Batman v Superman is a movie that has director Zack Snyder trying hard to marry two worlds – a world that is inhabited with DC Comics characters and another world, enamored with Marvel Comics characters, that has already been shown how an extended Cinematic Universe should look, and indeed looks, like. So you have Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder teaming up to cobble together a DC Comics alternative universe and to pit one superhero against another just in time, before Paramount and Marvel steal their thunder with their own interpretation of a similar scenario – only they are trying a little too hard.
That is the problem plaguing the movie for the better part of its run-time – trying hard to quickly establish things or rather, to make you believe things, without having much to show for it. For example, you must believe Batman is fed up with Superman’s God-like reverence from the masses, because Zack Snyder shows a single scene of Batman getting miffed at the newspaper headlines. You must tell yourself the world is on the brink of yet another catastrophe because the characters are saying something on those lines, looking into, perhaps, a crystal ball that is never shown. You must convince yourself that Batman and Superman are in a conflict of war-like proportions – and, since they never showed a real buildup – simply because the movie title says so. You are asked to take huge leaps of faith and logic, because Zack Snyder wants you to never be sure about what really is happening up until the big reveal, which, after it arrives, is deliberately drowned in noise and chaos so Snyder can stretch the aura of mystification half an hour longer. On the way, you never know the reason behind why Superman would suddenly turn up in the middle of Batman’s daily business and let him know he let him off out of mercy. You never know how Lois Lane knows that the spear that she threw away held the key to annihilating the newest monster in Metropolis.
Add to that the mix and match of the different universes that Zack Snyder is attempting. Despite having made it amply clear ahead of the movie’s release that his universe was different to that of Nolan’s, he still imbues his universe with a forced darkness that evokes the ambience of Nolan’s, while also borrowing for his Batman, traits, most notably, the dead-pan, from the pre-Christian Bale incarnations. The problem with this forced grimness is that it draws itself to unnecessary comparisons with Nolan’s creation – and fails miserably at it because the bar has been set so high by both Nolan and Bale – while simultaneously flying in the face of the slightly upbeat mood of the same universe portrayed in Man of Steel. And if the intention was to show a Superman in deep conflict, a sign of the times he is living in, then it is back to the initial problem – you must believe without being made to spontaneously believe, that Superman is in turmoil.
The movie is hobbled by poor direction and banal dialogue, if not by tunnel vision and hammy or wooden acting. Visual effects are run-of-the-mill, and Ben Affleck is just OK as Batman – he is no Bale after all. Jesse Eisenberg goes over-the-top and strangely strikes you as a white version of Shah Rukh Khan in virtually every movie of his (ever). Amy Adams, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot, in that order, try to hold on to dear life in a floundering ship. Jeremy Irons’ cocky, wise-crack Englishman Alfred is an apology of a replacement for Michael Caine’s fatherly, sympathetic portrayal. But not all is hopeless though, since the best moments are reserved for the last half-hour, that is, after Wonder Woman appears and joins forces with the other two, when the movie begins to become bearable. From there on, it is uphill for the movie – reaching its zenith in the very last shot – but by then you wonder if it was an uptick two hours too late.