I loved Man Of Steel. A solid letter of intent to rival Marvel Studios, as to the bold new direction that DC was headed in the wake of the phenomenally successful Dark Knight trilogy. A dark and brooding tale benefiting from a “Nolanesque” style that Warner Bros seemed keen on emulating, by appointing experienced Comic Book adapter Zack Snyder. His previous experience with the superb and faithful adaptations of Watchmen and 300 showed a unique style fitting to the DC universe. With Marvel productions being a child friendly affair of bold primary colours, clean set pieces and much comedy value, (given its ties with Disney) then the inclusion of DC into the fold with their far superior source material was an exciting prospect.
Since the announcement of THAT title, a tremendous amount of hype had been buzzing around this project, each new trailer bringing new quotes that I would exhaust in conversation with my wife.
“Tell me, do you bleed?” I spoke in my best Batman voice.
“Yes, five days every month,” she replies, bringing me crashing back to Earth faster than a speeding bullet.
The film begins with a short and stylish title sequence in which those who have been in a coma for the past fifty years are reminded of how Bruce Wayne’s parents were brutally murdered before his very eyes, before we’re taken on an adrenaline fuelled ride with Bruce himself as he races through the battle sieged Metropolis at the end of Man Of Steel, hurtling through the streets with steely determination. It’s an important sequence that sets up the rest of the movie, bringing our attention to the human cost of when “Gods” do battle.
It’s the first look we have of Ben Affleck in the role that has divided nerds everywhere. We are not a forgiving community. It has taken me many years to forgive the former Devil Of Hell’s Kitchen, a character I have as much an emotional attachment to as an embarrassing ex-girlfriend, but I have not forgotten. So to step into the shoes of the Batman, a character much beloved and cherished to the point my wife is more jealous of him than of Wonder Woman, it takes a brave man. Christian Bale will forever be the bar in which all others are measured. As Bruce Wayne, I’m relieved to say that Ben Affleck does a solid job. Not quite Christian Bale but by no means a George Clooney. Portraying an emotionally troubled and twisted man different from any iteration before. Years donning the cape and cowl has left a morally ambiguous shell of a man, branding criminals in a way that has transformed him into judge, jury and executioner. The influences of Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” are evident in his performance, it’s just a shame there’s not nearly enough screen time.
Surprisingly for a film that pushes two and a half hours, the same could be said for everybody involved. Henry Cavill as Superman/Clarke again puts in a solid performance, despite providing us with no development on the character from Man Of Steel. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lex Luther as a pantomime villain which will divide audiences, while Amy Adams tags along for the ride in a film with far too many needless scenes. To support my case, there are no fewer than four dream sequences, each one becoming longer and more elaborate with no real purpose to the story. We had a giant bat, a post apocalyptic battle and even a voice from the grave, it seems we had every dream but a wet dream.
The thundering score from Hans Zimmer is an absolute joy throughout whilst Jeremy Irons in the role of Alfred Pennyworth is a real pleasure, it is a shame then, that with all these fine components in place that the film falls a long way short of expectation. The blame lies with the script. With such powerful source material to go off, David Goyer and Chris Terrio have had an absolute disaster, some great dialogue between the criminally underused Holly Hunter and Jesse Eisenberg aside. The result is a movie of style over substance, not quite of Michael Bay proportions by any means, it just doesn’t reach its full potential.
To bring out the sports analogies, it’s like watching Barcelona play the beautiful game. A team full of incredible talent who are expected to score every time they touch the ball, just for the game to end with a straight forward 1-0 victory. It’s still a victory, but oh what could have been. Taking a moment to briefly introduce those of the forthcoming Justice League movie, it seems that DC are warming up for their real attempt at emulating the success of Marvel’s Avengers team up.
I remain optimistic for the future. If Ben Affleck can come back from Daredevil and David Goyer can survive Blade Trinity, there is still much to look forward to, not least the mouthwatering Suicide Squad and Gal Gadot in her own Wonder Woman outing.
No match for Marvel? Considering only The Winter Soldier and the two Avengers movies (benefiting from the one and only Joss Whedon) exceed the quality of a 3 STAR movie, this was no defeat.
Understanding my wife has no more time for my Batman impressions, I look to my daughter, Ava.
“I’m Batman!” I declare in a gravelly voice.
“No, don’t want a Banana,” she responds sternly. Neither did I sweetie, neither did I.