Given the current success of the ensemble Marvel films, it's clear what Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is trying to do. BvS attempts to mix the novelty of seeing much loved heroes on screen together, with philosophical questions about the value of life, and people with power. Unfortunately, these two ideals don't mix very well, and Zack Snyder would have been better off choosing one theme to go with. What remains is a pretty dull mess of a film, that does little to engage the audience with it's characters or world.
Henry Cavill returns as the man of steel, who is forced to face up to the destruction and death caused by his battle with Zod. I'm glad that we came back to this, as it would have been easy to look over it, and consider it collateral damage for the sake of the greater good. Cavill is pretty wooden throughout, and does little to make the character likeable, whether we're watching Superman battle alien monstrosities (more on that later), or Clark Kent attempting to report a story.
Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot support as Batman and Wonder Woman, although calling Affleck a supporting role would be an injustice (no pun intended). Whilst this film is essentially a sequel to Man of Steel, Affleck gets top billing above Cavill, and the film seems far more focussed on him than on Superman. Gadot is adequate enough, but isn't really given much to do. As one of the most recognised female superheroes, and a pretty strong figure for feminists around the world, it was a little disappointing to see her reduced to little more than eye candy.
She helps out in the final battle sure enough, but her character is given no introduction, no backstory (apart from a photograph from decades ago), and pretty much serves to help the two titular heroes take down the big bad. Which brings me on to my next point. After nearly two hours of Superman facing the political ramifications of his battle with Zod, Doomsday is randomly brought in to serve as a villain for our heroes to punch. He's created by a combination of Lex Luthor's blood on Zod's dead body, put into some sort of transformation chamber and emerges as a huge troll monster.
One of Superman's greatest villains is delegated to a mindless beast, and tacked on to the end of a film in which the main villain is Lex Luthor. His origin, design and handling of the character in general is criminal. If you're going to do a villain as big as Doomsday, give him his own film. I personally haven't read comics, but even I know enough to see that this is a terrible representation of him.
And that isn't mentioning the awful visual effects. I praised Man of Steel for its destruction of Metropolis, it was a visual delight. But some of the effects in the sequel are just terrible. Everything just looked a little odd, and it was sometimes clear in the final battle that the actors were playing against a tennis ball on a stick, where Doomsday would later be added.
The whole film builds up to the showdown between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. The battle itself is tense, even if weird CGI effects on both combatants makes everything look a little off. But be prepared to sit through a lot of talking before we get there. If you go into the theatre expecting a balls-to-the-wall action film, then you'll be sorely disappointed. I have nothing against slower films about the morals and obligations of being a superhero, but it seems that BvS learned nothing from it's predecessor. There are two hours of build up, before an explosion-filled CGI fest finale that Michael Bay would call excessive.
Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor does little to boost the experience. This version of the intelligent, calculated criminal mastermind is nothing more than a jittery, mentally unstable man with a grudge against Superman. I can see why Snyder and co decided to go down this path with the character, making him more realistic, but Eisenberg's portrayal is just awful. His ticks become frustrating and the whole time he was on screen I just felt uncomfortable watching, and not in the good way that an intentionally creepy villain makes you uncomfortable.
Despite the attempts to humanize him by giving him a reason for his evil schemes - he's obviously bats**t crazy (and yes I will take that pun) - Luthor is more comic-booky than anyone else in the film, which is a comment on his over-the-top character, and the general dreariness of the entire movie. The first shot is a funeral, and this sets the tone for the rest of the film. You'd be hard pressed to find someone smile throughout the whole thing.
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is one of the best superhero adaptations ever made in my opinion. Snyder has attempted to recreate the dark, gritty tone, but used characters that should be colourful and charismatic. His attempts to add mystery to the proceedings - a certain dream sequence springs to mind - just make no sense whatsoever. Bruce sees a man in a mask leaning through a portal telling him something about a key? It's ridiculously corny, and the lack of explanation to it makes it stand out as a completely random point, rather than a mysterious element.
Then you have the brief 5 minute scene that gives us our first glimpses of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, which SHOULD have been exciting, but felt incredibly shoe-horned in to set up sequels. It's a sequence that has no impact on the rest of the film, and could easily have waited for a better opportunity. Just seeing the iconic superhero logos in a file, and keeping the rest under wraps would have been better, teasing us with the knowledge of their existence.
A while ago, I wrote a post about my fears for this movie. I worried that setting up the Justice League, giving everyone origins and motivations, setting up a battle between Batman and Superman and giving them a villain to come together over would be too much to fit in, and things would feel rushed. Ironically, this wasn't a problem. Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor got no back story at all, they were just there because the plot demanded it. Bruce Wayne's hatred for Superman was explained within the first five minutes, which is fair enough, but just about everything else in the film was wrong.
Where Man of Steel fell short, it had a great action sequence at the end to make up for it. BvS suffers similar pacing issues, but the climax is less than exciting, which is surprising given the calibre of villain thats been pulled out of the bag. Misleading trailers may cause many to be disappointed in the lack of action, and rightly so, as Zack Snyder proves that combining philosophical thoughts on human nature with an exciting superhero movie is pretty damn difficult to do.