Alfred: That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.
From the time it was announced, Batman v Superman (BvS) had been under severe scrutiny. Right from when Ben Affleck was cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman to the trailer release that got divided opinions, Zack Snyder’s latest superhero behemoth has been a film that has been debated upon by Marvel fans, DC fans, film critics, and average moviegoers like myself. The positive initial reports during the pre-release screening validated my decision to have booked the ticket a month ago, my joy was short lived once the bouquets turned into brickbats, because when it rained it poured.
It is easy to get carried away by what you read online, one tweet confirms our worst fears, but hundreds only go on to quash any hopes of enjoying it. Nevertheless, I recalibrated my expectations and decided to watch the movie neither as a critic nor as a comic book fan, I went in there as someone who loves the movie-going experience, for that thrill you feel after they are done showing the previews and the lights dim for the main event. And at that moment, nothing else mattered; not the scores of tweets and reviews that had torn the movie to shreds even before it released, not the cynics and the blowhards with their “I-told-you-so” comments.
You can say that Batman v Superman is a story about three men who were scarred from childhood, Superman (Henry Cavill) as Clark Kent spent his childhood raised by his adopted parents, Jonathan and Martha, his moral compass, who helped him come to terms with his powers. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) watched his parents get killed in front of his eyes, the event turns him to fight crime as Batman, who literally leaves his brand of justice on his victims. Lex Luthor (Mark Zuck.. Jesse Eisenberg) grows up under his father’s legacy, so bitter and damaged does his father leave him that Lex feels that the only way to prove his worth to his now dead father is by killing the most powerful man on earth: Superman.
And this is why Lex Luthor manipulates two of the greatest comic book icons against one another.
While Nolan’s Batman was a grieving superhero who is self-righteous enough to not kill the bad guy, Snyder’s Batman is intimidating, a beast who is in-your-face and doesn’t shy from breaking bones or even impaling someone. Ben Affleck is outstanding as Batman, the gruff Batman voice is cleverly replaced with a voice modulator that makes him sound even more menacing. BvS shows Batman taking the lead in forming The Justice League along with a mysterious ally in Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). With new images of Wonder Woman released online and an intriguing introduction to her in BvS, I am quite excited to see how her origin story unfolds.
Batman v Superman has a grim and dark tone to it, the opening credit just meanders along bereft of any thundering background music or title card that would signify the intensity of the movie. Clocking at a run time of 150 minutes with an overdose of CGI, BvS on a 3-D screen can leave you weary and is best enjoyed in a regular 2-D screen. Zack Snyder’s love for slow motion is established in the first few minutes of the movie where we are shown the fabled story of how Bruce Wayne was orphaned. Most of the scenes are shot at night, the much touted face-off between Batman and Superman is fantastic to watch on the big screen, although the reason they fight for and eventually compromise seems to have been borrowed from an 80’s Bollywood potboiler. And this is where its bigger problem is: the lazy writing.
You can find shades of loosely written situations and harebrained resolutions similar to The Dark Knight Rises, which was also written by David Goyer. There are bizarre dream sequences that are unexplained, how Luthor gets the intel on metahumans such as Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg is something that we are left wondering about.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor is loud and hyper hamming his way to glory, however, it is toward the end when he becomes more subdued that he starts to resemble the conniving supervillain we know from the comics. Ben Affleck is not a better Bruce Wayne than Christian Bale, but he makes up for it by being the best Batman we have seen on screen–-menacing and ruthless, it was great to watch action sequences that used his physique and strength to full effect. Jeremy Irons has a limited screentime as Alfred, yet is a treat. Snarky and even handy with the tools, Alfred is more like Jarvis than a philosopher and guide that Michael Caine was to Bale’s Bruce Wayne. Amy Adams as Lois Lane seems wasted as the aggrieved journalist, a typical damsel in distress who is getting used to the pitfalls of being a superhero’s ladylove.
Directing BvS was akin to walking a tightrope considering that Snyder was taking over from Christopher Nolan, who redefined the superhero genre. The movie sure has some boneheaded moments up front, but there are other big moments that work really well towards the end. The cliffhanger ending and the citing of a bigger threat are enough to make you look forward to the next instalments.
Batman v Superman despite its flaws is entertaining. It is getting poor reviews because of the huge expectations it has set, yet, few months down the line, when all the excitement has died down and you decide to watch it again on television, you’ll be willing to look beyond the plotholes. And who knows, like me, you might book your tickets for the next DC instalment because it is all about the “S” that is imprinted on Superman’s vest.