ReelBob: ‘Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice’
By Bob Bloom
What a disappointment! What a letdown! Director Zack Snyder is cinematic kryptonite whose ineptness and lack of basic understanding of DC’s two most iconic superheroes has squandered the potential of what could have been the beginning of an exciting and entertaining franchise.
His “Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice” is a lumbering, lurching inept mess — an unfathomable underachievement.
The movie is predictable and heavy-handed. Worse, it lacks any lightness; it fails to provide any elbow-to-the-ribs moments that would bring a smile to any comic-book fan’s face.
From its superfluous opening, which once again, recreates the defining moment in the Batman ethos, to its clichéd final scene, “BvS” fails to ignite an emotional response — except, perhaps, dissatisfaction. It is unrelentingly grim and oppressive, sucking all the air out of the theater.
It seems that DC and Warner executives always have failed to grasp what the Marvel people learned early: Get your audience invested in your superheroes, give the characters personalities and a few flaws, so that when they unite in an all-star movie, they are familiar to us.
“BvS” takes it for granted that the viewers know Batman and Superman so well, they can just throw them at us on the screen and we will automatically follow wherever they lead.
The film is basically a series of scenes and set pieces that fail to coalesce as a whole. The storyline is convoluted, character motivations are murky and some themes simply vanish or disintegrate.
The film does have two bright spots.
The first is Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne-Batman. Affleck has created an older and more brutal Batman who, after 20 years of fighting criminals, is bitter and angry because he feels he has not accomplished anything.
As he tells his faithful butler, Alfred (an ill-used Jeremy Irons), criminals are like weeds — you pluck one and another sprouts to take its place.
Bruce Wayne was in Metropolis the day Superman battled Gen. Zod, destroying half the city and unintentionally killing thousands, including hundreds of Wayne’s employees.
Affleck brings viciousness and a near-Fascist component to his Caped Crusader who metes out vigilante justice with ferocious determination.
Skip ahead about 18 months. We find Wayne obsessing in his Batcave over Superman. He does not view the Kryptonian as a savior, but as an alien menace who can turn on mankind and destroy it. Wayne sees Batman’s legacy as protecting humanity by killing Superman before he has the chance to strike.
While Batman broods, Superman continues doing his thing — saving the day whenever and wherever he is needed.
But, after a deadly incident in Africa in which Superman rescues intrepid journalist and girlfriend Lois Lane, chinks begin showing in the Man of Steel.
Slowly people — and those in the government — begin to question whether he should be allowed to be a law unto himself.
As it has happened throughout history, the fickle populace begins to turn on its protector.
Added to the mix is young billionaire Lex Luthor, who claims he wants to protect the world from this alien demigod. He connives to get his hands on some Kryptonian technology and begins pulling strings like a psychotic puppet master.
So, finally, after all these machinations, we finally get to the super-heavyweight knockdown.
Of course, it is shot in that annoying quick-cutting technique that makes it a challenge to discern who is pummeling whom. The sequence lacks vitality; it’s just two muscular guys throwing each other into walls and other objects. Even a kitchen sink becomes a weapon. It’s like a WWE match outside the confines of a ring.
Soon, Batman and Superman realize they have a common cause — and unite — but they still seemed outmatched by Luthor’s new Kryptonian created foe. Coming to the rescue is Wonder Woman, who adds a much-needed energetic boost that the movie badly needs.
Gal Gadot is the movie’s second bright spot. She is an unyielding Amazonian warrior who comes out of hiding to aid her fellow superheroes.
As with Affleck, it will be interesting to see her future exploits.
As for the rest of the cast: Henry Cavill is very passive and distant as Superman. He seems to be more of an observer than a participant as he was in his “Man of Steel” debut.
Superman should be the light to Batman’s dark. But Cavill’s Man of Steel appears glum. Rather than embrace his destiny, he appears resigned to it.
Eisenberg is miscast as Luthor. He resembles more a spoiled, narcissistic young man who refuses to take his meds than an evil genius. His mannerisms are affected and annoying, and he proves an unworthy adversary.
If “Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice” is to be the springboard for a series of films featuring DC characters, then alternations need to be made ASAP.
At more than 2½ hours, the grimness and darkness of “Batman v Superman” emits a foreboding and unwelcoming vibe that will eventually deter fans and regular moviegoers alike.
The franchise cannot take itself — or its characters — so seriously. It needs to lighten up, have some fun in its future features.
This is fantasy that should try to make us — even help us, for a couple of hours at least — forget the troubles of the real world and provide an escape into a world of truth and justice with a lighthearted touch.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
BATMAN V SUPERMAN; THE DAWN OF JUSTICE
1½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), intense action violence and destruction, sensuality