Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016) – Holding Superman responsible for the damage that he caused, Batman takes on the Man of Steel as the world questions the kind of heroism they need.
Ambition backfires in Batman V Superman, as mindless action reigns over the chaotic narrative that lacks potential sophistication.
Casualties strew the street of Metropolis in the wake of an indiscriminate Kryptonian battle. Rage brews in the aftermath, where victims denounce Kal-El (Henry Cavill) for bringing his war to Earth. Twice unable to stop the murders of his loved ones, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) sees reason to act upon the fatal destruction. Taking the Man of Steel to task for his actions, he begins a war that brings glee to their common enemy.
Underlying the clash of the titans is an inevitable and aptly complex conundrum, one that befalls all who take the law into their own hands: Where do we draw the line? Questioning who defines the rules, Batman V Superman (hereinafter BvS) puts the extremes of vigilantism on a fascinating trial.
On the stand is a God with every reason and ability to turn against Earth. And we should be so thankful that his Man of Steel pseudonym came partly from his hardy righteousness. But Lex Luthor Jr. (Jesse Eisenberg) raises reasonable doubt: how long can this last? Exploiting deep-seated darkness existent in every man, a maniacal Luthor soon exposes how easy it is for Superman’s incorruptibility to fall apart.
As Clark Kent’s supposed antithesis, Bruce Wayne is a Man who chooses to play judge and executioner in the name of justice. Yet enmity leaves a bitter taste of hypocrisy, seeing how collateral damage is inevitable in war and vigilantism alike. In Bat history, his undertakings have always uprooted peace and dissent, leaving cars flipped and buildings destroyed in unplanned chases through Gotham. What makes him different from Superman whom he deems a danger?
God versus man, day versus night. Each hero accepts his own means so long as they justify the end. But neither acknowledge the consequences of their actions that they condemn the other for. It is a promising premise that has the film on a solid starting point.
A provocative conflict of ideals that demands focus, unfortunately ends up dust in the wind. The ideas built up hitherto in BvS has little to do with the eventual resolution, as the actual pivotal moment proves a massively anti-climatic let-down. Bad blood washes away in a brief moment that is as sudden and absurd as it is insulting to the audience.
What makes it all the more frustrating is the evident inkling of eloquence in sadly unrefined philosophy and theology (and above all, a fine cast). Such ideas never fully realised, a refreshing narrative of hero-versus-hero vexatiously falls back into the banality of hero-against-villain conventions.
In part due to the disappointment in a war that ends before it begins, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) easily impresses with her elegant and powerful entrance. For a while, it looks as though she might be able to do the job on her own. The sonority of an explosive battle overpowers her striking lack of story or lines, which her anticipated solo film would serve well to fix.
The remaining women have no such luck. Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) fade into the background as helpless victims in short perfunctory appearances. Attention, thinly shared among an excessive influx of newcomers, played a part.
A glimpse of the meta-human quartet excites, however ends up another fleeting distraction to the overcrowded main event. Yellow-tinted nightmares add onto the confusion, largely mistaken for fun. Cramming hints of Justice League and future villains in every nook it can afford, director Zack Snyder’s huge ambition backfires and results in a huge mess.
But not on all counts. A master at crafting inordinate chaos befitting the comic book genre, Snyder presents epic mayhem in more than satisfying portions. In his hands, BvS succeeds in being a kinetically entertaining superhero epic that will resonate in volume, if not ideas.