Friday, March 25, 2016


Now playing at a multiplex near you:


(Dir. Zach Snyder, 2016)

DC pitting their two biggest, most iconic superheroes – Batman and Superman - against each other in order to jumpstart their cinematic universe looked like a questionable premise right off the bat – pun intended.

Especially since I, and many others, hated the first installment of the DCEU (DC Extended Universe), Zach Snyder’s SUPERMAN series reboot MAN OF STEEL.

So I went in to Snyder’s follow-up/BATMAN reboot with exceedingly low expectations, but was still majorly disappointed.

For BATMAN V SUPERMAN is another round of boring bombast surrounding a couple of dark dullards without a lick of compelling storytelling to be found. There’s also a severe lack of humor, and anything resembling a fresh style.

Henry Cavill, returning as the red caped crusader as well as giving us our first real taste of his Clark Kent persona (we only got a glimpse of him getting the job at The Daily Planet in MAN OF STEEL at the end), and Ben Affleck, making his debut as the Dark Knight/Bruce Wayne, both brood up a storm but there’s nothing really that intriguing about their characters. They’re just overly self serious, bland dudes is all.

The film tries to simultaneously function as a sequel and a origin story for Affleck’s incarnation of Batman, but it strongly appears that his/Snyder’s version of the character is a continuation of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale model as there are references to The Joker, an identical bat cave, and restagings of his parents’ murder and his being attacked by bats in a well as a child that attempt but fail to recreate the gravitas of Nolan’s work.

We learn that while Superman was battling General Zod and reaping mass destruction on Metropolis in MAN OF STEEL, Wayne was one of the many folks in the rubble building up a hated for Superman. Just like many in the audience.

Clark Kent, for his part, dislikes Batman, labeling him a “bat vigilante” and “a one man reign of terror” so the stage is set for what Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) bills as “the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world.

Eisenberg’s Luther is an unhinged, mad scientist who, of course, wants the two leads to fight and destroy each other so that he can…uh, I forget exactly what his plans were for after that but we’ll just go with world domination. Eisenberg locks in to the villain role with a lot of crazy conviction, but I never bought him as Luther. He reminded me of the Jon Cryer role in SUPERMAN IV – Luther’s (then played by the great Gene Hackman – now, there’s a Lex Luther!) newphew/flunky. He seems like the guy who’d be fetching stuff for Luther, not actually be Luther.

Whatever the case, this movie plays out exactly how you’d expect with no surprises. Batman and Superman fight, then bond together to fight a ginormous, grotesque creature that Luther created from Zod’s DNA, with the help of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), whose addition here feels like an afterthought.

David S. Goyer (MAN OF STEEL) and Chris Terrio’s (Oscar winner for the screenplay for Affleck’s ARGO) screenplay is full of pretentious dialogue about good, evil, “god versus man,” etc. but none of it comes together to form any meaningful theme. There are also a few incredibly weak plotpoints that would be a Spoiler to complain about, but I'll just say that in the worst one they make a connection between the feuding leads based on a coincidental name in their families. Man, that made me cringe.

So did the dream sequences - one a dream inside a dream deal - which were ultra unnecessary. 
Amy Adams, reprising Lois Lane, puts some genuine passion into her part, and her fellow returning cast members (Lawrence Fishburne as Editor Perry White, and Diane Lane and Kevin Costner (a dream-set cameo) as Superman’s earth parents) are all fine, but in the messy machinery of this movie they are little more than cardboard cogs.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Irons takes over from Michael Caine as Batman’s butler Alfred and has a few of the film’s only mildly amusing lines, and there’s a welcome turn by Holly Hunter as a senator who wants to hold Superman accountable for his actions in the previous film’s climax, but sadly a hearing scene in which Superman stands before congress is cut short before he gets to testify. Silly me for thinking that Superman could offer any plausible justification for the sins of MAN OF STEEL. Also Hunter’s role here may remind some folks that she was in a movie that dealt much better with the accountability of superheroes: THE INCREDIBLES.

Folks complained plenty when Affleck was cast, but he does an admirable job with the underwritten role. He mostly just has to grimace behind a mask while the special effects people rig things to explode around him and he can certainly pull that off. Affleck’s Bruce Wayne persona is basically just a collection of suave poses with flashes of his bedroom eyes and he hits the mark with that too. If only there was something more to flesh out there. I mean, Will Arnett’s Batman in THE LEGO MOVIE was more complex than this guy!

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (stiff, clunky title) is the first big, bad movie of the year – an awful, mess of a wannabe epic that casts a dark shadow on the future of both superhero franchises as well as the entire DCEU. The two JUSTICE LEAGUE movies that are set for 2017 and 2019, the next we’ll see these characters, really have to be something special to redeem the whole enterprise, but Snyder is set to direct those too so I’m not counting on that to happen.

Oh, and don’t worry about staying to the end of the credits because there is no stinger – that’s something they surprisingly haven’t stolen from Marvel. 

More later...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. Maybe you could tell me what you think of my thoughts?