The role of Wonder Woman in this film is…NOTHING except to promote the eponymous film. Tacked on is a compliment. There is absolutely no point to her in this story so please, don’t be expecting me to congratulate anyone on putting a ‘strong female’ in the movie for little girls to aspire to because frankly I hope my daughter aspires to more than being a scantily clad, pouting, saucepot who, yes can indeed yield a sword but ultimately has no point in this male dominated story. Also - that costume. I know it’s that the corset is Wonder Woman’s ‘signature’ but guys come on, it is 2016, it looks so naff for the young woman to have so much flesh on show while the two men are completely covered. It’s just a touch dull and unimaginative. I suspect women can be sexy and strong without wearing a high-legged corset.
As I sat waiting for Batman V Superman to begin every single trailer, and I mean every one, was a superhero movie. In it’s heavy-handed, unimaginative and money-grabbing fashion Hollywood has created a monster. The huge backlash against the film is a surely a sign that there is a desire for there to be more sophisticated film making in this genre, more equality. However pre ticket sales to Batman v Superman outstripped anything before and so far it has taken over 500 million at the box office it so it’s clear that bad reviews barely make a chink in the superhero armour.
Not completely deserved of the total annihilation it has had by reviews it is still far from a coherent and satisfying movie. It’s a shame that Zack Snyder put all of his eggs into the style basket and ignored the substance one. Die hard fans and tween/teenage boys will still get a thrill out of the high octane fight scenes and mega CGI (see it on the biggest screen you can). Everyone else may want to think twice and go watch The Lego Batman movie instead.