Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

In what feels like seven decades in the making, two of DC’s mightiest heroes go toe to toe in an all-out no holds barred smack down. This, we’re assured by Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor several times, will be the gladiatorial fight of the century. Is it though?

Don’t let the action figures and pint sized pyjamas on sale in Kmart fool you. Batman v Superman is not a kid’s film. Nor is it even a family film. This cinematic interpretation is aimed squarely at the adults who want, nay demand, that their childhood obsessions grow up with them. This is translated into a cinematic universe where Batman tackles paedophiles and sex traffickers by branding them with a hot bat symbol, where Superman’s deeds in Man of Steel resulted in the deaths of thousands and Lex Luthor waxes lyrical about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father and sends jars of urine to his enemies before blowing them up. This is a DC comic filtered through the lens of a bad fan fiction. This not a universe I want to live in.

It may be an old fashioned way of thinking, but superhero movies need to show their heroes being, well, super. In Batman v Superman – a title bout that doesn’t happen till around the two-hour mark – both of our heroes are rarely seen doing anything remotely so.

As Bruce Wayne/Batman, Ben Affleck is in danger of tripping over his brow due to how furrowed it is. He lives in a modern condo down river from a desolate Wayne Manor. He spends his nights with literally faceless women and having violent visions about Henry Cavill’s Superman. Having seen the blue tighted one effectively turn Metropolis to dust two years previously, the playboy millionaire is concerned for the welfare of America at the hands of aliens. In a sense, he’s the Donald Trump of superheroes.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) struggles with his work life balance as the media slowly becomes obsessed with Superman and the untold damage his heroics have caused over the years. Would it have hurt the film to have a simple scene of Clark enjoying being a superhero? Evidently so. If you enjoyed moody space Jesus in Man of Steel, you’re going to get a kick out of watching him crying in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Perhaps the brightest spot in the whole murky affair – and director Zack Snyder has really gone out of his way to drain this comic book movie of most hues – is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Though even then, it’s hard not to feel her appearance would have had more effect had it not been spread thinly across every trailer in the last six months.

Later this year, Marvel will throw their own one on one into the cinema with Captain America: Civil War. It’s important to mention this, because with ten films down, Marvel has earned the right to have Captain America and Iron Man square off. This only the second film of the DC Cinematic Universe, and quite frankly everyone needs to be given time to breathe and think about what they really want to do. Sony’s aborted Amazing Spider-Man trilogy shows that trying to capture the same lightening as Marvel is going to be hard. DC can pull it off if they stop trying to rush everything and overstuff the film; spending close to three hours throwing everything at the screen in the hopes that something sticks.

There are several cameos, and (so. many.) dream sequences, that obviously hint at future adventures, which is fine. However, when a certain Justice League member turns up from the future to warn Batman about the past, and who is never referred to again for the rest of the film, its evident that DC comics doesn’t care for the casual viewer. They want the fans. They want the fan’s money. It’s marketing at it’s most cynical.

Overlong, dull and pretentious, Batman v Superman is the superhero movie that dyes its hair black, plays Lana Del Rey songs repeatedly and refuses to call Mum’s new lover Dad no matter how much Steve insists.


Man Of Steel (2013)

Zach Snyder hates skyscrapers. I mean really hates them. In 20 minutes of spectacular action he destroys more of them than The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and the whole Chitari race put together.

But skyscrapercide apart what he has done here is taken, what is seen by many, as the poisoned chalice of Superman and formed a thoroughly entertaining film full of intense performances.

As my co-veiwer rightly pointed out, Superman has been done to death. We’ve had George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling (Smallville), Brandon Routh, (seriously, what has happened to him?) and now Henry Cavill. That’s a lot of water under the spandex.

Because of all this history with the big blue Boy Scout a different approach was needed. We’ve only ever seen the same kind of Supes. Of course Christopher Reeve was the definitive version and every subsequent Superman or Boy has basically played Christopher Reeve playing Superman. However, here we don’t. We get our own, very Dark Knight inspired Superman. (The Clark Knight anyone?)

This Clark is brooding and intense. You feel that the burden of him growing up and having to hide who he truly is weighing down on him. As such he doesn’t fit in and so lives a nomadic existence, helping those who need him and then moving on again before he’s discovered. He’s a fisherman one day and a waiter in a backwater town the next.

The first hour of the film is great but not perfect, Snyder forgets that he’s giving us a backstory that 98% of the world already know and he includes everything, including a prolonged visit to Krypton. Although spectacular the scenes on Krypton at the beginning could have been trimmed down a little, we meet Clark’s real Mum and Dad, (a quite buff looking Russell Crowe) and the big bad General Zod, (an intense as always Michael Shannon). Gone is Terrance Stamp’s camp Zod, you would not spill this fella’s pint. We see Krypton as it is collapsing around in inhabitants and a battle ensues in which our Super Bairn escapes.

The rest of Clark’s growing up is dealt with via non-linear flashbacks. We meet his adoptive Mum and Dad, (Dianne Lane and Kevin Costner, both very good) as they struggle to impress on Clark his importance to the world and how he may be rejected out of fear of the unknown.

In giving us everything, the running time of the film is well north of 2 hours. It’s at least an hour or so before the cape and boots finally get an airing but it’s worth it when they do. The action set pieces are absolutely breath-taking. When Zod and Co finally arrive and start beating the living krypton out of Clark, it is stunning. Snyder’s eye is well and truly in when it comes to the fighting. We see what it would be like if these God like beings actually punched one another. Buildings are hewn in two by the impact of one of them being ka-powed right through a foundation. Trains are thrown like Aerobies, (anyone else remember them?) and beatings are handed out all over the place. But. There’s always a but. Snyder seems to enjoy the rough stuff and the explosions so much that he doesn’t know when to stop. Some of the action goes on sooooooo long that you start to become a little overwhelmed and desensitised to it. Because of this the feeling of peril for much of the cast is lost, save for one scene where Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White is helping a colleague trapped under a building.

Lois Lane is no longer the wise cracking sass machine. Amy Adams version is a tough as nails war journalist. Her and Clarks relationship is different to the ones we’ve seen before. This time she knows who Clark is and is the only person on Earth who manages to track him down. She also isn’t just a screaming girly who seems to be falling off buildings the whole time. She is integral to the overall victory of Big Blue.

Cavill does a grand job as Superman, he looks incredible, (man crush engaged) and is believably nails but it’s Shannon’s show. Michael Shannon is a fantastic actor and here he turns what could have been clunky dialogue into an intense, brooding performance that even has you appreciating his point of view regardless of how genocidal it is.

One criticism we’ve read several times is that Man of Steel takes itself too seriously but honestly, I think it has to. The DC universe IS a darker and more serious place than its Marvel counterpart. Superman has never been a wise cracker and shouldn’t change just because The Avengers are quick with a pithy remark.

All in all this is a really solid effort and Super-enjoyable. There was a lot that could have been tightened up and trimmed down and there may have been one to many Christ allegories but generally good stuff. Welcome back Kal-El it’s good to see you again.