Opening this weekend on roughly 20 screens domestically and 30,000 worldwide, this dramatically dark and physically gigantic venture is estimated to need to haul in $1 billion at the very least to justify itself financially and pave the way for the flood of WB/DC outings already set for release over the next four years. With significantly stronger international than domestic results likely, it may well earn its keep. But after Man of Steel three years ago, the studio had to know what it was getting with director Zack Snyder; the film may be imposing, but it’s not fun.
The main issue facing the writers of a superhero smackdown like this is concocting a reason why, given all the evil out there, they have to fight each other — as well as, in this case, coming up with a way to level the playing field when one hero is essentially immortal and the other is just a really buff rich guy with a costume and lots of gizmos. Screenwriters Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer (all three of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight blockbusters) have sort of solved this by devising ways to make Superman more frequently vulnerable than he’s ever been before. But the villain here, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, is so intensely annoying that, very early on, you wish Batman and Superman would just patch up their differences and join forces to put the squirrelly rascal out of his, and our, misery.
The story does take an epic, rangy perspective, as the long setup jumps from one far-flung locale to another to establish pockets of evil while also dramatizing Bruce Wayne’s backstory, here conceived as seeing his parents gunned down in the street after emerging from a theater showing Excalibur. Seemingly disconnected worldwide events — Metropolis being destroyed as a huge spacecraft with claws hangs overhead, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) on assignment in Africa, criminals threatening wider destruction with a dirty bomb — are mixed in with Bruce (Ben Affleck, fitting the role just fine) brooding over his place in the world and his legacy, to which his butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons, who could use more to do) replies with perhaps the film’s best line: “Even you’ve grown too old to die young.”
The solemn, grandiose atmosphere is severely disrupted by Luthor, portrayed by Eisenberg as a privileged tech guru who makes the actor’s take on Mark Zuckerberg look like the epitome of style and manners. Loaded with vocal ticks and gushing with smarmy ripostes and threats, the character is loathsome without an ounce of insidious charm; if the legacy of the studio’s Dark Knight films might have suggested anything, it should have been in the area of great villains, but here there is just a great vacuum.
For his part, Batman is provided with plentiful backstory and psychology, but the mature character, as written, never comes into full bloom; all the same, one can look ahead with some hope to Affleck in the role in future installments. Cavill is also likeable enough but, again, hamstrung by the twisty, convoluted inventions designed to limit his abilities during long stretches.
The filmmakers would seem to have thrown up their hands at how to gracefully integrate Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) into the action, simply hurling her into the epic final battle without significant preparation at all. With just her sword and shield, she doesn’t seem meant to mix it up with these big guys right off the bat.
‘Batman v Superman’: Who Wins In Each Comic Book Showdown
16 times DC’s Dark Knight has gone up against the Man of Steel, and who won each tussle.
This week, finally, audiences get to see the Dark Knight take on the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
While it’ll be the first time the two DC Entertainment superheroes have shared the big screen, the two have been teaming up for decades in comic books — and fighting for almost as long.
Ahead of the two heroes slugging it out onscreen, here are some highlights of their comic book tussles, along with a running tally of which superhero won the bout.
The Feud Between Batman and Superman (1964).
Winner: N/A; the fight is broken up, and the two quickly become friends again.
The Infinite Evolutions of Batman and Superman (1965)
Winner: Superman, apparently answering the “caveman vs. astronaut” meme decades early.
The Galactic Gamblers (1969)
Winner: N/A, because their hearts were never in it. (But if it had come down to it, it would’ve been Batman. As much as Superman loves Jimmy, it pales before the bond between the Dynamic Duo.)
How Do You Kill A Superman? (1976)
Winner: Batman, kind of…? It’s unclear; while Batman seemed to kill Superman, he actually ended up triggering a sequence of events that saved Superman’s life, which was perhaps what he’d hoped for all along…?
The Dark Knight Falls (1986)
Winner: Batman, and surprisingly easily, thanks to the help of Green Arrow, some kryptonite and a mechanized suit of super-strong armor.
One Night in Gotham City (1986)
Winner: Batman; even though the two never come to outright blows, Superman is still outwitted by the Caped Crusader.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2002)
Winner: Batman, again.
Batman: Hush (2003)
Winner: N/A, because Superman manages to break Ivy’s control when he sees Lois Lane in danger.
Superman: Red Son (2003)
Winner: Batman, technically; his plan to depower Superman works temporarily, but when Wonder Woman saves the Comrade of Steel — that’s actually what he’s called in this storyline — Batman commits suicide to avoid capture. Maybe we should call this one a draw?
Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (2005)
Winner: Superman. The showdown isn’t even close: Superman disarms Bats of his kryptonite from a distance via super-breath without even breaking a sweat.
Winner: Superman, and it wasn’t even close: Batman was left in bad shape as a result of the brutal assault.
Winner: Superman, although he couldn’t have done it alone.
Justice League: Origin (2011)
Winner: Superman, although the fight didn’t really get too far before being interrupted.
Cross World (2013)
Winner: Superman, despite the alternate Batman using kryptonite against him. Put it down to a mixture of confusion and the inexperience (and strength) of youth.
World’s Finest No More (2014)
Winner: Superman, although Batman eventually comes back thanks to the power of advanced comic book technology and the power of negative thinking.
Winner: Batman, although he generously says in narration the nobody was the winner.
Cinema Magic will have a Sneak Pic show on Thursday 24th March 2016