Brendan’s review published on Letterboxd:
I expected this to happen. I really hoped for more, I really did. I had this underlying level of optimism that maybe they'd change things up a bit, that they'd get to the core of what makes the DC Universe great and deliver a fun, entertaining and surprising film where Superman and Batman duke it out. But it struck me, about ten minutes into the film, that this is very definitely a Zack Snyder film and it is very definitely a continuation of what was set up in Man of Steel, for better or for worse.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn't quite know what it wants to be. It starts off with a slow burn, dedicating a lot of time to setting up Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) in this world and the effects that the last film had on him and the rest of the world. Interesting dilhemmas are brought up about the use and/or abuse of unlimited power and where exactly the line should be drawn. Superman (Henry Cavill) is an imposing figure in this world, and that either terrifies or inspires people. The problem is, these ideas are nobly brought up but never completely fleshed out. Superman's presence in this film feels aloof and in the background. In a film that runs for almost three hours, it's a wonder how they managed to fit in so little character development for Clark/Superman. Every now and then he is given a brief moment to reflect on some grand idea about what he's doing, but nothing is ever truly explored and the character never seems to learn or grow. Cavill plays a fantastic Superman, but this Superman is bland and uninspiring. The film relies much more on the presence of Superman, rather than Superman as a character.
That's perhaps the main problem I have with this film, that the filmmakers seem to have very little respect for the essence of these characters. Ben Affleck is an amazing Batman and a terrific Bruce Wayne. I honestly believe it is inspired casting and he really does give his all to the role. But there's something missing here, a disconnect between what the character says and what he does. I get that the response to this argument is that this is a 'different, older, more ruthless' Batman, but he's still supposed to be a HERO. The Batman in this film instigates such wanton destruction, with absolutely no regard for the lives of those he is battling. He ploughs through bad guys like there's no tomorrow and it's a bit unsettling. If the idea was to show him going over the edge, I would understand that, but things just get a bit much especially considering the vitriol Bruce Wayne spouts about the wanton destruction that was caused by Superman. Sure, maybe the filmmakers were going for a reckless, ruthless, hypocritical Batman, but for me it just doesn't sit right.
Similarly, I have my issues with Jesse Eisenbergs Lex Luthor. Traditionally, Luthor has been a calm, collected and absolutely vindictively calculating man. Imposing, charming and brutal. The kind of man who could win a Presidency (he actually was President in the comics). Think Frank Underwood from House of Cards (Kevin Spacey was great casting in Superman Returns). Instead we are given hyper-active, psychotic Mark Zuckerberg turned up to eleven. Thanks to the plotting of the film, Lex Luthor does come across as a formiddable mind moving to manipulate those around him. But his disposition, his character does not read that at all. It reads as a whiny, privileged little boy. The kind of kid who smashes plates at a dinner party because his parents refuse to tell him no. To be fair, I'm sure they wanted me to hate him and they succeeded greatly. He's just not so much a formiddable Lex Luthor as much as an aggravating one.
I've complained a lot about the characterisation in this film, but there's a lot of promising stuff in here too. Gal Gadot gives us an excellent turn as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince, giving us a taste of what we have in store for her solo project. It's just a shame that she wasn't given a lot to do. Amy Adams brings a much needed weight to Lois Lane, almost making up for the number of goddamn times this woman needs saving. Lawrence Fishburne is a delightful, no-nonsense Perry White. And finally, with criminally limited screen time, we have Jeremy Irons as Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred. Basically, it's just Jeremy Irons being Jeremy Irons, but it's made me realise that Jeremy Irons' Alfred is something I desperately need more of in my life.
Taking up the mantle of it's predecessor's grim and dark tone, with a few awkard splashes of comic mythology, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice delivers an action packed, visually impressive and an infrequently thought provoking forray into this clash of titans, giving us a taste of what Warner Bros. have planned for their upcoming DC Cinematic Universe. A Universe that, unless injected with a much needed sense of fun and light, may just be swallowed up by it's own darkness.