Star Rating:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Director: Zack Snyder

Actors: Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot

Release Date: Saturday 26th March 2016

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Running time: 153 minutes

It's fair to say that Man of Steel didn't hit all the right notes for audiences when it was first released.

The argument was, and this may be true, was that there was still a hold-over from Nolan's golden era and that Zack Snyder's less-than-subtle approach to the character was coming up short against it. It's now been four years since The Dark Knight Rises, but Nolan's shadow still hangs over all comic-book films - whether people like to admit or not.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice picks up during the final stages of Man of Steel and sees a 9/11-style apocalypse happening in Metropolis with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) powerless to stop it. Flash-forward to 18 months later and Superman's now become a huge talking point across the globe. Is he to be trusted? Is he for humanity or against us? Does he intend on making himself into a tyrant to rule the world? Should there even be a Superman? These questions are raised time and time again throughout the film, but they're not fully answered. For the sake of spoilers, we'll leave the plot synopsis there. We will say, though, that the plot is a bit of a mess. In fact, it's all a bit of mess.

There's so many good points to the film, but there are so many frustrating aspects of it that - more often than not - block the good points from getting through. Ben Affleck, thankfully, is a good point. His characterisation of both Bruce Wayne and Batman is pitch-perfect. There really is a sense that this Batman is more damaged and much more violent than anything we've seen before. Where Christian Bale's Batman was unhinged, Ben Affleck's Batman is cruel - and he has reason to be. As physically imposing as he is, there is something truly dark and violent lurking underneath the cowl that, hopefully, will be explored more fully in the eventual standalone film.

Henry Cavill, this time out, is given significantly less dialogue - probably because he's, sadly, not that good an actor. It's more that things happen to Superman rather than him being proactive about them. We see Superman as this shining light of hope, but very often, he's being dragged into the muck of people's baser instincts and he becomes just a pawn in a larger game. Likewise, Amy Adams' Lois Lane doesn't serve much purpose in the story. She's almost, in a sense, in the way all the time. Gal Gadot, however, has latched on to something with Wonder Woman and gives a reasonably restrained performance - possibly because her own film is due out pretty soon and they don't want to give it all away.

We come to Jesse Eisenberg, who's the big bad as Lex Luthor. When first announced, everyone automatically put two and two together and assumed that this Luthor would be, essentially, Mark Zuckerberg in the DC Cinematic Universe. That's accurate. Eisenberg plays Luthor with almost no subtlety and overplays his hand as the egomaniacal genius too often; chewing the scenery whenever he can and openly monologuing during a key scene. It's a real shame because, like it or not, Luthor is a key part of the story and it's lacking here. The supporting cast of Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Scoot McNairy, Holly Hunter and Jeremy Irons all fill out their roles very well, especially in a film where it's very easy to get lost in the fireworks.

David S. Goyer, the screenwriter, and Zack Snyder, the director, are both known for being about as subtle as a fart in a bath-tub. However, with the addition of Oscar-winning screenwriter Chris Terrio, they've been tempered somewhat. That said there are too many sequences in the film that feel like cheating. Instead of using a more nuanced approach to show what the characters are thinking or feeling, the point is repeatedly hammered on top of you and written in block capitals for all to see. Then again, it's a comic-book movie. Subtlety's not really needed, is it?

It all looks pretty and, despite all these points, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an entertaining enough watch. It has moments that are engaging and thrilling, but you'll come away pining for something less busy and over-long. Worth a watch, but about as good as Man of Steel.