Movie reviews: What critics think of 'Batman v Superman'

MANILA, Philippines – The epic showdown between the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is finally going to explode on cinema screens.

Jesse Eisenberg, as Lex Luthor, called it "the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: god versus man" in the final trailer.

However, it's not only the face-off between Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), as their superhero selves, that many fans have anticipated though. As it picks up from where Man of Steel has left off, the film has also been set up as a prelude to putting the famed Justice League together on screen.

We've seen Gal Gadot steal the show in trailers as Wonder Woman, but we're expecting to see Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) – among others – soon, too.

 

From these basic details alone, the film is already built up to be a spectacle, and the hype is on fever pitch. The burning question is: will it live up to expectations?

Movie critics have had a look and their reviews are in. Here's what they said about Batman v Superman

"When you're setting up the greatest gladiator match in the history of DC Comics, subtlety is not your weapon of choice," writes Peter Travers of Rolling Stone.

While Travers comments that the script "takes things very seriously… [Director Zack] Snyder, juiced up by Hans Zimmer's caffeinated score, throws everything at the screen until resistance is futile."

"Better than Man of Steel but below the high bar set by Nolan's Dark Knight, Dawn of Justice is still a colossus, the stuff that DC Comics dreams are made of for that kid in all of us who yearns to  see Batman and Superman suit up and go in for the kill," he writes.

Empire magazine's Nick De Semlyen comments, "The title carries a charge of giddy promise. Two titans of pop culture will, we are assured, rearrange city streets with each other’s faces."

"And once it arrives, the fight is a tightly choreographed, berserkly overwrought treat. But talk about delayed gratification: Snyder makes you wait, and wait, and wait for the championship bout."

De Semlyen also notes, however, that the spectacular set pieces were not beneficial. He wrote, "A climax to a climax, it’s CGI overkill, making for a generic and exhausting denouement." 

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly also observes that it's as spectacular as many have expected. He wrote, "The brawls are busy and brutal, the story is sprawling in scope, the effects are an embarrassment of pixels, and the performances (well, some of them, at least) couldn’t be broader. If it’s just size you’re after, you won’t be disappointed." 

"[Batman v Superman] starts off as an intriguing meditation about two superheroes turning to an all-too-human emotion: hatred out of fear of the unknown," he said about the film's trajectory. "Two and a half hours later it winds up somewhere very far from that—but at the same time, all too familiar. It’s another numbing smash-and-bash orgy of CGI mayhem with an ending that leaves the door open wide enough to justify the next 10 installments."

Andrew Pulver of UK daily The Guardian also puts attention on the epic set pieces. He writes, however, that this is a bane: "The way films like this tend to be constructed – racing from one thunderous set piece to another, with only a few seconds of downtime between them – ends up militating against it."

Pulver contends that the film had to "shoehorn in the key accessories of both superheroes": Alfred Pennyworth, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Zod, and more. "It’s a lot of ground to cover, making the resulting film feel both overstuffed and abnormally extended," he writes.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

"[Batman v Superman] is a disorganized, lead-footed movie that carries itself with unearned confidence," writes film critic Matt Zoller Seitz for RogerEbert.com, describing it as somehow predictable. "You see every card it’s about to play ten minutes before the movie plays it, yet Snyder doesn’t just slap each one down on the table with gusto, he keeps pointing to it and telling you what rank and suit it is."

Seitz concludes, "There are a few brilliantly realized moments, the acting is mostly strong despite the weak script (Affleck and Cavill are both superb—Affleck unexpectedly so), and there's enough mythic raw material sunk deep in every scene that you can piece together a classic in your mind if you're feeling charitable; but if you aren't, Batman v Superman will seem like a missed opportunity. At times it might make you long for Christopher Nolan's delicate touch."

Variety's Andrew Barker writes about his observations about how the film depicted the iconic DC heroes, and comments that through "juggling all of these strands while steadily beating the drum toward the battle promised in the title, Snyder sometimes loses track of his various allegories."

"The essential clash of ideologies promised by the central conflict – vigilante justice vs. self-sacrificing restraint, night vs. day, Dionysus vs. Apollo – never develops quite as forcefully as it should, and the life-or-death battle between the two icons ultimately comes down to a series of misunderstandings," he continued. 

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter raises his concerns about characterization in his review. He writes, "The main issue facing the writers of a superhero smackdown like this is concocting a reason why, given all the evil out there, they have to fight each other — as well as, in this case, coming up with a way to level the playing field when one hero is essentially immortal and the other is just a really buff rich guy with a costume and lots of gizmos."

McCarthy brands Jesse Eisenberg's turn on villain Lex Luthor as "so intensely annoying," being "loaded with vocal ticks and gushing with smarmy ripostes and threats."

He is satisfied with Ben Affleck's performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman, "fitting the role just fine," while he sees Henry Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman as "likeable enough but […] hamstrung by the twisty, convoluted inventions designed to limit his abilities during long stretches."

Reserving his verdict on Gal Gadot's Diana Prince/Wonder Woman for last, McCarthy writes, "The filmmakers would seem to have thrown up their hands at how to gracefully integrate Wonder Woman into the action, simply hurling her into the epic final battle without significant preparation at all."

Batman v Superman will arrive in Philippine cinemas on March 26 in 3D, 2D, and IMAX 3D formats.

Do these critics convince you of Batman v Superman's merits and shortcomings? Will you be watching the film? Tell us in the comments. – Rappler.com