Batman v Superman is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Not just because there’s way too much on offer (although there is), but because of the experience you have every time you visit a buffet. It’s exciting at the start; so much promise. There’s an empty plate in front of you and you pile it high with all kinds of foodstuffs that don’t really fit together. You take the first few mouthfuls and it’s great. Then the tastes all meld together in a nasty, greasy, uncomfortable way and though you feel obligated to fill your plate a second, third, fourth time, it just gets messier and stodgier. That’s Batman v Superman.
The beginning has so much promise. Yes we are presented yet another look at how Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed (how many times will we see this same scene?), but Zack Snyder’s visual flare makes it a worthwhile sojourn down memory lane; there’s a beautiful shot of Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace exploding at a gun shot that is signature Snyder. Following this we see the Superman/General Zod Metropolis fight from the end of Man of Steel, viewed through the eyes of Bruce Wayne as he fights through the rubble and devastation to try and save some of his own employees. It’s real heart-stopping stuff and sets up nicely why Batman would have such a gripe with Superman (and hence why the film carries its title).
But from here it gets horrible. There are so many scenes. Just endless unrelated moments, some delivering exposition, some setting up future DC films, some with such ham-fisted emotion that they feel lifted from a low-rent US soap opera, and others with Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor; easily the worst iteration of this character. It all feels like a scattergun approach to filmmaking, with scenes strung together in random order rather than structured as a narrative.
The problem is too many items on the buffet. There’s Superman and his existential crisis, the US senate and its need to govern Superman, Clark Kent and his righteous cause of turning the Daily Planet into a better version of itself by reporting on issues that affect people, Batman grappling with his image and the cruelty of his recent actions (branding the criminals he catches with a bat symbol), Wonder Woman searching for a stolen image that reveals her true identity, Lex Luthor looking for Kryptonite to make a weapon, the meta-humans project which aims to seek out all superheroes on earth, a disenfranchised Wayne employee crippled in the Metropolis destruction from Man of Steel seeking justice. All of this is forced into the first 90 minutes, as build up for the final act.
When the final showdown does arrive, Snyder plays it for scale and nothing more. Things escalate quickly until godlike heroes and a super-villain are punching each other and repeatedly sending electric shock-waves across the city in ever more enormous ways until the cinema screen seems to plead for it to stop. But none of it feels earned. It just feels like something that someone thought was cool.
As children we forgive awful exposition, poor editing, flawed narrative and crappy dialogue in films as long as there’s great visuals to salivate over. The creative team behind Batman v Superman must have just never grown up because they obviously feel the same way.
When I left the cinema I was disappointed. Despite the above vitriol there was so much potential with this film, and there are some stand-out moments that make that wasted potential all the harder to swallow. This could have just been about Batman and Superman, about a man who feels threatened by a God and is willing to die to see limitless power being challenged and brought in check. That would have been a powerful 90 minute movie. Instead we have a bloated 150 minute shambles. So sad.