After returning Superman to the cinematic universe with the personality-lite Man of Steel back in 2013, Watchman helmer Zack Snyder pins the son of Krypton against the Dark Knight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Henry Cavill once again dons the red cape, as Ben Affleck – returning to the superhero world following his disastrous 2003 turn as Daredevil – is the latest actor to take on the iconic role of billionaire orphan Bruce Wayne and his bat-loving alter ego.
Man of Steel returnee cast members Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne are joined by newcomers Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons and Gal Galdot as Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), as our two comic book giants clash over their respective roles as world savers.
Underneath the rubble of Snyder’s latest work, there are fragments of the dark and mysterious tale he was going for – just a shame that it’s drowned out so easily: not by the crash-bang-wallops which burst your eardrums at every turn, nor even Jesse Eisenberg’s increasingly cringe-inducing turn as the quote-machine baddie Lex Luthor, but by a plot that collapses under its own hefty baggage. There’s a hell of a lot going on in Dawn of Justice; some good (Affleck), some terrible (Eisenberg, as he descends into madness), and plenty that’s just plain ol’ snooze-worthy (pretty much the first 90 minutes).
It really is a crying shame, as there’s a decent flick screaming to get out of Metropolis’s shadow. The clash of two titans raises a lot of interesting, and highly relevant, issues such as accountability, authorisation and morality – similar to what we’re expecting from Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. Yet there’s a piece of me which feels a touch of sympathy for the 300 helmer. Much like Avengers: Age of Ultron – a multi-million dollar exercise in shoehorning in sequels – Dawn of Justice falls to a similar fate.
It’s a tough ask to wrangle all these subplots, new characters and future stories together in a coherent and still very much watchable bow, and it’s one Joss Whedon struggled with, yet the Avengers helmer, unlike his DC counterpart, just about managed to pull it off with enough humour, style and energy to cover up some gaping, studio-induced holes.
It’s a big, loud and, frankly, mean spirited spectacle, with the only room for sentiment left to unwarranted flashbacks and highly unnecessary nauseating dream sequences. Affleck shines as the older, world-weary Batman – yet even his stand-out portrayal is nearly spoilt by a ropey storyline that never quite does justice to his Superman-hating motives. Far from awful, but a million miles from perfection, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gets tangled within its own giganticness.