BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Holly Hunter, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto, Scoot McNairy, Jena Malone, Brandon Spink, Mark Edward Taylor, Patrick Wilson, Harry Lennix, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Carla Gugino, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Joe Morton, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Andrew Sullivan, Charlie Rose, Soledad O’Brien, Anderson Cooper, Nancy Grace and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Screenplay by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer.
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Distributed by Warner Bros. 153 minutes. Rated PG-13.
I knew I was going to be in trouble with Batman v. Superman the day before I went to the screening. Up until that point, I was really holding out hope that director Zack Snyder would be able to right some of the many, many problems that were Kryptonite to his first Superman film The Man of Steel.
I love Superman as a character, even though I personally don’t feel there had been a good Superman movie since Superman II back in 1981. However, the Caped Crusader has been well served on television series like Lois & Clark and Smallville, so it is still possible to make Superman right.
Ironically, it was Snyder himself who ratcheted up my concern. Not only that, he was not even specifically discussing the current movie. In an interview with The New York Daily News promoting the film, he looked ahead towards his upcoming Justice League movie (an all-star hero film which will be DC Comics’ equivalent of The Avengers). He was asked why he did not cast Grant Gustin, star of the CW’s hit TV series The Flash, to play The Flash in the movie.
“I just don’t think it was a good fit,” Snyder said. “I’m very strict with this universe and I just don’t see a version where… that [tone is] not our world.”
In other words, if you seem to be able to have fun as a superhero, don’t bother applying. I know that apparently Snyder and Christopher Nolan (the executive producer, who also directed the last three Batman films) think that being a superhero is very dark, dark work. But I’m not going to lie, I like a little light in my superhero movies. The Marvel movies understand that – they are able to mix a bit of comedy in with the action. Not everything has to be so damned morose.
The truth is, The Flash and the new series Supergirl are both much more enjoyable than The Man of Steel was, by far. So perhaps Snyder should consider opening up his world a little bit.
Still, I was determined to watch Batman v. Superman with an open mind.
First of all, I’ll totally admit that I’m not the target audience for this film. Ever since it was announced, I have been thinking, “Wait a second, aren’t Batman and Superman on the same side?” Batman v. Superman sort of explains that conundrum away, in a slightly strained but I guess decent enough way.
The new movie opens with like the 10,000th reenactment of the Batman origin story (yes, we know, we know, he was a kid going to a show with his mother and father when they were shot by a mugger). Fast forward to the present day. It turns out that Gotham City and Metropolis are just across a bay from each other (who knew?) and each one’s resident superhero keeps tabs on the other. And each is reading the other’s bad press. So with a little behind-the-scenes sabotage by super-villain Lex Luthor, the two misunderstood heroes are placed on a collision course.
On the plus side, Batman v. Superman looks stunning. The special effects are massive and scary (if perhaps a bit overdone, particularly in the last hour of the film).
That said, I can’t think of a single blockbuster film that was so bereft of joy or wonder. It’s like: Superman, you can fly. You are faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. Not to mention the fact that you’re handsome, you’re in love, and you’re beloved by the people of your new planet. Smile every once in a while, why don’t you?
This exceedingly dour worldview affects all of the characters, from major to supporting. Surrounding Superman in his “secret identity,” the characters of Lois (Amy Adams) and Perry White (Lawrence Fishburne) have been pretty much scrubbed free of any personality or distinguishing characteristics. (This is not the actors’ fault, they do just fine, but they are given very little to work with.)
A couple of actors try to retain some of their iconic character’s traditional quirks, but even then it is muted and indifferent. Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons) does half-heartedly joke around with his boss, but it is so under-played that it nearly evaporates on the screen. Most notably, Jesse Eisenberg tries admirably to bring super-villain Lex Luthor’s theatrically over-the-top quirks and megalomania to the role, but in this highly dry and serious atmosphere there never seems to be a payoff, they just sort of fizzle out.
The big question among fan-boys since this movie was originally announced was this: Can Ben Affleck pull off the role of Batman? Yes, he is just fine in the role, and even better as Bruce Wayne. However, as with every character, you wish he was given more to do and a more coherent storyline.
Speaking of wishing they had more to do, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman keeps hovering around the outskirts of the story and not really getting involved until the end, when she finally suddenly decides to join in on the big battle royale.
Look, I know that I am probably in the minority and that a lot of the hardcore fans love their superheroes dark and brooding. Also, I have no doubt that Batman v. Superman will be a huge box office success. However, walking out after two and a half hours of this stuff (two and a half hours!) I felt much the same as I did after seeing Snyder’s similarly dismally downbeat adaptation of the classic superhero graphic novel Watchmen. Apparently it is not enough to do good for good’s sake and to save the world. Being a superhero has to be a soul-crushing drag.
Therefore, even though I am basically glad I saw Batman v. Superman, I can’t imagine ever watching it again. Also, while I like several characters here, I have no real desire to see any of them in the Justice League sequel. Well, not unless Snyder changes his bombastic and humorless storytelling style quite significantly.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 26, 2016