Perhaps the most hyped film of 2016, already slated by critics before its release, and which has had a bad response from fans early on and anyone who feels cynical about superhero movies generally.
My rating, a fairly standard 3/5. Since I’d already read the source material which the film based, Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight and DC’s comic series The Death of Superman (Dan Jurgen, Riger Stern, Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Karl Kesel), I could’ve easily predicted how things would’ve gone since these are the only modern (post-90s) stories about Superman anyone is really interested in. Unfortunately, BVSS took the unnecessary protracted measure to lay the groundwork for an Avengers-style Justice League teamup franchise – which, like the last Avengers film, I am not interested in seeing – however, Spiderman in the Avengers, does appeal to my inner geek (although my outer geek remains non-plussed).
Zack Snyder is a director who divides people. I like him, he’s unashamedly geeky, his films have great casts, he adapted Miller’s 300 and Watchmen, remained faithful to the material and made these films visually spectacular. I love the look of his films, his style and taste in music, and his ability to shock and surprise an audience with a well-worn genre (Dawn of the Dead) despite the clichés. And he seems to have a sense of humour.
Regretfully, I would say BVSS is Snyder’s most prosaic and disappointing work, despite the the inclusion of Doomsday as a weird mutation of Superman’s two greatest foes – Zorg and Lex Luther.
However, despite some flourishes, the plot about a disparate team of heroes coming together to fight a common enemy, overcoming their differences, whilst tackling a secret terrorist organisation that jeopardizes national and global security sounds familiar because it has already been used in the Avengers Assemble movie.
The supporting cast seem utterly wasted, the subplot with Clark Kent and the Editor-in-Chief (Lawrence Fishbourne) is contrived and superfluous, as does the other scenes with Bruce Wayne’s doting, naysaying butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons, replacing Michael Caine), and Holly Hunter as the Senator trying to blackball Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) – although, Eisenberg and Hunter probably have the best dialogue in the film, of which there seems to be A LOT, even more than you would expect for a Chris Nolan-mature-audience style adaption.
Crucially, film seems like a stepback for Bruce Wayne who once again is shown having nightmares and flashbacks about his childhood and murdered parents, similarly Clark Kent mourns his for father (played by Kevin Costner in Man of Steel), and it seems like a cliche we could do without and one we haven’t seen since Batman & Robin (Joel Schumacher, 1997), and which Nolan was careful to avoid.
I would argue Nolan’s Batman films probably have the biggest influence here, since he’d imbued a layered, almost psychological depth to the characters and themes using a complex plot and ensemble cast. Snyder’s film tries to do this, whilst also balancing his own visual style and anarchic themes, but I think it fails, and you could’ve cut 30 mins and probably made it a more enjoyable experience.
I really don’t understand why Wonder Women needed to be in the film, since her scenes are merely there to distract Batman in his investigation into Luther’s terrorist plot – which itself also seems inexplicable, why is Luther trying to destroy the world, or is that question redundant without reading the comics ? In the comics, Luther was an evil genuis determined to overthrow the government and control the universe, Superman naturally seems like the only person able to stop him. Here Luther seems less interested in destroying or taking over the world, and more of a repeat of the insane misanthropy and chaos we’d seen in Bane and Joker from the previous films, but which lacked the complexity of those characters.