One thing’s for certain: Batman v Superman is categorically not the worst comic book movie ever. Green Lantern and the godawful Fantastic Four (2015) – a film where they seemed to give up halfway through production – are going to take a bit of beating. But it’s also by no means a good film either.
Much has been said of its current rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes – a lowly 29% at time of writing. As the folks over at Flickering Myth pointed out, that’s a worse rating than Tommy Wiseau’s cult “classic” The Room. For those who’ve not seen The Room, hint: it’s bad. Very, very bad. Also, to contradict myself, watch it, it’s amazing(ly awful):
Batman v Superman is obviously not as bad as The Room, despite what Rotten Tomatoes would have us all believe. It’s glossy, has a fair amount of director Zack Snyder’s visual flair, a big ol’ budget and a solid score from Hans Zimmer. All things which The Room is not able to boast; though it might be a bit more fun. Looking solely at the technical aspects of the film, it’s absolutely fine. But much like The Room, it has about as much structural integrity as a house made of sugar cubes on a rainy day. Look close enough and you’ll see the gaping holes starting to form.
It simply doesn’t hold up under any sort of scrutiny. The thing that struck me the most about it is how many questions I had left unanswered after leaving the theatre. It’s riddled with inexplicable plot points and character moments. It’s a long, meandering film, with lots of big, unwieldy pieces being manoeuvred ungracefully. The phrase “too many cooks” springs to mind. We’ve got Batman and Superman, of course, but there are also introductions for Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Doomsday and the Justice League. There’s so much going on, and it never really comes together. There are aspects which work – namely Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck’s Batman – but Doomsday is wasted, and Lex Luthor is straight up bad.
It is, in fact, Ben Affleck who for me is the most successful piece of the puzzle. His performance as the aged, beaten and weary billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne – aka Batman – is a refreshing take on the character. There’s a bizarre campaign of hate towards Affleck that seems hugely unfair. There’s literally an anti Ben Affleck as Batman Facebook page, which is plain daft. His casting as the Dark Knight was met with trepidation, it’s fair to say. So he made a few bad movies in the early noughties, he’s not the first actor to have had a rough patch. He’s also a two-time Oscar winner. Matthew McConaughey made a career out of bad romantic comedies. He then strung together a couple of great performances and people started using the word “McConaissance” to encapsulate his glories. But there’s no such praise or adulation for poor old Affleck. He’s not allowed to be Batman apparently. Well the good news for all of us is that he is, and that he is very good indeed. It helps that he gets more development than Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent does in both Man of Steel and BvS combined.
If anything, Superman is portrayed as the villain of the story. The destruction and chaos caused by his battle with Zod in the climax of Man of Steel has not gone unnoticed by the people of Metropolis. Nor Bruce Wayne, nor Lex Luthor. His actions are being brought into question and he finds himself vilified by those he has strived to save, targeted by Batman who sees his power as a threat to humanity, and by Lex Luthor, who wants to kill Superman…just because. Batman hates Superman. Lex hates Superman. Batman kills (yes, he’s a big, bad killer). Lex kills. Both want to kill Superman, and Superman simply wants to sulk a bit. If Lex and Batman’s aims are both the same, does that make them both villainous? I prefer my superheroes to be, you know, heroic.
As for Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, the less said the better really. It’s not Eisenberg’s finest hour, scenery-chewing in every scene as the megalomaniacal, eccentric Luthor. Gone is the more human approach to the character we saw from Michael Rosenbaum in Smallville for so many years, and gone is the scene-stealing version we saw from Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns. He’s the elephant in the room every time he’s on screen, overacting opposite the sombre and understated Cavill and Affleck. He’s doesn’t fit the otherwise grim tone of the film.
It’s a backwards step then for the DC Extended Universe. On only its second movie. With Marvel’s Cinematic Universe showing no signs of slowing down, the pressure’s on for a big win for DC with its next film, Suicide Squad. There are hints in amongst the messiness of Batman v Superman that greater things are to come for the burgeoning franchise. Just not enough for BvS to meet its own largely squandered potential.
Rating (out of 5):