For a movie with a lot of ‘man’ in it, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is really powered by the performances of some wonderful women.
While Henry Cavill (Superman) and Ben Affleck (Batman) growl at each other and break stuff, Amy Adams, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane and Gal Gadot quietly give the movie its heart.
Hunter plays June Finch, a senator from Kentucky heading the investigation into Superman’s running battle with General Zod and associates in Man of Steel, and helps carry the first half of the film.
And Adams – so watchable in everything she does – owns the second half, even after Lois Lane is asked to totter around Africa, Washington, Metropolis and Gotham in a pair of heels most catwalk models would struggle in, let alone plucky reporters from the print press.
Skirting in the shadows is newcomer Gadot, the Israeli model-turned-actress who plays Wonder Woman, getting the blend of drop-dead gorgeousness and mystique spot-on.
Wonder Woman’s first appearance is where the film really comes alive (she even comes with her own natty little off-key guitar riff!) – finally, a woman is here to show these man-children how to get things done.
Jesse Eisenberg – incredibly – does Lex Luthor not only better than Kevin Spacey (beating his limp effort in Superman Returns doesn’t take much) but he gives Gene Hackman a solid run for his money as well.
Eisenberg is brilliant, infusing Luthor with just the right blend of mania and daddy issues to make him a truly chilling presence.
His scenes with the ethereal Hunter, dressed in white and staring down the devil, are worth the price of admission.
The set-up is straightforward enough: Bruce Wayne is incensed when the Metropolis high-rise that housed one of his companies was razed during Superman’s battle with Zod – killing multiple employees – and so vows to destroy the Man of Steel.
Throwing a considerable spanner in the works is Luthor, his own need to kill Superman drawing him to the crashed remains of Zod’s ship, a mysterious green rock (hint: it’s kryptonite) and even Zod’s corpse – Michael Shannon’s prone and pasty body still managing to terrify even in stasis.
Luthor begins work creating a hellish Frankenstein’s monster known as Doomsday.
The plot has more holes than the Bat Cave.
But that’s quite alright, given I find my IQ usually halves the instant I put on a pair of ‘Real D’ glasses.
For the most part, the film is a gothic western – Superman and Batman inching closer to high noon, the gun fight at the OK Corral.
This time director Zack Snyder balances the mix of CGI and live action perfectly.
In Man of Steel, we were beaten numb by the explosions, but in Batman v Superman, the director shows much more faith in his cast to tell the story, rather than the computers.
For all the super-heroism on display, it’s a film about families – mothers and fathers loom large.
Diane Lane picks up where she left off in Man of Steel, perfect as Martha Kent, and even Kevin Costner’s gravelled vocal chords get another airing.
It’s rare a sequel betters the original, but Batman v Superman is two-and-a-half hours of A-grade entertainment, with some sterling performances and great direction taking this well beyond what anyone could have hoped for after Man of Steel.