Eighteen months ago, disaster struck the American city of Metropolis when the entity known as Superman (Henry Cavill) fought his nemesis General Zod to a standstill. As they both had enormous reserves of power thanks to their alien genetic makeup, their battle was able to knock over entire skyscrapers there, killing thousands of innocent people. Superman emerged the victor, murdering Zod and ending his potential for even more unimaginable acts of destruction, but at what cost? There were those who doubted that he was a force for peace after that, and one of those naysayers was billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who witnessed one of his tower blocks topple, wiping out many of his employees. But what can one man do against that?
Another year, another brace of would-be blockbusters that generate so much heat from critics amateur and professional alike that it was easy to lose sight of the production at the heart of it, especially when we were dealing with a property which it seemed everyone on the planet with internet access had an opinion on the correct method of handling it, as was the case with Batman v Superman. The trouble with that is, when you arrive at two characters as iconic as them you're going to see a lot of people who just didn't like what you did with them, and director Zack Snyder was already a divisive figure for what he did to remake Dawn of the Dead or indeed how he presented Superman in the film previous to this, Man of Steel.
Combine that with battle lines drawn between Marvel fans and DC fans, as if for some unspoken reason you could not be fans of both or at least pick and choose from their substantial array of characters which ones you preferred, then the most you could say about this effort would be that if you did want to watch it, that would be because you felt the need to have an opinion on it. More than that, it would just not do to say, yeah, it was okay, because you either had to be violently opposed to it or strongly in favour: middle ground was a no man's land when it came to these works. Certainly it was a brave soul who piped up and said they enjoyed this after it had seen its cinema release, but there were rumours of a longer, three hour cut in existence that could magically cure all the issues the already two-and-a-half hour cut had.
Yet as it turned out, when the public got to see the so-called "Ultimate Edition", it was indeed true that it was a more satisfying experience, not a huge improvement and still eating up a heck of a lot of your time, but definitely feeling as if there were elements better defined. As with Man of Steel, Snyder wished to address real life controversies such as the War on Terror, with Superman a tool of the United States Government and having no qualms about killing for them on a scale equivalent to Doctor Manhattan from Alan Moore's Watchmen, not coincidentally another project from this director. But Batman sees to it that his victims die too, only in a more roundabout manner when he brands the criminals he captures so as their fellow inmates will murder them in prison, one of a few credibility stretching aspects to David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio's screenplay which basically answered the question of which side we should be on by saying, neither of them (indeed Gal Gadot's infrequently appearing Wonder Woman shapes up to be the real hero type for a long while before the regulation mass destruction climax).
For the first half of the movie Bats and Supes are far from appealing, both brooding, both humourless, and both using violence to get their way. There was no Team Captain America vs Team Iron Man as in this film's big rival of the spring of 2016, these characters were simply too big to be treated to that sort of partisanship, and so it was by the end we were not supposed to support one or the other, but both of them. What looked to be shaping up as a colossal rivalry was revealed as a parable of setting aside differences to see the benefits of teamwork as Snyder replaced the Frank Miller inspired Dark Knight Returns echoes, and instead instigated another famous in the comics world plotline. There was a sense that we were watching yet another origin story, in spite of Man of Steel being precisely that, and this muddied the waters further when you began to question just how much cash DC and Marvel wanted us to fork out for these never ending yarns. Yet for all those drawbacks, Batman v Superman was sincere in searching the souls of its heroes for anything positive in these troubled times, and if it saw more action flick females (Amy Adams and Diane Lane) kidnapped and Jesse Eisenberg as a twitchy, instantly dated tech-savvy Lex Luthor, there were points when its weighty themes and self-seriousness clicked such as the pro-immigrant strand (they have mothers too!). The alternative was a big joke, and that didn't suit it. Music by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, which has an actual tune at times.