Review: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ has no hope

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeI get it that you are going to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice regardless of anything you read or hear about it (believe me, Warner Bros. gets it to.) Who wouldn’t want to see Batman and Superman go mano-a-mano? Heck you haven’t even earned your geek wings unless you’ve debated one side or the other with your peers at some point. Nevertheless, this film delivers on the serious flaws that many fans have been concerned about since Man of Steel flew into theaters in 2013.

It’s difficult to get into specifics without giving too much away, but in a nutshell Batman v Superman is dark, depressing and overlong with too much packed into it to allow time for any substantial character development; and like its Zack Snyder directed predecessor you’ll leave the theater feeling like you’ve been whacked in the head with an Earth-shattering shovel – but not in a good way.

[pulledquote]Aren’t superhero movies supposed to make us feel better and give us hope and inspiration?[/pulledquote]Snyder did a nice job on 2004’s Dawn of the Dead reboot and in bringing Frank Miller’s 300 to life; and I even liked his adaptation of the classic Watchmen comic. Each of those projects was well suited to the director’s dark-leaning nature and he actually does a pretty good job of bringing Batman to life on the big screen – but he is absolutely NOT a good fit for the iconic character of Superman.

Batman v Superman is almost completely devoid of any humor, unless you can find some sort of pleasure in the psychotic rantings of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor (whose performance is, actually, one of the best things the movie has going for it.)

Aren’t superhero movies supposed to make us feel better and give us hope and inspiration? I know that when I leave the theater after seeing my beloved heroes brought to life I want to have a smile on my face and feel better able to face the harsh reality of the world we currently live in. And of all the superheroes, Superman should be able to provide that kind of escape, but not in Snyder’s universe.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeBatman v Superman begins some 18 months after Metropolis was devastated in the Man of Steel film. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) lost many friends and employees in that catastrophe and he is highly suspicious of Superman (Henry Cavill), who is revered as a God among mortals by some and as the harbinger of the apocalypse by others.

Clark Kent deals with the conflicting views of his public super-persona by glaring at the TV with minor consternation; as usual in this whacked universe he is mostly concerned with his main squeeze, Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who manages to work in a gratuitous (partially) nude bathtub scene. [It’s a good thing we’ve brought Wonder Woman along to right this sexist ship, right? RIGHT?]

Through Lex Luthor’s maniacal machinations our two heroes end up battling each other, and the context behind this actually ends up making sense; and I’ll credit writers David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio for that – but not much else. For the most part their script is filled with fevered dream sequences taking up time that could have been better spent explaining some of the things I can’t and won’t spoil.

Now there are some things I did like about this movie: The special effects are great (although I still take issue with Snyder’s overuse of Instagram like filtering); Affleck surprised me by doing an excellent job as Batman (and there is one fight sequence in the latter part of the film that is worth the price of admission); as mentioned, Eisenberg’s Luthor is manically mesmerizing; and when Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) finally appears the audience rightfully applauds. [I can’t wait for the solo Wonder Woman movie!]  

Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeAbout the “Dawn of Justice” parts…let’s just say they feel forced and out of place. Maybe when the Justice League movie finally happens and you watch these films back-to-back, it won’t feel as awkward; but for now they’re not worth the minor tease we get.

For DC Comics fans, The Dark Knight Returns is not the only story-line to get a nod in this film. Some of the others work – and some are just a distraction. Again, one day we may look back on all this and think it made perfect, wonderful sense, but for now it’s just aggravating.

In the end it’s so obvious that Warner Bros. is desperately trying to play catch-up with Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe, and they are so far behind that they are willing to sacrifice the main things that make the Marvel films great, like character development and having fun with the concept of costumed heroes in the real world. The result, while amusing and somewhat entertaining, is ultimately disappointing and potentially harmful to the comic book genre as a whole.

I did like Batman v Superman slightly better than Man of Steel, and the addition of more accurately drawn characters has a lot to do with that, but Superman is still portrayed as a bastardized version of the iconic character I love and that’s unforgivable. Grade: 6.5/10

Photos © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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