Alfred: Men fall from the sky and gods hurl thunderbolts. Innocents die. That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Over the years of cinema, there have been many Batman and Superman movies. However, there was never one where Batman and Superman were together. People were waiting for years for this movie even before it was announced. When it was announced, people were hyped and split on which hero they were going to back up. And on opening day, theatres were jam-packed and fans were ready to see the ultimate showdown between these two iconic superheroes. The result? Well, it was mostly just hype. Between the two superhero movies that involved the clashing of two iconic superheroes while being manipulated by a villainous mastermind that came out that year, this one clearly got the short end of the stick. It just tried far too hard to cram everything into just one movie.
During the events of Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is in Metropolis witnessing the destruction of the city being destroyed as a result of the battle between Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon). Millions die as a result of this battle. 18 months after these events Bruce blames Superman for these deaths and seeks to kill him. At his side is his loyal butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons). Superman himself during these months has become controversial among the public as well. Some see him as a hero while others see him as a threat. Clark learns of Batman’s form of justice by “branding” criminals resulting in them being killed and thus sets out to expose him. Meanwhile mastermind Alexander “Lex” Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) manipulates the two against each other while creating a monster of his own in the process.
The story has a great deal going on in it including an interview with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in Africa, a congressional hearing with Superman regarding his actions, Lex Luthor’s evil schemes, Bruce’s plot to kill Superman, an employee of Bruce’s who was crippled in the battle of Metropolis, Clark’s vendetta against Batman’s branding, and introductions to other justice league members including Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) . All of these events take front seat to the conflict between Batman and Superman. Thus it is very difficult to fully get behind the motives of our two main leads. The conflict is driven on the story, which is fine, but it is driven on the story alone. The story is all over the map. Some events connect to Batman but don’t involve Superman, some connect to Superman but not Batman, and others don’t involve either of them so it’s difficult to get an idea of their character and their stances on the conflict from these events. We want to see Batman and Superman go up against each other due to their different outlooks on crime fighting. One is dark and brooding whereas the other is kind and lighthearted. The reason for Batman and Superman hating each other here however is very vague. Aside from the fact that they have both killed people there is little to nothing else fueling their conflict.
The action in this movie in this movie is legitimately cool. The main battle that sticks out is the fight between Batman and Superman. You get to see both our heroes do some pretty badass stuff. But while we see the action we don’t experience it. There is not much leading up to it. Very little focus has been put on the clash between the two prior to this scene so there’s not much high drama or intense conflict between our two heroes. And the way the fight resolves between them…well it’s easily by far the most ridiculous thing in this movie. In short, it all comes across as forced.
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman is easily the greatest thing about this movie. Affleck’s performance in this movie pays a great deal of homage to The Dark Knight Returns and does get some badass action scenes. Despite this being Affleck’s debut as Batman/Bruce Wayne he shows very well the vibe of a much older, darker, and world-weary Bruce Wayne. He’s someone who has been exposed to the crime in Gotham for years and has not only become stronger but also smarter as a result of it. Although we have seen nothing of this version of Batman beforehand just the way he delivers his dialogue really helps give an idea of the battles he’s fought in his lifetime and the people who have suffered along the way; both himself and his allies. While his past (outside of the movie showing his parents die again which serves no story purpose) is told rather well, the present conflict with Superman is not. There’s no sense of him clashing with Superman’s ideology, as Superman’s actions, which cause Batman to hate him, do not tie into Superman’s ideology.
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman is honestly not all that great. His performance is way too dark and brooding. In Man of Steel that sense of a dark and brooding atmosphere in a sense worked to the movie’s advantage to show how he was being tested to the limit and ultimately rose up against it making the struggle all the more intense and interesting. Here however the struggle he’s going through isn’t to the limit. There’s no sense of hope or kindness in his performance or his character. A lot of the time when he saves people his actions are mostly portrayed through the Jesus imagery. But to his credit we do get an idea of his conflict with Batman with him not approving of Batman’s form of justice. The problem with this is that the movie neither fully drives the story nor the characters with this.
In regards to Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman thankfully we had the Wonder Woman movie. She does get some cool action in the final battle and gives a good performance but aside from that her character is tacked on. There’s not much of her that’s explored upon in this movie and most of what we at see is used to set up for her movie. And much a lot of the movie this deviates from the main conflict.
Jeremy Irons as Alfred was a great portrayal of the character. I like that he is very active with Bruce’s experience as Batman and also trying to make sure Bruce doesn’t go in way over his head. And at the same time like Bruce you do get an idea of the fact that they have fought battles in Gotham for years through his performance and at this point all Alfred wants is the best for Bruce by seeing him settle down and find a small measure of peace.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor is the most infamous part of this movie. His reasons for hating Superman in this movie much like the conflict between Batman and Superman are rather vague. There’s very little signifying as to why he hates Superman. It’s explained briefly but in no way shown. His performance is also extremely awkward and over-the-top. It’s very Joker-esque. No matter how cheesy Lex Luthor’s character got in other movies he was still a brilliant, cunning, and business-like mastermind. Here however his performance is so cartoony that it feels out of focus with the rest of the movie.
Batman V. Superman’s problem lies in the fact that it’s trying to be a Batman movie, a sequel to Man of Steel, a prequel to Justice League, an introduction to Wonder Woman, a movie to kick off a DC Cinematic Universe, and Batman v. Superman all in one movie when all we wanted was Batman v. Superman. In doing all these things it loses the heart of not only Batman v. Superman but also the aforementioned elements in the process. It may have a few good things about it but they are somewhat difficult to get behind when the rest of the movie is all over the place.