Doomed Planet. Desperate Scientist. Last Hope. Kindly Couple.
Those four couplets are how Grant Morrrison covered Superman’s entire origin story in the excellent All-Star Superman. And it’s plenty. We all know how he got here. Just like we all know how Batman’s parent’s got shot in that alleyway (Wonder Woman is another matter, we’ll get to that later). We’ve had enough of superhero origin stories. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a movie that just threw you into the action? Well there is. Unfortunately the bad reviews have proved that most critics need things spelled out very, very clearly for them.
This is a film for fans. I don’t want to come across as a snob, but if you want to get the most out of Batman V Superman, you’ll need to go read 20 years worth of Justice League comic books, and then brush up on the New 52, and possibly check out Injustice: Gods Among Us as well. If you have no idea what I’m banging on about then you’ll struggle. There’s a shit-ton going on here. It’s a massive movie, overstuffed to the gills with references and sections that jump about. How the hell did Bats get out of that armour so fast? How the hell did he get it in the first place?
The real answer is: it doesn’t matter. If you’re familiar with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns then you’ll know. If not, then you’ll need to be willing to not give a fuck.
But, what if you do know about all that stuff? What if you’ve done all the reading in advance? In that case, it’s pure magic. Jesse Eisenberg is a bit of a sour note, his performance turned up to 11 as he tries to manipulate Batman and Superman into the titular showdown. And they go for it too. If this were a regular movie I could complain that Batman’s motivations don’t make too much sense. That he plays his part a little too willingly. But if it were in a comic book, we’d all know what was about to happen: They’re going to have a misunderstanding, they’re going to fight, and then… we’re going to get a ‘Team-Up’.
Batman V Superman embraces comic-book logic and runs with it. And if you can embrace it too then you’ll have a fine old time. Zack Snyder isn’t a great director. His camera flits about the place too quickly and takes the impact out of several key scenes. Batman fighting criminals in a warehouse is incredible and brutal, but lacks the bone-crunching intensity of the stairwell fight we saw recently in Daredevil because you can’t focus on the flying elbows to appreciate just how hard they’re smacking into someone’s chin. But hot-damn Batman kicks some ass. He’s a comic book hero here too. He takes extreme punishment. He has ridiculous weapons, and lurks in the shadows like… well, something that would scare the shit out of ‘cowardly and superstitious’ criminals.
Ben Affleck is actually a fine Caped Crusader, although it helps that he has more to do than most people (and his gravelly Bale-voice is explained by an in-cowl voice modulator. Because comic books), although his Bruce Wayne persona is a little thin. Similarly, Henry Cavill has little to do apart from look pensive/like a balloon filled with walnuts, but it doesn’t matter. This isn’t about character. It’s about superstrong aliens beating the shit out of each other. It’s about knowing and caring what a parademon is. It’s about 3,000 year old women showing up and kicking tons of ass.
Ah yes, Wonder Woman. She’s fantastic. Like everyone else she doesn’t have much to say, but when she finally decides to join-in and battle the big bad it’s absolutely brilliant. She has silly music, a big sword and swagger by the barrel-load. Her own introduction is ridiculous and slightly confusing… unless you’ve been reading about her for a while… as are glimpses of a time-travelling Flash. There’s even a Mother Box lurking in here, while Lex Luthor spends his last scene in jail telling us that the “bell has tolled. Ding ding ding ding.” Or should that be ping!?
I realise that, just like the movie, not a lot of this review makes sense to the casual reader. By any sensible measure, Batman V Superman is a bad movie. Over-busy, over-written and under-plotted. So effects-heavy that it’s genuinely hard to see what’s happening on screen at several points. But by the standards of someone who just wanted to see a comic book on the screen, it’s amazing. I loved every second of it. But then again, I own a pair of Batman and Robin bookends too. Decide which kind of viewer you are before you go into this one and you just might enjoy the hell out of it. 5/5 (or 1/5 if you’re not me)