You will believe a man can fly. Unfortunately, throughout the new DC superhero slugfest film Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, they never explain why Superman is flying or where he might be flying to.
The film has a Superman problem, which is a shame, because the rest of the film around it is mostly rather neat.
It serves as a quasi-sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel – Zack Snyder’s Superman film produced to kick-start Warner Bros ambitions for a franchise of films based on its DC Comics superhero properties. While the film performed well at the box office, it didn’t break records and faced a severe backlash from fans who felt the Superman character hadn’t been handled well. Thus, a rethink on the sequel took place, with the producers adding Batman to the mix.
Unlike the rival Marvel superhero movies, which established their movie universe through a set of films that built around individual heroes, the Warner Bros DC films are using this second film to serve as an entry point to its roster of superheroes who will team up in the upcoming 2017 film Justice League.
The film is financially critic-proof with analysts expecting strong takings globally from the film launching over the Easter long weekend. Deadline yesterday reported that Warners is eyeing a $350 million worldwide take over the opening weekend. In the important, but still emerging China market, the film is expected to draw $50M-$70M on opening weekend. China was the largest international market for Man of Steel, with a $64 million take.
Where Batman Vs Superman falls apart as a movie is that not enough is done to build up Superman into an interesting character that audiences care for and will support in a fight against the very human Batman. The two heroes fighting is a common trope from superhero comics. It’s what superheroes do: they have a misunderstanding, fight, then team up to face a larger threat. This holds true in the movie. Unfortunately, throughout the fight most of the audience is rooting for Batman who is established as an actual character.
This film works thanks to Ben Affleck at its centre. His Bruce Wayne is the most fully realised version of the character seen on screen to date. Affleck never plays Wayne as a weirdo loner, but rather as a well-connected outsider who has a genuine concern for his fellow man. He has great chemistry with Jeremy Irons who plays his butler, Alfred, and absolutely sizzles on screen alongside supporting actress Gal Gadot who portrays Wonder Woman in the film. The role feels lived in, mature, and absolutely bursting with driven energy.
Contrast that against Henry Cavill as Superman, who is given limited motivation or screen time to do anything other than look pensive. When wearing the Superman costume, almost every time he is seen on screen, Cavill is shown in slow motion. For director Snyder, the cool hero shot is far more important when depicting Superman on screen than giving him any depth.
Jesse Eisenberg is magnetic on-screen as the villainous Lex Luthor, delivering a Silicon Valley-style wonderkind character to the screen, imbued with a frenetic quality of mania that feels current. He’s a villain that makes sense in today’s world. While it eventually derails into a moustache-twirling performance following a barely explained plot-shift that may make sense only to those familiar with the comics, he is a lot of fun to watch on screen and will make a welcome addition to a Superman-franchise that feels lifeless by the film’s end.
Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t do a lot to keep audiences enthused about the prospect of another Superman movie, but the groundwork it lays for the upcoming Justice League and Wonder Woman films is very well executed. While cinema-goers will be enthused about the prospect of seeing both of those films, expect many to rabidly demand an Affleck-helmed Batman film on their screen immediately. The dawn of justice has arrived and it’s yet another Batman franchise.
Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice opens in cinemas this Thursday