Batman v Superman is a hulking mess of a film; a nearly three-hour orgy of explosions and collapsing buildings and resurrected alien generals being punched into space and nuked. The script is a mess, it doesn’t make any sense and it’s badly edited. And as if that weren’t enough, it has to struggle against charisma vacuum Jesse Eisenberg, who chews the scenery out and throws it back up. It amazes me that this grey man-child can still find work when it’s pretty evident that he can only play himself on various amounts of cocaine. Thank god he’s back-seated for the film’s best bits.
And yes, despite my micro-rant I do think that the film has some good- no, great- bits. Batman’s Knightmare has to be a standout for 2016 cinema thus far; a lapsarian nightmare-scape- a war between gods and men and demons from the sky. It was horrifying, and it was epic. The scene is a visual apocalyptica of Biblical proportions; Affleck and Cavill flex their rage and manias, as Hans Zimmer’s transcendent, mountainous score whirls away. It is truly something to behold.
So, too, is Batfleck. Affleck’s Dark Knight is unstable, he is borderline, he is violent and impulsive and willing to do whatever it takes to whoever must take it in order to achieve his goals. This Batman is a killer; we see him shoot people, stab people, blow people up. In one particularly inventive scene, we follow two cops through a sex traffic den. The cops find girls in a cage, the door now open, and one of the traffickers shirtless and tortured, a bat branded on his chest. They turn and see the bat, and he rushes them, this great black thing flying across the room and away. The officers are terrified, and so are we, because this is not Bale’s paragon- it is a broken psychotic.
My defence does not just consist of singing some pretty praises, however. I am also concerned with how unfairly this film has been lambasted for making the same mistakes that other films have been allowed to get away with. Let’s take the last Batman film as an example. The Dark Knight Rises was an awful film. It was not only Nolan’s worst film, but one of the worst written films I have seen in a very long time. The plot was completely contradictory and nonsensical; character motivations were either non-existent or ultimately undermined to a degree that I cannot remember ever seeing in anything else. Indeed, half of its ludicrously broad cast ended up as filler for an already overlong film. Dawn of Justice made some of those same mistakes. But where do they each sit on Rotten Tomatoes? 87% for Nolan and 28% for Snyder.
I think that a lot of this has to do with Nolan being the go-to for the baby’s first film critics of our generation, just as Tarantino was for the nineties and Scorsese for the eighties. He’s the designated wunderkind, and Zack? Well, he’s a troublemaker. He won’t just settle down and make a superhero movie, he has to overcomplicate it. And, just as he did with the excellent Watchmen, so too did he screw the conventional pooch here, with some para-dimensional prophetic babble about god-men and devils. And maybe that’s why I like it. Because it’s different, because it’s stylish, because it’s not just about how it ticks boxes and makes sense, but how it makes you think and feel.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), directed by Zack Snyder, is distributed in the UK by Warner Bros Pictures. Certificate 12A.