This week's superhero smackdown ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ mimics ‘The Avengers’ by teaming up three iconic comic-book characters – the titular twosome plus Amazon queen Wonder Woman – along with fleeting cameos from several other crimefighters. But we've got five reasons why this gloomy punch-up isn’t a patch on the box-office-smashing Marvel adventure.
It's utterly joyless
We expect a little darkness from Batman. But we assumed Superman would bring on the sunshine to balance things out. No such luck. Henry Cavill's Clark Kent is just as tortured, angst-ridden and gloomy as Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne. Where ‘The Avengers’ kept things light by peppering the action with sparky asides, ‘Batman v Superman’ features seemingly endless scenes in which the two heroes muse on heavy moral questions while staring gloomily at cityscapes, computer screens and newspaper reports of Very Bad Things happening. As a result, the script's fleeting attempts at gruff banter feels seriously flat and awkward.
The characters are forgettable
Who's your favourite Avenger? Robert Downey Jr's sarky Iron Man? Chris Evans's winningly innocent Cap? Chris Hemsworth's blunt Thor? Scarlett Johansson’s magnificent Black Widow? Even Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye won us over in the last movie. 'Batman v Superman', meanwhile, has two psychotically grumpy and self-involved dudes and one supposedly wondrous woman who has almost nothing to do except be wheeled on at the end to flash her thighs at the camera. It doesn't help that none of the three actors are especially memorable: Ben Affleck tries his best but the script lets him down, while Cavill and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman are simply wooden. At least there's Jesse Eisenberg, clearly having a blast as giggling, self-conscious villain Lex Luthor.
Zack Snyder is no Joss Whedon
We’ll confess to being slightly befuddled by the popularity of director Zack Snyder. '300' was goofy fun and 'Watchmen' impressively gritty, but 'Man of Steel' was a hot mess and 'Sucker Punch' is frankly unwatchable. Watching 'The Avengers', you can feel writer-director Joss Whedon's affection for his characters in every scene. Snyder, on the other hand, couldn't seem to care less. As long as he can find excuses for them to keep rampaging around and smashing things, he's happy. And the film works extra hard to find reasons for Bats and Supes to throw down, including a naff kidnapping plot and a deeply weird flash-forward-dream-time-travel-thing that we still can't get our heads around.
The action scenes are confusing
'Dark Knight' director Christopher Nolan may be to blame for the angsty, adolescent streak of self-pity running through 'Batman v Superman', but his movies made up for it with crisp, thrilling action scenes. Zack Snyder seems to have learned nothing from his mentor and executive producer. The big dust-ups here are devoid of drama, so filled with flying bodies and debris that it's impossible to tell what's going on (and that's before we even get to the daft 'Lord of the Rings' monster). Again, 'The Avengers' has the upper hand: Whedon may have slightly overdone it with the CGI, but you were never in doubt where you were or what was happening.
It leaves us wanting less, not more
Remember walking out the cinema after watching 'The Avengers', all pumped up and ready for further adventures? You’ll probably make it half-way through 'Batman V Superman' before wishing it'll all just stop. But this is far from over. As its subtitle, 'Dawn of Justice' suggests, Snyder's film is just the prelude to a whole series of Justice League movies, as studio Warner Bros attempts to do for the DC comics stable what Disney has done for Marvel. So if you thought it was annoying when 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' kept clumsily shoehorning setups for future movies into the script, you ain't seen nothing yet. 'Batman v Superman' crams in so many teasing references to unmade films that at times it's totally incomprehensible.