After much expectation and hype, Zack Snyder’s Batman vs Superman has opened to mixed reviews. Many consider it an epic masterpiece, quite possibly the best superhero film ever. Others argue that it contains too many narratives, there is insufficient plot development or that the big fight between the two protagonists is not nearly fleshy enough. In many ways, BvS is a straight up action flick. Made in Hollywood, it presses all the right buttons in relation to thrills, suspense and intrigue. There is plenty of edge-of-the-seat material to keep audiences gripped for over two hours. It is also interspersed with dialogue that does a good job of holding the sequences together.
Undeniably, responses to the film were always going to vary. From the first Christopher Reeve incarnation of Superman in 1977 to the Tim Burton rendition of Batman in 1988, a film scored by Prince, with the Jack Nicolson Joker considered a superlative performance, there have been many sequels and reboots to ensure these two superheroes remain prime viewing material for avid fans. Fast-forward to 2016, and the release of this much-anticipated film that sees both heroes battle it out in the same real time universe. Give 250m USD to Zack Snyder, the man behind 300 (2006), Watchmen (2009), Sucker Punch (2011) and the Man of Steel (2013), throw a great deal of confidence into the mix and the outcome is either fire or failure.
The themes in the film explore all the crises facing the human race on a lonely planet. With the arrival of Superman, the human race is not alone. Indeed, he has the power to keep humans safe, arguably more from each other than anything else. His back-story is one of an orphan alien child raised as normal boy in Kansas, as his own planet destroys itself from within. He loves his adopted mother and dearly departed father, played skilfully by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner. He also loves Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, more than she understands. Batman is the broody, reclusive and angry billionaire who as a boy also lost his parents. He becomes the crime fighting Bruce Wayne, with his expensive and effective gadgets provided by the trusted father figure cum Man Friday character, Alfred, played by Jeremy Irons. Both Batman and Superman are alone but powerful, but the former fears the powers of the latter, not for himself, but the world as a whole, while the latter sees humans as fickle, afraid and vulnerable. That they would come into an almighty confrontation is only a question of when, especially as the deranged but wily Lex Luthor, played by the talented Jesse Eisenberg, orchestrates the whole event.
Before the big moment arrives, Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, enters the scene. A feisty, skilful but also troubled character, and after her measured introduction throughout the film, she finally enters the fray when she and the two other superheroes face an even mightier foe than their own internal battles. Doomsday emerges out of the fantasies of Lex Luthor and his ambitions of greater wickedness. This beast of a creature materialises from the dead body of General Zod and the blood of Luther, forging human and alien evil into one monster. The fighting scenes involving the three heroes and this unpleasant alien-human organism is a carnival of CGI delights, taking it to new levels of awe-inducing gratification. But the build up to this clash of the titans contains all the human struggles that have ever existed. God vs man, truth vs power, power vs knowledge, vulnerability vs vulnerability and origins vs origins. These are the conflicts that are allegorically strung together to reveal that the battle between these giants are ultimately all human struggles. This is why we connect with these heroes.
The film is no all-inclusive metaphor for our entire human existence, but it touches upon so many themes that are. There are fine performances from all the actors, including three with Oscars. Indeed, all the acting is perfectly solid, although Cavill is as wooden as ever. Ironically, after all the stick Affleck received when originally cast as Bruce Wayne, his Batman performance is far better than many. The atmosphere of the film is dark and grim, as it should be according to the DC Comics. The humour is never overblown. It is just enough light relief to release tension when needed. This makes a refreshing change from the comeliness and frivolity of some of the Marvel films, when one spends more time chuckling than one ought to. Although over 2hrs 20 mins long, BvS still feels somewhat fleeting. An extended DVD release will be highly popular for some. Overall, 4.5/5 stars.