Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a...a bat?

Alas, 'tis not, 'tis Zack Snyder having not learned a single thing during Superman's three-year hiatus. He returns with more bombast and commitment to stylisation than ever, and even with Oscar-winner (and, no doubt, best mate of Ben Affleck) Chris Terrio on board, it still isn't enough to iron out the persistent crease in Supes' cape that is David S. Goyer. Given a huge undertaking by a massively ill-advised attempt at a checkmate against Marvel by DC, the screenwriting duo not only have to introduce a new, far meaner Batman, not only have to set up the entire Justice League, not only have to justify a new, more autistic Lex Luthor, but they also have to stage a clash of the titans in a way that doesn't echo Man of Steel's city/soul-crushing carnage.

It's an impossible checklist, which by the end of 151 gruelling minutes, is only slightly crossed off successfully. Ben Affleck's incarnation of Batman works as well the film will let him, with his fight scenes and new costume design (the voice-changer is a nice touch) functioning serviceably. The rest is clumsily-handled, and the final product resembles a suit-case, overflowing with clothes that haven't been ordered in the right way. Say what you will about Age of Ultron, but the action happened cohesively with one plot branching off to introduce new characters and keep the pace up. Dawn of Justice does little of the sort, beginning with four or five, each with their own subplots, and begins smashing them together before you can even whimper in submission.

As if that isn't loud enough, Jesse Eisenberg's phenomenally-misjudged take on Lex Luthor squeaks and screeches his way intermittently out of nowhere in between sequences of Lois Lane being captured by African terrorists and Bruce Wayne's overactive subconscious dropping easter eggs all over the place for Justice League. The film's best moment is actually its quietest; a fantastically awkward pause on a literal jar of piss. It's a rare moment of dark levity in a film so bogged down by its own portent that it forgets it has a bunch of goofy comic-book nerds who could use a laugh when Marvel's not around to dish them out.

You've got to hand it to Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL for justifying this film's ear-splitting nature by working on the already-brilliant Man of Steel score and delightfully expanding upon it. Lex Luthor's theme is a lovely slice of gothic opera, and while Wonder Woman's cheesy guitar riff/tribal drum is a bit more self-consciously silly than we've come to expect from this franchise (it's actually a bit Spy Kidsesque), it nonetheless wakes you up if you've fallen asleep in the CGI mayhem that is the seemingly never-ending third act.

In short, there's nothing here that you haven't seen before, but it's just a whole lot messier this time round. Definitely an interesting failure, but it's also a colossal one.

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