Last night, with a rare ‘just the two of us’ moment on our hands, my wife and I took a trip to the cinema to take advantage of Cheap Tuesdays and enjoy a film. The offering? Batman vs Superman!
Following on from 2013’s Man of Steel, BvS is the continuation of DC Comics effort to create a shared universe (in much the same fashion as Marvel). It remains to be seen if DC will have the same success as Marvel, but on the strength of BvS, they have a fair chance. The film is pretty entertaining and clearly well made – but there are issues.
Be warned, if you want to avoid major spoilers, I suggest you stop reading round about now.
If you’re still here, I can assume you’ve either seen the film or don’t care if it gets spoiled for you. Don’t come crying if you read something you didn’t want to know.
First, the bad: at 153 minutes this is a long film, and if you’re seeing it with kids (another issue I’ll come to in a mo), they may get fidgety after a while. I couldn’t help but feel they could have trimmed some fat off the movie and not lost anything of the story. In particular, the dream sequence involving Batman fighting minions of Superman in a desolate future could have been lost – we were already aware by that point of Bruce Wayne’s anger towards Superman, and the weird ‘message from the future’ moment didn’t make much sense in the context of anything else.
This is also a very dark film. It carries a 12A certificate (as did Man of Steel, and as do all the MCU films thus far), but it pushes the envelope of that quite hard. The final fight with Doomsday is brutal and I’m not sure if younger kids would get through that without nightmares. I can understand that the core audience might want a more ‘grown-up’ approach, especially in light of how generally light-hearted the Marvel films are (DC films tend to be a bit grittier), but BvS straddles the fence and really needed to make a decision as to just how grown up it wanted to be. Suicide Squad will (judging from the trailer) push the envelope even harder – are DC brave enough to make it a 15?
That all being said, Ben Affleck gives a solid performance as an older, slightly world-weary Batman. He’s disillusioned with dealing with run of the mill criminals, angry with Superman for the events of Man of Steel, and losing a little of himself in the process. Whereas Bale’s Batman had one rule (to not kill), Affleck’s Batman is fully prepared to, or at the very least isn’t afraid to expose his enemies to fatal situations.
Jeremy Irons does a reasonable job with Alfred, who tries to act as a conscience for Bruce. Beyond this, there’s not a lot for him to do.
Henry Cavill reprises his role as Superman and in BvS has to face up to his status as both an object of fear and an object of worship. He is trying to find an identity for himself – for all his great power, he cannot find peace (made all the tougher with Batman gunning for him).
Jesse Einsberg steals the show as Lex Luthor . His performance is excellent, with Luthor being just the wrong side of maniacal. He is full of nervous energy, and is also a genius – a dangerous mix – and he is something of a manipulative sadist too. I hope he gets some screen time with Jared Leto’s Joker!
Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman and frankly, her character is underused. I know this is Batman vs Superman, but there’s not really a lot for her to do other than look pretty and fight, which seems like a wasted opportunity.
Amy Adams is back as inquisitive journalist Lois Lane, who pokes around into the business of Lex Luthor and tries to keep Clarke Kent focused and grounded. Adams is an underrated actress who in my view deserves more credit than she gets, and she does a good job here.
One final thought (and major spoiler).
Superman apparently dies. His death is an act of final heroism to stop Doomsday, and the catalyst for Bruce to try and unite the heroes of the world. The very final scene (after much grieving and mourning) hints he may still be alive, which is a little contrived and also blatantly obvious – the writers are unlikely to kill a key character in the Justice League in the very first ensemble film they make!
So all in all, it’s an entertaining film. It’s not one I’d take young kids to, and it wouldn’t hurt to be a little shorter, but it would be worth another watch. There’s more to come from the DCU, and it should offer an intriguing counterpoint to the style of the MCU. I look forward to see what’s next!