★★★★☆ Batman v Superman may contain two of the most bankable super heroes in existence, but don’t let that fool you: this is a huge bet by Warner Bros and DC Films. If this movie flops, it heaps an unbelievable amount of pressure on this summer’s upcoming villain-caper Suicide Squad. And if that were to flop too… Well, who knows what that would mean for the slated adaptations of DC Universe titles including Aquaman, Shazam!, Justice League and Cyborg.
While director Zack Snyder has maintained the pitch-black, psychological subject matter of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the visual style is very much his own. This is far glossier, less coated in grime, resulting in a more traditional comic-book aesthetic (never more apparent than in the stylised opening credits depicting Batman’s origin story – yeah, again). Based on its opening hour, Batman v Superman is up there with the very best super-hero adaptations. It’s a shame that some of the good work is undone in a finale that's jarring in its embrace of cliche. A hastily constructed villain, introduced in the final reel, exists solely for the purpose of tying up plot points – it feels anachronistic in what’s an otherwise a forward-looking movie. But most frustratingly, Snyder struggles to do justice to the fascinating ideas his film raises. One tantalising sub-plot, for instance, sees Bruce Wayne’s vision of a possible future where he leads a Mad Max-style group against a dictatorial Superman, an idea plucked from The Dark Knight Returns that’s never again referred to. But Batman v Superman’s flaws are relative to the epic promises it makes, and are far outweighed by everything it gets right. Marvel’s is no longer the only super-hero universe in town.