Human beings like to invent heroes who embellish all the things we like to think make our culture so virtuous and Hollywood has been an ever constant dream machine churning out parable in tights after parable in tights and if there was a New Wave and a New Hollywood once upon a time perhaps this is the New Hero period.
This year alone on last count is stuffed like Jimmy Five Bellies at an all you can eat Chinese half price day, with super hero films from the Marvel and DC houses.
Marvel may have stolen a march on their competitors with a slew of films proffering their wares. The first film released in the so called Marvel cinematic universe was Iron Man (2008), which began the first phase of films, culminating in the Marvel's The Avengers (2012) crossover film. "Phase Two" began with Iron Man 3 (2013), and concluded with Ant-Man(2015). Marvel is also preparing "Phase Three", beginning with the release of Captain America: Civil War (2016). Marvel Television expanded the universe further, first to network television with Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and then to online streaming with Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix in 2015.
The lads over at DC and Warner Brothers were not going to sit and take this lightly in their capes and the previous Batman trilogy from Christopher Nolan were hugely successful both critically and commercially, even if they do seem somewhat humorless in hindsight, they at least created a believable world. That cannot be said for this week's big release. The pretty appalling new edition to the DC canon entitled Batman V Superman: Dawn of the Justice. A snappy title that rolls off the tongue. This film is the launch of DC's reposte to Marvel, the beginning of another superhero universe (shudder).
This is the week we've all been waiting for. There have been events of world importance before but few moments in life are as splendid as the arrival of a new superhero film, that rarest of creatures. I am of course am trying to be funny. A characteristic sorely missing from this weeks super turd. Tell me when lord, tell me when.
What follows was written with the painful awareness that my opinion does not matter, perhaps this is the case for all films but especially for the genre we have up for discussion this week. It is made for and by the fans of the original comics, my opinion will not change a thing here, this is not the place for a critic: I'm not here, this isn't happening.
For the sake of this weekly column I will however, much like Batman and Superman in this film, soldier on in the face of utter futility.
Directed by the never reliable Zach Snyder Batman v Superman is the sequel to his Man of Steel, the film that ends with Superman killing Zod, his enemy from his home planet. In the process he totals the place in what seemed to all intents and purposes to be some ill conceived nod to 9/11 and a CGI Michael Bay inspired cinematic bum squirt of loads of stuff blowing up. The death toll presumably was in the 100s of millions or something and Batman is not having it, he decides to deal with this new alien monstrosity who looks and acts like he is carved out of a kitchen table with glasses.
The problems here are many and manifest; the storytelling is best described as incoherent but then so much happens at such frenetic pace and with such extreme fast cutting editing style, that one could argue that there is something else going on here, as has been argued in a small number of reviews, maybe this film is not the unfathomable mess that most have claimed, perhaps this is in fact some misunderstood masterpiece, made by someone who understands the comics in a way only true fans do. Who knows? Maybe this is the case. I would not pretend for one moment that I am the target audience for this film, but I would point out that I was once, and what I did like about the previous Batman trilogy of movies and even the Tim Burton ones which preceded them, was that there was a way in for more that just die hard fans, there was something considered and even mature about those movies in spite of, not because of the subject material. Here the filmmakers feel that their subject material is what elevates this work, when in fact Batman and Superman are only ever a success when the indebtedness to the original comics is presented in a believable and real world that seems familiar to us. BvS (sounds like a disease cows get), like Man of Steel before it, is like watching an even more expensive Transformers film, .
Cast wise, Ben Affleck is a surprising success as Batman and will likely get his own movie to continue this role. Henry Cavill as noted cannot act but has big muscles. Amy Adams is underused as Lois Lane, all she does is be rescued throughout. Jesse Eisenberg channels Heath Ledgers Joker as Lex Luthor which is just irritating and over the top.
The film starts and ends with buildings blowing up. Superman kills a guy in black he is fighting. He kills him by breaking his neck. This happens despite the fact that Superman is not supposed to kill anyone, ditto Batman, but they do, with wild abandon. These are superheroes for the Oil war and terrorist age and there is a definite and unmistakable whiff of fascism on display here. Batman appears to blame Superman for the mass casualties that resulted from his fight with General Zod. Superman, in his public identity as Daily Planet journalist Clark Kent, in turn sees Batman as dangerous and seeks to expose him. LexCorp's mogul Lex Luthor also sees Superman as a threat and convinces Senator June Finch to help him recover kryptonite from Zod's failed terraforming attempt from the Indian Ocean to create a biological weapon. This weapon will be used to vanquish the flying plank otherwise known as Superman.
Lots more buildings blow up and we are barraged with a near constant weird mixture of sentimentality, seriously dubious politic undercurrents and lots more explosions.
What remnants remain of any of the claimed source material (Frank Millers The Dark Knight Returns) are washed away in ADH editing and mindless violence. It wasn't enough it seems for Snyder to make a terrible movie out of the always clearly un-filmable Watchmen he has now been allowed to further his caustic oeuvre with this paean to mindless head thumping. There is something here that reminds me of the disastrous invasion of Iraq - if these two monoliths are the imagined heroes of the West we really are in trouble.
2.5 out of 5